Backus Building, Martin Building, and Wood Building, 4-32 Bank Row

Running from 4 to 32 Bank Row are the Backus, Martin, and Wood Buildings. The Backus Building, 4-8 Bank Row, was constructed by William G. Backus, who owned a stove and plumbers’ supply store. The roof originally was federal style, but that was changed in 1880 to make a third story with a flat roof.  The Martin Building, located at 16-26 Bank Row, was erected in 1850 by Calvin Martin, a prominent lawyer. Now the home of the popular watering hole, Patrick’s Pub, the building, which was a coffee house back in the 1770s. Martin, the civic leader who lent his name to the building, is also well known for his significant contribution to the town’s first public library, his role in the building of the South Congregational Church and the expansion of the public school system. The building suffered two major fires in July, 1875, and January, 1903, but was rebuilt both times.

The Wood Building is one of the oldest commercial structures in downtown Pittsfield. Located at 28-32 Bank Row, the building was erected in 1810 by Captain Daniel Pepoon, a charter cooperator and director of the Berkshire Bank, which was chartered in 1807. Pepoon opened the building as Dr. James & Co. Medical Store. Originally the structure was three stories with a gable roof, but in 1880 Attorney Edgar Wood added the fourth story and a flat roof. The Haddad Rug Company bought the building in 1945 and renovated it in 1979 to its current appearance.

 

Berkshire Auto, 109 South Street

Berkshire Auto, located on 109 South Street, was opened in 1921 by Ralph O’Conner, who quickly found himself overseeing one of the first, and most prosperous garages in Pittsfield. O’Connor bought the building from Henry Dawes, Jr., the son of U.S Senator Henry Dawes, Sr. Henry Dawes Jr. was married to the daughter of Catherine Colt and Thomas Perkins Pingree of the Colt- Pingree house located at 101 South Street. The architect of this structure was done by the famous Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance. He was responsible for the white tiles and geometric motifs used throughout the house. Berkshire Auto was remodeled in 1930 by designer George E. Haynes.

 

Berkshire County Courthouse, 76 East Street

The Berkshire County’s Courthouse was built in 1871 on the former site of the Peace Party House at 76 East Street. The Massachusetts State Legislature approved the move from Lenox to Pittsfield in 1868 setting the stage for the construction of the Berkshire County Courthouse. The building was constructed from marble from a nearby quarry in Stockbridge, and was designed by architect Louis Weibein of Boston, who distinguished his design by adding Italianate detailing, round-top windows, and marble medallions. Contractors were A.B. & D.C. Munyan Company. In 1952 two jury deliberation rooms and the cloak room were renovated with additional modernizations, including accessibility, undertaken in recent years. The Berkshire County Courthouse was renamed the Silvio O. Conte Courthouse on September 27, 1992 in honor of Rep. Conte, one of the most influential figures in the U.S. Congress. The entire Berkshire County Court complex is named after Francis Joseph Quirco who was a justice on the state Supreme Judicial Court.

 

Berkshire County Home for Aged Women, 89 South Street

The former Berkshire County Home for Aged Women, now known as Berkshire Place, is located on 89 South Street. The Berkshire County Home for Aged Women was built in 1888 by the Crane family of Dalton. After his death, Zenas Marshall Crane left money and instructions for his sons, Zenas and Winthrop, to build a retirement home for women. The architect was H. Neil Wilson, who was also the architect for the Red Lion Inn. The health center inside is named after Edith Crane. In 1986 Berkshire County Home for Aged Women was renamed Berkshire Retirement Home and then to Berkshire Place.

 

Berkshire Hotel, 7 North Street

The Berkshire House, or as it came to be named, the Berkshire Hotel was located on 7 North Street from 1827-1865. This area, known as the “Berkshire Corner”, was formerly the site of a large inn presided over from the late
1700s by, in sequence, Capt. John Dickinson, Darius Larned, Capt. Joseph Merrick, and the Russell brothers. Merrick, a devoted Free Mason who took over the inn in 1810, hosted meetings of the Mystic Order of Free Masons under the Gambrel roof. Merrick, also a staunch Federalist, famously refused to serve Democrats on July 4, 1808. The legend goes that the slight prompted the group, in retaliation, to erect an impressive three-story hotel with spacious meeting rooms across the street. This, in turn, caused Merrick to raise his own roof by another story. The Russell brothers ran the inn until it burned down in 1826, and the Berkshire Hotel was erected in its stead. The Berkshire Hotel had many famous visitors including President Martin Van Buren, President John Tyler, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Rufus Choate, William Cullen Bryant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Herman Melville.

