Do you recognize these accommodations? For decades, the Wigwam Cottages and associated gift shop have sat astride Route 2, high above its famous Hairpin Turn and featuring a terrific view of North Adams, Williamstown, Pine Cobble, and the Taconics. Although most Williams students and alumni have probably driven past dozens of times, I’d wager few have ever been inside the gift shop, let alone one of the cottages. (Although I have).
For the last couple of years, however, the Wigwam has been closed. But good news is on the horizon: the site has been bought and will be refurbished — by Berkshire business mogul Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of Stockbridge’s luxurious Red Lion Inn and MassMOCA’s Porches Inn.
On Monday, a blog post at the Porches announced:
Phew! No more keeping it a secret! We have a fun new project to share with you all – The Wigwam Cabins, located along the Mohawk Trail in North Adams, just 5 miles from Porches. These 1930s gems are ours to lovingly restore, and we can’t WAIT to get going on it!
The Transcript has more details:
Fitzpatrick, with the limited liability company LMNO Properties, bought the 3.88-acre site, which includes a house and a gift shop, from the Berkshire Natural Resources Council for $275,000 on Friday, according to documents at the Northern Berkshire Registry of Deeds in Adams.
The council has been marketing the Wigwam site since April last year, when it bought the property and about 730 acres of abutting land for $470,000 to launch the three-mile-long Hoosac Range Trail for hikers and cross country skiers, and to plan a much larger, 100-mile trail system to be known as the Mahican-Mohawk Trail.
“We’re thrilled that Nancy has stepped in,” Tad Ames, president of the natural resources council, said Sunday. “She’s got the vision and the track record to really revitalize this landmark spot and create something there that’s going to be a great material addition for the future of North Adams.”
. . .
“I’d been eyeballing the cabins longingly for years,” Fitzpatrick said in the news release. “I hated the thought that they might disappear. This style of roadside architecture, from the early days of automobile travel, is under-appreciated and endangered. I can’t wait to get going on this project.”
She said she hopes to re-open the cabins and guest house next spring, when the new trail is also expected to be completed, and to run them seasonally.
Guests of the Wigwam will have full use of all amenities at The Porches, including the hotel’s year-round pool, hot tub and exercise facilities. The Wigwam site will be renovated with each cabin or guest room offering a private bath and shower. The cabins will feature comfortable furnishings, wood stoves, refrigerators and coffee-making facilities, according to the news release.
I have a dusty memory that the site of the Wigwam (typically called the “Western Summit,” in conjunction with Greenfield’s Whitcomb Summit and Florida’s Eastern Summit) has a Williams link. Specifically, I seem to remember that it was once called “Perry Point,” after longtime political economy Professor Arthur Lathum Perry of the class of 1852, for whom Perry House is named. Does this ring a bell for anyone else? The previously-linked article on the Wigwam’s closure last year has more details about the location’s history, but it doesn’t mention that:
The Mohawk Trail was once a major thoroughfare between the Pioneer Valley and the Berkshires and gift shops carrying American Indian goods and cheap knock-offs proliferated along the twisting road. The seasonal Wigwam — as guest cottages, restaurant and gift shop — was in a prime spot, overlooking the Hoosac and Stamford, Vt., valleys a 1,000 feet below. Nearly a century old, it was touting the “scenic splendor” that surrounded its dining piazza back in 1925, according to an ad in the North Adams Transcript.
The property was acquired by four far-sighted Mansfield sisters from Stamford as the Mohawk Trail was being reconstructed for automobile traffic. They opened the Wigwam in 1914 at the same time as the highway and ran it for 35 years. It was believed to be the first commercial establishment created in large part to cater to the new highway’s travelers.
By the late 1960s, the complex included a five-story observation tower, a single-family home, the gift shop, nine cottages, two garages, the restaurant and a water storage house and pumping station. The deteriorating tower was removed years ago for safety reasons and the restaurant’s long gone.
I’m pretty sure the tower was gone before my time at Williams. With the towers in Florida and Greenfield (also now closed), that would have been three observation towers on the Mohawk Trail.