Natural Bridge Park may be home to a fascinating series of landforms sculpted by the melting of glaciers thousands of year ago, but it also holds local histories of marble mining and community service projects as well as the only white marble dam in North America.
Consisting of 550 million year old marble bedrock, the famous arch that the park has been so named after was formed 13,000 years ago. Through an erosion process by glacial water, the Hudson Brook flowed in “overlapping switchbacks” and would “fold back onto itself” to erode the rock. This system along with later erosion processes helped to form the pockets and arch and is still continuing the process though slowly today.
Rushing Hudson Brook waters also helped to drive a profitable marble quarry for over a century. In 1810, local residents began to eye the marble that lay in the area, finding it useful for gravestones, storefronts and houses so a mill was built and dam put up to use the rushing water to power for the saws to cut the marble blocks. This mill also helped to power a new industrial revolution for the North Adams area and generated wealth for its citizens for over a century. The mill came to a sudden end in 1947 when the mill was engulfed in flames set off by a dynamite explosion, forcing the company into bankruptcy.
The land was then bought by Edward and Agnes Elder and turned into a private park for three decades. The Elders installed grills, restrooms, and park benches to create a welcoming, family atmosphere that attracted visitors from all around the area who were curious to see the natural wonders the park had to offer. The Elders opened a gift shop as well, selling souvenirs like the ones displayed in images below to gain interest and income to maintain the park.
With the passing of Edward Elder in 1984, the Massachusetts state government sought to buy the land for state park. However, this process proved lengthy as the legal paperwork and lawyers multiplied and it took several months to work through these issues before ownership of the land was finally passed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the park reopened in 1985.
But while the Brook keeps churning and eroding the walls of the marble, the park is now being used as a community educational center, featuring civil war reenactments, stone cutting demonstrations, boy scout programs, and festivals. Most prominently in 2004, the National Endowment of the Arts was able to sponsor a project for eight local Drury High School students to create their own sculptures. The funding came as part of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition UNITY program, a four year project meant to give teen artists a chance to develop large scale models that would be financially impossible for them to complete on their own. Bringing in a range of artists to assist in the teaching of the method, teen artists were able to have their chance to create concrete sculptures that now stand in a small field in the Natural Bridge Park.