Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, Mass

The Red Lion Inn at the corner of Main and South Streets in Stockbridge, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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The origins of the Red Lion Inn date back to 1773, when Silas Pepoon opened a tavern here in the center of Stockbridge. Taverns in colonial America often used distinctive signs to identify themselves, and Pepoon’s tavern sign featured a red lion with a green tail. Although its name would later be derived from the old sign, it was originally known simply as the Stockbridge House. In 1862, it was purchased by Charles and Mert Plumb, and in the decades that followed the hotel enjoyed success, with the Berkshires becoming a popular summer destination. During this time, the hotel was steadily expanded, and 1891 it was renamed Ye Red Lion Inn. Five years later, though, the historic building was completely destroyed in a fire.

The Plumbs rebuilt on the same site, although by now the hotel was being run by their nephew, Allen T. Treadway. A future state legislator and Congressman, Treadway also built the nearby Heaton Hall hotel, and he owned the two properties until his death in 1947. His son, Heaton, sold both hotels in 1955. By this point, many of the grand hotels of the Gilded Age had been destroyed by fires, or had closed during the Great Depression. Those that remained, such as the Red Lion and Heaton Hall, struggled with declining business, with tourists increasingly preferring modern, more convenient motels.

Both hotels were sold again in 1969. Heaton Hall was demolished a few years later, but the Red Lion Inn was purchased by Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick, the founders of Country Curtains. The ground floor of the inn became the company’s first permanent location, while the upper floors remained a hotel. Around the same time, Norman Rockwell, a longtime Stockbridge resident, featured it in his famous Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas painting. Since then, the inn has continued to be a prominent landmark in the center of town, and is one of the few surviving grand hotels in the Berkshires from the 19th century.

Curtis Hotel, Lenox, Mass

The Curtis Hotel at the corner of Main and Walker Streets in Lenox, around 1905-1915 and 2016. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The hotel in 2016:

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This hotel in the center of Lenox was built in 1829, and prospered in part because of its location next to the Berkshire County Courthouse, which is visible just to the left in both photos. In 1853, the building was purchased by William O. Curtis and became known as the Curtis Hotel, with the business staying in his family for nearly a century. During this time, the county seat was moved to Pittsfield, but Lenox was in the midst of changing roles and becoming a popular tourist destination.

The Curtis Hotel prospered during this time, with visits some of the most prominent Americans from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including presidents Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Other notable guests included writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Civil War Generals William T. Sherman and George B. McClellan, and businessmen Jim Fiske and John Jacob Astor.

Because of this prosperity, the hotel underwent several major expansions, to the point where it was unrecognizable from its original appearance by the start of the 20th century. The last major addition came in 1898, and by the time the first photo was taken it had largely assumed its present-day exterior. At this point, the hotel faced competition from other nearby hotels, including the Hotel Aspinwall, which opened on a hilltop just to the north of the town center in 1902.

However, like so many other grand hotels of the Gilded Age, the Curtis Hotel was hit hard by the Great Depression. Lenox would no longer be the playground of the rich and famous as it had once been, and many of the hotels began to struggle . The Curtis family sold the hotel by the 1940s, and by the 1970s the deteriorating hotel had closed for good. In 1979, though, the town purchased the historic building and converted it into subsidized housing for elderly residents. The renovations were completed in 1982, and the building has continued to be used in that role ever since.

The Maplewood, Pittsfield, Mass (2)

Another view of The Maplewood, seen from the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue in Pittsfield, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This view shows several of the buildings at The Maplewood, a resort hotel in the Berkshires that had once been a private school for girls. As mentioned in the previous post, a school was established here as early as the 1820s, with several of the buildings dating back to this time period. By 1884, though, the Maplewood Young Ladies Institute had closed, and the buildings were converted into a hotel.

The hotel closed in 1936, and most of the buildings were demolished by 1940. The property was redeveloped, and modern commercial building now stands on the site at the corner of North Street and Maplewood Avenue. The hotel’s only surviving building is one of the original 1820s Federal-style school buildings. It is partially visible in the distance of the first photo, on the eastern side of the property, and today it still stands on the other side of the trees in the distance. After having been used first as a school and then as a hotel, it has since been redeveloped into condominiums.

The Maplewood, Pittsfield, Mass (1)

The Maplewood, on the north side of Maplewood Avenue, between North and First Streets, around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This property has seen a variety of uses over the past two centuries. After being used as farmland in the late 1700s, it became a military base and prisoner of war camp during the War of 1812. The grounds were sold after the war, and by the 1820s a school was established on the site. In 1841, the school became the Pittsfield Young Ladies Institute, and was later known as the Maplewood Institute. During this time, the school hosted the country’s first intercollegiate baseball game, with rival schools Amherst College and Williams College playing here on July 1, 1859. The game drew large numbers of Maplewood girls, who watched Amherst win 73-32 in 26 innings, in a game that bore little resemblance to today’s game.

