Barns of the Berkshires

Published by Schiffer

The Berkshire region of western Massachusetts is characterized by low mountains, picturesque communities such as Norman Rockwell’s Stockbridge, Williams College, a historic Shaker community complete with its famous round stone barn, the Tanglewood music festival, stone walls and Colonial era architecture.  

No wonder that photographer and refuge from Wall Street and Los Angeles Stephen Donaldson decided to “follow his dream” in the gentle Berkshire Mountains.   There he was captivated by the variety of barns and set about telling their stories through photography. 

Admittedly not an authority on rural vernacular architecture Donaldson grew to appreciate the post and beam construction of pre-20th century barns and devotes a section to noted timber framer Jack Sobon’s newly built English barn.  These pages provide the reader a good introduction to this type of construction using traditional tools and materials—a construction method that is making a strong revival. 

The above-described section of this small (113 p.) coffee table volume as well as the “Introduction” and “Evolution of Barns in Berkshire County” are well written, educational and authoritative. 

Other photos show a variety of the region’s barns in all seasons.  The more committed barn aficionado may be disappointed at the number of “of drive by” photos where the photography begs for more information on the subjects’ age and history.  Likewise the text accompanying some of the photo captions could have been improved.  Not withstanding these points the volume is a worthwhile addition to a library of barn lore and disappearing Americana.

Barns of the Berkshires is recommended as a book of photography of these disappearing icons in one of America’s most picturesque regions

Barns of the Berkshires was released in 2009 by Schiffer Publishing Ltd. Atglen, PA 19310. Contact 610.593.1777,, or for purchase information.

Review by Charles Leik, June 2009