Category Archives: Amherst

Merchants’ Row, Amherst (1880)

On July 4, 1879, a line of buildings on South Pleasant Street comprising Merchants’s Row in downtown Amherst were all destroyed in a fire. According to The History of Amherst (1896), compiled by Carpenter & Morehouse,

The fire started in a shed in the rear of George Cutler’s store. It communicated quickly to the barns of Stebbins’ livery stable, and thence to the Amherst house. These buildings were all burned, together with the Savings bank block, Charles Adams’ block and the stores of O. G. Couch, J. H. Starbuck, Edwin Nelson, George Cutler and B. F. Kendrick. The origin of the fire was unknown. The loss was between $50,000 and $90,000, largely covered by insurance.

The new Merchants’ Row, completed in 1880, was built on part of the site of the lost buildings.

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North College, Amherst College (1823)

Built in 1823 and designed by Hiram Johnson as a mirror image of the earlier South College of 1821, North College is located next to to Johnson Chapel (on the other side of which is South College) on the campus of Amherst College. In 1828, another dormitory was built to the north and took the name North College, the 1823 building taking the name Middle College. The new North College burned down in 1857 and the earlier building then reclaimed its original designation. North College has served as dormitories, a chapel, a laboratory, and a library and is now a freshman dormitory.

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South College, Amherst College (1821)

South College was the first building to be constructed on the campus of Amherst College. The cornerstone of South College was laid on August 9, 1820 and the completed building’s dedication took place on the same day as the inauguration of Amherst’s first president, Zephaniah Swift Moore, on September 18, 1821. Located next to Johnson Chapel, South College has served as as classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, and a chapel over the years. Today it is a a freshman dormitory.

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Appleton Hall, Amherst College (1855)

Appleton Hall, on the campus of Amherst College, was built in 1855 as Appleton Cabinet to house the college’s growing natural history collection, which was expanding beyond the the space provided by the 1847 Octagon. In 1925, the building was renamed Appleton Hall and remodeled as an academic building with lecture halls and offices. In 1999, Appleton Hall was converted into a first-year dormitory.

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Todd House (1887)

Mabel Loomis Todd (1856-1932) and her husband, astronomer David Peck Todd, erected the house at 90 Spring Street in Amherst, the first Queen Anne-style house in town, in 1886-1887. The house was built on land the Todds acquired from Austin Dickinson, brother of the poet Emily Dickinson. Mabel Loomis Todd, who had an affair with Austin Dickinson, is remembered for her editing of posthumously published poems by Emily Dickinson. The first volume of Poems by Emily Dickinson, edited by Todd and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, was published in 1890. Later, there was a legal battle over property owned by Austin Dickinson and given to the Todds by his sister Lavinia. In 1898, the Todds sold the house and moved to another home in Amherst. That same year, Senator George B. Churchill came to teach rhetoric at Amherst College. He moved the Todd House from its original location to the other side of Spring Street and in 1907 built on the site his own house, called “The Dell” (a name that had also been given to the Todd House).

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Plimpton House, Amherst College (1914)

The building at 82 Lessey Street in Amherst was built in 1914 by the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity of Amherst College. It replaced the fraternity’s two earlier connected buildings on the site. One of these had been purchased on land acquired in 1883 from Col. W.S. Clark, President of the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now UMASS Amherst) and the second was built next to it in 1886. The new Georgian Revival fraternity house was designed by Lionel Moses II of the firm of McKim, Meade & White and has a doorway modeled on that of Westover, the eighteenth-century Virginia plantation house of William Byrd II. The fraternity house became an Amherst College dormitory, named Plimpton House, in 1984.

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Amherst Cinema Building (1926)

In 1926, an old livery stable, built in 1879 on the site of where the old Amherst Academy (attended by Emily Dickinson) had once stood, was rebuilt as the Amherst Cinema. The Cinema, at 28 Amity Street, continued in operation until 1999, by which time the building had already been in a deteriorating condition for some years. The vacant theater was then acquired by local residents who were seeking to turn it into a cultural and performing arts center. Developer Barry Roberts and architect John Kuhn relocated the three-screen cinema to the rear of the building and adapted the rest for retail, restaurant and office space. The Amherst Cinema Arts Center opened in 2006. A new mural has recently been added to the west side of the building, joining the vintage graffiti that reads “Save the Drake” and “For Willy, for humanity.”

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