The school grew over time, with the campus ultimately consisting of an assortment of interconnected buildings that had been built over the course of the 19th century. Perhaps the most unusual addition to the school had been the old First Church, which had been built at Park Square in 1793 by architect Charles Bulfinch. It was damaged in a fire in 1851 and moved here, where it was put to use as a gymnasium. It was still standing when the first photo was taken, and would have been located directly behind the building seen here.

By the end of the Civil War, the school enrolled about 200 girls, but it soon entered a period of decline. Its problems were compounded by the Panic of 1873, which caused significant damage to the United States economy. The school never fully recovered, and closed for good in 1884. Three years later, the buildings were converted into a hotel. It reopened as The Maplewood, and was one of many resort hotels that sprung up in the Berkshires during the late 19th century.

The first photo was taken during its time as a hotel, but like so many other grand hotels of the Gilded Age, it suffered in the 1930s. Just as an earlier financial crisis had doomed the school, the hotel could not survive the Great Depression, and it was sold at a bankruptcy auction in 1936. Nearly all of the buildings, including the old Bullfinch church, were demolished. Even the fountains, including presumably the one in this photo, were melted down as scrap metal during World War II. Only one building, just out of view to the right of this scene, was preserved, and it is now a condominium building. Of the objects that are visible in this photo, only the columns survive. They were donated to Tufts University when the building was demolished, and they now support a porch in front of Ballou Hall.

Irving House, Dalton, Mass

The Irving House at the corner of Main Street and Curtis Avenue in Dalton, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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The small town of Dalton, located just east of Pittsfield in the Berkshires, has long been a major papermaking center. Dalton’s largest employer is Crane & Co., a paper company that has been based here for over two centuries. Crane supplies the US government with the paper used to print the nation’s currency, and has done so since the 1870s, when Winthrop M. Crane, the son of the company’s founder, first obtained the contract.

Papermaking was not Winthrop Crane’s only business venture, though. In 1888, he and his brother Zenas opened a hotel here, named the Irving House. It was located in the center of town, just a short walk from the paper mill, and like many hotels of the era it housed temporary guests as well as long-term residents. The 1880s was a good time to build a hotel here. Not only was the Berkshires a popular summer destination, but also the growth of Crane & Co. had resulted in a dramatic increase in Dalton’s population. This, in turn, meant more visitors and residents to stay in their hotel.

The original Irving House burned down in 1894, but the Cranes apparently rebuilt quickly, because the hotel in the first photo was standing here by the end of the 19th century. By this point, Winthrop Crane had become a prominent figure in state politics. He served as lieutenant governor from 1897 to 1900, and then served three one-year terms as governor from 1900 to 1903 before finishing his political career as a US Senator from 1904 to 1913.

Zenas Crane died in 1917, and Winthrop in 1920, but the Irving House remained in operation for many more years. By the early 1950s, it was purchased by Crane & Co., who renamed it the Crane Inn. It was marketed as an “early American inn,” and it was in business until the mid-1960s. However, it was demolished in 1966, and a bank was subsequently built on the site.

South Street, Pittsfield, Mass (2)

Looking north on South Street toward the corner of West Street, around 1905-1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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These photos were taken from nearly the same spot as the ones an earlier post, just further to the right side of the road. The scene shows the central business district of Pittsfield, the largest city in the Berkshires. On the far right is Park Square, and beyond it is the Berkshire County Savings Bank Building, a six-story office building that was completed in 1896 and is still standing. Across the street, in the center of the photo, is the Berkshire Life Insurance Company Building, which was built in 1868 and expanded in 1911, soon after the first photo was taken.

Although these buildings are still standing, the ones in the foreground on the left side are not. At the corner of West Street was the Hotel Wendell, completed in 1898. It contrasts with the much smaller, much older commercial buildings further to the left. They are an odd assortment of sizes and architectural styles, but were apparently stitched together into a single building. The storefront tenants had as much variety as the building’s facade, and included the Pittsfield Coal Gas Company, Seid Send Laundry, Hotel Wendell Valet, and J.A. Maxim Antiques and Bric-a-Brac. These buildings were all demolished by 1930, when the Hotel Wendell expanded to the left. However, the hotel closed in 1965 and was demolished soon after. Its present-day replacement, the Crowne Plaza and the Berkshire Commons, was completed in 1971 and now stands on the site.