 

Berkshire Life Insurance Co., 7 North Street

The Berkshire Life Insurance Company building is located on 7 North Street. The building was erected in 1868 as the Berkshire Life Insurance Headquarters, but it was also used as a bank, post office, gas company, and other town offices. The architect was Louis Weibein of Boston who incorporated a mansard style to the building. Weibein also designed the Berkshire County Courthouse and the Berkshire County House of Correction on Second Street. In
1906 there was an addition to the west of the building that was designed by architect Henry Seaver. In 1911 Joseph McArthur Vance was responsible for the removal of the Mansard roof and the two additional stories that were added on. In 1959 Berkshire Life moved out of the building and other businesses have occupied it since. In 1970 there was a gas explosion which resulted in fire and water damage to the interior.

 

Berkshire Medical Institute Boarding House, East of St. Stephen’s Church

In the 1820s, Dr. J.P Batchelder from Castleton, VT encouraged Pittsfield physician Henry Halsey Childs to open a medical school in Pittsfield. Dr. Childs, Dr. Asa Burbank of Lanesborough, and Dr. Daniels Collins of Lenox asked the Massachusetts Legislature for a charter and an endowment. On January 4, 1823, Governor Brooks signed the act, but did not pass an endowment. That same year, the Berkshire Medical Institute took over the old Pittsfield Hotel which stood to the east of St. Stephen’s Church and twenty-two students joined five faculty members in the study of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physic (medicine), pharmacology, surgery, midwifery, and medical law. In 1830 the institution graduated twenty-four medical students, but because the institution never received financial support from the state, it was constantly in debt. On February 5, 1850, some of the facilities burned down and the institution was forced to close. With a $10,000 grant from the state and an additional $5,000 donated by Berkshire citizens, the school was able to move to South Street until 1867 when lack of enrollment closed it permanently. In its 30- plus years of operation, the institution produced 1,138 graduates.

 

Berkshire Trust Co, 50-54 North Street

In the early 1800s, Spencer Field’s Saloon was located on 50-54 North Street. In 1853 Geer Block was built on the site and in 1844 became the location for a business owned by H.D Davis, which eventually became the original Holden and Stone. In 1922 Berkshire Bank and Trust Co. reopened on this location. The original Berkshire Bank and Trust had been organized in 1807 where the old Athenaeum stands now, but went bankrupt in 1811. All the directors were sentenced to jail in the scandal. In 1988 Berkshire Bank and Trust Co became part of Bank of New England; then it merged with Berkshire County Savings Bank to become Berkshire Bank. Berkshire Bank later moved to the Tierney building on West Street. Allegrone Construction now owns 50-54 North Street.

 

Bulfinch Church, 27 East Street

From 1793-1851 the Bulfinch Church was located at 27 East Street, the current site of the First Congregational Church. Charles Bulfinch, one of this nation’s first and most famous architects, designed the church that bore his name. He also, and more famously, designed the Massachusetts and Maine state house buildings, the University Hall at Harvard, the Bulfinch Building at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts State Prison. His most notable commission occurred when then President James Monroe tapped him to design repairs and improvements to the wings and central portion of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., after it was damaged by the British in 1814. The original structure of Pittsfield’s Bulfinch Church had an open cupola belfry, which was one of the first of its kind in New England. Plans originally called for The Bulfinch Church to serve as a meeting house, but the town instead built on John Chandler Williams’ land (See page 24). The Berkshire Agricultural Society held many exhibits in Bulfinch Church. In 1851 there was a damaging fire, but Henry W. Seaver of Harding & Seaver performed the necessary restoration of the building. Soon after the fire it was sold and moved to the Maplewood Girls Institute. In 1939, deemed a fire hazard, the Bullfinch Church was razed. The First Church of Christ Congregational was built in the location of the Bulfinch Church in 1853.

