Berkshire Life Insurance Company (1868)

Berkshire Life Building

The corner of North and West Streets in Pittsfield was the site of the Berkshire Hotel from the 1820s to 1866. In 1868, the headquarters of the Berkshire Life Insurance Company was built here (current address: 5-7 North Street). The building as it exists today was constructed in three stages. The first section, designed by Louis Weissbein of Boston, had a basement level below three floors and a Mansard roof with gable windows. In 1911, the Mansard roof was removed and two additional stories were added by Joseph McArthur Vance of Pittsfield. In 1927, the building was extended to the west with a new addition by Henry Seaver of Pittsfield. Berkshire Life, founded in 1851, left the building to move to a new headquarters in 1959. In 2001, Berkshire Life merged with The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.
Here are links to some historic images of this building:

Trustees’ Office and Store, Hancock Shaker Village (1813)

Trustees' Office and Store

In 1813, the Shakers of Hancock constructed a building, the Trustees’ Office, in which to conduct business and accommodate visitors from what they referred to as “The World.” Part of Hancock Shaker Village, it is located just across the border from Hancock in Pittsfield (the town line passes through the eastern end of the village). In 1852 the Shakers more than doubled the size of the original building by extending it to the south. It was also reoriented to face west. A kitchen ell was added in 1876, which joined the Office to a woodshed to the east. The entire structure was completely altered in an eclectic Victorian style in 1895. There was also a gift shop/fancy goods store in the building. The Office was home to the Trustee and Central Ministry Eldress Mary Frances Hall (b. 1876) until her death in 1957. Read More

First Baptist Church, Pittsfield (1927)

First Baptist Church, Pittsfield

The origins of the Baptist church in Pittsfield go back to the eighteenth century, but its first meeting house was completed in 1827. It was located on North Street, on the northwest corner of the burial ground. The church’s growth led to the construction of a larger building in 1850, which was enlarged and remodeled in 1874-1875. This church was demolished in 1920 to make way for the Onota Building. The First Baptist Church‘s current edifice, at 88 South Street, was built in 1927-1930 (the parish house being completed first in 1926). It was designed by Joseph McArthur Vance.

Old Berkshire Athenaeum (1876)

Berkshire Athenaeum

The old Berkshire Athenaeum building, at 44 Bank Row in Pittsfield, was built in 1874-1876. A gift of railway magnate Thomas Allen, it is a High Victorian Gothic building, designed by William Appleton Potter of New York, and displays that style’s distinctive ploychromatic masonry. An addition was made to the rear of the building in 1897. The addition was raised to two stories in 1926, the same year the building’s chimneys were removed. The building served as Pittsfield’s library until 1976, when a new building was constructed across the street on Wendell Avenue. The building was also home to the county museum until the Berkshire Museum was built in 1903. The Athenaeum had responsibility for the museum until it became a separate institution in 1932. The old Athenaeum building stood vacant for three years until it reopened in 1980 as an annex to the Berkshire County Courthouse. It currently houses the Berkshire Probate and Family Court.

Arrowhead (1780)

Arrowhead 01

Arrowhead is the house in Pittsfield where Herman Malville wrote Moby Dick and other classic works. The house was built around 1780 by Captain David Bush and operated as an inn by Bush and his son. It originally had a much higher gambrel roof, but this was later removed, resulting in a lower roofline. There is a pdf file available of the house’s National Register of Historic Places Inventory nomination form. In the early nineteenth century, the house was the home of Melville’s Uncle Thomas and the author first visited the property, with its view of Mount Greylock, in 1832. In 1850, following the lead of his friend Hawthorne, who had also settled in nearby Lenox, Melville decided to move his family to the farm and they lived there until 1863. Melville named the house Arrowhead, because many arrowheads were dug up around the property during planting season. Shortly after buying Arrowhead, Melville added a side porch, after which his story “The Piazza” is named. These were productive years for Melville as a writer. During his time at Arrowhead, he wrote Moby Dick (1851), Pierre (1852), Israel Potter (1855), The Piazza Tales (1856), and The Confidence Man (1857). His story, “I and My Chimney,” has a description of the house as it appeared when Melville lived there. Not earning a living from his writing, Melville eventually returned to New York, taking a job as a customs inspector. He sold Arrowhead to his brother Allan and it remained in the Melville family until 1927. In 1975, the house was purchased by the Berkshire County Historical Society and restored to become a museum. Read More