Adams, Massachusetts - A Walking Tour of Park Street
A History of Park Street
The name Park Street comes from a small park, once located in the southwest corner of the street near the railroad tracks. In the early history of Adams, Park Street was the stagecoach route through town. By the 1840s the street was occupied by the houses of crafts-and tradesmen. The business center of town at that time was to the south on Center Street.
The development of today's downtown began with the completion of the Town Hall (#1) in 1883, six years after the division of North Adams and Adams. In the following 15 years, Park Street grew up to be what we see today.
The major factor that changed the character of Park Street was the large expansion of the cotton mills in the 1890s. The increased business and growing population created a demand for more store and office space. Houses that were on the street for 40 years were moved. Two houses (#11 and #22) were actually raised up and store space added beneath them. Along with the Fire House (now the Adams Ambulance Service, #24), four 3-story brick buildings were built: the Mausert Block (#20), the Daniels Block (#23), the Jones Block (#25), and the Dawson Block (#10). In general, the wooden houses were replaced by multistoried brick buildings that contained stores on the ground floor with offices and meeting halls on the upper floors.
In 1969, Town Meeting members defeated an urban renewal proposal to demolish most of the buildings on the street. Two years earlier a similar plan razed the Center Street area eliminating the buildings of the old commercial center of Adams.
In the 1980s, the street was revitalized with a historic preservation strategy fueled by federal, state and local government monies and the cooperation of property owners.
Park Street welcomes residents and visitors with green spaces, pleasant shops, interesting architecture and grace of a small-town main street.
Click here for map.
#1 - Town Hall
On the corner of School and Park streets, a site which was earlier occupied by a school, the Town Hall was built to serve local government, house the District Court and The Registry of Deeds, as well as provide an auditorium on the second floor. A fire in 1949 destroyed the peaked roof and tower. When the building was remodeled, the façade underwent dramatic changes. The Police Station is located to the rear of Town Hall.
#2 - The Red Carpet
This building was originally a private residence but has been a restaurant since the 1920s. A photo display inside captures a view of Adams and its residents.
#3 - Simmons Furniture
The Simmons family operated businesses in this building, the fancy yellow one across the street (#9) and the one on the corner of School Street (#27). An examination of the windows and architectural style of this building reveal that it was once a church.
#4 - The Armory
Built in 1914 and modeled after a Norman medieval castle, the Armory of Company M is an example of the monumental architecture and large green spaces that grace the northern entrance to Park Street.
#5 - McKinley Statue
President McKinley visited Adams on three occasions; once as governor of Ohio and twice as president of the United States. His economic policy of protecting American industries from foreign competition allowed places like Adams to experience their greatest economic prosperity. Shortly after President McKinley's assassination, the Plunketts started a fund to erect a monument to him. This statue was unveiled in 1903. It was carved by Augustus Lukeman, a famous sculptor of his day, who also carved Stone Mountain in Georgia.
#6 - Berkshire Mill 1
The first of four mills built by W.B. and C.T. Plunkett, it signaled the greatest economic development that the town has ever seen. Because of these cotton mills, Adams reached its peak in population and wealth just before World War I. Today this mill has been preserved and is used as an apartment building.
#7 - Notre Dame and St. Thomas Churches
These two churches add to the monumental nature of all the other buildings that surround McKinley Square. Built in 1887 and 1897 respectively, they are surrounded by large green lawns to showcase their architectural beauty.
#8 - The Adams Free Library
This building was designed to satisfy two functions: house the town library and server as a patriotic memorial to the veterans of the Civil War; hence the names Washington, Lincoln and Grant are listed in the building's cornice. President McKinley laid the cornerstone of this building on his second visit to Adams in 1897. The distinctive buff-colored brick is trimmed by marble quarried at the former Adams Marble Company. The second floor of this building was used as a meeting hall for the veteran groups of the Civil War era. Today, a portion of this floor houses the Adams Historical Society collection.
#9 - The Simmons Home
Built in the mid-1800s, this building originally housed two stores on the first floor and Simmons' residence on the upper stories. Its exterior is admired for the intricate shingling, colored glass, and varied rooflines.
#10 - The Dawson Block
This is one of the brick three-story buildings that were built in the 1890s when there was a large demand for store and office space in Adams. The distinctive feature of this building, besides the ornate cornice at the roofline, is the storefronts that have remained unchanged since the building was first constructed. This gives us a view of store windows before plate glass was widely used.
#12 - Congregational Church
This is the only wooden church in Adams still in use. Built in 1868, just after the Civil War, it holds a prominent spot on Park Street. The parish house and parsonage to the south of the church were built in 1805. Notice the brick and shingle construction. The Plunkett family was very active in this church and generously supported it for many decades.
#14 - Veterans Memorial
On the lawn of the American Legion Home, this monument lists the names of Adams residents who died serving their country.
#15 - The American Legion Home
This building was originally built as the home of C.T. Plunkett, the second son in a family that was responsible for the greatest amount of economic development the town of Adams ever experienced. When built in 1907, it displaced the boyhood home of Charles Pierce Burton, author of a series of children adventure stories set in Adams. The main characters in the book refer to themselves as the "The Boys of Bob's Hill." Bob's Hill, named for its owner Robert Briggs, rises behind this house. To the south of this property stood another Plunkett Mansion, Montrath built by Gen. William C. Plunkett and later occupied by his son, William B., who entertained President McKinley there. The house to the north (#13) of the American Legion Home was owned by former State Senator Theodore Plunkett, son of William B., making this the third generation of Plunketts to live at this end of Park Street.
#16 - Susan B. Anthony Memorial Plaque
This monument commemorates Adams' famous daughter, Susan B. Anthony. She was an activist who dedicated her adult life to securing equal rights for African-Americans and women.
#17 -Flood Control Project
The Hoosic River used to be a threat to life and property until walls of concrete and stone were constructed in the 1950s.
#18 - South Adams Savings Bank
This building is the last remnant of the Center Street that was once the commercial center of Adams. South Adams Savings is the oldest continuously operating bank in town.
#19 - Shea's
This building was built just after the Civil War. It has served as a dry goods store since that time.
#21 - The Union Hotel
This building is the oldest on Park Street. It was the second hotel to be built in Adams in the 1820s. It has gone through many changes, including being lowered 18 inches when the building was fitted-up for storefronts in the mid-1880s.
#26 - Miss Adams Diner
A diner has existed on this site since the 1930s. This current version, prefabricated in a diner factory, was delivered to this site on December 7, 1949.
Excerpted from brochure published by the Adams Historical Commission, Adams Chamber of Commerce and Adams Historical Society. Brochure text by Juliette Wilk-Chaffee and Eugene Michalinko.