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Fairies there, thought I; some haunted ring where fairies dance.

Herman Melville wrote these words at Arrowhead. In “The Piazza,” the narrator believes he sees fairy lights on Mt. Greylock.

And this recalls my inland voyage to fairy-land. A true voyage; but, take it all in all, interesting as if invented…   Indeed, for a year or more, I knew not there was such a spot, and might, perhaps, have never known, had it not been for a wizard afternoon in autumn—late in autumn—a mad poet’s afternoon; when the turned maple woods in the broad basin below me, having lost their first vermilion … 

All season the fairies danced at Arrowhead. Michael Melle worked his magic to sculpt fairies on the piazza, a dozen artists created delightful fairy houses along the field’s edge, and Betsy Bazcek helped children create fairy-inspired crafts.  It was a magical summer!

Our hard working docents welcomed thousands of visitors to Arrowhead, taking pride in sharing stories of the Melville family’s life at the “old farmhouse.”  A team of teenagers worked a sweltering week clearing brush and rebuilding part of the stonewall along the North field.

Jana Laiz, Arrowhead’s writer-in-residence, just published a book for young adults: Billy Budd and the Breadbox: the Story of Herman Melville and Eleanor.  Tianna Darling, an intern from MCLA, created the popular new self-guided tour of Arrowhead. The list goes on – people sharing their time and talents with the Berkshire County Historical Society at Arrowhead.

We are inspired every day by the deep rich history of western Massachusetts.  The Historical Society’s volunteer archivists and curators work all year, cataloging, preserving, exhibiting and publishing our vast collections of furniture, textiles, photographs, and much more.  We love to collect and share our community’s shared history.

The list goes on. As a supporter of Historical Society at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead, I hope you have found your own inspiration here, whether taking a tour, attending a play, or simply taking in the beautiful views – perhaps on a “mad poet’s afternoon.”

I’m writing to ask for your help to keep the inspiration alive. Thank you!

Please see our contact page or our donate page.  Your support makes it all possible. Thank you!  The Berkshire Historical Society is a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization.

Sincerely,

Will Garrison, Executive Director

The “Herman” Plays: “Poor Herman” by Elizabeth Doss

On October 3, Arrowhead welcomed Elizabeth Doss, Dustin Wills, and a terrific cast for a staged reading of “Poor Herman.  It was written by Doss, Melville’s great-great-great-granddaughter. “Poor Herman” was first produced in 2016 at The Off Center, Austin, Texas.

An all-female cast played the entire Melville family, the principal characters in Melville’s novel “Pierre; or The Ambiguities” and his fellow author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Directed by Dustin Wills.

 

Stonewall restoration at Arrowhead

The Greenagers are at Arrowhead!

When Herman Melville and his family moved to Arrowhead in 1850, it was already an old farm. The stonewall along Holmes Road was probably already there. After a couple hundred years, it’s time to restore this iconic New England wall.
We were amazingly lucky to have Master Craftsman Neil Rippingale lead a two-day workshop on May 20-21 for Greenagers and others, rebuilding 75 feet of wall. Thanks to Housatonic Heritage and Weir Farm, a National Park Service historic site in Wilton, CT for organizing the workshop.
Later in the summer, a work crew from the Greenagers will return to continue the work. For more information, see www.greenagers.org, www.housatonicheritage.org

Fairy Houses!

This year Arrowhead will feature “Enchanted Berkshires: Where Fairies Dance” with a full slate of programs and exhibits. A key piece will be an exhibit featuring one-of-a-kind, artist created Fairy Houses.  The houses will be on display around the property from August 14 through October 15, from the historic shade garden to the grove to the barn and other structures around Arrowhead.

In 1856, Herman Melville wrote a short story, “The Piazza,” while living at Arrowhead.  In this tale, the narrator believes he sees fairy lights on Mt. Greylock.

