Natural Bridge State Park (Massachusetts)

Natural Bridge State Park (Massachusetts)
Natural Bridge State Park
Massachusetts State Park
Locator Red.svg
Location of Natural Bridge State Park in Massachusetts
Location of Natural Bridge State Park in Massachusetts
Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Berkshire
Location North Adams, Massachusetts, USA
 - coordinates 42°42′24.012″N 73°5′35.9874″W / 42.70667°N 73.093329833°W / 42.70667; -73.093329833Coordinates: 42°42′24.012″N 73°5′35.9874″W / 42.70667°N 73.093329833°W / 42.70667; -73.093329833
Area 48 acres (19 ha)
Managed by Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation
Nearest city North Adams, Massachusetts
Natural Bridge, North Adams
Website : Natural Bridge State Park website

Natural Bridge State Park is a Massachusetts state park located in North Adams, Massachusetts, in the northwestern part of the state. It contains the only natural white marble arch/bridge in North America. The "natural bridge" for which the park is named, according to geologists, is 550 million year old bedrock marble, carved into an arch by the force of glacial melt water over 13,000 years ago.[1]

Formerly the site of a marble quarry from 1810 to 1947 and privately-owned tourist attraction from 1950 to 1983, the site became a state park in 1985. The arch and associated quarry have long attracted attention from hikers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1838, who wrote of it (among other local features) in his An American Notebook.


Hudson's Discovery

Natural Bridge State Park contains the only natural white marble bridge in North America. Formed by glacial melt by 11,000 BC, the arch was carved out over the course of 500 million years by a continuous flow of water.[2] The Mohawk Indians that lived, hunted, and fished in the area possibly saw no gain in naming the small brook, but when an explorer for the Massachusetts fort stumbled upon the many caves and rock formations he took it upon himself to aptly name Hudson Brook; forever paying homage to himself.[3][4] Lieutenant Seth Hudson was stationed at Fort Massachusetts in 1759 and discovered what is today known as Hudson Brook around 1760 when he relocated out to the Western Massachusetts/Vermont border. Hudson was later one of the founders of the southern Vermont town of Pownal.[5]

Hudson Brook is responsible for many of the marble formations that can be seen at the Natural Bridge. The brook cascades down a marble maze and eventually makes its way through a cave known as Hudson Cave. This natural wonder was one of several locations in the Berkshires noted in the journal of Nathaniel Hawthorn; eventually published under the title an American Notebook.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne visited and stayed in North Adams from Thursday, July 26, 1838 – Tuesday, September 11, 1838 (Hawthorne, American Notebook)

He left Salem, Massachusetts on Monday, July 23, 1838. His fiancée Sophia wrote to her sister Elizabeth on July 23 that Hawthorne “said he was not going to tell anyone where he was going to be the next three months—that he thought he should change his name so that if he died no one would be able to find his grave stone. He should not even tell his Mother where he could be found—that he neither intended to write to anyone nor be written to.”

The mills

The Natural Bridge site is rich in a multitude of minerals, including Calcite, muscovite, feldspar, pyrite, and quartz---but it is mostly known for its rich deposits of marble rock. This quarry brought great wealth to the community. North Adams saw a boom in economy and culture for well over one hundred years because of the millwork in town, and a quick look around town will reveal that marble cutting brought a wealth of aesthetic greatness.

Stone cutting in North Adams started at first in an inexperienced, coarse manner. Amateur workers cut marble for gravestones, stone facings, underpinnings, and mantle pieces for the wealthier class in town. The earliest stone cutting was unorganized and generally unregulated until around 1810.

In 1810, Solomon Sherman who was a man of “high reputation” commenced his business at the natural bridge site. His operation was based on home trade. Operations were continued and taken over by his heir, Manson Sherman. It was in 1830 that Elijah Pike decided to start his own operation, opening up a shop on Eagle Street.

In 1830, Elijah Pike opened up his shop on the main strip of town. As the quality and quantity of the marble became known, a wider market opened up and Pike saw a chance to commence his operation with capital from one Dr. E.S. Hawkes. The men pooled their resources in improving the grounds, laying out a road, and putting up the mills. All of this was at a cost of 1,800 dollars. In 1837, Mr. Blackinton, a local man, bought in with Mr. Pike and the operation continued until it was sold to W.M. McAuley for 7,000 dollars in 1838. From this point on, it was owned by a joint stock company and the annual product (marble, lime, etc) was estimated at 56,000, which was quite a nice amount of cash.

Preservation efforts started early when in 1835 two gentleman known as Messrs. Dwight and Denny bought the marble ledge for 150 dollars for the purposes of preserving the area. Five acres of surrounding land was purchased by one John Page for 217 dollars, whom entered into a perpetual lease from the town, who then owned thirty acres of land.


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ History of the town of Marlborough, Middlesex Co, MA. Charles Hudson, 1862 T.R. Marver and Sons. Boston, MA pg 399
  4. ^
  5. ^
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Heart of Hawthorne's Journals. Ed. Newton Arvin. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The American Notebooks. Ed. Claude M. Simpson. Centenary ed. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State UP, 1972.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Letters, 1813-1843. Ed. Thomas Woodson, L. Neal Smith, and Norman Holmes Pearson. Vol. 15. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State UP, 1984.
  • Connerton, Dan. "Nathaniel Hawthorne: The North Adams years." The Berkshire Sampler. 14 Sept. 1980: 7.
  • Burke, Michael E. "Visit by Hawthorne, an overlooked moment in city's history." The North Adams Transcript. 19 Nov. 1981: 5.
  • Perry, Bliss. "Hawthorne at North Adams." The Amateur Spirit. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1904. 119-39.
  • History of North Adams. Morris. Pp. 29–30,66-67, Originally found in North Adams Transcript. Copied from Original in April 1945.
  • History of North Adams, Ma. 1749-1885 W.F. Spear. Hoosac Valley News Printing House, 1895.

External links

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