Books: Sandisfield Then and Now
Anyone who lives in Sandisfield, the bucolic village at the southern tip of Berkshire County that lays claim to the distinction of being the county’s largest and most sparsely populated town, has likely heard from Ron Bernard. For the past two-and-a-half years, Bernard has been interviewing residents (of which there are approximately 800 full-timers), poring over all-but-forgotten deeds, digging through musty boxes in library basements, and repairing old photos – all to write and publish his definitive book on the history of the town in time for this weekend’s celebration of Sandisfield’s 250th anniversary.
The result, Sandisfield Then and Now, weighing in at 528 pages, is a comprehensive hardcover bursting with images and tales from the town’s history. The celebrated author (and Sandisfield resident) Simon Winchester pitched in by writing the foreword.
Bernard’s book recounts the town’s history by taking an in-depth look at more than 150 of Sandisfield’s farms, businesses, and homes – both past and present. Through these brick-and-mortar structures, Bernard recounts the lives and legends of the people who lived and worked in them, and the trials and triumphs that defined their times and made the community what it is today.
The book is not limited to the town’s 18th-century structures; Bernard also delves into more recent additions to homes, camps from the 1960s, and geodesic domes built in the 1980s. The inclusion of modern history is an indicator of what Bernard sees as his true target audience. “I didn’t write this book for you and me,” he says. “I wrote this book for the people celebrating Sandisfield’s 300th, 350th, or even 400th anniversary.” In another 250 years, that geo-dome might need some explaining and Ron’s book will be there, beautifully written and dutifully fact-checked.
Perhaps the greatest takeaway from Bernard’s book is just how much of the town’s 250-year history lives on in 2012. And it has been completed just in time, as this town’s history comes alive this weekend.
Sandisfield Then and Now will be available for purchase during the town’s 250th anniversary celebration, which takes place this weekend, July 27 – 29. The festivities begin on Friday evening at the Sandisfield Arts Center with a dramatic narrative drawn from the town’s past followed by fireworks, and continue through the weekend with historic hikes, a country fair, BBQ, pie contest, live music, a car show. Colonial re-enactors will set up camp in Carr Field, where, throughout the weekend, they will present a variety of historical demonstrations, including musket firings, weaving, wood-working, traditional cooking, and candle-making. Sunday’s schedule includes a tour of local farms. Those who can’t attend can purchase Sandisfield Then and Now online. —Brian Cruey