The following will, I hope, lead the reader to understand how retired Berkshire Eagle editor Frank McCarthy’s love of the Berkshires made a huge impact on the preservation of its pristine beauty.
On a beautiful fall day in 1965 my family had been sight-seeing through the mountains. We were on our way back home to Bristol, Connecticut via Route 8 through Otis when we spotted a woman walking south. We stopped and asked if she needed help and she replied that she did, so we brought her to a gas station and returned to her car where her disabled husband was waiting.
As it turned out her husband owned a factory in Winsted, Ct. and property in Becket. He insisted that we visit them the following week in Becket. His name was Roger Fairchild and he owned several hundreds acres of land along Fred Snow Road, which was an old dirt road leading from Route 20 down the mountain into Becket.
His property had more than a mile of frontage on both sides with a beautiful cabin overlooking the mountains and a trout pond fully stocked for his guests’ entertainment. The property contained a beaver pond and a host of other wildlife, including deer, raccoon, porcupine and bear. There was also a brook called Palmer Brook.
Along with my wife and daughters, Kim and Marci, we returned to Becket and were excited about visiting with Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild. We continued to return at the insistence of Mr. Fairchild. We spent a lot of time wandering in the woods, swimming, fishing and enjoying their hospitality.
There came a time when he asked me to purchase the property, and any terms that I could live with would be OK with him. The necessary financial transactions were made and my family and I moved into the beautiful cabin. Electricity was not acquired for a few years, but the cabin boasted all gas appliances, a heater and a four-cylinder generator.
I am a developer and have done several projects in Florida. It was apparent with a mile or more of road frontage that it would be simple to divided up the Becket property into lots fronting the road and go from there. This is when life changed for me and the Berkshires.
Frank McCarthy was reporting at The Berkshire Eagle at that time. He heard of the development I was planning, that would become Becket Woods, and wrote an article with the headline, "What is happening to our hinterlands?" That both caught by attention and rattled my cage.
I called Frank and said, "OK, how would you do it?" He knew exactly what to do.
He introduced me to Sheafe Satterthwaite, a teacher in the arts department at Williams College who arrived there in the late 1960s as a research associate in environmental studies. He had written about the leisure home phenomenon beginning in the U.S. Soon, a new thought process began.
Through Satterthwaite, I met a gentleman by the name of Emil Hanson, who was developing environmental projects near the ocean in New Seabury, Ma. I soon hired his staff to come up with some conceptual ideas for the property. A year and a half of study ensued taking into consideration all of the natural aspects of the land, from dams, brooks, topography and the old stagecoach roads from Boston, through Springfield, the Becket property and on to Great Barrington. These and other constraints and considerations for future environmental issues were taken into account and a conceptual plan devised.
All of this was a result of Frank’s article, which was based on his desire to protect the environment. The connection that he gave me to Sheafe Satterthwaite and Williams College triggered 18 months of study with Williams students, among others, Harry Kangis and Newland Hastings, who coordinated work at Becket Woods to be finalized prior to construction. I also met quarterly with county and state officials and lending institutions.
New standards for septic system building codes came to the surface. Plans were devised to build a circulation system that would not affect the natural beauty or history of the property. Minimum lot sizes became 41Ž2 acres and many large home sites evolved with the plan.
Frank’s article gained interest inside and outside the Berkshires, and the development was written about elsewhere as the most environmentally conscious project of its time. This caused a domino effect in surrounding communities like Lenox, Otis, Chester, Lee and Great Barrington, which looked to put in law better restraints on developers.
As a result, Frank McCarthy’s "hinterlands" became a better place to live.
Bob Hamilton went on to build developments in Sebastian, Boynton Beach and Melbourne, Florida, among other communities. Frank McCarthy, a retired Eagle reporter and editor, and an occasional columnist, lives in Lee.