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Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Great Barrington 2.jpg
View from Main Street in the spring
Town Seal
Name origin: Village of Great Barrington in Gloucestershire, England
Country  United States
State  Massachusetts
Region Western Massachusetts
County Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Landmark W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite
River Housatonic
Coordinates 42°11′45″N 73°21′45″W / 42.19583°N 73.3625°W / 42.19583; -73.3625
Highest point Monument Mountain
 - elevation 1,642 ft (500 m)
 - coordinates 42°14′50.4″N 73°20′26.6″W / 42.247333°N 73.340722°W / 42.247333; -73.340722
Area 45.8 sq mi (119 km²)
 - land 44.8 sq mi (116 km²)
 - water 1.0 sq mi (3 km²)
Population 7,104 (2010)
Density 158.5 /sq mi (61 /km²)
Settled 1726
Incorporation as town 1761
Government Open town meeting
 - location 334 Main Street (Town Hall)
Timezone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP Code 01230
Area code 413
FIPS code 25-26815
GNIS feature ID 0619420

Great Barrington is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 7,104 at the 2010 census. Both a summer resort and home to Ski Butternut, Great Barrington includes the villages of Van Deusenville and Housatonic. It is the birthplace of W. E. B. Du Bois. In 2012, Smithsonian magazine ranked Great Barrington #1 in its list of "The 20 Best Small Towns in America".

Great Barrington today is a vibrant small town acting as the hub for "South County". The town and its surroundings support a year-round population as well as second homes. Great Barrington is home to over 70 restaurants catering to a wide spectrum. The recently renovated Mahaiwe Theater has become a center for year-round music and cultural events.


Early history: 1724–1995

The Mahican Indians called the area Mahaiwe, meaning "the place downstream". It lay on the New England Path, which connected Fort Orange near Albany, New York, with Springfield and Massachusetts Bay.

On April 25, 1724 Captain John Ashley of Westfield, Massachusetts bought on behalf of himself and a committee of the Massachusetts General Court the land that became the towns of Great Barrington, Sheffield, Egremont, Alford, Mount Washington, and Boston Corner for £460, three barrels of "sider," and thirty quarts of rum from 21 Native American sachems headed by Conkepot Poneyote. The Konkapot River in southwestern Massachusetts is named after him.

The village was first settled by colonists in 1726 and from 1742–1761 was the north parish of Sheffield. In 1761, it was officially incorporated as Great Barrington, named after the village of Great Barrington in Gloucestershire, England.

In the summer of 1774, 1,500 men shut down the Berkshire County Court in response to British oppression. In the winter of 1776, Henry Knox passed through Great Barrington while transporting the cannon from Fort Ticonderoga to the Siege of Boston. Due to his time in the area, he established an agricultural interest in the area of Great Barrington.

With the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century, Great Barrington developed as a Gilded Age resort community for those seeking relief from the heat and pollution of cities. Wealthy families built grand homes called Berkshire Cottages here, as others would in Lenox and Stockbridge. Among the earliest estates was that built by New York City banker, industrialist and art patron David Leavitt, who built an elaborate 300-acre (1.2 km2) estate, and was soon followed by those of his sons nearby. Leavitt was instrumental in the development of the local Housatonic Railroad, serving as its president.

Later estates included Searles Castle, commissioned in 1888 by the widow of Mark Hopkins together with her second husband, Edward Francis Searles, and "Brookside", built for William Hall Walker. In 1895, Colonel William L. Brown, part owner of the New York Daily News, presented Great Barrington with a statue of a newsboy, now a landmark on the western edge of town.

W. E. B. Du Bois

Great Barrington is the birthplace of W. E. B. Du Bois, an African-American academic and civil rights activist, most known for being one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, at a house later replaced by where present-day Route 23 would run. As a child, Du Bois attended the Congregational Church. Many of these church members donated the funds needed for Du Bois to attend college. Du Bois lived in the town until he was seventeen. The W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite has interpretive trails and a walking tour.

World's first alternating current/transformer system

William-Stanley jr
Recovering from ill health, William Stanley spent his time in Great Barrington installing the world's first practical AC transformer system.

In November 1885 electrical engineer William Stanley, Jr., a sometimes Great Barrington resident working for George Westinghouse, began installing a demonstration transformer based alternating current lighting system, an improvement over the direct current system being used by Thomas Edison that Stanley was trying to get Westinghouse to adopt. Stanley had developed a series transformer that he thought would make AC practical. He built his components at the 'Old Rubber Factory" south of Cottage Street and installed a Westinghouse steam engine powering a 500 volt Siemens generator. Stringing the power lines from tree to tree down the street, in March 1886 Stanley powered the system up and was able to expand it to the point where it could light 23 businesses along Main Street with very little power loss over 4000 feet. The system's 500 AC volt current was stepped down to 100 volts using the new Stanley transformer to power incandescent lamps at each location. This was the world's first practical demonstration of a transformer/alternating current system and the basis of the AC systems that Westinghouse would begin installing later that year.

Alice's Restaurant

Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant," which runs for 18½ minutes, is based on true-life events of the late-20th century in Great Barrington and the adjoining towns of Stockbridge and Lee. The Old Trinity Church, which was the home of Ray and Alice Brock at the time of these incidents, and is now owned by Guthrie, is at 4 Van Deusenville Road in Great Barrington.

Railroad Street GB
Railroad Street, where many popular restaurants and business are located

Recent history

On October 18, 1990, Richard Stanley purchased the old Miller Hotel, also known as the Barrington House. Stanley started to upgrade the building, evicting tenants who had been involved in drugs. He removed the 1960s aluminum facade and returned the historic building through renovation to its 1929 appearance.

