One of the nation’s “Last Great Places” is the way the Nature Conservancy describes the scenery around Columbia County and Berkshire County, nestled as they are in softly rolling foothills of the Taconic and Berkshire Mountains. Names that conjure up visions of beauty, wealth, luxurious living are within easy reach . . . Catskills, Poconos, Adirondacks. Scenic landscapes, natural beauty and recreation galore are carefully preserved by adjacent states, the national government and many nonprofit organizations
Incredible views, “Gilded Age” historic homes, internationally-famous art and culture, not to mention world class cuisine, entertainment and education . . . and all for 460 (English) pounds, three barrels of cider, and 30 quarts of rum? That’s what the original purchasers of The Berkshires, as they are known, paid for this 946-square mile “county” in Western Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, just over the border in New York State, Mohican Indians cheerfully sold what is now Columbia County to those who followed explorer Henry Hudson, settling in this 648-square mile county. They chose Christopher Columbus as their namesake, with a slight variation on the ancient word for dove. Officially organized in 1786, this is the home of President Martin Van Buren.
Both The Berkshires and Columbia County are as famous as retreat sites for the rich and famous as they are for their contributions during the American Revolution and Civil War.
The elite in the 1800s flocked to The Berkshires (as they still do today); building beautiful “cottages” now home to many prep schools and among hundreds of National Register of Historic Places sites throughout both counties. Named after England’s oldest county, the oft-called “Royal County of Berkshire” (site of Windsor Castle), the original Berkshire name supposedly comes from bearocc, the Celtic word for “hilly.” Birthplace of Oliver Wendell Holmes, the Berkshires are the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the place to see Robin Williams, James Taylor, Meryl Streep, Sonny Rollins, Yo Yo Ma, Pete Seeger, James Levine, and numerous other celebrities.
Spotted around Columbia County are Cindy Crawford, Al Roker, Martha Stewart, Ralph Lauren, Gianni Versache, Kristin Scott Thomas, Diane Keaton and Meg Ryan — many enjoying the area’s world famous antique shopping.
Pittsfield, The Berkshire’s largest city, was ranked in the nation’s “Top 20 Most Secure Places to Live” by Farmers Insurance and in the “Top 24 Green Cities” east of the Mississippi (in its size category). Pittsfield was originally known as Pontoosuck, a Mohican word for “a haven for winter deer.” Here are the homes of Herman Melville and Edith Wharton and the “National Historic Treasure” Colonial Theatre, acclaimed as one of “the finest acoustical theaters in the world.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home is now the site of Pittsfield High School.
Filmmakers descended on The Berkshires for settings for “Alice’s Restaurant,” “Pretty Poison,” “Cider House Rules,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “A Change of Seasons,” “Lethal Innocence,” “Before and After,” “Into My Heart,” “Wilber Falls,” “Dinner and a Movie,” “ and “The Human Stain.”
A law prohibiting baseball from being played within 80 yards of the Pittsfield library is believed to be the earliest known reference to this game in America.
President Martin Van Buren started his law career in Hudson, Columbia’s county seat. To celebrate the city’s sesquicentennial, the U. S. mint issued the rarest coin it has ever minted: the Hudson Half Dollar. Rumor has it this coin was ordered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to thank the Hudson City Democratic Committee for its endorsement (his very first) for State Senator and Governor.
Something the city fathers probably won’t tell you, Columbia Street used to be Diamond Street, a center of notorious activities. (Google that for details!) So no wonder the city has been the setting for so many movies, including “The Wonder Years,” “Odds Against Tomorrow,” “Ironweed” and “Nobody’s Fool.”
Hudson’s literally-hundreds of listings on state and national Historical Registers have earned the city the “finest dictionary of American Architecture in New York State.” Its Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) Museum of Firefighting is one of the largest in the world.
When it comes to locating just the right property for one’s needs in Columbia County or Berkshire County, an intimate knowledge of the area is paramount. This is the service offered to clients by Gabel Real Estate, along with the most sophisticated technology available to property brokers.