Lee is a town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, metropolitan statistical area. The population was 5,943 at the 2010 census. Lee, which includes the villages of South and East Lee, is part of the Berkshires resort area.
Lee occupies land that was originally territory of Mahican Indians. The first non-native settlement in the area was known as Dodgetown as early as 1760. Dodgetown was named after its founding settler, Asahel Dodge, who immigrated to the area from Cape Cod. Lee was incorporated in 1777 from parts of Great Barrington and Washington. It is named after Revolutionary War General Charles Lee. Lee is a former mill town.
In the autumn of 1786 during Shays’ Rebellion, about 250 followers of Daniel Shays encountered state troops commanded by General John Paterson near East Lee. The Shaysites paraded a fake cannon crafted from a yarn beam, and the troops fled.
Early industries included agriculture, lumbering, and lime making. Abundant streams and rivers provided water power for mills that produced textiles and wire. Papermaking became the principal industry in 1806 with the construction of the Willow Mill by Samuel Church in South Lee. The Columbia Mill in central Lee was established in 1827, and eventually became the first to supply 100% groundwood newsprint to The New York Times. By 1857, there were 25 paper mills in Lee. The Smith Paper Company discovered how to manufacture paper solely from wood pulp in 1867, and through the 1870s was the country’s largest producer of paper. The mills previously owned by Smith Paper Company were closed in 2008. Today, Lee has only a single papermaking facility.
The town’s marble is famous for its quality. The first quarry was established in 1852. In 1867, almost 500,000 cubic feet (14,000 m3) of marble was excavated and shipped on the Housatonic Railroad. Buildings constructed of Lee marble include a wing of the Capitol in Washington, 250 sculptures adorning Philadelphia City Hall,General Grant National Memorial (Tomb) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
The town’s 19th-century prosperity is still evident in its architecture, including its town hall, library, several churches and private homes. South Lee includes a historic district listed on the National Register.
Lee has become a popular tourist destination, noted both for its New England charm and its bed and breakfast establishments. It is known as the “Gateway to The Berkshires” because it provides one of only two exits on the Massachusetts Turnpike that serve the county, and the only one going eastbound.
Arlo Guthrie’s court appearance before the blind judge and his seeing-eye dog for dumping garbage as described in the song “Alice’s Restaurant” took place in the courtroom at the Lee Town Hall.
Lee was a filming location for Before and After (1996) and The Cider House Rules (1999).
Lee operates its own school department, which also serves the town of Tyringham, and has an option to serve Becket, Otis, Sandisfield, and other surrounding towns. Lee Elementary School serves students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grades, and the Lee Middle and High School serves students from seventh through twelfth grades. Lee’s athletics teams are nicknamed the Wildcats, and their colors are black and orange. Additionally, Lee is home to Saint Mary’s School, a parochial school which serves students through eighth grade. Other private schools can be found in Great Barrington and other surrounding towns.
The nearest community college is the South County Center of Berkshire Community College in Great Barrington, and the nearest state university is Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The nearest private college is Bard College at Simon’s Rock.
See also: Lee (CDP), Massachusetts
As of the census of 2000, there were 5,985 people, 2,442 households, and 1,606 families residing in the town. By population, Lee ranks seventh out of the 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County, and 227th out of 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 226.7 people per square mile (87.5/km2), which ranks sixth in the county and 241st in the Commonwealth. There were 2,927 housing units at an average density of 110.9 per square mile (42.8/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 96.93% White, 0.62% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.95% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.74% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.49% of the population.
There were 2,492 households, out of which 28.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.7% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.2% were non-families. 28.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the town, the population was spread out, with 22.1% under the age of 18, 7.0% from 18 to 24, 28.5% from 25 to 44, 25.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.1 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $41,556, and the median income for a family was $49,630. Males had a median income of $35,565 versus $26,232 for females. The per capita income for the town was $19,799. About 2.5% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.4% of those under age 18 and 4.2% of those age 65 or over.