This tale is all too familiar to those living in Shelburne Falls: Someone came here just for a visit and never wanted to leave.
Surrounded by hills east of the Berkshires, Shelburne Falls is a picturesque village known for its bridges, artists, potters, musicians, and others who are part of the “creative economy.”
This village forms the commercial and industrial heart of two scenic farm towns — Buckland and Shelburne — separated by the Deerfield River, which splits the village center.
The Bridge of Flowers , created from an unused, weedy trolley bridge by the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club in 1929, now draws thousands of visitors from many countries. And the 1896 trolley that once ferried both freight and people across the Deerfield River? It was saved by a local farmer and spent 65 years as a chicken coop, tool shed, and playhouse. Now it’s the centerpiece of Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum , in the old Buckland rail yard, near the Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom .
The Glacial Potholes, another attraction, are known for dramatic swirls of color and kettle holes scoured out of the granite rocks by water. A peace treaty between the Penobscot and Mohawk tribes from 1708 to 1758 prohibited fighting anywhere within a day’s journey of Salmon Falls, to preserve hunting and fishing there.
Small shops, three bookstores, coffeehouses, and restaurants line the major thoroughfares, Bridge and State streets. Tourism is an important part of the local economy, especially from May through November.
In the 1800s, Shelburne Falls was a manufacturing center, with its Salmon Falls waterfall generating energy to produce scythes, cutlery, and even Civil War bayonets for Lamson & Goodnow Manufacturing Co., which recently filed for bankruptcy protection.
In recent years, the village has become something of a movie star, with two major feature films shot here. Scenes for “Labor Day,” a drama starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin released in January, were filmed here in 2012. In 2013, Shelburne Falls was cast as “Carlinville, Ind.,” in a film to be released in October — “The Judge,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. The village’s Iron Bridge is prominent in the movie trailer.
And hey, hey, hey . . . Bill and Camille Cosby are among the most famous area residents, with a rural home just outside the village.
By the numbers
The population “guesstimate” since about half of Shelburne’s and
Buckland’s townsfolk live here. It was 1,731 when the 2010 Census was taken.
The year that Shelburne Falls Bowling Alley opened its doors for candlepin play. It’s the second-oldest bowling alley in North America, according to its website.
The number of participants who completed this year’s annual Bridge of Flowers Classic 10k road race. The event has been held in August since 1979.
The number of visitors who signed the Bridge of Flowers guest book last year. Every state and 96 countries were represented.
Shelburne Falls is a highly walkable area with river views everywhere and plenty of benches, if you feel like resting. It has public water, cable TV, and high-speed Internet access, not yet available in some parts of rural Buckland and Shelburne.
This is still a rural area, so be prepared to haul your household trash to the town transfer station.
There are lots of festivals and other events, including the Iron Bridge Dinner at which 400 people gather on a summer night and dine together on a historic span above the Deerfield River.
For many, this is a bring-your-own-job kind of place. There are more opportunities in some of the nearby cities and in the Five-College Amherst-Northampton region.
With so many farms and orchards nearby, this is a locavore paradise in late summer and early fall. If you want a Big Mac, you’ll have to drive to Greenfield. There are no chain restaurants here.