Honest Abe in the Berkshires

About four million people visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, each year but only a fraction of those drop in at Chesterwood, the summer home of the statue’s sculptor, Daniel Chester French, (1850-1931). Chesterwood, near Stockbridge, MA, was French’s summer retreat for many years. It’s  now  a National Historic Trust with a small scale version of the Lincoln statue in the artist’s studio. In addition to the studio, visitors can stroll through the Italian garden, ground floor of the house and woodland trails.

The thirty-second exhibition of  work by contemporary artists is on view sprinkled about the wooded trails that end with a majestic view over the Berkshires.

Uneasy Chair by Leon Smith

This work, Uneasy Chair, by Leon Smith,  is a hoot. Love the prickles!


Earlier in the day, we’d visited Ashintully Gardens in Tyringham, formerly a private home and now maintained by the Trustees of Reservations Land trusts.  The formal gardens include features like a Fountain Pond, Pine Park, Rams Head Terrace, Bowling Green, Regency Bridge, and many others, most created by John McLennan, Jr., son of the Senator. I didn’t have time to walk the entire six hundred acres but it’s a beautiful estate noted for rolling hills, deciduous trees and carefully crafted stonework.

Fountain at Ashintully, Tyringham, MA

We spent a night at the Lenox Club, founded in 1864 as a club for –you guessed it–gentlemen, where the croquet lawn is kept in perfect condition and some rooms have bathrooms with wonderful claw-foot tubs.  A very twenty-first century wedding was taking place that night and the next morning the group was kind enough to give us a bite of the brunch being served to very hung- over friends.

Lenox Club, Lenox, MA

The Berkshires in summer always seems like picnic country to me so here’s a recipe for French potato salad which is great to take along as it doesn’t contain mayonnaise and can easily be made ahead of time.

French Potato Salad

Serves 4

2 lbs small russet potatoes

¼ c. dry white wine

1 T white wine vinegar

1 T fresh lemon juice

1 t Dijon mustard

¼ t white pepper (I use regular ground pepper)

¼ cup olive oil

2 T  chopped scallions

2 T chopped parsley

Scrub potatoes and drop into a pot of salted boiling water to cover. Boil about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender when stuck with point of knife.

Cut potatoes into ¼ “ slices, being careful not to burn your hands. Place in a single layer in shallow dish. Pour the wine over the warm slices and toss very gently; then set aside so they absorb the wine. (Note: this can be done hours ahead. Do not refrigerate.)

Beat vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl until salt dissolves. Add the oil a bit at a time and whisk until it thickens. Stir in scallions. Before serving, pour dressing over potatoes and add the parsley. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.

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