Saturday, April 4, 2009

Map: Bird's-eye View of North Adams, 1881

North Adams was both old and new when this bird's-eye view map of the town was created by H. H. Rowley & Company in 1881. Settled as part of East Hoosuck Plantation well over a century prior to the captured scene, North Adams was only three years into being a stand-alone town under this lithographed sky, officially separating from the neighboring town of Adams on April 15, 1878. Coincidentally, 1878 was the year of Adams's centennial anniversary, that town having been incorporated in 1778.

This map and many others are available to study and download on the Library of Congress's (LOC) American Memory Map Collections web site. You may find it helpful to save the above image to your computer and manipulate it (zoom in, etc) in a photo program from there. The images below are the six scenes at the bottom of the map cropped for individual appreciation. Captions in quotes are from the map.

"Arnold Print Works"

North Adams was not immune from the economic fate that befell most New England mill towns, and its manufacturing base steadily dried up over the course of the twentieth century as jobs disappeared, culminating in the closing of the 56 year-old Sprague Electric Company (which at one time employed thousands) in 1985. With Sprague's closing, the vast 26-building Marshall Street complex it had occupied stood empty a second time. Arnold Print Works, established in 1860 and the former occupant of the site - a firm which had also employed thousands of residents in its manufacturing heyday - had vacated the premises in 1942 for smaller facilities in Adams. But from the ashes arose the Phoenix: Today the 13-acre site is home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMoCA), which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year and which has helped establish North Adams as one of the cultural centers of Western Massachusetts.

"D. J. Barber's Tannery"

North Adams at the height of its manufacturing boom was home to a variety of industries besides textiles, including shoe, brick and cabinet makers. An ironworks in town hammered out the steel plates that formed the armor for the ironclad ship, the Monitor, during the Civil War. In 1885, there were ninety-six farms in town.

"Wilson House, F. E. Swift, Proprietor"

The four-story Wilson House hotel, with its distinctive uneven parapets, opened its doors to travelers in 1866. Located on Main Street, the hotel underwent renovations in 1872 that included installing central steam heat, an amenity surely welcomed by visitors during the cold North Adams winters.

"Drury Academy"

Born from a $3,000 bequest acquired with the generous Nathan Drury's passing, North Adams's Drury High School continues to bear its benefactor's name 166 years later. The original Drury Academy was built in 1843 as a private school. In 1851, the school went public, opening its doors to all local high school students free of charge. The original school building was razed in 1867 and replaced with the one in the image above. Today, Drury High School is located on South Church Street, moving into its 'new' building in 1976.

"The Hoosac Tunnel West End"

Nicely situated on the Hoosic River, North Adams grew and prospered early on as the mills along its banks flourished in production and trade. By 1875, when the seemingly-impenetrable wall of the Hoosac mountain range was breached with the completion of the nearly five mile-long Hoosac Tunnel, North Adams had established itself as a respected industrial center, with over seven decades of manufacturing history to back it up. The coming of the railroad only served to enhance this position. The first freight train passed through the tunnel between Florida and North Adams on April 5, 1875.

"Glen Woolen Mills"

The Glen Woolen Company was incorporated in 1880. By 1886, under company president Sanford Blackinton, the firm had a workforce of 100 folks producing 20,000 yards of fine-quality cashmere fabric per month. Blackinton was also president of the S. Blackinton Woolen Company, which was established in North Adams in 1876. Within a decade of incorporation, the S. Blackinton Woolen Company employed 350 workers who produced 60,000 yards of fine cashmere monthly.

Here's a link to an excellent web site devoted to the Hoosac Tunnel:

And the official web site of the City of North Adams:

And to the largest contemporary art museum in the country, MassMoCA:

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Map source: Library of Congress Geography and Map Division; Digital ID: g3764n pm003125

Home|Welcome|Table of Contents|Explore|Upcoming Events|Patrons|Marketplace|Contact|Privacy

1 comment:

Jim said...

Thanks for the wonderful pictures. I am always amused in this age of environmental awareness to see the old pictures with the black smoke pouring out of the industrial buildings. At the time, the more smoke, the more prosperous they felt they were. You seldom see an old picture of an industry without the smoke. Jim Boone