Native Americans were the first to travel along the Mohawk Trail, through the Northern Berkshires and between the Hudson and Connecticut rivers. Today, a scenic drive east from North Adams past the “Hairpin Turn” leads to a unique spot known as the Wigwam Western Summit. There, where it is possible to view three states at once, lies the historic Wigwam cabins and gift shop.
The rustic chic styled cabins and gift shop, 2350 Mohawk Trail, formally known as the Wigwam Western Summit, was originally an early twentieth century automobile-tourist gift shop and observation tower. The site was bought in 1913 by four sisters, Theresa, Helen, Mary and Elizabeth Mansfield while the Mohawk Trail was still under construction. The Western Summit is not only known for its’ comfortable energy and beautiful sites; the history behind the Wigwam is connected to the history of the Mohawk Trail.
The Mansfield family opened the Wigwam Western Summit the following year when the cabin styled gift shop and observation tower were built. They ran the shops in the summer and in 1925 built the manager’s house on the site as the sisters’ summer home. 1925 was a positive turning point for the Wigwam as well as the Mohawk Trail. In 1924, Arthur Tauck, Sr., from New Jersey, created a tour business after visiting the Western Summit. The fall foliage tours – inspired by the Wigwam – caused an increase in tourism for the Mohawk Trail and extended tourist season for businesses. Since profits began to rise in 1934, the Mansfield family decided to change the use of the property. Cabins, an outhouse and garage were added to the land and the 1925 house was used as a home for the Mansfield family, along with a tea room and overnight guest dining hall. A new dining hall was added in 1939, but was demolished in 2003. It is also likely that the original gift shop was demolished and replaced with a larger building to meet the rising number of tourists.
The Mohawk Trail was a popular location from the 1920s until the 1940s to early 50s. In 1946 the Wigwam Western Summit was taken over by new owners Thomas Perkins and Elsworth Ott who ran the site until 1957. Thomas Perkins had been involved in the development of the Mohawk Trail in the 1930s and was actively involved in North Adams. The property was sold several times between 1957 to 1975 until Inna and Hans-Werner Gertje bought the land and ran the site for thirty years. During their ownership, the land changed significantly. The observation tower was torn down in 1981-82. When they first bought the Western Summit, they had rented out ten cabins, but by the early 2000s only six were still being used.
The cabins were left vacant from 2008 until 2018. The gift shop continued to run until the end of 2014. The Western Summit that had so much promise was left vacant until August 2018 when Lea King and Wayne Gelinas bought the property in hopes of turning it around. Today, the land contains the gift shop, along with the residence home and four rustic styled cabins, fashioned with dark floors and neutral color walls. Two of the cabins were demolished in 2018. Although the Wigwam Western Summit has evolved since the early twentieth century, it still holds on to its appeal as a longtime Mohawk Trail attraction.