 

Burbank Block, 141-163 North Street

The Burbank Block was located on 123-133 and 141-163 North Street from 1856-1905 and was owned by Robert Burbank. He purchased the block from Lemuel Pomeroy. Previously to the Burbank Block the corner of this site was used for many famous politicians to address matters. Two of the famous politicians who spoke here are Franklin Delano Roosevelt to speak about the democratic party and Carry Nation for crusades against saloons. The Burbank Block comprises of multiple buildings, two of them are known as the Woolworth and the Brothership buildings. The block was damaged by fire in 1898 and in 1905 two of the stories collapsed. In 1920 Marvin and Sanford Kay opened Kay’s Textile Store which was opened until 1976 in the Brothership Building. The Woolworth building caught fire in 1935 but was rebuilt as F.W. Woolworth Co Store in 1935; it was closed in 1973. Elgo Mall then occupied the old Woolworth building, collectively containing many local businesses. Elgo Mall then became Crawford Square and was sold to Conrad Decker for over $1 million dollars, the first million-dollar sale on North Street. The Brothership Boutique opened in 1972 in the Woolworth Building, and in 1977 was so successful it expanded into the Brothership Building. The Brothership Boutique closed in November of 1982. Now the Brothership and Wolworth Buildings are home to many local businesses.

 

Bush Block, 15-23 North Street

Bush Block was built on 15-23 North Street in 1859. Before the Bush Block in 1825, this site was used by Phineas Allen to publish The Pittsfield Sun. The Bush Block was erected by Major Charles Bush, who employed Timothy Chapman to construct the building on the former site of an old cottage. In 1859, the England brothers were a tenant in the building and ran their dry goods store. In 1892 L.L Atwood Drug Store opened. Other businesses located in the block included Berkshire News and Bargain outlet. The Bush block was the oldest building standing on North Street until May of 1979, when the Bush Block burned down. The site is also currently vacant.

 

Central Block, 65-83 North Street

Central Block 65-83 North Street is a part of what was once known as Burbank Block, which was built in 1842. Following Burbank Block at this location was the Weller Building from 1857-1881. Grand Central Hall was built after the Weller Building burned down, but the name was eventually shortened to Central Block. Central Block was designed by architect Charles Rathbun. There was a large hall on the third floor for community functions, including meetings for the first Unitarian Church in Pittsfield and also the first Charity Ball. In 1893 a celebration for Henry L. Dawes’ retirement from the Senate was held in Grand Central Hall. The bottom floor of Central Block had the first stores on North Street to have plate glass windows. The famous Newberry Company was located in Central Block for 54 years, closing in 1994. Now Central Block is home to many local businesses.

 

City Savings Bank, 116 North Street

City Savings Bank was located on 116 North Street from 1906-1999. City Savings Bank was originally founded on April 13, 1890 by twenty-five residents. The first president was Francis W. Rockwell. James A. Burbank was responsible for making the first $1,000 deposit to the bank. By 1906 the bank had more than $1 million dollars and was able to buy Read’s Block at this location on North Street. The Building was renovated on two occasions, first in 1908 and again in 1967. In 1998 City Savings Bank built a new bank on the old England’s lot, which is now Legacy Bank.

 

Colonial Theatre, 113 South Street

The Colonial Theatre, a Gilded Age theater located at 113 South Street, hosted many notable performers from its opening day on September 28, 1903 through 1934, when it closed for the first time. The original owners, the Sullivan Brothers, commissioned the well known architects Joseph McArthur Vance and J.B. McElfatrick to design the ornate structure. The brothers sold the Colonial to the Pittsfield Theatre Group Co. in 1912, and this group in turn sold it to The Goldstein Brothers Amusement Co. of Springfield, MA. Over the years, the Colonial presented many famous entertainers, including Maude Adams, John and Ethel Barrymore, Sarah Bernhardt, Eubie Blake, George M. Cohen, Will Rogers, and many more. In 1937 the Colonial Theatre was opened again, but only for motion pictures, a run that that ended in 1949 when the Colonial was completely shut down. In 1952 the Miller family bought the Theater; although George Miller was the lowest bidder for the property, he promised to preserve the Colonial and so won the auction. The Colonial Theatre was transformed to Miller Art Supply Co., with its ornate architecture hidden away behind false walls. In 1998 Hilary Clinton toured the Colonial Theatre site and declared it a National Historic Treasure. The Colonial Theatre Association Restoration purchased and restored the Colonial in 2001 and August 2006 marked the opening night.

The Colonial Theatre. Photo courtesy of Berkshire Theatre Group.

Colt-Pingree House, 101 South Street

The Colt-Pingree House, located at 101 South Street, was built in 1819 by Ezekiel R. Colt. Colt was the cashier of the Agricultural National Bank, Secretary of the Berkshire Agricultural Society (1823-24), a State Bank Commissioner, and a member of the party that escorted General Lafayette to Pittsfield in 1825. Colt’s daughter Catherine married Thomas Perkins Pingree, who was a well known Pittsfield attorney. Catherine and Thomas had one daughter, Catherine Pinegree, who married Henry Laurens Dawes, Jr., the son of the U.S. Senator Henry Dawes, Sr. In 1943 the house became the headquarters of Yellow Cab Company, and now is headquarters for Colt Insurance.

