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Laurel Hill Park in the

Main Street Historic District of Stockbridge


Laurel Hill
Rock Rostrum to commemorate Henry D. Sedgwick,
longtime president of Laurel Hill Association
Courtesy of Ann Chapman

Located in the Main Street Historic District of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Laurel Hill provided inspiration for the first village improvement society: the Laurel Hill Association. Laurel Hill Park, a rugged and romantic forested landscape with rock outcroppings, is a significant feature of the Main Street Historic District in Stockbridge. Throughout Stockbridge’s long history, Laurel Hill has traditionally served as a town gathering place and the meeting place for the Laurel Hill Association. Laurel Hill is still a meeting ground and also a place for recreation providing its visitors with a multitude of trails and a panoramic view of Stockbridge from its summit.

Local resident Mary Hopkins established the Laurel Hill Association in 1853. She reportedly launched her campaign after hearing a disparaging remark by a visitor about Stockbridge’s poor sanitation and lack of adornment. Traveling by horseback to contact residents of all ages, Mary gained the necessary support for her cause, and the first meeting of the Laurel Hill Association took place in 1853.

The Laurel Hill Association also engaged in a number of other civic beautification projects including grooming walkways, grading streets, and renovating a local cemetery. The organization even started a tree planting campaign where supporters, both children and adults, earned membership in the Association when they agreed to plant a tree in the town and tend to it. This campaign was responsible for the planting of more than 400 trees in one year in Stockbridge.

The Laurel Hill Association soon became a model for other communities all over the country. By the end of the 19th century, hundreds of similar organizations established themselves in villages, towns, and cities. Active civic involvement was a key component in all of these civic initiatives. By the late 19th century, the idea of civic beautification had merged with the movement to create parks and park systems. The civic improvement initiatives of the 19th century set the stage for more comprehensive planning initiatives in the Progressive Era.


Laurel Hill
Prescott Butler Memorial
Courtesy of Ann Chapman

One of the first projects of the Laurel Hill Association permanently protected Laurel Hill as a public park. Laurel Hill is a wooded knoll studded with rocky outcroppings, located between the Stockbridge center and the Housatonic River. The heavily forested area includes native hemlock, white pine, and oak trees. Laurel Hill gained its name from mountain laurel, which once covered much of the hill. Laurel Hill has been a favorite community-gathering place since the early 19th century. In 1834, townspeople met on the hill to honor after his death the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat who served as a general in the American Revolutionary War. That same year, the Sedgwick family purchased the land to preserve it for public use to avoid the threat of development. After the Laurel Hill Association’s organization in 1853, the Sedgwicks sold the six-acre parcel to the Laurel Hill Association for a dollar. The Association later donated the land to the town in 1878 as a public park, with the stipulation that it stay in its natural state.

Today, a narrow, winding trail passes through the heavily forested park. At the base of a huge rock outcropping is a grassy area with a rustic stone rostrum and lectern, added in 1905 to commemorate Henry D. Sedgwick, a long-time president of the Association. Each summer, the Laurel Hill Association holds its annual meeting here, a tradition that has continued since the 19th century. Added to the summit of Laurel Hill in 1928 is the Prescott Butler Memorial, a semi-circular granite bench. Today the summit is heavily wooded, but at one time the cutting of trees on the summit provided a view to Monument Mountain. Laurel Hill, now a symbol of Stockbridge’s civic beautification ideals, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of Stockbridge's Main Street Historic District.

Plan your visit

Laurel Hill Park and the Main Street Historic District are located on Main, Pine, and Sergeant Sts. in Stockbridge, MA. The Laurel Hill Park trails are open daily. Visitors can enter Laurel Hill Park from behind Plain School (now the town offices), located on Main St. or at the Goodrich Memorial footbridge, located at the end of Park St. For more information, visit the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce website or call 413-298-5200 and visit the Town of Stockbridge website or call 413-298-4170.

Other sites within the Main Street Historic District have been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey.

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