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West Stockbridge throws a party celebrating its 250th year

Town residents and visitors turned out to enjoy the daylong festival.

West Stockbridge — With 250 years under its belt, West Stockbridge had plenty to celebrate on July 6. And the town certainly knows how to throw a party, with residents and visitors treated to a display of antique cars and trucks courtesy of Troy’s Garage, an early 1900s engine, live music, a family-style barbeque, fresh-pressed apple cider, a Scavenger Hunt, history walks and talks, and a neighborhood refreshment gathering. Add in honors bestowed upon Gene Dellea—lifelong resident, Select Board member, and the longest standing town moderator in the Commonwealth—as well as State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, a supporter of the local Historical Society and whose 3rd Berkshire District includes West Stockbridge, and, well, this town now has a memory to hopefully last residents until its 300th year anniversary.

Antique cars were on display during West Stockbridge’s anniversary celebration on July 6. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

The brainchild of the West Stockbridge Historical Society, planning for the spectacle began in February, headed by the group’s Board of Directors President Bob Salerno. “Everybody has pitched in, from all over the town,” he said of the work that went into creating West Stockbridge’s celebration. “I’m really pleased.”

West Stockbridge’s 250th Celebration was led by Bob Salerno, president of the West Stockbridge Historical Society’s Board of Directors. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

For Salerno, the day is “special but not unique.” “The town is a great community,” he said. “The people that volunteered are people who just arrived from Florida, second-home owners, to people who’ve grown up here or who have had their triple-great-grandfather grow up here. All ages, all levels, all incomes—it’s a community.”

The event was highlighted by 10 screens placed throughout the town, with each screen depicting the image of the structure that sat on that tract in the early 1900s. According to Salerno, the feat was nothing short of miraculous when, a few years ago, an individual gave the Historical Society a box filled with five-by-seven-inch glass plate pictures. The box had been in a collection at Herman Melville’s Arrowhead Museum in Pittsfield and was filled with mouse droppings and other varmint signs. The emulsion on the photographs had worn away, but their clarity was brought back to life by the Historical Society board member Jeff Nestel-Patt who, pixel-by-pixel, recreated each picture digitally. The photographs were then sized up before being printed on the unique screens that allow wind to pass through to avoid toppling over. After the frames were added, each structure was then placed at the end of June in “almost the exact spot the photograph was taken,” Salerno said. “They’re all within two or three feet of where the photograph[s] [were] taken,” he said.

Bob Salerno explains the background of this vintage photograph of West Stockbridge’s Old Town Hall dating back to 1905 or 1910, with the little girl pictured being the grandmother of a modern-day resident. Photo by Leslee Bassman.
Screens depicting old photographs of present day structures attract the interest of passersby during West Stockbridge’s 250th Celebration. Photo by Leslee Bassman

Visitors who haven’t yet caught sight of the screens may still be able to view them as no date for removal has been set yet, Salerno said. They will then be on display at the Historical Society building, he said.

Select Board Chair Andrew Potter called the celebration’s events “extraordinary,” thanking town citizens and Salerno for the day’s success. “The festivities were a true testament to our town’s rich history and vibrant community spirit,” he said. “Our town’s journey has been remarkable, from our humble beginnings in 1766 to our official incorporation in 1774.

Potter said the area, initially known as “Queensborough,” was part of the disputed border between Massachusetts and New York, evolving from five separate villages: West Center, West Stockbridge, Freedleyville, Rockdale, and Williamsville. He credited the town’s prominence to the railroad that transported marble and other natural resources, with marble quarries playing a defining role in the town’s “growth and prosperity.”

Lulu prepares hand-made apple cider for West Stockbridge guests. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

“As we look forward to the future, let us continue to build on the strong foundation laid over the past 250 years, ensuring that West Stockbridge remains a place of rich heritage and vibrant community spirit,” Potter said.

For Select Board member Andrew Krouss, who is also on the Historical Society’s Board of Directors, the event reflected “peace and harmony throughout the town.” “Everybody had a great time,” he said. “It really helped unify the town.”

Select Board member Kathleen Keresey memorialized the anniversary as “a testament to the resilience of the people who founded the town and the people who have maintained it throughout these past 250 years.”

New resident Carrie Hammond chats with West Stockbridge Historical Society members Denise Flasser (left) and Vivian Schwartz during the town’s 250th anniversary celebration. Photo by Leslee Bassman

The celebration was a first for newcomer Carrie Hammond who arrived a few weeks ago from Hartford, Conn. A 30-year member singing in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, she said she searched for a gathering spot for her now-grown family. “They wanted to come here, not any place else,” Hammond said of West Stockbridge. “So, we’ve built a house up on the hill, and we’re hoping to spend a lot of great family time here.”

Don Johnson estimates he has lived in town for about 50 of his 76 years.

Chris D’Anniello, whose family has operated Troy’s Garage since 1962, assists the antique-engine collector in maintaining the 1908 Galloway gasoline-powered, single-cylinder, 7.5-horsepower engine Johnson displayed at the celebration. Used on farms to power implements such as saws and pumps, Johnson admits finding parts is difficult. “You do the best you can,” he said, with D’Anniello adding that Johnson has built some of the parts needed to keep the engine in motion. “You can keep them going.”

Don Johnson’s Galloway single-cylinder, 7.5-horsepower engine (pictured) dates back to 1908. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

While most of these types of engines can be found in the mid-western and western parts of the country, Johnson said this display is a rarity in the northeast. “This model they didn’t make for very long,” he said of the Galloway manufacturer. “They went to what they called ‘a Masterpiece,’ which was just a name, and they revamped the engine completely. So, there are not too many around.”

Don Johnson (left) and Chris D’Anniello (right) discuss Johnson’s antique engine displayed at the West Stockbridge 250th celebration. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Over 100 years ago, engines, as with everything else, were built by hand—cut, forged, or molded—D’Anniello said. Although engines today have many electronic components, he said the theory of how the Galloway engine works remains the same. “It’s the same internal combustion principles,” D’Anniello said of the engine.

Earl Moffatt drives up to the West Stockbridge parking lot to showcase his British 1963 Daimler. Moffatt’s family has lived in the town for more than 250 years. Photo by Leslee Bassman.

Baldwin Extracts store owner Earl Moffatt drove up to the center of town in his spiffy British 1963 Daimler, parking it aside his other two antique vehicles. The Daimler was bought new by a Lenox jeweler who traded it to a family member of Troy’s Garage, where it sat for years before a local investor bought it, fixed it up, and it became Moffatt’s in 2021, he said. “But I’ve known the car since 1965,” Moffatt said, adding that he has been collecting vehicles since he was a teenager.

Moffatt estimated his family has been living in the area for about 270 years, with some family items displayed in the Town Hall. “I’m actually the last one left,” he said.

Second-home owner William Drake eyed the screens throughout town that pictured the former buildings on the current tracts. “I like the old buildings, the way they used to be,” the part-time resident said. He said he previously restored a home in Princeton that was constructed hundreds of years ago. “Coming up here, it’s just interesting imagining how things were back then,” Drake said. “We were just talking about the traffic back in the 1800s. You had a few horses going through and that’s it. And look at it now.”

Classic cars on display in the lot across from Troy’s Garage for the viewing pleasure of guests attending West Stockbridge’s 250th Celebration. Photo by Leslee Bassman.
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