Friday, May 1, 1992
LENOX — What do Canyon Ranch, the Lenox DPW, Berkshire Magazine, three area landscapers, the Lenox Library, the Stockbridge Library, the state DPW, the Lenox Historical Commission, Suchele Bakery, and the Lenox Selectmen have in common? If you guessed a large rock, then you are right.
On Arbor Day, April 24, all of the above held a ceremony and a champagne toast in front of a large boulder that sits on Kemble Street in Lenox. The boulder, with a bronze plaque on its face, is a historical monument naming Kemble Street after one of its most famous –and infamous–residents, the 19th-century actress, feminist, abolitionist crusader and writer Fanny Kemble. Kemble summered in Lenox, in a home she called “The Perch,” in the mid-1800s, becoming one of the Berkshires’ earliest celebrity residents. Although her house was demolished in 1905, a marker commemorating her presence and naming the street after her was installed in 1929.
Over the years, however, the marker slipped into obscurity; in spite of its four-by-six-foot girth, few in Lenox knew of its existence. Renewed interest in the whereabouts of the monument was sparked by the observance of the Town of Lenox’s 225th anniversary this year, and by an article on Fanny Kemble that appears in the current issue of Berkshires Magazine.
After a bit of sleuthing, the monument was located, hidden under brush and obscured from view. A community coalition quickly arose to move the boulder to public land and to rededicate it in Fanny’s memory. Landscape services were donated by Craig Okerstrom-Lang, landscape architect of Great Barrington, and Tom Farley Land Design of Stockbridge. Donations were made for new plantings by Berkshire Magazine and Barry Wesson, the Kemble Street property owner on whose land the boulder was found. Juneberry trees were supplied below cost by Windy Hill Farm of Great Barrington. The Lenox Historical Commission and the Lenox Selectmen sponsored the necessary legislation, the state DPW gave its blessing, and Canyon Ranch and the Lenox DPW loaned backhoes and workmen to move the five-ton boulder. Suchele Bakery in Lenox donated cookies for the ceremony with “FK” in rose icing.
“The marker has been hidden from view for so many years,” said Marcia B. Brown, chairman of the Lenox Historical Commission. “It is gratifying to see the renewal of such an interesting and important piece of Lenox history.”
At the dedication ceremony, Brown pointed out that Kemble loved the Berkshires dearly; as her friend Henry James said of her, Fanny “looked upon this region as an Arcadia, a happy valley, a land of woods and waters and upright souls.”
As an activist, Kemble made numerous contributions to the Lenox area, including helping plant the first shade trees on Main Street, conducting fundraisers for the Lenox Library, and giving the Church-on-the-Hill its original steeple clock. Brown commented that if Kemble were alive today, she would head up the list of volunteers to restore Lilac Park.
Kemble left the Berkshires in 1867, but she later requested to be buried in the Lenox cemetary, saying, “I will only ask to be permitted once in a while to raise my head and look out upon this glorious scene.”
Fanny Kemble’s wish was not honored. But surely she would have approved of the band of volunteers who left no stone unturned in moving her monument to its rightful place.