And this recalls my inland voyage to fairy-land. A true voyage; but, take it all in all, interesting as if invented…

Indeed, for a year or more, I knew not there was such a spot, and might, perhaps, have never known, had it not been for a wizard afternoon in autumn—late in autumn—a mad poet’s afternoon; when the turned maple woods in the broad basin below me, having lost their first vermilion tint, dully smoked, like smouldering towns, when flames expire upon their prey; and rumor had it, that this smokiness in the general air was not all Indian summer…

Fairies there, thought I; some haunted ring where fairies dance.

Arrowhead opens for tours on May 22

Herman Melville’s Arrowhead is open daily for tours May 22 through mid-October.  Take a house tour, explore exhibits and the nature trail.  This year we feature “Enchanted Berkshires: Where Fairies Dance.”  House tours are $15/adult; $13/seniors; $10 students; $8 children; free to Society members.   See “Visit Us” for more details

Herman Melville’s final book: “Weeds and Wildings”

Herman Melville’s final book, finished just before he died in 1891, was “Weeds and Wildings, chiefly; With a Rose or Two,” a collection of his poetry and his final short story. For the first time the book is available in an edition published by Melville Press, an imprint of Micro Publishing Media, edited by J. Peter Bergman of the Berkshire County Historical Society.  The Historical Society’s headquarters is Melville’s former home, Arrowhead, in Pittsfield, MA. Arrowhead was the place where Melville wrote “Moby-Dick” and three more novels, a group of seventeen shorter pieces and where his major foray into poetry began in 1859.

The poems in this book are principally reminiscences of his time at Arrowhead and his youth in the Dutch family environment in Albany, Troy, Gansevoort, NY and the more British based Melville’s of Pittsfield, MA. He casts his poetic eye back to special Christmas celebrations, to the flowers and the beasts of the country environment he loved. His story, with apologies to his mentor Washington Irving, “Rip Van Winkle’s Lilac” sings of his longing for a return to Pittsfield and Arrowhead much as the poetry does.

With a cover utilizing a brilliant art work by French artist Claire Illouz that sings of both country and city with the wildflowers Melville sings back to life with his words, the book is a unique and loving expression of his unreasonable devotion to his wife Lizzie of 44 years after a long and uncomfortable marriage. His final gift to her before his death, the illustrations include portraits of both of them and fine reproductions of his work pages and a  special analysis by the editor of the work and what it took to create it.

The book is $15.99 and available at Arrowhead (check our hours), through our online shop, or through MicroPublishingMedia.

New book of historic postcards

Over 200 postcards depicting the history of Pittsfield, all in one handsomely printed book! Volunteers at the Berkshire County Historical Society combed through the thousands of cards in our collection, conducted primary research, and wrote the captions.  Stop by Arrowhead to purchase your own copy, or shop on-line on our website.  The cost is $21.99; proceeds support the programs of the Historical Society.

“I Would Prefer Not To” – and more

We hope you can visit the museum shop at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead this season to browse our books, clothing, and gifts. But if not, never fear!  We have a few items on-line  And feel free to call if you’re interested in other merchandise, such as  The Complete Illustrated Edition of the Wreck of the Whale Ship Essex by Owen Chase.  

Owen Chase was the first mate on the ill-fated American whaling ship Essex, which was attached and sunk by a sperm whale in the southern Pacific Ocean in 1820. This edition of his book is filled with art, photographs, maps, and artifacts.

Melville… On the Light Side

MELVILLE. . .ON THE LIGHT SIDE, a new play by J. Peter Bergman and Herman Melville
In a teacher’s lounge at a small college five men and women meet to discuss Herman Melville, his life and his work. In examining their favorite subject they bring life to excerpts from his works, including “Moby-Dick,” “Pierre,” “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Israel Potter,” “Billy Budd,” “Redburn,” “I and My Chimney,” poems from “Weeds and Wildings,” “Battle-Pieces, “Bridegroom Dick” and a narrative poem recently attributed to Melville. The voyage of discovery exposes the less psychological, less gloomy side of the author providing a more human and humane look at his generous output.   The performances are over, but we hope to bring this play back in the future.