In Norman Rockwell’s iconic Home for Christmas (Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas) painting, a quaint New England street unfolds before the viewer in a display of holiday cheer: A dusting of snow covers the ground, bedecked evergreens glow in storefronts and windows, and shoppers stroll by with parcels in hand. The canvas, completed in 1967, was inspired by the Massachusetts town in which the artist lived. Now, one of the buildings that appears in the painting is up for sale.
Today, the Victorian property at 44 Main Street in Stockbridge looks much the same as it does in Rockwell’s winter scene. Boasting a stark white façade and colorful stained glass windows, the three-story building housed an antiques shop, an insurance business and a gift shop back in the artist’s day. As Madeline Bilis reports for Boston.com, the property now hosts a real estate office and the still-operational 7 Arts Gift Shop.
The building’s currently vacant second floor could serve as an office or residence, according to Sotheby’s International Realty, which is listing the property for $1,795,000. The third floor, meanwhile, can be rented out as an “income producing” space. But 44 Main Street’s greatest appeal is arguably its connection with one of the most famous artists in American history.
“To say the property is iconic would be an understatement,” Steven Weisz, one of the listing agents, tells Bilis. “You can buy posters, lamps and Christmas ornaments with the likeness of the building.”
Rockwell and his family moved to Stockbridge in 1953. By this point, the artist had already established himself as a popular illustrator who captured the daily realities of American life with humor and warmth. Christmas was a common trope in Rockwell’s paintings; his jolly Santa Clauses and cozy family scenes are widely credited with shaping our ideas of the modern American holiday.
Still, Home for Christmas took Rockwell out of his comfort zone. The work was commissioned for McCall’s magazine in 1956, according to Chris Bury of ABC News, and took him more than a decade to complete—in part because the illustrator was busy with other projects and in part because he preferred painting human scenes to landscapes.
Per the Norman Rockwell Museum, which is also located in Stockbridge, rendering all the architectural details of the town’s Main Street proved to be an intimidating task. Although Rockwell relied largely on photographs of the scene he intended to paint (an approach he regularly used), he also sought inspiration beyond the town: Prints of Siberian winter landscapes set the stage for the painting’s snowy streets, catalog illustrations captured women’s cold-weather fashions and magazine images of candlelit homes provided the street’s glowing interiors. For the mountains that hover behind Main Street, Rockwell consulted photos of not only the nearby Berkshires, but snow-capped mountains in Vermont and Switzerland.
Home for Christmas takes some creative liberties. Tom Daly, curator of education at the Norman Rockwell Museum, tells Atlas Obscura’s Jessica Leigh Hester that there are “no mountains behind Main Street,” for instance. But many real-life landmarks—among others, the famed Red Lion Inn, a town social hub that appears with darkened windows because it used to shut down during winter, and the three-story Victorian currently on the market—are featured in the final painting. Viewers can spot Rockwell’s home in the far right corner of the painting. A room above the town market, suffused with the light of a Christmas tree, marks the spot where the artist’s studio was located during the 1950s.
Stockbridge’s residents recreate Rockwell’s iconic scene every December with a festival now in its 30th iteration. During the event, Main Street is closed to traffic, but several vintage automobiles dot the road, occupying the parking spaces filled in the painting. Visitors can also enjoy historic house tours, caroling and holiday readings.
The festival is, arguably, a testament to the enduring appeal of Rockwell’s Home for Christmas—an image rooted in a small New England town that nevertheless captures the wider essence of the American holiday season. Indeed, when the work finally appeared as a pull-out in McCall’s, the magazine added a caption aimed at its national audience: “Wherever you happen to hail from—city, suburb, farm or ranch—we hope you will have, for a moment, the feeling of coming home for Christmas.”