 

Congregational Church Parsonage, 120-124 South Street

The Congregational Church Parsonage was located at 120-124 South Street. Built in 1848, it was based on Greek Revival/Italianate architecture. The parsonage originally had a Victorian porch, but it was removed in the 20th century. The building is also commonly referred to as the Red Hen. The Red Hen won a Pittsfield Historic Preservation Award. The house was eventually sold to Francis E. Kernochan, who was also part owner of the Bel Air Woolen Mill. It is now a doctor’s office.

 

Dunham’s Block, 76-90 North Street

The Dunham Block was built in 1861 on 76-90 North Street by James H. Dunham. The building was erected between The First Baptist Church and Fenn Street. The Dunham Block expanded in 1898 in order to accommodate the multiple businesses within the building, including New York Store, Root Shoes, Pharmer Jewelry Shop, Hub Restaurant, Kelsey’s Market, and Bossidy Shoe Store. The building burned down in 1980 and is now a building and an alleyway referred to as Dunham’s Mall.

 

Egyptian Style Railroad, Corner of North Street and Columbus Ave

In May 1841 on the west side of the bridge located on North Street, an Egyptian-style railroad depot was built for the Western Railroad States. In November of 1854 the depot caught fire and was entirely destroyed. Another depot, one story high and made of wood, was built west of the old depot. In 1895 James Hull and W.T. Morton built a three story business block on the corner of North Street and Columbus Ave on the Morton Place. The Hull and Morton Block was located on this site until 1973. Currently, this site is known as Liberty Plaza and is home to Persip Park. Persip Park is named after the one of Pittsfield’s most famous African American families. Alfred Persip was the first African American to enlist in World War I and Charles Persip was a charter member of American Legion Post 68.

 

England Brothers, 89-111 North Street

The Ingersoll Tavern, which is famously known for being a part of Shay’s Rebellion 1786-1787 was located at 89-111 North Street in the 1780s. The Goodrich Block then took over this site in 1847. Ten years after the Goodrich Block opened, Louis and Moses England came from Germany and roomed at the famous Berkshire Hotel, located at 7 North Street. The England brothers opened a dry goods store in 1857 in the former Burbank Block, occupying one room on the street level of the building. In 1861 the store expanded and moved into Bush Block and then to Stevenson Block. In 1891 England Brothers moved to into the old Goodrich Block. England Brothers is famous for being one of the oldest independent family-run department stores in the United States. It also was the first store in Berkshire County to have a delivery truck, elevator, and escalator. England Brothers closed on February 27, 1988 and the site was taken over by Legacy Bank (which was later taken over by Berkshire Bank).

England Brothers

First Agricultural Bank, 100 North Street

The First Agricultural Bank building was built in 1908 at 100 North Street. The Greek temple-like building was the fourth home for the First Agricultural Bank. The bank was originally founded on April 27, 1818, after Berkshire Bank and Trust Co failed. Thomas Gold was the president of the bank with Ezekial Colt as the cashier. The bank was extremely successful because of Pittsfield’s accessible location on the Housatonic River. Due to its success, the building had to be expanded in 1928. The First Agricultural Bank was at one point the largest bank in Berkshire County and one of the largest banks in Western Massachusetts. In 1972 First Agricultural Bank merged with Multi-Bank National and then was purchased by Bank Boston in June 1993. The First Agricultural Bank building was owned by Bank Boston until 1996 when Scarafoni Associates Nominee Trust bought the building.

First Agricultural Bank. Cheryl Mirer photo.

First Agricultural Fair, Park Square

The first Agricultural Fair in the United States took place in 1810 on Park Square under Lucretia’s Old Elm Tree, now commonly referred to as the Pittsfield Elm. Farmer Elkanah Watson initially organized the Berkshire Agricultural Society, whose members would go on to host the America’s first agricultural fair which featured, among other things, several exhibits of Marino Sheep. The fair attracted a variety of people, from working farmers, “gentlemen farmers”, and other interested men and women, to Pittsfield’s center.

