History Of North Adams, Massachusetts

Reminiscences Of Early Settlers.
-Extracts From Old Town Records.-
Its Public Institutions, Industries And Prominent Citizens,
Together With A Roster Of Commissioned Officers In The War Of The Rebellion.
By W. P. Spear.
North Adams, Mass.: Hoosac Valley News Printing House. 1885.


[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]


This building stood on the east corner of Main and State streets, the site of which is now occupied by Martin's block. For about twenty years this was the only public house in town. The rear part was built by Samuel Day, and afterwards occupied by Abiel Smith, one of the early settlers. This was undoubtedly prior to 1780, as the front east wing was erected by David Darling in 1788.

The building derived its name from the color it was painted. In 1793, Mr. Darling opened the same as a public house. It was afterwards sold and occupied by Roger Wing, who has been previously mentioned as a clothier. About 1804, Bethuel Finney purchased the premises of Mr. Wing, and erected the upright or main part of the building. He kept it until about the year 1808, when Richard Knight purchased the building and forty acres of land adjoining, for the sum of $4000.

The boundaries included all the then vacant land from a point below the Berkshire House, east on the south side of Main street to about the corner of Bank street, thence south embracing a large share of what are now Summer, Quincy and a part of Chestnut streets, including all of State street to the bridge and the grounds of the Pittsfield & North Adams railroad. Mr. Knight kept the house for several years, and then leased it to George Whitman who kept it during the years of 1812, '13, '14.

In 1814, W. E. Brayton succeeded Mr. Whitman as lessee and occupied it until the spring of 1816, when Alpheus Smith, who had formerly kept a public house at Cheshire Corners, leased the premises and occupied the same for a period of nearly twenty years, or until it was closed.

There was formerly a long row of Lombardy poplar trees in front of the old black tavern, outside the sidewalk.

This was the only public house kept in ne village until the erection of the Berkshire house in 1815. As a matter of course it did a large business, especially after the close of the war with Great Britain, when emigration from New England to. Genesee county and the Western Reserve in Ohio was at its height. Ox teams were then the principal motive power for heavy draughts, and two or three yokes were attached to a large canvas covered wagon, labeled "Ohio" and accompanied by a one or two horse vehicle, with the family. The emigrant party were generally supplied with cooking utensils and provisions, camping out nights when distant from hotels. The journey occupied from twelve to sixty days.


The large and commodious hotel on Main and State street now well known as the Berkshire or Richmond House, was originally a small, two story building, less than two-thirds its present Main street length. It was erected in 1815 by Col. Win. Waterman and was designed as a stage tavern. Mr. Waterman opened and occupied the house for six years, keeping also the post office.

He disposed of the premises to George Whitman, who added twenty-five feet to the east end. In a few years it again changed hands and Rufus Wescott became the proprietor, occupying it with his sons for about two years. They then leased the house to Henry Jenks who kept it for two years.

It was next carried on during 1828 by Nathaniel G. Waterman. In 1829 James Wilbur became the proprietor and occupant. He greatly improved the premises, added eight feet to the west end, raised the building another story, added a dining room, piazza and pillars, and also repaired the out buildings.

About 1836, Benjamin Howard rented the house and kept it for two years, when George, and Jerry Wilbur, sons of the proprietor, took possession. They refitted the house, made many needed improvements and carried it on until the close of 1844. About this time John Holden became, in part or whole, proprietor of the premises, and afterwards a joint owner with Jenks Kimbell.

During 1846 or '47, Henry W. Brown (afterwards agent for the T. & B. R. R. for many years) was the lessee and occupant of the house. In 1848 Gen. E. Bailey leased the house and carried it on for two years. Phineas Cone was the successor of Mr. Bailey, renting the house during the years 1850 and '51. In 1852 the house was closed and remained so until 1856 when it was purchased and reopened by R. D. Hicks.

The old Berkshire House having bided its time was now the only hotel in the village, the North Adams House having been closed. Mr. Hicks made many improvements in the house and premises according to the demands of the times. On the first of December 1860, A. E. Richmond purchased the interest of Mr. Hicks and sold out to D. S. Hicks in February of 1865, who run it about a year and a half when Mr. Richmond bought it back again in August of 1866.


In 1835, the Old Black Tavern having become too small, inconconvenient and dilapitated for public necessity, and the increasing business of its landlord, Alpheus Smith, he, in connection with O. C. Smith and Walter Laflin, purchased the private residence of Capt. Jeremiah Colegrove on Main street, added twenty-one feet front of brick, three stories high, raised the roof of the rear part to correspond and completed the whole in good shape for a first class hotel, with piazzas to each story eight feet in width. This new hotel was open in 1836 and kept by A. & O. C. Smith. A few years later Alpheus Smith purchased the interest of O. C. Smith and soon after Mr. Laflin's interest also. He in turn, in 1847, sold all the property to Jenks Kimbell and Charles I. Tremaine, and retired from business.

Chas. I. Tremaine kept the house in good repute for one year and then sold his interest to Mr. Kimbell. Arthur F. Wilmarth leased the premises and kept the house in 1848. He was succeeded as lessee by Wm. R. Shaw, who kept the house in 1850 and '51. He retired to accept from President Pierce the post of steward of the White House.

Fortunately for the reputation of our village, upon the closing of the Berkshire House in 1852, by an agreement between the proprietors of both houses, Phineas Cone leased the North Adams House, and removed into it from the Berkshire House. He kept this house for three years and was succeeded by R. D. Hicks, who kept it very acceptably until it was sold to S. and E. Thayer in 1856. This popular hotel, the resort of the villagers for quiet, social intercourse, and ever the comfortable home of the stranger, ceased its career as it had begun, with a high reputation at home and abroad.


This hotel was built in 1866 by A. B. Wilson, the inventor of the Wheeler and Wilson sewing machine, at a cost of $140,000. It was opened to the public in 1867. At the end of one year it was leased by the Manufacturers' Association, and re-leased by them to A. E. Richmond of the Berkshire IIouse, he running both hotels. It was soon after re-leased to E. Rogers and H. M. Streeter, who kept it until the end of the association's five year's lease. The property was then bought by John F. Arnold for $90,000, and after many improvements had been made was leased to Streeter, Smith & Co., they keeping it about two and one-half years, during which time the property passed into the hands of the North Adams Savings bank.

In 1877 Mr. F. E. Swift became the sole proprietor, leasing it of the bank until 1880, when he purchased the entire property by paying off the mortgage of $75,000.


In 1870 Maturin Ballou erected a hotel at a cost of $40,000, on the site of the building now owned by H. W. Clark & Co., near the depot. The house was managed by Mr. Ballou's sons until 1876, when Edwin Thayer foreclosed a mortgage of $12,000, and took possession. For a year after this it was kept by A. A. Jones and John Thayer, the name being changed to the Commercial House. Upon the retirement of Mr. Jones in 1878, the premises were leased by Mr. John Thayer, who was keeping it on the third of January, 1881, when it was entirely destroyed by fire.

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