Lee Historical Society
Vol. 15, No. 5
May 2018
Our unique history and blend of people defines the foundation of our town.
Crossway Tower
P. O. Box 170
Lee, MA 01238
Contact us: Lee.Historical@hotmail.com




The May meeting of the Lee Historical Society will be held on Thursday, May10, 2018 starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Hyde Meeting Room at Crossway Tower. It will be a business meeting for Officers, Board members and any interested members. We urge members to attend and become involved. Some of the agenda items include; an increase or change in 2019 membership fees and suggestions on how to collect them, selecting a committee to follow up on our monthly website conversations, final dates for upcoming programs and suggestions on future programs, the scholarship committee has received the scholarship applications and will announce the two winners for this year.


The date of the Paint & Sip Fundraiser will be Saturday, June 16 at 6:00 p.m. The location is the Cafeteria in the Senior Center. This fundraiser is being brought back by popular demand as the people who attended last year’s event had a great time, so mark your calendars. For sign ups and question, please call Bambi at 413-717-8817.


The Society has plans for a Cemetery Walk at Fairmount Cemetery during the Memorial Day weekend. Right now our plans are incomplete as of the day and time. We will send out emails to all of our members and friends with the final plans by this weekend. We will also try to get posters out in local locations. 

Kilbon Memorial Fountain Update:

The Committee, spearheaded by the Berkshire Gateway Preservation Group, consists of members of the Lee Historical Society, the Lee Chamber of Commerce, the Lee Historical Commission, the Town of Lee and several community minded individuals has been meeting since late fall to find funds to repair, preserve and maintain the Kilbon Memorial Fountain in the park that is in dire need of repair. Hopefully in the next few weeks activity will start around the fountain. First it will be uncovered from the winter protection and some digging will occur to enable us to see what is underneath. Then it will be prepared and moved to Tower Stone in Richmond for repair. We are planning to video and photograph the project as it progresses. It will be an interesting project!  We have reached about 57% of our goal so far, so we are asking people to send in a few bucks for this worthy project, if they haven’t already. Thanks.

On the following page is this month’s photo sent to us from the Lee Library’s Historical Collection of Lee Photographs. This collection has been digitalized for the Lee Library by the Boston Public Library. We thank the Lee Library for making this possible for our readers. If any of our readers would like to comment or add additional information, please contact Mary Philpott at maryphilpott@mindspring.com

The building in the center of this photo was the main office building of the Smith Paper Company’s Eagle Mill, about 1940. In the photo it was a stand-alone building but was later attached to the Eagle Paper Mill.

Lee Library Historical Photograph Collection

The visual record of the town and its evolution is found in our photo collection. Photos document all aspects of life---education, religion, disasters, individuals, sports, leisure activities, buildings, and businesses (especially the papermaking and marble industries).
The collection is now online in the Digital Commonwealth repository. You may view it here:


New Program! Computer and Gadget Help
Saturday, 5/12 and 5/26  from 10am-12 noon.   Looking for help with a new computer, phone, tablet or any other gadget?  Stop in and get help from one of our teen computer and gadget helpers.

May Exhibit

Lee Middle and High School Art Show for the month of May.  Senior Art Show reception, Monday, May 7th at 5 pm.  Underclassmen Art Show Reception will be on Thursday, May 24th at 5 pm.  

FamiLEE Movies

Paddington 2, Saturday, 5/12 at 11am.  Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.   The movie runs 120 minutes.

Adult Programs

Tuesday, 5/8 from 6:00 – 7:30pm.  Erica Fay’s 3 Essentials for Preparing a Successful Home Project.   Join Interior Designer Erica Fay for this fun free workshop that she created to offer helpful tips on how to succeed in having your dream home renovations and decorating projects live up to your expectations.

Wednesday, 5/9 from 2 to 4pm. “Main Street Literary Society”; Book
Club, hosted by Deedee Consolati.  Meetings will continue to be held on the
second Wednesday of each month and book club members are encouraged to
bring book titles that they would like to have selected in future months. The book
selection is In the Midst of Winter: A Novel by Isabel Allende.   New members are welcome but required to register by calling the library at 413-243-0385.

Tuesdays from 1:00 to 2:30pm.  Knit/Crochet Group.  This is an opportunity for knitters to gather and share patterns, information and the company of fellow enthusiasts. Please join in the fun.

Grown-up Game Night! Get together with a group of friendly board game enthusiasts every Thursday evening at 6 - 8pm.  For adults 18+, no registration required, for more information call us at 413-243-0385.

Children’s Programs and Information

Thursdays in May at 3:30pm.  Berkshire Museum in partnership with South Berkshire Kids presents FREE South County STEM at the Lee Library.  This month-long series is designed for scientists ages 2-8 years old and their caregivers.  Space is limited and registration required by calling (413) 464-5095.  