 

First Baptist Church, 60-74 North Street

The Onota Building currently occupies 60-74 North Street. Previously this site was the home of The First Baptist Church, which was first organized in 1772 by Valentine Wightman Rathbun, owner and operator of a woolen mill in Stonington Connecticut. In 1798 the pastor and a majority of the church joined the Shakers, causing the demise of the church. In 1850 John Francis reorganized the church and the meeting house was located on 60-74 North Street. The building was dedicated on January 10, 1850. The First Baptist Church moved to 88 South Street after it was torn down in 1920. In 1928 the Onota Building was built. The Onota Building with eclectic architecture, is one of the tallest buildings on North Street.

 

First Baptist Church, 88 South Street

The First Baptist Church was built in 1850 and was originally located on North Street. It was renovated in 1876, but then torn down in 1920 and moved to South Street; it is now located at 88 South Street. The church was dedicated at its South Street location on October 19, 1930, and the architect for this building was Joseph McArthur Vance.

 

First Church of Christ Congregational, 27 East Street

The First Church of Christ Congregational was built in 1853 at 27 East Street, the former location of the Bulfinch Church. The architect was Leopold Eidlitz of New York. Eidlitz used Gothic revival style in his design, which combines a high gable roof, twelve dormers, a large parish hall, a tower with quoins on its lower edges, and a Tiffany memorial window. The church was constructed with gray Pittsfield limestone and Great Barrington bluestone. The original boot- scraper from the Bulfinch Church was preserved and installed in the new building. In 1944 the original clock was donated to the museum and a new bell was put in its place. The First Church of Christ Congregational was the site for an annual meeting of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission, the first foreign mission board in America. Eleanor Roosevelt once gave a speech in the church’s sanctuary.

 

First Meeting House, 27 East Street

The First Meeting House was located at 27 East Street from 1764-1793. When the town’s growing population needed a larger gathering place, the town commissioned famed architect Thomas Bulfinch to design Bulfinch Church as an alternative. Before the long-awaited new building opened, the town passed the “Broken Window Bylaw” that stated, “Be it ordained by the said Inhabitants that no Person, an Inhabitant of said Town, shall be permitted to play at any Game called Wicket, Cricket, Base ball, Bat ball, Foot ball, Cat, Fives or any other Game or Games with Balls within the Distance of Eighty Yards from said Meeting House…” This stands as the earliest known written mention of the game of baseball anywhere in the United States, enabling Pittsfield to lay claim to the title of birthplace of our nation’s past-time.

 

Kennedy Block, 23-35 North Street

The Callendar Block was built in 1827 on 23-35 North Street. In 1914 the block burned down and the Kennedy Block was erected on the site. There were many businesses located in Kennedy’s Block from 1914-1979 including Mr. Nathan’s Shoes, Beba (a women’s boutique store), Fanny Famous Chocolate, and Sammy Vincent Records. The Kennedy Block was scheduled for demolition to make way a proposed shopping mall, but burned down in May 1979 along with Bush’s Block. This site is currently vacant.

 

Kinnell-Kresge Building, 49-59 North Street

Another part of the Burbank Block was built in 1842 on 49-59 North Street. In 1862 the roof collapsed due to heavy snow, killing two people. After the building was razed, in 1918 the Kinnell-Kresge Building was built on this site. The architect was Joseph McArthur Vance, who also designed many other buildings downtown. The Kinnell-Kresge Building was the only Queen Anne Style commercial building in Pittsfield. The original owners of the Kinnell-Kresge Building were a veterinarian named Dr. George K. Kinnell and the Kresge Syndicate. The original use was for the S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 cent store. Currently at this site is The Beacon Cinema which opened in November 2009.

 

Martin House, 39 South Street

The Martin House was built in 1795 at 39 South St. by Calvin Martin, a prosperous lawyer in Pittsfield. Director of the Agricultural Bank, first president of the Cemetery Corporation (the association that created St. Joseph’s Cemetery), and secretary and treasurer of the Pittsfield Mutual Fire-Insurance Company. Also, in 1822, Martin was incorporated as a trustee of the Ministerial Fund. In 1871 Calvin Martin bought Martin Block, which now contains the popular Patrick’s Pub. Calvin Martin is also responsible for contributing $5,000 of the necessary $8,800 for the purchase of Pittsfield’s first library, and he played a prominent role on the committee responsible for appointing a place to build South Congregational Church. Eventually, Martin would become the scribe for the Congregational Church.

 

Masonic Temple, 116 South Street

The Masonic Temple is located at 116 South Street. the building was built in Neo-Classical Revival style. The architect, Joseph McArthur Vance, used brick and white sandstone that was painted by Wade and Smith of Pittsfield. The contractors were Foote, Jones, and Lester. The original owner of the Masonic Temple was Pittsfield’s Mystic Lodge of Masons. The building was dedicated on May 2, 1914.

