Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass (2)

The view looking northwest from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two photos were taken from the same spot as the ones in the previous two posts, which face to the southwest and west. This particular view looks toward the northwest, with the town of Adams in the foreground and the Greylock Range in the distance. The present-day photo does not line up perfectly with the first one, as the line of sight from the original spot is blocked by the house on the far left, but the two photos show the same overall scene, including the two houses on the right side of the first photo, which still stand here in the second photo.

The houses here in the foreground were, for the most part, built around the late 19th century. During this time, Adams was growing in population, becoming an important manufacturing center on the Hoosic River, and residential neighborhoods were steadily making their way up the hillside to the east of town. Many of the house lots were still undeveloped by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the century, as indicated by the cornfield in the foreground, but most of these would soon have houses on them.

The two houses on the right side of the first photo were both built sometime around 1900, and they are both included in that year’s census. At the time, the one furthest to the right, at 40-42 Randall Street, was occupied by two families. The left side was the home of 34-year-old teamster Fred Wilder, his wife Ida, their daughter Bertha, and a boarder who also worked as a teamster. On the right side was 23-year-old Grace Welch, who lived here with her three children. They ranged in age from 10 months to 7 years, and according to the census she had been married for nine years. It also listed her as being a widow, although subsequent censuses show her as being married to Melvin Welch, so this part of her record was likely in error.

To the left of the duplex is a single-family home at 38 Randall Street. In 1900 it was owned by Ai Davis, a 47-year-old stonemason who lived here with his wife Nora and their five children, the oldest of whom was 23 and the youngest was 5. Their oldest, Hiram, was a teamster, and two other children were listed as attending school. Like her neighbor Grace, Nora had also apparently married very young, because she was 39 years old in 1900 and had already been married for 24 years.

Further in the distance, the most visible building in downtown Adams is the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company. Founded in 1889, the company grew quickly over the next few decades, and by the time the first photo was taken in the early 20th century it consisted of a large factory complex with a number of buildings in the center of the scene. In 1904, the company had around 2,400 people, making it a significant employer in a town that, at the time, had around 12,000 residents.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, many changes have occurred here in this scene. The cornfield in the foreground is gone, having been replaced by the house on the far left side at some point around the 1920s. In the distance, the slopes of Mount Greylock are now far more wooded than they had been in the first photo, and much of downtown Adams is also now obscured by trees. The houses at 38 and 40-42 Randall Street are still standing though, as are some of the buildings in the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company complex.

During the 20th century, Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing went through a series of mergers in the 20th century, eventually merging with Hathaway Manufacturing in 1955 to become Berkshire Hathaway. It continued to produce textiles here into the second half of the 20th century, and came under the control of a young Warren Buffett in 1965. The factory ultimately closed, and many of the buildings have since been demolished, but the company itself still exists. No longer a small-town cotton mill, Berkshire Hathaway is now a major multi-national holding company headquartered in Omaha, although its name continues to serve as a reminder of its origins here along the Hoosic River in Adams.

Mount Greylock from Adams, Massachusetts

The view of Mount Greylock as seen from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two images do not line up perfectly; the first one was taken a few yards to the south of where the 2019 one was taken. However, the view from that spot is now blocked by a house that stands where the cornfield in the foreground used to be, so the present-day photo was taken a little closer to the corner of Randall Street. However, the overall scene is the same in both photos, showing the town of Adams at the bottom of the hill, with the summit of Mount Greylock as the backdrop in the distant center.

Standing 3,491 feet above sea level, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. It is part of the Taconic Mountains, a range within the Appalachians that runs roughly along the New York-Massachusetts border, and it is also one of the most topographically-prominent mountains in New England, rising nearly 2,500 feet above all of its surrounding valleys. As a result, it is visible for miles in every direction, and it is the most distinctive landscape feature within the town of Adams.

The east slope of the mountain, shown here in this scene, is its steepest. From the summit, it drops more than 2,700 feet in less than three miles to the floor of the Hoosic River valley. The town of Adams was settled here along the river, and during the second half of the 19th century it developed into a thriving industrial community. The town was divided in half in 1878, with the more populous northern half becoming North Adams, but Adams continued to grow, and by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century its population had risen to over 10,000 residents.

The photo shows the downtown area of Adams, as seen from the hills immediately to the east. By this point, this area was in the process of being developed for housing, and the 1904 county atlas shows that the land in the foreground had already been subdivided into individual lots. Some of the houses had already been built by then, but other lots were still vacant, including the cornfield here in the first photo. However, within a decade or two this site would also be developed, and there is now a 1920s-era house that stands just out of view on the left.

Today, Adams is no longer a major factory town, and its population is actually smaller than it was at the turn of the last century. Overall, though, this view is not significantly different from the first photo. Probably the single most noticeable change is the increased number of trees. In the foreground, downtown Adams is mostly hidden by the trees, although there are several buildings visible, most notably the First Congregational Church, which stands in the center of the scene. Beyond the town, the slopes of Mount Greylock are much more wooded today than in the first photo, and at the summit is the Veterans War Memorial Tower, which was dedicated in 1933 in memory of Massachusetts residents who died in World War I.

Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass

The view looking southwest from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Berkshires became an important industrial center, with a number of factories located along the Housatonic and Hoosic Rivers. Here in Adams, near the northwest corner of Massachusetts, the town saw rapid growth during this period because of its industries. It lost nearly two thirds of its population in 1878 when its northern half was partitioned off as the town of North Adams, but over the next 20 years it doubled in population, ultimately reaching its peak at just over 13,000 people by 1910.

The first photo was taken around this time, facing southwest from the hillside just to the east of the center of town. A portion of downtown Adams is visible in the distance, including the steeple of First Baptist Church, which stands in the center of the photo. Further beyond the town is the southern end of the Greylock Range, which features the tallest mountains in the state. The highest, Mount Greylock, is just out of view on the far right side, but the state’s second-highest peak, Saddle Ball Mountain, is evidently visible in this scene.

In the foreground of the first photo is a corn field. At the time, this neighborhood was only partially developed, consisting of a few late 19th century homes interspersed with empty lots such as this one. However, by this point the area was already eyed for future development, with the 1904 county atlas showing that this land had already been subdivided into new streets and house lots, which were owned by the Bonnie Brae Land Company. Many of the houses and streets were ultimately never built, perhaps because the population of Adams plateaued after 1910, but this former corn field was developed sometime after the first photo was taken. As shown in the present-day scene, it is now the site of a bungalow-style house that, based on its architecture, was probably built sometime around the 1920s.