Mondays from 10:30-11:30am.   Babies and Books. Join us for this weekly program for families with infants, ages birth-12 months. We will learn new songs,   finger plays and share the joys and challenges of new parenthood! This program is free and no registration required.

Thursdays from 10:30-11:30am.  Brain Builders.   Join us for this weekly playgroup for families with young children from ages birth to 5. This program is free and no registration is required. This program will include a circle time with stories, songs and group fun, followed by tabletop activities.

Saturday, May 19, 10:30am – 11:30am. Kiwanis Krafts and Reading with Kids.  Please join us for a story and craft presented by the Lee Kiwanis Club. Healthy snacks will be provided!


Monday, TAB meeting, May 21, at 6:00pm 
Wednesdays, 5/2, 5/9, 5/16, 5/23 and 5/30 from 3:30 to 4:30pm.  Teen Chess.
Thursdays, 5/2, 5/9, 5/16, 5/23 &  5/30 from 3:30 to 4:30pm. D & D Gaming in the Gallery.
Fridays, 5/4, 5/11, 5/18 & 5/25 & from 3:30 to 4:30pm.  Wii Gaming in the Gallery.

New Microfilm Reader!

The library has a new Microfilm Reader.  You can now send articles to your email or transfer them to a flash drive and print them. 

Lee At The Crossroads
By Phil Smith

Have you driven the 10th Massachusetts Turnpike recently?  (You probably did but didn’t know it.)  What’s that, you thought there was only one Massachusetts Turnpike?  Wrong again, there were originally about sixty-six of them and Lee was on the 10th, roughly following the present US Route 20 and Jacob’s Ladder Road, but turning south through Otis in West Becket.  No north-south turnpike was built along the Housatonic River, perhaps because cart roads were adequate.  That route was later upgraded and called the Ethan Allen Highway.  Lee was an important crossroads from the start.

The early history of roads in Massachusetts has largely been forgotten with only some names and numbers remaining to cause confusion.  When settlers first arrived in various Massachusetts towns, travel was over some rough paths established by Native Americans and by migrating animals.  Lee, like other towns, carved out a rough grid of streets, but it wasn’t until the very end of the 18th Century that the state legislature began to realize that there was a need for an organized series of roads connecting places.  They tried to do this by granting charters to private investors to establish turnpikes and to collect tolls for their use.  (The word turnpike comes from pikes {gates} that were turned when fees were paid.) 

The privately owned roads that crisscrossed the state were seldom financially successful.  For one thing, the state had forbidden operators from collecting money from people who were traveling to and from work or church, so many traveled free.  For another, enterprising scofflaws quickly built rough roads around tollhouses to avoid paying.  These were called “Shunpikes.”  Owners of the 10th Massachusetts Turnpike opened their road in 1800 and continued to operate until about 1855, when towns, including Lee, took control of their property. 

It took another century and the advent of motorcars before the state would start investing heavily in public roads.  Partly in response to demands of the citizens of Lee, the road we know as Jacob’s Ladder Trail was completed and opened in 1910.  It is an historic road, the first modern surfaced highway over a mountain crossing in America.  Not much of that was new construction; it mostly just incorporated a series of upgraded existing streets into a through road.  That’s why today as you pass through Lee the road has many street names: Cape, Chapel, Water, Housatonic, Park, Main, Center, Laurel and (informally) Becket and Lenox Roads. 

By 1926, the federal government finally got involved, establishing a system of highway numbers, but leaving funding to the states.  Jacob’s Ladder Road became part of US Route 20.  In the west, it originally ended at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.  Today 20 has been officially extended from Boston’s Kenmore Square, which is street level under the famed CITGO sign, to Newport Beach, Oregon, less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean.  It is the nation’s longest numbered highway at 3,365 miles.  The north/south Ethan Allen Highway was designated US Route 7 in 1927.  That route runs from Norwalk, Connecticut, 308 miles through three states to the Canada border in Highgate, Vermont. 

Following World War II several states began ambitious road building projects that promised to enhance trade.  The first phase of the modern Massachusetts Turnpike opened through Lee in 1957.  It was an entirely new highway designed for through travel.  New York State opened the Berkshire connector two years later.  By then, the federal government had finally moved to finance highway building, not for transportation purposes, but for national defense under the name the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System.  Our road became part of I-90, the nation’s longest Interstate highway at 3,020 miles, stretching from Boston to Seattle.

