Berkshire County, Massachusetts

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Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Berkshire County Courthouse 2.JPG
Berkshire County Courthouse
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Berkshire County
Location in the state of Massachusetts
Map of the United States highlighting Massachusetts
Massachusetts's location in the U.S.
FoundedApril 24, 1761
Largest cityPittsfield
 • Total946 sq mi (2,450 km2)
 • Land927 sq mi (2,401 km2)
 • Water20 sq mi (52 km2), 2.1%
 • (2010)131,219
 • Density142/sq mi (55/km²)
Congressional district1st
Time zoneEastern: UTC-5/-4
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For the Royal County of Berkshire in the United Kingdom, see Berkshire.
Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Berkshire County Courthouse 2.JPG
Berkshire County Courthouse
Map of Massachusetts highlighting Berkshire County
Location in the state of Massachusetts
Map of the United States highlighting Massachusetts
Massachusetts's location in the U.S.
FoundedApril 24, 1761
Largest cityPittsfield
 • Total946 sq mi (2,450 km2)
 • Land927 sq mi (2,401 km2)
 • Water20 sq mi (52 km2), 2.1%
 • (2010)131,219
 • Density142/sq mi (55/km²)
Congressional district1st
Time zoneEastern: UTC-5/-4
The Berkshire Hills, part of the Appalachian Mountains, in winter

Berkshire County, pronounced Berk-sher, is a county located on the western edge of the U.S. state of Massachusetts. As of the 2010 census, the population was 131,219.[1] Its largest city and traditional county seat is Pittsfield.[2] The county was founded in 1761[3] and abolished in 2000.

Berkshire County comprises the Pittsfield, MA Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The Berkshire Hills are centered on Berkshire County, and the county itself is often referred to simply as the Berkshires. It exists today only as a historical geographic region, and has no county government.

Law and government[edit]

Of the fourteen Massachusetts counties, Berkshire County is one of seven that exists today only as a historical geographic region, and has no county government. Berkshire County government was abolished effective July 1, 2000, and all former county functions were assumed by state agencies, and there is no county council or commission.[4] The sheriff became an Commonwealth employee, but remains locally elected to perform duties within the county region and retains administrative and operational control over the Berkshire Sheriff’s Office, an independent state agency that was created after the county government was abolished. The Berkshire Sheriff’s Office runs the county jail and house of correction.[4]

Local communities were granted the right to form their own regional compacts for sharing services, and the towns of Berkshire County have formed such a regional compact known as the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

Berkshire County has three Registry of Deeds Districts, one for each district.

County government: Berkshire County
Clerk of Courts:Deborah S. Capeless
District Attorney:David F. Capeless
Register of Deeds:Frances T. Brooks[5] (Northern District at Adams)
Patsy Harris (Middle District at Pittsfield)
Wanda M. Beckwith (Southern District at Great Barrington)
Register of Probate:Francis B. Marinaro
County Sheriff:Thomas Bowler
State government
State Representative(s):4 Representatives: [1]
Gailanne Cariddi (D), First Berkshire
Paul Mark (D), Second Berkshire
Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D), Third Berkshire
William Smitty Pignatelli (D), Fourth Berkshire
State Senator(s):1 Senator: [2]
Benjamin B. Downing (D), Pittsfield
Governor's Councilor(s):Carole A. Fiola - District 1
Kelly A. Timilty - District 2
Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney - District 3
Christopher A. Iannella - District 4
Mary-Ellen Manning - District 5
Michael J. Callahan - District 6
Thomas J. Foley - District 7
Thomas T. Merrigan - District 8
Federal government
U.S. Representative(s):Richard Neal (D-1st District)
U.S. Senators:Elizabeth Warren (D), Ed Markey (D)
Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of October 13, 2010[6]
PartyNumber of VotersPercentage
 Minor Parties6690.76%

Berkshire County is located in the Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, a primarily rural district that makes up most of Western Massachusetts.

Berkshire County has four (4) districts and elected Representatives in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Berkshire County is located in one (1) district for the Massachusetts Senate.

The district consist of all of Berkshire County and the following cities: Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Middlefield, Plainfield, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington, in the county of Hampshire; and Ashfield, Charlemont, Conway, Hawley, Heath, Monroe and Rowe, in the county of Franklin. Benjamin B. Downing (D), is the current Senator.

The Massachusetts Governor's Council, also known as the Executive Council, is composed of eight individuals elected from districts, and the Lt. Governor who serves ex officio. The eight councillors are elected from their respective districts every two years. Berkshire County is located in the 8th District.

The Council generally meets at noon on Wednesdays in its State House Chamber, next to the Governor's Office, to act on such issues as payments from the state treasury, criminal pardons and commutations, and approval of gubernatorial appointments; such as judges, notaries and justices of the peace.

See also the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts page on counties.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 946 square miles (2,450 km2), of which 927 square miles (2,400 km2) is land and 20 square miles (52 km2) (2.1%) is water.[7] It is the second-largest county in Massachusetts by land area. The highest natural point in Massachusetts, Mount Greylock at 3,492 feet (1,064 m) is located in Berkshire County.

