Exhibits

Posts on current exhibits

100 Years in White: Architecture of the First Congregational Church

Posted by on Jun 2, 2015 in Exhibits, Featured slider, Talks | 0 comments

100 Years in White: Architecture of the First Congregational Church

  100 Years in White: Architecture of the First Congregational Church  What do shirt collars and the current building of the First Congregational Church have in common?  How did Williams College create the circumstances making it necessary to redesign our building?  Some of this information is common knowledge in Williamstown, but you may be surprised by some information that has newly been connected to this story.  Moira Jones ties new information with the old in this exhibit to tell the whole story of why the 1869 Neo-Romanesque building was renovated before its 50th birthday. Exhibit curator, Moira Jones, is Moderator of the First Congregational Church (for more information on what a “Moderator” is, visit FirstChurchWilliamstown.org).  A native of California, who was born in a town which celebrated its bicentennial the year after our nation, Moira has lived in Williamstown, and been interested in our community history for more than 30 years.  She is indebted to the research of Carl A. Westerdahl (1937-2013) for much of the information that was in this presentation.  To view a video of this lecture click here:   “100 Years in White:  Architecture of the First Congregational...

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1753 House

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Exhibits | 0 comments

The 1753 House in the Rotary In 1750, village lots in the newly surveyed West Hoosac plantation were first offered for sale by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Court probably had two motives in establishing the plantation: to settle and fortify the northwest corner of the colony, lying along a heavily used Indian path (now called the Mohawk Trail), and thereby protect towns to the east and south; and to prevent Dutch settlers in New York from inching over their eastern boundary into Massachusetts. The area was a heavily forested wilderness and, although some of the lots were purchased by speculators, many were acquired by soldiers from Fort Massachusetts — four miles to the east — the last outpost on the northern line of defense during the French and Indian wars. In 1753 the General Court ordered that settlers were required to build a home on their land. The regulations stated that in order to gain title to a lot, settlers were required to clear five acres and construct a house measuring at least 15 by 18 feet with a 7 foot stud, and a chimney. It was these requirements that gave the name “regulation house” to these early buildings. It was the intention of the government that these permanent houses would provide a basic structure to live in that could easily be expanded to make a larger building. Two men helping each other could build two regulation houses in three to four months. The first meeting of the Proprietors took place on December 5, 1753, at which time there were about a dozen frame “regulation” houses along what is now West Main Street. The early years were difficult for the settlers. The French and Indian War brought fear of ambush, scalping, and arson, and in 1756 a blockhouse and stockade, known as Fort West Hoosac, were built at the site of the present Williams Inn, as a refuge from repeated Indian raids. After 1760, with the coming of peace, settlers flooded in, principally from Connecticut. Land was cleared and agriculture became the main source of livelihood. More land farther east on Main Street was divided and cleared, some roads were cut, and farming became the dominant way of life in the valley. Small saw, grist, and fulling (cloth making) mills were built. Professionals and craftsmen began to arrive: a doctor, a lawyer, cobblers, carpenters, blacksmiths, and shopkeepers. In 1765 West Hoosac was incorporated as Williamstown. It was named for Col. Ephraim Williams who had commanded the northern line of defense and who, in his will, left money for the founding of a free school in West Hoosac, provided that the name of the settlement be changed to Williamstown. The school opened in 1791 and became Williams College in 1793. In 1953, during the town bicentennial, a group of people determined to build a replica of these regulation houses, and using only tools and practices that would have been used to make the original houses, constructed the house you see on Field Park today. It belongs to the Williamstown Historic Museum and is known simply as the “1753...

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Reverend Seth Swift House

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Exhibits | 0 comments

Reverend Seth Swift House

  Reverend Seth Swift House (630 Water Street) This home was built by the Reverend Seth Swift in 1780. Rev. Swift was one of the original trustees and the first treasurer of Williams College. He was ordained to the ministry at the First Congregational Church in 1779, was married in 1781 and had his first child in 1782. During his long tenure as pastor the church grew from 63 member to 273 members. Robert R.R.Brooks says in Williamstown: The First 250 Years: “The handsome, almost massive lines of the gambrel roofed house….testify to the minister’s skill in supplementing by farming his meager earnings as a pastor.” He sold the house in 1799 to Almond Harrison. He then bought the Federal period house (still to be seen diagonally northwest across the street – 575 Water Street) in order to have more spacious accommodations for his wife, Lucy, and their seven children. The house has seen much change in its 235 years. Early in the 1900’s it was converted to a duplex in order to house workers from the Cluett Estate. When the current owners purchased the house in 2007, there were still two side by side staircases in the front hall. The distinctive fanlight and side lights over the front door were probably added after the Cluetts purchased the house. Unfortunately, all the fireplaces were removed as they were not efficient heating sources and simply took up space. The front hall had several layers of flooring which the current owners removed. They were able to salvage as many of the original floorboards as they could, including the use of floorboards from the attic. The thick hand planks bordering one side of the front hall are indicative of the post and beam style of construction. There are also plank walls on both the exterior and original interior walls. The living room still retains much of the original plaster walls and chair rail. The plaster was removed from the study and family room at some point, and the beams and framing were exposed. Today, one can see the chestnut post construction, including the wooden pegs. Most of the original wide boards on the first floor have been covered over. The staircase is not original, and the original configuration has been lost to time. The second floor retains several bedrooms with the impressive original wide plank flooring. The house sits on a stone foundation and has a cellar under about one third of the house. Construction of old houses was often done from existing native timber on site. They would dig a saw pit for sawing the timbers then build the house around it. The outside of the house has retained much of its original character, although the garage was added sometime in the 1960’s or ’70’s. The current owners have found no treasures during their restoration, but did come up with numerous old hand forged nails. The only scrap of paper was found in the attic authorizing a Mr. Stevens to be the representative for the sale of a magazine in the late 1800’s. The Stevens family owned the property for several generations and operated it as Pine Tree Farm, named for two old pine trees (which no longer exist) planted in front of the house by Seth...