Most through traffic moved from US 20 to I-90 for obvious reasons.  At a fairly leisurely pace of 8-9 hours of driving per day on I-90, averaging about 70 MPH, travelers can reach the West Coast in 4-5 days.  They don’t even need maps or a GPS, just get on I-90 and keep going west.  Newsman Charles Kuralt, a critic of this high-speed travel, observed that “thanks to the Interstate Highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”  But what is the alternative?  Once the through road, US 20 meanders west through numerous cities including Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Westfield, Lee, Pittsfield, Albany, Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Toledo, Elkhart, South Bend, Gary, Chicago, Rockford, Dubuque, Waterloo, Sioux City, Casper, Idaho Falls, Boise, Bend and Corvallis.  At best, travelers on US 20 might average 35 MPH.  With no stops for the hundreds of cultural attractions along the way, travelers might reach the Pacific Ocean in about 10-11 days. 

In our many travels west we have used parts of US 20 in several states.  West of I-88 in New York the road is a rather quiet divided highway providing easy access to the Finger Lakes region.  In eastern Indiana 20 is a narrow 2-lane road sometimes clogged with Amish buggies, but on a new bypass around Elkhart and South Bend it suddenly becomes a high- speed freeway.  On one trip we stayed two nights at a hotel on a tree-lined US 20 while visiting the charming town of Galena, Illinois.  In Sioux City, Iowa we jumped on 20 and sped across a high steel bridge over the Missouri River into Nebraska.  In Yellowstone the road continues, but without the familiar shield route number signs.  We have also used I-90 in the Midwest and West, but it lacks the local charm of the older road. 

We see once again that Lee’s position as a natural crossroads has made it central to every era of American road building.  From local streets laid out downtown while re-routing the Housatonic River, to the early turnpike era, on to the period of state highways, to the coming of the US highways and the Interstates, most roads in Western Massachusetts have led to our doors and have provided access to the outside world.      

Trivia question from a member:

Society member John Costello from Bradenton, Florida was reading Dick Lindsay’s story in the Berkshire Eagle about the demolition of Hubby’s Cabins and is asking the readers if they remember where in Lee were Tucker’s Cabins. He knows that they were owned by Cal and Jane Tucker and may have been known as Tamarac Cabins. So let’s hear it readers, where were they?    

Membership Dues for the Lee Historical Society.

We are in the process of collecting membership dues for 2018 and your renewal is important to us, so please, if you have not sent in your membership dues, please do so. Thanks, and if you are not sure what your membership status is, send us an email or drop us a line. We are continually looking for pictures, postcards and any items related to the past history of Lee that can be donated or scanned for our collections. Please think of the Lee Historical Society before you throw things out.


Student or Senior - $5.00     Individual - $10.00     Family - $15.00     Business - $25.00
Supporting Membership -$50.00 or more     Sponsor Membership - $100.00 or more
Name: __________________________________________________________
Mail to:
Address: ________________________________________________________Lee Historical Society
        P. O. Box 170
                             Lee, MA 01238
City/Town: _________________________State:_____________Zip:________

Telephone: ______________________Email:__________________

Monthly meetings on held on the second Thursday of each month.
The following is a list of the area businesses that are currently “Business Members” of the Lee Historical Society for this year. If you would like your business or company listed here, please fill out the membership application below and send it to us with a check for $25.00.
Bartini Roofing CompanyValley Roll-offsCharles Flint Antiques
290 Pleasant Street95 Marble Street52 Housatonic Street
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lenox, MA 01240

A. Williams & Son Zabian’s IncorporatedLocker Room Sports Pub
Landscaping & Excavation15-19 Main Street232 Main Street
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238

Frank Consolati Ins. AgencyPaperdilly, Inc.Dresser Hull Company
71 Main Street74 Main Street60 Railroad Street
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238
Robert M. Kelly, PaperhangingJonathon Foote 1778 HouseMill Renaissance LLC
65 South Prospect Street1 East Street55 Hurlburt Road
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Gt. Barrington, MA 01230

Henry Holt ArtLee BankDevonfield Inn
P. O. Box 69975 Park Street85 Stockbridge Road
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238

Hunter & Graziano P. C.Terrace Hair StudioWilcox Plumbing & Heating
10 Park Place135 Housatonic StreetP. O. Box 561
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238

Lee Hardware Store, Inc.NBT Bank of LeeConsidine & Leary, Attorneys
221 Main Street76 Park Street49 Main Street
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238

A. F. Viale Insurance AgencyGreylock Federal Credit UnionLB Corporation
75 Main Street47 Main Street95 Marble Street
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238

Kevin J. O’Neil. ElectricianGrasshopper’s Lawn CareHannon Lerner P. C.
225 East Street560 Fairview Street184 Main Street
Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238Lee, MA 01238

Cottage Care Inc.Ta-Ga-Soke CampgroundsRW’s Incorporated
230 Stockbridge Rd. Box7537820 Higginsville Road35 Runway
Lee, MA 01238Blossvale, NY 133028Lee, MA 01238

50 Runway
Lee, MA 01238

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is God’s gift, that’s why we call it the present”
                         Joan Rivers 1933-2014

Lee Historical Society
.Newsletter  May 2018