 

Miller Building, 160-196 North Street Academy of Music, 158-198 North Street

The Academy of Music was built in 1872 on 160-196 North Street where the Miller Building now stands. The Miller Building is named after former Pittsfield Mayor and Berkshire Eagle publisher Kelton B. Miller. Before the construction of the Academy of Music, this site was home to Phineas Allen, founder of the former Pittsfield Sun newspaper. The lower floors of the Academy of Music building had six stores, two of which were leased by Mr. Merrill of Northhampton who opened a high-class restaurant at the south end of the building. In 1890 there was an addition added to the back of the building. The Academy of Music is famous for housing the ceremony when Pittsfield became a city in 1891 and also was a chief location for theatrical performances until 1903. One memorable performance in 1903 featured two lions that broke out of the theater and had to be hunted down; one was killed and the other one was captured. On January 27, 1912 the Academy of Music building and a few buildings around it burned down. In 1912, the Miller Building was built on the site of the Academy of Music building. The Miller Building was home to multiple businesses, and now is home to The Berkshire Juvenile Court.

 

Museum of Natural History and Art, 39 South Street

The Museum of Natural History and Art, now commonly known as The Berkshire Museum, was founded in 1902 by Zenas Marshall Crane, the grandson of the founder of Crane & Co. in Dalton. The Campbell House and the Martin House were torn down in order to make room for the museum, whose purpose was to bring the wonders of the world to the Berkshires. The building itself is an Italian Renaissance Design. In its early years, the small museum gradually grew into a two-building structure comprising four wings that surrounded an interior square court. In 1937, the museum added a second-floor exhibition in the courtyard space named after Ellen Crane (Zenas Marshall Crane’s wife). Also, on the first- floor an auditorium was added. A focal point for the oak-paneled Crane Room, the Swedish green and marble fountain and its surroundings, was designed by noted Beaux Arts sculptor A. Stirling Calder. His son, Alexander Calder, designed two mobile fixtures on display in the auditorium.

 

Peace Party House, 76 East Street

The Peace Party House, site of a famous celebration of American independence, stood at 76 East Street from 1773-1869, immediately in front of where Berkshire Superior Courthouse stands today. The house was originally built for Col. James Easton, a hero of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, but Easton’s financial difficulties enabled him to finish only the first floor before selling the building. John Chandler Williams purchased the house in 1782. The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783 and this marked the end of the American Revolutionary War. Citizens of Pittsfield heard of the long-awaited new and gathered to celebrate in November and from then on, it was known as the Peace Party House. The festivities included roasted ox flanked by geese and turkey, accompanied by much merriment, dancing, and music. In 1869 the Peace Party House moved to 1 Wendell Avenue. There were many owners after Williams, but by 1956 the City of Pittsfield owned the house, until it was razed in 1957.

 

Pittsfield Center, East side of Park Square

The Pittsfield Center was home of the famous Pittsfield Elm tree for many years. The Pittsfield Elm was said to represent the city’s civic strength and natural bounty. During the American Revolutionary War, the elm served as a landmark for those looking for the small jail across the street at the current Patrick’s Pub. In 1791 the town opted to erect its first meeting house on Park Square. Thus, it was decided the towering tree must come down. On the third chop of an ax, however, Lucretia Williams, wife of John Chandler Williams, threw herself in front of the tree to prevent its destruction. John Chandler Williams stepped in and offered some of his adjacent land as the building spot of the first Meeting House in order to save the tree his wife was so bravely sheltering. In 1863 skilled woodsman Sylvannus Grant was hired to take down the famous elm after it was struck by lightning.

 

Rosa England’s Block, 122-130 North Street

Rosa England’s Block located at 122-130 North Street was erected in 1884 by Mr. Strong. Previously on this site from 1805-1808 Abner Stevens, a famous colonial drum maker, built a two-story wooden house with two wings where he lived with his family. Also within this building, Stevens ran the first store on North Street under the name Stevens & Bannister. This store was eventually purchased by a man named Tyron who then sold it to Eaton Plumb. Eventually this location became a boarding house. In 1840, Dr. Enoch built a brick mansion on this site and in 1868 the American Telegraph Co. occupied this site. Mr. Strong built Rosa England’s Block in 1884 which eventually became known as the Galleria Building. The Victorian Commercial style of this building was designed by Charles Rathbun. The England family has had businesses on North Street for many years, including England Brother’s Department Store. This former downtown landmark was founded in 1857 by Louis and Moses England and was incorporated in 1927 by his three sons, Benjamin, Simon, and Daniel. Rosa England’s Block was bought by Isadore Secunda in January 1945; at this time the building had three ground-floor stores: Kahl Jewelry, Franklin’s Clothing, and Callahan’s Fashion Shop. City Savings Bank owned the building after Secunda until 1996 when 122 North Street Nominee Trust Mary C. Proskin Tr. bought the building. There is now BBE Offices Interiors located inside.