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Ide/Phillips house

Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Exhibits | 0 comments

Ide/Phillips house

Ide/Phillips house (102 Ide Road) This home was designed by Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram, of the firm of Cram and Ferguson, for James M. Ide between 1891 and 1893. Cram was a prolific and influential American architect, who also designed Philips Exeter Academy in Exeter NH, the Courthouse in Boston, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.  In Williamstown, Cram also designed Chapin Hall, the Williams and Sage dormitories, and the Stetson Library at Williams College, as well as the original Adams Memorial Theater. His theater design was deemed a little too modern and was then modified with a classical pediment at the entrance. James M. Ide was born in Troy NY in 1850 and graduated from Williams in 1871. He was one of the first non-residents to establish a summer home in Williamstown. He, along with Howard Doughty and Edward C. Gale, helped found the Taconic Golf Club in 1896. They buried tomato cans in the ground to form the holes. The Ide House still backs up to the 13h hole on the Taconic Golf Course today. The house originally stood on 15 acres, but surrounding land has been sold for other homes and is now just over 6 acres. The Ide home is a lovely example of the Queen Anne Shingle Style.  The current owners bought the house in 2002 and added a garage with a pool room and bedroom over it attached by a breezeway.  They did extensive restoration work inside.  The house now has 21 rooms: 10 bedrooms, 5 full baths and 3 half...

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Big Days in a Small Town

Posted by on Feb 23, 2014 in Exhibits, Featured slider, Talks, Video | 0 comments

Big Days in a Small Town

One of the leading features of small town life is that on several occasions during the year a substantial part of the population, young and old, gathers at some central place for a townwide meeting, a parade, or holiday festivities. These events are a means to bring everybody together and to reaffirm their participation in a small community.  Community celebrations will be the topic of both our new exhibition curated by Dusty Griffin. These townwide events are a prominent part of the Williamstown’s annual calendar, and have been going on for a long time. Some events — Town Meeting, Memorial Day, Independence Day – have been recognized or celebrated for more than a century. The Williams College commencement exercises have drawn large numbers of townspeople ever since the early 19th century. Others are relatively new – the Holiday Walk, for example. Some, an annual feature for many decades, are no longer celebrated: the Fireman’s Ball, the Grange Fair. And even the ones we continue to celebrate today have not always taken the same form. This exhibit looks at a number of the townwide events in Williamstown, and by means of old photographs, posters, programs, newspaper clippings, and other artifacts traces how these occasions have been celebrated over the years. Bio: Dusty Griffin taught English literature at Berkeley and NYU for 40 years before retiring in 2009. A 1965 graduate of Williams College, he has published a number of scholarly books on 17th- and 18th-century English poetry. He has also written on topics in Williams College history, and on the local history of Williamstown. He has frequently given talks on local history in the Williamstown Historical Museum lecture series, most recently on “Three Williams Generals in the Civil War” (2012). He serves as chair of the Exhibitions Committee, and has curated an exhibitions at the Museum on “Williamstown in the Civil War” (2011). His talk in May on “Big Days in a Small Town” coincides with the opening of his exhibition at the Museum on “Big Days in a Small Town.” This approximately half hour program was filmed at the Harper’s Center. In this video, Williamstown Senior Citizens share their memories of celebrations in the Williamstown of their...

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Mount Hope Estate

Posted by on Oct 13, 2013 in Exhibits, Featured slider, Talks | 0 comments

Mount Hope Estate

The legendary Mount Hope estate fascinates us with stories of wealth and innovation.  In November, 2013, Joe Bergeron lectured about the evolution of the estate, its rise to prototype farm, its “million dollar” barn and other buildings, and the development around its windy road since Mount Hope’s founding by the Prentice family.  This talk was given in conjunction with the opening of our winter exhibit, also on the Mount Hope Estate, curated by Joe Bergeron. Joe is a relatively new Williamstown resident, having first arrived in town 17 years ago to attend Williams College. He, his wife and daughters live across the street from Mount Hope on an old part of the farm and love the rewarding responsibility of acting as caretaker to one of Mount Hope’s...

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