The first library in Ware, Massachusetts was organized in 1796. Operating on a subscribers system, books were lent out to those who paid the most at the time. The Society flourished for 26 years until it abruptly disbanded. In 1824, a second library was organized, called the Mechanics and Manufacturers’ Library, which was loosely managed by the manufacturing companies in town. In 1872, an act providing for the formation of library corporations was passed in Massachusetts. The Ware Young Men’s Library Association was the first to incorporate under the new law. They established a location in a commercial space in town until it was outgrown. In 1879, the present lot at the corner of Main and Church streets was donated by a local businessman. Funding was acquired and Springfield-based architect Eugene C. Gardner was hired to design the building. In 1923, an addition was built onto the side by architects Gay & Proctor in the Jacobethan Revival style, which blends well with the original Queen Anne building. The building remains home to the library and is the town’s public library.
After learning a little about some of the buildings in Dorset, Vermont, which were saved and relocated to the town from land flooded for the Quabbin Reservoir, I wanted to visit one of the surviving towns there to see it for myself. I found myself in Ware, Massachusetts, a town with a history that parallels many in central and northern Massachusetts. The town was first settled by white European colonists by 1717, and incorporated in 1775. The town was named after the English town of Ware in Hertfordshire. The Town of Ware began as a sleepy farming town with inns and taverns dotting the landscape until industrial sites were developed on the banks of the Weir River. The post Civil War era (1860s–1900s) brought a new prosperity to the now established textile mill town. “Ware Factory Village” sprang up overnight and formed the basis for new growth and development, to the east of the former town center. From this, a new Town Hall was needed, and where better to locate it, than the economic and population center of town?! The Ware Town Hall was built in 1885-1886 from plans by the prominent Boston firm of Hartwell & Richardson. Sadly, a fire gutted much of the building in 1935, but the shell remains (though needing much repair). The town, like many former industrial centers, has struggled to re-invent itself, but a growing population is a great indicator of good things to come!
Backroads in New England are just amazing! When driving through Millbury on my way to visit one of the finest examples of Federal style architecture in the state, I stumbled upon this gorgeous rural Federal style farmhouse, and had to snap a picture! Millbury is best-known as a mill town (hence the name), but you can find dozens of rural farms dispersed between the mill villages in the township. The Blackstone River cuts through the town, and during the Industrial Revolution, it provided much of the water power to the town’s many textile mills and factories. Like many former mill towns, the shifting of the economy away from manufacturing towards the service sector, harmed the economy of Millbury in the 20th century. Many mills were abandoned and demolished, others adaptively reused. Before we get to some industrial history, I wanted to share this charming farmhouse. This home was built for Nymphas Longley upon the time of his 1819 marriage to the love of his life, Nancy Bond. They ran a farm on over 80 acres, with Nymphas also serving as a town selectman, an overseer of the poor, and led recruitment efforts in town at the start of the Civil War. Like many farms, this one saw suburban development take some of the former land, but this home still sits on over 9 acres, not bad for being so close to Worcester!
The 200-acre campus of Tanglewood, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra spends its summer months, spreads the grounds of two historic summer cottages in the charming town of Stockbridge, MA. One of the summer “cottages” Tanglewood, where the music center gets its name, was constructed around 1865 for Caroline Sturgis Tappan, husband William Aspinwall Tappan and their two daughters, Ellen Sturgis Tappan and Mary Aspinwall Tappan. Mary, with her niece Rosamund Hepburn, donated the family summer home, Tanglewood in 1937 to Serge Koussevitzky, a Russian-born conductor, composer and music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949. The campus has since grown astronomically as it hosts musicians and tourists from all over the region and globally to experience the arts in the charming town in the Berkshires. The Tanglewood house retains much of its historic architecture and siting, overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl (lake).
Citizens Hall, which was built in 1870 in a small village within Stockbridge, MA, is a small-scale version of the civic buildings constructed in the Second Empire in American towns and cities following the Civil War. The building is the architectural epicenter of Curtisville (now sometimes referred to as Interlaken), a small community within the Town of Stockbridge, which grew up around twelve mills. The mills are gone but several significant structures remain, also retaining their rural character. Citizens Hall was designed by Charles T. Rathbun, and inside, the two rooms on the first floor housed the public school and the second floor was the community assembly hall. The building was threatened with deferred maintenance in the mid-20th century and its future was uncertain until 1975 when a local group worked with the State Historic Preservation Office and acquired a grant to make needed repairs on the building. Today, the structure is maintained and houses the Art School of Berkshire (now known as Interlaken School of Art). Look at that historically appropriate paint scheme!