 

Samuel Harrison House, 82 Third Street. www.samuelharrison.org

Reverend Samuel Harrison was a renowned 19th-century civil rights advocate, writer, and preacher in Pittsfield who served as chaplain to the legendary 54th Regiment in the Civil War, and successfully fought for equal pay for Union soldiers of color. His home is now a National Historic Landmark and a place to teach the values embodied in Harrison’s noble life. The Harrison House is also an anchor site on the Upper Housatonic Valley African-American Heritage Trail. The Pittsfield portion of the trail is a self-guided tour, described in a separate brochure.

 

South Congregational Church, 110 South Street

The South Congregational Church at 110 South Street was created in 1848 when the Bullfinch Church became too crowded. In 1850, when the church building was under construction, it caught fire and construction had to start over. The architect, Richard Bond of Boston, used reek Revival Style. The church was dedicated on November 4, 1850, with the day’s sermon delivered by then Williams College President Rev. Mark Hopkins. It was not until 1894 that the church approved women as parish members. The church was renovated in 1919 and again in 1943. The parish house was completed in the 1930s. In 1950 the South Congregational Church was the largest congregational church in Berkshire County. The auditorium is named after Robert J. Barrett, who was the treasurer of the Church’s Sunday school in 1939. Distinctive features of the building are evident from the front and consist of quoins, classical entablature, and ionic columns.

 

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church 1832-1889, 67 East Street

The first meeting to start the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was organized by Edward A. Newton on June 25, 1830 at Lemuel Pomeroy’s Coffee House. Newton was a former Christian missionary, President of the First Agricultural Bank, and trustee of Williams College.  Major Thomas Melville, Jr. was chosen chairman and Daniel D. Bush was chosen clerk. The name St. Stephen’s was selected to honor the Rev. Stephen Higginson Tyng, a clergyman and friend of Newton and the author of several volumes of sermons and other books. Before St. Stephen’s Church was built in 1832, the “Lecture Room” at a nearby church was used for services. The St. Stephen’s organization decided where they wanted the church to be built and Pomeroy offered $500 for the plot where the church now stands. At the time the property was occupied by the town hall. The town refused this first offer, but Pomeroy then offered to build the town a new hall on adjacent property at his own expense. The town accepted this offer and St. Stephen’s was built in 1832 at 67 East Street, predominantly of dark-toned limestone from Pittsfield; Sixty-seven feet long and forty-three feet wide, it had an eighty foot wooden tower and a $569 organ built by Goodrich of Boston that was donated by Lucretia Williams. The church was consecrated on December 7, 1832, by Rt. Rev. Alexander V. Griswold who was the bishop of Eastern Diocese at the time. During the renovations from 1851-52 the church’s wooden tower was replaced by one made of stone and the church made bigger. In 1887, the parish decided to build a new church, parishioners initially offered the site of the church back to the city for $25,000. However, it was then decided that there was no better place to build a church so they decided to rebuild on the same site.

 

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church 1889, 67 East Street

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was rebuilt in 1889 on the church’s original site in order to open access up to Allen Street. To hold services, after the first church was razed and before the new one was completed, a wooden chapel was built on the rear lot. The new church was designed by Peabody and Stearns of Boston and the contractors were Hascall Dodge & D.C. Bedell. The English-style architecture utilized Longmeadow brown sandstone and sports a 72-foot-tall tower. Five of the windows were designed by famed female stained-glass artist Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast and the other six were made by the well known Louis Comfort Tiffany (son of Tiffany & Co.). All the debt of the church was paid off by November 12, 1892. On November 19, 1892 the church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. Phillips Brooks, then the Bishop of Massachusetts. In 1999, a grant from Massachusetts Historical Commission and a capital fund drive helped the church perform badly needed repairs on the more than a century-old building.

