Library of American Landscape History
The Laurel Hill Association, founded by Mary Hopkins Goodrich in 1853, transformed the Berkshires’ village of Stockbridge into a model American town. Improving the Village traces the evolution of the influential volunteer group that inspired like-minded citizens to establish hundreds of village improvement associations throughout the nation.
Founded as a Christian mission by John Sargent in 1739, Stockbridge was also home to the renowned Reverend Jonathan Edwards, who served as one of its leaders. Among other early residents were the Mohican sachem Konkapot; Elizabeth Freeman, also known as Mum Bett, an enslaved Black woman who filed suit and won her freedom under the Massachusetts state constitution; and the best-selling novelist Catharine Sedgwick. Decades later, the artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell moved to Stockbridge and immortalized the iconic view of Main Street on the 1967 cover of McCall’s magazine. These individuals were drawn by the region’s beauty and Stockbridge’s reputation as a seat of culture and literary accomplishment. Interwoven, their stories illuminate a little explored perspective on both the history of the village and the influence of the Laurel Hill Association.
Throughout generations of growth and change, the Laurel Hill Association has remained a consistent factor in the life of Stockbridge, continuing the tradition of annual meetings, supporting community enhancement projects, and maintaining public landscapes. Improving the Village explores the founding, growth, and achievements of this important and influential catalyst for community action in landscape stewardship and conservation.
About the Authors
Kirin Joya Makker
Kirin Joya Makker is Professor of American Studies at Hobart Smith Williams Colleges, where she teaches courses on critical space theory and design. In her scholarship, she explores women’s and Black history in urban planning and feminist architectural practice. An artist trained as an architect, Makker’s participatory art project, Womb Chair Speaks, will be in an upcoming exhibition at Winterthur Museum of Decorative Arts.
Sarah Allaback is senior manuscript editor at LALH. A coeditor of Warren H. Manning, Landscape Architect and Environmental Planner, she is author of Marjorie Sewell Cautley, Landscape Architect for the Motor Age and The First American Women Architects.