The town was the site of an F4 tornado around 7:00 PM on Memorial Day, May 29, 1995. The tornado killed three people and caused damage in the area.

On November 15, 1995, Richard Stanley and Joseph Wasserman opened The Triplex Cinema in the heart of Great Barrington. This contributed to further developments in the town, changing the economy and enhancing its desirability by providing a place for community events. With increased appeal as a destination, the town attracted new restaurants and retail shops, which opened on both Main Street and Railroad Street. Both streets previously had many vacant shops. The Berkshire Eagle reported that Great Barrington had 50 places to eat in a town of 7,700 people.

On July 24, 2009, Great Barrington was named an Appalachian Trail Community by application and acceptance by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Mahaiwe Theater
The Mahaiwe Theater

On June 1, 2010, a new fire station was opened for the Great Barrington Fire Department, located on Route 7. The new fire station replaced the old one, located on Castle Street. It had deteriorated and was too small for the growing needs of the fire department. The new $9.1 million facility was planned as a center for community events such as elections. It serves as the hub for emergency operations in southern Berkshire County.

The town celebrated its 250th anniversary with a large parade on July 10, 2011. Other events celebrating the 250th anniversary were held throughout the year as well.

The "Main Street Reconstruction Project" was launched in 2011, involving major improvements along Main Street between Saint James Place and Cottage Street. The plan elements include new pavement, new sidewalks, sewer and utility improvements, and the removal of the large trees that span Main Street, to be replaced with a much wider array of trees of varying sizes and growth habits.<> The project had finished its design phase as of 2012, and construction was to be completed in 2016.

Geography and climate

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 45.8 square miles (118.6 km2), of which 44.8 square miles (116.1 km2) is land and 0.97 square miles (2.5 km2), or 2.09%, is water. Great Barrington is bordered by West Stockbridge, Stockbridge and Lee to the north, Tyringham to the northeast, Monterey to the east, New Marlborough to the southeast, Sheffield to the south, Egremont to the southwest, and Alford to the northwest. The town is located 20 miles (32 km) south of Pittsfield, 46 miles (74 km) west of Springfield, 135 miles (217 km) west of Boston, and 134 miles (216 km) north-northeast of New York City.

Great Barrington is located within the valley of the Housatonic River. The Williams River, Green River and several brooks also flow through the valley into the Housatonic. To the east of the river, several mountains of the Berkshires rise, including East Mountain (site of the Ski Butternut resort (also known as Butternut Basin) and a state forest), Beartown Mountain (and the majority of Beartown State Forest) and Monument Mountain. The Appalachian Trail crosses through East Mountain State Forest in the southeast corner of town. The southwest corner of town is the site of several country clubs and a fairgrounds.

U.S. Route 7 passes through the center of town, and was once part of New England Interstate Route 4 (also known as the New York-Berkshire-Burlington Way). Massachusetts Route 23 passes from west to east through town, combining with Massachusetts Route 41 and U.S. Route 7 in the western part of town and Massachusetts Route 183 in the eastern part of town, which also follows part of the path of Route 7 northward from Route 23 before splitting towards the village of Housatonic. Great Barrington is located approximately 12 miles (19 km) south of Exit 2 of Interstate 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike), the nearest interstate highway.

Climate data for Great Barrington, Massachusetts (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 33
Average low °F (°C) 14
Precipitation inches (mm) 3.39


See also: Great Barrington (CDP), Massachusetts
Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1850 3,264 —    
1860 3,871 +18.6%
1870 4,320 +11.6%
1880 4,653 +7.7%
1890 4,012 −13.8%
1900 5,854 +45.9%
1910 5,926 +1.2%
1920 6,315 +6.6%
1930 5,934 −6.0%
1940 5,824 −1.9%
1950 6,712 +15.2%
1960 6,624 −1.3%
1970 7,537 +13.8%
1980 7,405 −1.8%
1990 7,725 +4.3%
2000 7,527 −2.6%
2010 7,104 −5.6%
* = population estimate.
Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.

As of the census of 2000, there were 7,527 people, 3,008 households, and 1,825 families residing in the town. By population, the town ranks fifth out of the 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County, and 202nd out of 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 166.6 people per square mile (64.3/km²), ranking it eighth in the county and 268th in the Commonwealth. There were 3,352 housing units at an average density of 74.2 per square mile (28.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 94.74% White, 2.09% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.25% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races, and 1.04% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.07% of the population. 17% were of Irish descent, 12% Italian, 11% German, 10% English and 9% Polish.

There were 3,008 households out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.8% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.3% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.28 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the town, the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 26.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $95,490, and the median income for a family was $103,135. Males had a median income of $68,163 versus $49,474 for females. The per capita income for the town was $42,655. About 2.4% of families and 5.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.6% of those under age 18 and 2.5% of those age 65 or over.


GBR Hangar
Walter J. Koladza Airport


Great Barrington is served by the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, which offers bus transportation throughout Berkshire County. Peter Pan Bus Lines and Greyhound Lines have stops in Great Barrington for long-range bus transportation. The town lies along the Housatonic Railroad line, which roughly follows Route 7 and the river through southern New England.


Walter J. Koladza Airport is located in Great Barrington, and features a full service FBO for general aviation aircraft. The nearest international airports are Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and Albany International Airport in Albany, New York.


Great Barrington is the location of the Ski Butternut resort and the Berkshire Humane Society operates animal welfare services and pet adoption facilities in the town.

Sites of interest

  • Aston Magna Festival
  • Bard College at Simon's Rock
  • First Congregational Church of Great Barrington
  • Great Barrington Historical Society & Museum
  • Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
  • Searles Castle
  • W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite

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