Picturesque downtown Stockbridge is virtually indistinguishable from Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting “Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas .” The scene looks much as it did when the artist memorialized the town for McCall’s magazine in 1967, and that is no accident, said Deborah McMenamy, 64, a Stockbridge resident and member of the Board of Selectmen.
“We’ve maintained that charming, bucolic look,” said McMenamy, who has lived in Stockbridge for 27 years. “People come from all over the world to stand on Main Street and be part of that picture.”
But the Stockbridge of today is more than a quintessential New England village. McMenamy said the town is at once intimate, with fewer than 2,000 full-time residents, and cosmopolitan, due to a constant influx of visitors. Stockbridge’s draws include museums (Rockwell lived here), historic homes, a botanical garden, a theater, and Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home (whose property straddles Stockbridge and Lenox.)
“In this tiny little town, we have all these attractions,” said McMenamy, a former teacher and mother of two adult children. “I love being in a place that has a pulse to it.”
As an elected official for 15 years, McMenamy sees the town’s strengths and its challenges. She said it is a place where people take community seriously, attending Town Meeting, volunteering for committees, and helping to preserve their pastoral village and open spaces. But the town is also pricey, and much of its housing stock is used as second homes. Due to high housing costs and a shortage of professional opportunities in the Berkshires, Stockbridge has trouble retaining its own young people, McMenamy said.
But during the summer, this small town is booming, to the point where locals try to steer clear of Main Street to avoid the traffic (they do head into town to get their mail). McMenamy, who grew up in Stoneham, is philosophic about the occasional traffic jam. “I love having the tourists come,” she said. “Sure, they take up parking spaces and create traffic, but it’s nothing compared to Route 128,” where the traffic is constant.
By the numbers
Median age of Stockbridge residents (as of 2011 town census)
Average inches of snowfall annually (estimated)
Years the The Red Lion Inn has been an anchor of Stockbridge’s Main Street. Although it has been through several name changes, the building has been in operation since sometime around 1773.
Number of Stockbridge exits on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Although musician James Taylor implies otherwise in his song “Sweet Baby James,” with the line about snow covering “the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston,” the nearest exits are in Lee and West Stockbridge.
Pros and Cons
Beautiful, historic town with many cultural amenities
There is limited cellphone service in downtown Stockbridge. That can be a nice thing for tourists, but it poses challenges for those who live and work in town.
There are about 80 people per square mile. According to the 2010 US Census, the state’s average was 839.
To date this year, there have been 35 single-family home sales in Stockbridge, with a median sale price of $320,000, according to The Warren Group, a realty tracking firm. The average listing price, however, was $915,062 as of early December, according to Trulia.Alison Lobron is a freelance writer in Great Barrington. Send comments to Address@globe.com.