 

Town Hall 1832-1891 City Hall 1891-1968, 43 East Street

The Town Hall was built in 1832 at 43 East Street by Lemuel Pomeroy, a wealthy textile manufacturer. The building was a two-story plain brick building with offices on the second floor and vaults, containing records dating back to 1761 in the basement. The first floor had offices that were used by local men and also Henry Dawes who eventually became a U.S Senator. Other well known visitors were Henry Clay, who represented Kentucky in the Senate and House of Representatives, Henry Shaw, a Massachusetts representative, and George Nixon Briggs, the governor at the time of his visit. Over the years, the building served many uses including a post office, bank, site of religious services, and the county courthouse before Berkshire County Courthouse opened in 1871. The Berkshire County Agricultural Society also used it to present exhibits, and soldiers were recruited for the Civil War in this building. The major drawback to the building was its 500-person limit in a community of 2,000 registered voters.
When Pittsfield officially became a city in 1891, the Town Hall became City Hall. City Hall was still too small and dangerous, fording the relocation of many municipal employees into the old police station in 1940. Finally, the building inspector ruled out renovation in 1952, saying the old building would not withstand it. Mayor Remo DelGallo got the Massachusetts Legislature to support the opening of a new city hall. City Hall opened on Allen Street in 1968. Later, Berkshire County Savings Bank took over the original Town Hall building and restored it.

 

West Block and Berkshire Bank, Corner of East Street and North Street

West Block was located where Berkshire Bank currently resides. The block was present from 1850-1894 where it was used for public gatherings that consisted of concerts, lectures, dances, short dramas, high school examinations, graduation exercises, and a drill room for the Allen Guard which was a local military company. Many of the soldiers from the Allen Guard went off to fight in the American Civil War. It has also been said that Herman Melville attended many concerts at the West Block.

The Berkshire County Savings Bank building was built in 1894 on the former site of the West Block. Architect Francis R. Allen, an associate of well known architect Joseph McArthur Vance, used a Chicago style in the six- story granite and yellow brick building. The contractors were Dodge and Devanny. Berkshire County Savings Bank occupied the ground floor, with the remainder of the space rented out to the Berkshire Bank & Trust Company. The Berkshire County Savings Bank also is responsible for the 1970 renovation and reopening, as a bank, of the old town hall nearby. The Great Barrington Savings and Berkshire County Savings banks merged in 1986, and today go by the name Berkshire Bank.

 

West-Platt-Mills Residences and Butler Block, 132-150 South Street

The West-Platt-Mills Residences (1876) was located at 132-150 South Street. It was erected by William Butler who was the founder of a local lumber company. The building was designed in a vernacular style of architecture, typical for the region, by Joseph McArthur Vance. Vance is also responsible for the varied designs of the Colonial Theatre, Berkshire Auto, Masonic Temple, First Baptist Church, and the timeless Wahconah Park Stadium.

 

West-Sampson- Withington Residences, 157-169 South Street

The current location of Rite Aid Pharmacy and the South Street Apartments was formerly the home of Dr. Alfreda Withington, the first woman member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Berkshire County Branch.. Dr. Withington was the only medical doctor listed on the chapter roll in 1897. She moved to 163 South Street in 1910. Nearby, Frank E. West built the six-story South Street Inn in 1917. Frank West was the son of John C. West, who owned and developed 80 acres of adjacent farmland on West Street, which bears his name.

 

Wollison-Shipton Building, 146-154 North Street

The Wollison-Shipton Building was built in April of 1888 on 146-154 North Street by architect H. Neil Wilson. The building was constructed of Philadelphia pressed brick with dark freestone trim and cast iron detailing. When the building first opened it had four stores on the ground floor, the first home of the Y.M.C.A was located on the second floor, the third floor was offices, and the fourth floor was a photographic gallery. In 1876 of the Milton Whitney House which then became first the Sherman Hotel and then the Commercial Hotel. There were multiple owners after the building was the Commercial Hotel. However, in 1980 the building was burned from a fire that supposedly began in Mel’s Restaurant. The building was rebuilt and is now home to multiple businesses.

 

Y.M.C.A Majestic/Palace Theatre, 132-144 North Street

From 1892-1909 132-144 North Street was home to the Y.M.C.A. In 1909 the Majestic Theatre was designed by architect Joseph McArthur Vance. The original owner of the Majestic Theatre was John Sullivan and Brothers. The Majestic Theatre opened on November 23, 1910 with the play called “The Deserters”. In 1923, Majestic Theatre changed its name to Palace Theatre. Palace Theatre closed down in 1987 and was torn down in 1993. In 1994 City Savings Bank constructed Palace Park on this site. Previously before the Y.M.C.A, this site was also part of Abner Steven’s estate (see 122-130 North Street).