Berkshire County is one of two Massachusetts counties that borders three different neighboring states; the other being Worcester County. The two counties are also the only ones to touch both the northern and southern state lines.

Running north-south through the county are the Hoosac Range of the Berkshire Hills in the eastern part of the county and the Taconic Mountains in the western part of the county. They are a source of pride for their beauty, and have marked the county's character. Due to their elevation, the Berkshires attract tourists and summer residents eager to escape the heat of the lowlands.

Adjacent counties[edit]


Historical population
Est. 2013129,585−1.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[8]
1790-1960[9] 1900-1990[10]
1990-2000[11] 2010-2013[1]

As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 134,953 people, 56,006 households, and 35,115 families residing in the county. The population density was 145 people per square mile (56/km²). There were 66,301 housing units at an average density of 71 per square mile (27/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 95.02% White, 1.99% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.99% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.59% from other races, and 1.23% from two or more races. 1.69% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 16.5% were of Italian, 16.4% Irish, 10.8% French, 10.3% English, 8.0% Polish, 7.1% German, 5.8% American and 5.1% French Canadian ancestry according to Census 2000. 94.1% spoke English, 1.6% Spanish and 1.1% French as their first language.

There were 56,006 households out of which 27.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.00% were married couples living together, 11.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.30% were non-families. 31.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.40% under the age of 18, 8.40% from 18 to 24, 26.40% from 25 to 44, 24.90% from 45 to 64, and 17.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 91.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,047, and the median income for a family was $50,162. Males had a median income of $36,692 versus $26,504 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,807. About 6.50% of families and 9.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.30% of those under age 18 and 7.20% of those age 65 or over.

Demographic breakdown by town[edit]


The ranking of unincorporated communities that are included on the list are reflective if the census designated locations and villages were included as cities or towns. Data is from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.[13][14][15]

RankTownPer capita
PopulationNumber of
5Mount WashingtonTown$40,073$68,750$69,68815064
10New AshfordTown$35,676$63,854$75,750225109
11West StockbridgeTown$35,092$75,543$97,7841,573640
12Great BarringtonTown$34,585$48,561$73,3697,1312,792
18New MarlboroughTown$32,451$67,528$68,7501,499591
Berkshire CountyCounty$29,387$48,705$64,393131,22155,793
Great BarringtonCDP$28,282$40,393$66,5002,4641,021
32North AdamsCity$20,330$36,424$51,02813,7635,867


Presidential election results[16]
201275.8% 48,59622.2% 14,209
200874.9% 49,55822.5% 14,876
200473.1% 47,74325.7% 16,806
200063.9% 37,93426.6% 15,805

In the last two U.S. Presidential elections, Berkshire County was Massachusetts's second-bluest county behind Suffolk County, which consists primarily of Boston. In 2004, the Bay State's native son John Kerry carried Berkshire by a massive 47.4% margin over incumbent President George W. Bush, with Kerry winning his home state by 25.2% over President Bush. In 2008, the county voted for Barack Obama by a 52.4% margin over John McCain, with Obama winning by 25.8% over McCain statewide. Obama won the county by an even larger margin of 53.6% in the 2012 election.[17]


The Mahican (Muh-he-ka-neew) Native American tribe lived in the area that now makes up Berkshire County until the early 18th century, when the first English settlers and frontiersmen appeared and began setting up farms and homesteads. On April 25, 1724, “The English finally paid the Indians 460 pounds, 3 barrels of cider, and 30 quarts of rum for what is today Berkshire County.”[18] This deal did not include modern Sheffield, Stockbridge, Richmond, and Lenox, which were added later. Berkshire County remained part of Hampshire County until 1760.

In the 19th century, Berkshire County became popular with the American elite, which built what they called "cottages" throughout the countryside. The Gilded Age ended in the early 20th century with the income tax, World War I, and the Great Depression. In the 20th, century some of these cottages were torn or burned down, while others became prep schools, historic sites, or bed-and-breakfast inns.

Today Berkshire is known throughout the East Coast and the country as the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It includes attractions such as Tanglewood, the Norman Rockwell Museum, Mass MOCA, and Hancock Shaker Village.


Map of Berkshire County




Villages are census divisions, but have no separate legal existence from the towns they are in.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ "Berkshire County History". Retrieved September 18, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Official Audit Report - Issued December 16, 2011 - Berkshire Sheriff's Office As of January 5, 2011.
  5. ^ Northern Berkshire District Registry of Deeds. Retrieved on 2013-07-15.
  6. ^ "Registration and Party Enrollment Statistics as of October 13, 2010" (PDF). Massachusetts Elections Division. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  7. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 15, 2014. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 15, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 15, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 15, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 15, 2014. 
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^ "SELECTED ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  14. ^ "ACS DEMOGRAPHIC AND HOUSING ESTIMATES 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  15. ^ "HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
  16. ^ "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  17. ^ U.S. Election Atlas
  18. ^ David H. Wood, 'Lenox Massachusetts Shire Town', (For the town: Lenox, 1969), p. 5.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°22′N 73°13′W / 42.37°N 73.21°W / 42.37; -73.21