My partner-in-crime and I headed off the other morning for a jaunt to an unfamiliar part of our state. She has a knack for discovering interesting places I would never think to visit, and that day was no exception.
We drove to Petersham, Massachusetts, a small town kind of central and up. The goal was a shop she had read about that sells artists and craft people’s work, but before we ever got to it we first fell in love with its town.
Peters ham, not Peter sham is the correct pronunciation if you want to sound like a local. (“There’s no sham in Peter’s ham!”)
The center of town is lovely, with an old-fashioned town green ringed by massive and well-built churches and huge houses, all pillars and broad porches.
This town is truly in the middle of nowhere and we were perplexed how it could have once been so obviously prosperous. There was no nearby river and so no mills – what had been the source of all this money?
It turns out that like Lenox, Massachusetts, it had once served the same purpose as Newport – a summer getaway from the city for the well-to-do. Lenox was saved from the advent of the automobile and airplane by its music venue of Tanglewood and Berkshire summer theatre, but Petersham had no such luck.
There must still be some money in town because we saw some large homes in good repair, but there are also places like this former inn, and later, Catholic girls’ school which has sat empty since the 1970s.