The Village Beautiful
If you've ever spent time in Williamstown, you won't need to be convinced it's a beautiful place to enjoy life. Williamstown's enduring reputation for culture, vibrant community, and enriched living is known well beyond the purple bubble.
The town itself has a fascinating history, with settlers first arriving in the early 1750s. By the end of the French and Indian War in 1760, land was cleared, roads were improved, and craftsmen and professionals began arriving in the valley occupied by Fort West Hoosac.
Upon his death, Ephraim Williams, a local veteran of the war, provided for the establishment of a free school under the condition that the growing village be named after him. In 1765, in accordance with Williams' will, the hamlet in the northwest corner of Massachusetts was officially named Williamstown. Colonel Williams's free school opened in 1791, and two years later became known as Williams College.
Until the second half of the 19th century, agriculture -- including dairy farming and wool production -- was the economic mainstay of the area until the Industrial Revolution. The establishment of water-powered mills, at the Cable Mills site and at the site known as Station Mill on Cole Avenue, transformed the town. With the coming of the railroads, Williamstown also became a popular summer destination, and in the 1930s and 40s was the summer home of Alta Rockefeller Prentice (a daughter of John D. Rockefeller) and of legendary songwriter Cole Porter.
Today, Williams College is the town's largest employer, having expanded to 2,000 students after admitting women as students in the 1970s. The town is still a popular destination both for its natural beauty and for its cultural institutions including the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the summertime Williamstown Theatre Festival.
More information about Williamstown can be found at the Destination Williamstown website destinationwilliamstown.org
Williams is one of the country's finest colleges, consistently ranked among the nation's best. The school sponsors a variety of academic and cultural lectures, concerts, and theatrical performances, most of which actively welcome residents. www.williams.edu
The Clark Art Museum
The newly-expanded Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is a world-renowned art museum and a center for research and higher education. The Clarks were private art collectors who developed a remarkable collection of paintings, sculpture and other works including pieces by Degas, Renoir, Monet, Sargent and others over the first decades of the 20th century. The museum houses not only their original collection, but expanded bodies of work, an art conservation center, training program, and much more. www.clarkart.edu
Located in nearby North Adams, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is perhaps the most large and unusual museums in the country. It occupies a sprawling 26-building, 13-acre campus that was formerly the manufacturing plant of the Sprague Electric Company. Making use of the unparalleled scale and versatility of the complex's industrial spaces, MASS MoCA strives to create a dialogue between the facility's past and the new life it has as the country's largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts. www.massmoca.org
Taconic Golf Club
A joy to play, the Taconic is consistently rated among the best college golf courses in the nation. Owned by the College, this semi-private course was designed by Wayne Stiles and John van Kleek in 1895. The Taconic is located just steps from Cable Mills. www.taconicgolf.com/
Williamstown Theatre Festival
The famed Williamstown Theatre Festival presents hundreds of performances each summer. Many productions have gone on to run on Broadway, off-Broadway and in the country's best regional theaters. The festival makes its home in the College's stunning '62 Center for the Performing arts, which opened in 2005. www.wtfestival.org