NORTH ADAMS — The Wigwam is celebrating a dash of the past with a new sign proclaiming the Berkshires as "America's Switzerland."
The discovery that the Berkshires once were known as America's Switzerland came when a patron recently gifted a 1930 tourist publication, "A Trip Over The Mohawk Trail," according to Lea King, co-owner of the Wigwam.
In it, a panoramic photo of the view from the Western Summit taken from the Wigwam — it was known as the Westview Gift Shop at the time — is captioned with the slogan.
King and her partner, Wayne Gelinas, decided to bring that phrase back to life. So, Gelinas made a wooden sign by hand and they mounted it on the Lookout, which boasts the amazing view seen in the 1930 book.
The whole effort is to get people thinking about the Mohawk Trail — it connects Eastern Massachusetts with the Berkshires — with the Wigwam Western Summit perched over exactly the right cliff on the perfect stretch of the trail overlooking North Adams to serve as the focal point of that connection.
Since the Wigwam reopened last October, it once again has become a popular tourist stop on the way in and out of North Adams. And already, visitors are taking selfies of themselves with the new sign.
"As part of our effort to revitalize the Mohawk Trail and the region, we believe it's a great idea to rebrand this view and to put our collective marketing effort behind it to draw energy and momentum," King said.
The sign was unveiled Thursday with North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, state Rep. John Barrett III and Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, on hand.
Bernard said he is pleased that the sign will help folks recall the "Mohawk Trail as an entry point both to North Adams and to our past history."
He noted that the history of the region includes Native Americans who originally traveled the Mohawk Trail for commerce and, later, European immigrants who used the trail to come into the Northern Berkshires and built the homes and factories, then worked in the factories and created that history.
Bernard said the sign "is echoing forward through history to this day."
Barrett said the efforts of King and Gelinas have brought about a wonderful transformation of the historic gift shop.
"What you and Wayne have done here helps to revive this as a gateway to Western Massachusetts," Barrett said.
He noted that the Legislature also is pondering ways to bolster tourism along the Mohawk Trail.
The history of the shop — it's perched on the edge of Florida Mountain, uphill from the "Hairpin Turn" on Route 2 — begins in 1913, a year before the Mohawk Trail opened. In its early years, an observation tower and gift shop beckoned New England elites who could afford automobiles. But, the site subsequently switched hands a number of times and had been closed for several years when King acquired it in August 2018.
Gelinas, a North Adams native, prompted the purchase during a trip to Vermont. He kept mentioning to King that the property was for sale, so King, a longtime technology industry executive, decided to check it out.
Using contractors and a great deal of their own handiwork, they worked day and night to create a unique travel experience. Today, the shop offers views from large picture windows overlooking the North County area. There also is the homebrewed coffee, the grill for sandwiches and hot dogs and, of course, the Fudge Train and the Honey Tree.