Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Exploring Western Massachusetts: Northampton, Whately, Williamstown

Between appointments and committments of variious types, it's proven to be a challenge to get away from our routine days in Newton.  But when DH determined that he wanted to check out the used bookstores in Western Massachusetts, we found a way.

We took the scenic route.  Rt. 2 from Leominster to Northampton, and then on by way of the Mohawk Trail.

It was only mid afternoon by the time we got to Northampton.  Known as the home of Smith College, it also has 3 bookstores, and two yarn stores, one of which is WEBS, "America's Yarn Store."  It was within walking distance of our hotel. Amazingly, I resisted temptation as I have TWO projects that I hope to finished before their anticipated recipients arrive.

Northampton is a funky, congested, charming mini-city.  At left is the Forbes Library, which serves as the town's public library. There are plenty of art galleries, boutiques, bistros and more substantial restaurants on the main drag as well as evidence of a strong economy on the side streets.

We had a late (and enormous) lunch at McCladden's. 150 Craft Beers ON DRAUGHT!  I'm surprised the bartender could remember where they all were.  (And none of them were Sam Adams!)

 We did not make it to all 5 colleges in the Pioneer Valley.  We did go through Amherst, though, which is home to the primary campus of the University of Massachusetts.LOTS of construction going on.  Lots of growth on the main thoroughfares, too.  Mostly typical suburban business with which we were already familiar.  Although it is NOT in Pioneer valley, we did get stuck in a traffic jam in Williamstown... because Williams College was having its graduation ceremonies. Amazing how much chaos a graduating class from a school of just 2000 people can create when no one is directing traffic

When we were checking into our plain Jane motel, I caught this little one who was apparently tuckered out from earlier activities or a long car ride.

He was limper than old lettuce.

 Having made it to the Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley, and the three in town Northampton bookstores, on Saturday we headed for the Clark Art Institute.  On the way we kept our eyes peeled for the "bargain used book stores" that we found out about by eavesdropping on customers at The Broadside Bookshop in town.

We were delighted to find Books and More Books in Whately (population 1700)  It's for sale if you are interested, AND the price has been reduced (only $275,000, which does NOT include the books.)  The building was once a school house and had plenty of rooms full of various sellars' collections.  I found some favorite books from my childhood  as well as oddments that were probably from various faculty at the colleges.
 I have a dear friend tho is living the ex-pat life in Estonia.  She tells me how proud the Estonians are (still) of their hard won independence (although I fear for them considering some events in nearby Ukraine.).  "Rein Taagepera has conducted the most important research on changes in the geographical area of historical empires"  according to one reviewer of his work. Born in Tartu, Estonia, he got degrees in Engineering Physics, Nuclear Physics and Solid State Physics from the University of Deleware. He later became a professor in the department of Social Sciences (using all that analytical knowledge) and taught at the University of California at Irvine.
Later he founded the University of Tartu in conjunction with UC Irvine. He was banned from Estonia for 17 years by the Soviets power structure, but was later elected to the Estonian Congress when independence had been secured.  He also wrote lots of books on predicting votes, turnouts and election results.  Wish I could have a beer with him!

 Farther along Rt. 5, we were following the Deerfield River.  Babbling clear and peaceful around several mountains.  Hurricane Irene washed out 6 miles of this now-tame waterway, and the repairs are pastoral and beautiful. It is famous as a place for trout fishing, especially after closure of a nearby Atomic Power Plant.

Finally (after getting through that traffic jam in Williamstown), we arrived at the Clark Art Institute
Sterling Clark was heir to the Singer Sewing Machine profits and with his wife Francine traveled widely and collected art.  (They knew many of the artists whose works they collected.)  Eventually they wanted to build a museum to house their collection.  They considered Cooperstown, Sterling's childhood home, and downtown Manhattan before being drawn to Williamstown, where Sterling's grandfather had had close ties to Williams college. The Museum opened in 1955.  The college admitted its first graduate class in 1972.  Graduates are well prepared to be art and museum curators. Between the Institute and the College, there is now a well known art history curriculum, library and restoration center.

Sterling Clark was a patron for George Innes.

 I fell in love with the Renoir paintings on display.

 This one is called Box at the Theater.  The expression on the ingenue's face is so naive and sweet it took my breath away.
 There are also works by Sargent, Homer,  Degas, Bonnard, Manet and many more.
 It was very nice to rest my eyes and my feet next to the reflecting pool near the center of the complex. 140 Acres.  Walking paths, naturalized, Pritzger Prize winning architecture and just lots of general splendor.  (And what a beautiful place to go on a late Spring afternoon.
 The campus is nestled at the North end of the Berkshire Hills.

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