Berkshire County Savings Bank, Pittsfield, Mass

The Berkshire County Savings Bank building, at the northeast corner of North and East Streets in Pittsfield, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

It is rare for the same building to house the same company in both the “then” and “now” photos, but Berkshire Bank has been located in this building since its completion in 1896. The bank itself is actually much older, having been established in Pittsfield in 1846 as the Berkshire County Savings Bank. Fifty years later, the bank moved into this building at Park Square, in a prominent location at the corner of North and East Streets. The six-story Renaissance Revival building was designed by Boston architect Francis R. Allen, and overlooks the center of the city, directly adjacent to the First Church on the right.

More than 170 years after it was founded, the bank’s name has since been simplified to Berkshire Bank. After a series of mergers, it is now the largest bank based in Western Massachusetts, but it is still based out of this building. The building itself still retains its original appearance, although it has grown over the years. At some point it was expanded to the left along the North Street side, replacing the smaller building in the first photo and making the building roughly square. The addition is barely noticeable at first glance, though, and seamlessly blends in with the original section.

There have been even fewer changes to the First Church on the right. This Gothic church was completed in 1853, and was designed by prominent architect Leopold Eidlitz. Both the church and the bank building are among the many historic 19the century buildings around Park Square, and they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Park Square Historic District.

American House, Pittsfield, Mass

The American House, a hotel at the northwest corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue, sometime in the 1800s. Image from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Vicinity (1900).

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The New American House on the same site, around 1911-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

The American House was one of several important 19th century hotels in Pittsfield. It was built sometime before 1865, and in that year it was purchased by Cebra Quackenbush, a prominent resident who soon expanded the hotel. By the end of the century, though, the old wooden building had become outdated, so in 1899 he had it demolished and replaced with a larger brick hotel, named the New American House.

The second photo was taken shortly after the 1911 renovations, which added a fifth story to the building. Quackenbush, in his 70s at this point, still owned the hotel, although he was not involved in the day-to-day operations. Instead, he leased it out to different landlords over the years until his death in 1914, nearly 50 years after he purchased the property. After his death, the hotel continued in business for a few more decades, but it was demolished in 1937 and replaced with the one-story commercial building that stands here today.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (3)

The west side of the Hotel Aspinwall, around 1902-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

This view shows the opposite side of the hotel from the photos in the previous posts, and this post gives more details on the history of this hotel, which stood here from 1902 to 1931, when it was destroyed in a fire. The fire was believed to have started on the veranda on this side of the building, and although the exact cause was never determined, contemporary newspaper reports indicate that it was probably from a carelessly discarded cigarette.

The site of the hotel is now Kennedy Park, which has hiking and cross country skiing trails and several scenic overlooks, including this one. In the foreground is the Kennedy Park Belvedere, which was built in 2011 in memory of Dr. Jordan Fieldman, a physician at Berkshire Medical Center who died of cancer in 2006. It became the subject of controversy, though, when a group of local citizens objected to it and filed lawsuit against the town. The suit was ultimately dismissed, and the memorial is still here, in approximately the same location where guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller, Sr. once enjoyed the view from the hotel’s veranda.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (2)

Another view of the east side of the Hotel Aspinwall, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

This scene shows the main entrance to the Hotel Aspinwall, where its many distinguished guests would have arrived. The previous post, which provides more details about the hotel’s history and destruction, shows the building from the same side, just facing the opposite direction. The site of the hotel has been undeveloped since it burned down in 1931, and today the property is Kennedy Park, a public park owned by the town of Lenox.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (1)

The east side of the Hotel Aspinwall, as seen around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

As mentioned in the post featuring the hotel’s entrance, the Hotel Aspinwall was built in 1902 by lawyer, businessman, and Civil War officer Thomas H. Hubbard. It was located on over 400 acres of land atop a hill just north of the center of Lenox, and with 225 guest rooms accommodating up to 425 people, it was among the largest hotels in the Berkshires.

The hotel attracted a number of notable guests over the years. As the Berkshire Eagle described it in a 1956 feature article, “If the millionaires who used to summer in Lenox during the early 20th century were not among those owning estates here, they probably stayed at the old Aspinwall Hotel.” The article identified guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Lillian Russell, Senator and railroad magnate Chauncey Depew, Massachusetts governor James Michael Curley, New York mayor Seth Low, and Austro-Hungarian ambassador Konstantin Dumba. Another news article, published in the North Adams Transcript, indicated that John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was also a frequent guest at the hotel.

By the early 1930s, America was in the midst of the Great Depression, and many historic grand hotels were struggling. However, here in Lenox, the Hotel Aspinwall was expanding. They had recently added a baseball field and a 9-hole golf course, and they were working on adding more trails and bridle paths on the property when a fire started early in the morning on April 25, 1931. The hotel had not yet opened for the season, but the secluded location was reportedly popular for “petting parties,” as contemporary newspapers described it. The exact source of the fire was never identified, but most likely theory seems to be that it was started with a carelessly disposed cigarette from one of these parties.

The fire was already well underway by the time the fire department learned of it, and at that point there was no way to save it. The hotel’s own firefighting systems had been shut down for the winter, and the closest fire hydrant was nearly a mile away. There was not enough water pressure in the 4,000-foot hose from the hydrant to effectively fight the fire, so most of the firefighting efforts were on preventing the fire from spreading to the other buildings or to the forest.

The rest of the property was saved from the fire, but the hotel was never rebuilt, and the forest soon began to reclaim the property. In 1956, the land was sold to the town for just $12,000 and converted into a public park. Now known as Kennedy Park, the hotel’s former driveway and trails are now used by hikers and cross country skiers, and there is little sign of the hotel that once stood here. Based on maps that showed the hotel, this clearing appears to be approximately the center of the building, although without any identifiable landmarks left from the first photo, it is impossible to recreate the exact spot.

Greenock Inn, Lee, Mass

The Greenock Inn at the corner of High and Franklin Streets in Lee, in 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

The late 1800s and early 1900s was the era of grand hotels, and many large hotels were built in popular resort areas like the Berkshires. The hotels were often built of wood, and were very susceptible to fire. Here in the center of Lee, the Greenock Inn was no exception. The original building suffered several fires, including one in 1903 and another in 1908 that destroyed the entire building. The first photo shows the building soon after it was rebuilt, but over time the hotel went into decline. The American Legion purchased the property and demolished the hotel in 1943, with the intent of building a veterans’ home. Ultimately, this plan did not happen, though, and today the site is occupied by a house and a parking lot.