When Andrea Harrington, 40, was growing up in Richmond, Mass., her teachers at the local public school urged her to dream big and see the world beyond the Berkshires. The daughter of a local builder and housecleaner whose great-grandparents once ran a dairy farm in town, Harrington went on to study law and moved to Miami’s glitzy South Beach. But after her first baby was born, the chance to be closer to family and send her son and any future children to her own elementary school proved a powerful draw.
In 2009, Harrington and her husband built their home in Richmond, a woodsy, sparsely populated town best known to many in Massachusetts as the summer retreat of former governor Deval Patrick. Richmond has little in the way of commerce — beyond two popular orchards — but is only a five- to 10-minute drive to Berkshire attractions like Tanglewood and to the Mass. Turnpike.
Harrington, a lawyer with a practice in nearby Great Barrington, likes the town’s relaxed feel and its central location. But for her, the greatest draw was its school.
Richmond Consolidated School, with students in preschool through eighth grade, was transformative for her as a student. As a parent — her sons are 8 and 3 — Harrington appreciates the school’s creative arts program, its high MCAS scores, and the openness of its faculty and staff. “The principal is fantastic, and you can actually contact the superintendent and talk to her about things,’’ she said.
But the school’s small size poses a challenge as well as a draw, Harrington said. Due to high real estate prices and tight zoning requirements (compared with other area communities), she said, Richmond’s school-age population is shrinking. “It’s started to turn into a wealthy retirement community, and that’s not a sustainable community model,’’ Harrington said. She sits on an affordable-housing committee in town that is trying to address the issue.
In the meantime, she feels fortunate that she and her family are part of Richmond’s future. “I fight with people in court all day long, and I just love coming home here,’’ she said. “It’s my refuge.’’
Population as of the 2010 Census. The town gains about 200 residents during the summer.
Years since Richmond was incorporated. The town is planning to hold its milestone birthday bash in June.
Median age of town residents
Minimum number of acres required per new residence
Small, well-regarded school system
Many in the area talk about Richmond Consolidated School as a draw to the town, both for its MCAS scores (third-graders came in first and second statewide in math and English, respectively) and its sense of community.
Since Richmond has almost nothing in the way of a “downtown,’’ residents must drive to restaurants and shops. The pleasant village of West Stockbridge is only a short drive away.
Alison Lobron is a freelance writer in Great Barrington. Send comments to Address@globe.com.