The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area includes 9 towns in Connecticut and 20 towns in Massachusetts. The Connecticut towns are Canaan, Colebrook, Cornwall, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, and Warren. The Massachusetts towns are Alford, Becket, Dalton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Hancock, Hinsdale, Lanesboro, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlboro, Pittsfield, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham, Washington, and West Stockbridge.
The Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area Study Act outlined eight criteria for evaluating the significance, suitability, and feasibility of the upper Housatonic Valley to become a national heritage area. Analysis of the upper Housatonic Valley in light of these criteria demonstrates that the area contains nationally important resources and represents important national themes.
The upper Housatonic Valley is a singular geographical and cultural region that has made significant national contributions through its literary, artistic, musical, and architectural achievements, its iron, paper, and electrical equipment industries, and its scenic beautification and environmental conservation efforts.
The only National Park Service unit in the area is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which runs the length of the valley. In the process of researching this heritage area feasibility study, four heritage themes interpreting the region have been identified.
How the identified themes of the Upper Housatonic Valley will be explored, interpreted, supported, preserved and celebrated will be essential ingredients of the successfully written and implemented Management Plan. These themes are:
- CULTURAL RESORT—famed for writers Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Edith Wharton, W.E.B. DuBois, painters Norman Rockwell and Jasper Johns, sculptor Daniel Chester French, and the performing arts centers of Tanglewood, Music Mountain, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, and Shakespeare & Company, and the resort towns of Stockbridge and Lenox, MA;
- SHAPING A SCENIC LANDSCAPE—renowned for its scenic beauty and a long history of innovative nature conservation following the era of industrialization and deforestation;
- CRADLE OF INDUSTRY—region was a pioneer in the iron, paper, and electrical generation industries;
- REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF DEMOCRACY—there were important events related to the Revolutionary War era, Shays’ Rebellion, and early civil rights.
- SOCIAL GROUPS—this includes Shakers, African-Americans, American Indians, and various ethnic groups.