Photo courtesy of Berkshire Scenic Railway; taken by Ross Mealey
The historic Stockbridge Station is now in Berkshire Scenic Railway's hands.
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — Berkshire Scenic Railway now has full control over the Stockbridge Station and will turn it into a satellite museum.
The station is owned by High Meadow Foundation, established by Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick, and used to be the end of the line for scenic rides from Lenox.
The empty station was shared between the foundation and the Berkshire Scenic Railway and the museum hosted some events there.
On Friday, the museum officials announced they had signed a lease with the foundation that puts the historic station under their full control. The museum is looking to staff it during the summer, install Stockbridge-specific exhibits and host even more events — such as historic fire equipment shows and classic car shows.
"It's going to allow us to do so much more as a museum," Pamela Green, the museum's events manager and attorney, said Friday afternoon. "It adds a secondary location for the museum ... we're going to put in some new exhibits and open it during the season."
The station was built in 1893, 10 years earlier than the Lenox station, which the museum currently owns, and its building set off a rivalry between towns over who had the best station. The station was the main transportation hub into the county and the rails brought in many of the county's most famous residents, such as Edith Wharton.
Its rich history was preserved in 1997 when the High Meadow Foundation purchased it.
"Stockbridge Station has an equal history," Green said of the exhibits, which will focus on Stockbridge and that hadn't been seen previously in Lenox.
The late state Sen. John "Jack" Fitzpatrick and his wife, Jane, were supporters of the museum and in bringing the first scenic rides there. The foundation allowed the museum to use the station at no cost. However, it still used the space and Berkshire Scenic Railway was unable to install permanent exhibits. Exhibits can now be left there and stored in a shed during events.
"Many of us have fond memories of pulling into Stockbridge Station and seeing Jack waiting for us," Green said. "We're very happy to continue on the tradition."
About a month ago, the foundation approached the museum offering the lease at no cost other than maintaining the building, she said. That will allow the museum to be more for the Berkshires and not just Lenox.
While the station only holds about 100 people, Green said the five acres of property will allow hosting of large events. The museum will also market it as a place for weddings and business gatherings.
"The grounds are so lovely that we'll take advantage of the nice weather," she said.
The station had been unused last year because the Housatonic Railroad refused to sign a lease allowing the museum to continue its scenic rides on the tracks. Green said she doesn't expect this to change the rail company's mind, but the museum remains hopeful that someday those scenic rides will return, once again linking the two stations.
"It would make sense for us to have that access but I don't know if this will influence Housatonic to change their minds," she said. "But we are optimistic that some day we will be able to use the rail."
There are many other historic railroad stations in South County, including the privately owned Great Barrington,
Hoosatonic Housatonic and Lee stations, but right now the museum isn't looking to expand further.