Located on the idyllic Main Street in Stockbridge, MA in the Berkshires, this stone church marks the emergence of the once sleepy town into a summer retreat for wealthy citizens, escaping the cities in the late 19th century. This building is Charles Follen McKim’s first church design, a building reflecting his early training in the office of H. H. Richardson with the use of Romanesque detailing, though with a hint of Norman design. St. Paul’s Church is constructed of gray Berkshire granite with stained glass windows by John La Farge. The church replaced an older wooden church building designed by Richard Upjohn in the Gothic Revival style. The church was almost entirely funded by Charles Butler, a New York lawyer who wanted to honor his late wife Susan Ridley Sedgwick Butler, a descendant of Theodore Sedgwick, whose home I featured not long ago.
In about 1825, Francis and Clarissa Dresser built this charming brick Federal house in the rural town of Stockbridge, MA. Just 25 years later, the railroad arrived to town, connecting it to Connecticut and New York to the south, opening the town up as a leisure destination for wealthy city dwellers looking to escape the noise and congestion of the city. The period following the Civil War through World War I saw the Gilded Age reach the Berkshires. With artists, writers, financiers, and industrialists flocking to the rural hills of western Massachusetts for seasonal escapes. In 1875, William and Elizabeth Doane, wealthy New Yorkers, purchased Merwin House from the Dresser family to use as a summer retreat. As the Doane family grew to include two young daughters, Vipont and Elizabeth, they added a Shingle Style side addition to the original brick structure. The home became known as “Tranquility”, even after the home was willed to daughter Vipont. After a couple marriages, Vipont married Edward Payson Merwin, a New York stockbroker. Historic New England acquired Merwin House in 1966, shortly after the death of Marie Vipont deRiviere Doane Merwin, known as Vipont. It was her desire to leave Merwin House as a museum, as her will states, “as an example of an American culture which is fast becoming extinct.” The space is occasionally open for tours and is partially occupied by the Housatonic Valley Association.
Norman Rockwell‘s ‘Home for Christmas’ painting in 1967 depicts the Main Street scene in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and epitomizes the essence of Christmas in small towns across the country. In the iconic painting, you can find many landmarks (including the Town Offices building) that make up the quaint main street, that typifies many small New England towns. At the center of his painting, the Guerrieri Block can be seen with a Christmas tree lit up in the window on the second floor. The Guerrieri Block was built in 1921 by Antonio Guerrieri, a skilled woodworker who sold and repaired antiques in one of three street level shops in the block. He and his family lived in an apartment on the second floor. The next year he completed construction of a shop behind the block where he worked out of. In 1953, Norman Rockwell moved to Stockbridge and spoke with Antonio about using the second floor of his building as a studio. Antonio constructed a large central bay window with plate glass to flood the space with light and allow Rockwell to work while observing the street below. Rockwell used the space as his studio until 1957. The building has since been occupied as a general store.
Built in 1884, the Town Office Building on Main Street in Stockbridge, housed more conveniently located government offices and came equipped with a basement jail. The building was constructed of brick to protect town records from fire and the adjacent buildings. The architecture is Flemish Revival with its stepped gables, a tower, and terra cotta and stained glass ornaments, a distinctive and different type of architecture on Main Street. The building was occupied after the Town Hall, further down Main Street, was deemed inadequate. The building displays the words “Town Offices” with the date 1884 A.D. as the town was sure to label the building as town offices over ‘town hall’ so they could retain the former town hall building after a deal with the First Congregational Church. The town sold the building to private owners in 1960 and has since been used as commercial space.
The Town of Stockbridge, MA was incorporated on June 22, 1739. After that time the town held meetings and conducted business in the First Congregational Meeting House until 1840 when this Greek Revival town hall building was erected on the church’s property as a gift. A stipulation was made that if the Town government constructed or moved to a new town hall building, the property ownership would revert to the Church. The town outgrew the building and constructed a new building toward the center of town, but named it Town Offices, a cheeky way to retain ownership of this building. Eventually, that building too was outgrown, and the town hired Pittsfield-based architect Harry E. Weeks to modify and enlarge the building in 1903, in the Neo-Classical style to compliment the original Greek detailing. As expected, the town moved again in the 2000s to a former school, on Main Street, but again retained the building.