The Berkshires Massachusetts
The Berkshires Massachusetts

About The Berkshires
Berkshire Activities
Berkshire Dining
Berkshire Feature Stories
Berkshire Attractions
Berkshire Accommodations
Berkshire Shopping
Berkshire Performing Arts
Berkshire Galleries & Antigues
Berkshire Places of Worship
Berkshire Traveler Services
Reservations in The Berkshires
Reservations in The Berkshires
Berkshire Maps & Directions

Bidwell House

The Bidwell House, now an historic museum, was originally built in 1750 as the parsonage for the first minister to the area. Situated on 190 acres of rolling Berkshire countryside, the property was in the Bidwell family and continually farmed for three generations from 1750 to 1853. Today, through an elegant and beautifully restored 18thcentury saltbox, two farm buildings, a collection of the finest antique furnishings and gardens representative of the time period, guests can glimpse the rural lives of New Englanders generations past.

Bidwell House The surrounding grounds in particular are like a living museum, allowing one to interpret the history of the family and the time period through the land. Through research, the probable site used by the Bidwells for their garden was determined and replanted.

Kitchen or vegetable gardens were often laid out in quadrants, marked by crossing paths with a northsouth, eastwest axis. The Bidwell House garden has this basic plan, with each of the four quadrants representing a different time period. The first quadrant has varieties likely to have been grown in a colonial garden, including Native American vegetables. The second quadrant is planted with varieties from 1800-1850. The third sector represents 1850-1900, and the last is a modern garden. This approach to the garden layout is an excellent educational tool for comparison for the different time periods.

The garden site was chosen for its proximity to the kitchen door, the water pump, and for its southern exposure and slight south slope.

Heirloom seeds provided by seed saving exchanges, like the Berkshirebased Eastern Native Seed Conservancy, insures the authenticity of the plants. Gardeners of that time period were cultivating the same varieties of Deer Tongue Lettuce, Philadelphia Ice Box Radish, Milk Pumpkin, Jerusalem Artichokes and Vine Peaches that you will see on the Bidwell grounds.

Located across from the vegetable garden is the heirloom herb garden. In the 18th and early 19thcenturies, herb gardens were the source for medicines, cosmetics and food seasonings.

Bidwell House Because it was often women who tended the gardens, it was wise to have a diversion close by for the children. A small garden with its domed arbor of saplings covered with flowering Scarlet Runner vines and climbing Nasturtiums was (and still is) a perfect hideaway to intrigue and occupy children.

Surrounding the house are terraced stone walls brimming with perennial beds. Installed in the 20thcentury when the house was restored, these provide a fabulous setting for this gem of a Georgian saltbox.

These heirloom gardens offer a kind of living history where the record of the garden in America is recreated in miniature in this corner of the Berkshires.

The Bidwell House is open Tuesday through Sunday and is located at 100 Art School Road in Monterey. There is an admission charge, but it is worth every penny. For more information, call 528-6888.