Newsletter October 2013 - Construction has begun...it's a HOLE new start!
Calendar of Events
November 8: Annual Meeting/The Williams River Store/Masiero Family
December 6: Merchants' Holiday Event
December 29: Winter Concert, West Stockbridge Chamber Players
CONSTRUCTION ON TARGET
Late last month, with our building permit for Phase One in hand, we broke ground on our 1854 Town Hall renovation. This phase, all external work, should be nearly complete by mid -December.
Photo: Chris May Builder
In our back yard we found not dirt, but huge boulders that had to be lifted out and carted away, leaving a gaping hole that has now been mostly filled in. The concrete has been poured for the foundation of the addition, and the retaining walls for the side and the back are well underway. Next will be a drain to channel the water that comes down the hill so that it goes around the existing building and connects to the municipal storm water system. Finally, a walkway to the rear parking lot will be built and the site and landscaping restored.
The concrete foundation, starting at the bottom, outlines the addition. The metal bars on the side and in the back outline the retaining wall. The bulk in the center is where the elevator will go. When the concrete for the retaining wall is poured and set, dirt will be brought back and placed behind the walls, closing the hole.
In the spring, we will have a town-wide celebration for the completion of Phase One - placing the bridge from the walkway and retaining wall to the second floor of the building. It will provide stair-free access and egress between the Vaber Hall on the second floor and our rear parking lot on Hotel Street.
Thanks to you, the money to pay for Phase One is in the bank. Because you have generously contributed your time and money, the Historical Society has raised over $200,000 in cash, pledges, and grants in just one year.
We expect to begin Phase Two this winter. This will be restoration work inside the building and will include reinforcing the foundation, and repairing or replacing the beams, the columns, the sills, the roof, and the doorways of our 1854 Town Hall home. The work must be finished by June as a condition of our Massachusetts Historical Society matching grant. We are well into the effort of raising our $50,000 share to meet the requirements of that grant. Please consider helping with this task. Every contribution, no matter how large or small, speeds us to our goal.
Because of you, we have not missed a beat this year.
Our membership has grown, attendance at our history programs has doubled,
and development funds are coming in.
We thank you in advance for your contribution to the $50,000
match that we expect to raise by the end of 2013.
Williams River Store & Masiero Family History
Friday, November 8, at 7:00 p.m.
New Town Hall
After the original European settlers from Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts arrived in West Stockbridge in the 1770s, the town had three other major waves of immigrants. First, French Canadians arrived after the Revolution to work in the charcoal industry and quarries. The second in the mid-1850s were Scottish and Irish immigrants who came because of the Irish famine and Highland clearances in Scotland (the latter were forced evictions of farmers in a changeover to sheep raising). These newcomers worked in the mines and quarries and, later, on the railroads.
The third wave of immigrants was Italians in the early 1900s. Unlike the migration of southern Italians to America in the 1880s and '90s who left Italy because of famine and the turmoil of the Risorgimento (the movement that freed Italian states from foreign domination and united them politically), the Italian families who settled in West Stockbridge came from the northern provinces. Some worked as laborers on the farms, others in the iron and lime quarries breaking rock by hand, and still others on track maintenance for the railroads. They had a major impact on the town, in the local industries, churches, and social clubs, and with a brass band they created. By the 1920s, there were estimated to be over 800 Italian residents, more than 50% of the population.
Masiero Variety Store (Masiero Family Archives)
The Masiero family was a typical West Stockbridge Italian family, arriving in 1912, working their way into the community, and raising a large family. Most notable of their impact was the Masiero Variety Store, a town fixture and gathering place for many years.
On Friday, November 8, at 7:00 p.m. in the new Town Hall, Bob Salerno and John Masiero will talk about the history and impact of Italian families in West Stockbridge. John will share the Masiero family experience and the history of the Masiero Variety Store. He will also have some photos and material from the family "archives."
Refreshments will be served afterward.
Larry Vaber Memorial Concert
Dr. Richard Ziter, long-time West Stockbridge resident, ophthalmologist, and accomplished pianist, emerged from "retirement" to play solo and chamber pieces with the Hyperion String Quartet on Sunday, October 13, at the West Stockbridge Congregational Church.
Dr. Dick Ziter (Photo:Bob Salerno)
The concert was dedicated to Larry Vaber, West Stockbridge resident and strong supporter of the West Stockbridge Historical Society, who passed away in 2011. Sponsored by the WSHS, the concert will benefit the restoration of Vaber Hall, the acoustically excellent second floor auditorium in the 1854 Town Hall.
An enthusiastic audience of 110, including many friends of Larry and Dick, enjoyed piano works by Chopin and Debussy and chamber pieces by Mozart and Barber. Dr. Ziter and the Quartet capped off the concert with Schumann's Piano Quintet in Eb Major, Opus 44. When this work was premiered in 1843, Schumann's wife, Clara, who was famous for her keyboard skill, played the piano part.
Hyperion Quartet, shown L-R as listed just below. (photo:Bob Salerno)
Dr. Ziter and three members of the Hyperion String Quartet (Amanda Brin, violin; Jamecyn Morey, violin; and Jonathan Brin, cello) are all graduates of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. They were joined by Youming Chen, viola, a graduate of the Juilliard School.
Following the concert the musicians and audience were all invited to attend a reception at the historic 1853 home of Constance Eagan.
The Historical Society is grateful to Dr. Ziter for underwriting this concert and to its sponsors, as well as many others who supported it with their donations and volunteer activities. The Society also thanks the West Stockbridge Congregational Church for their generous support and the use of their facility for this event.
125th Anniversary of Baldwin's Extracts
The Historical Society helped the Moffat family celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Baldwin's Extracts on Friday, October 4th, with a program in the New Town Offices' gym, starting off a weekend of celebration here in town. Earl Moffat presented a history of the business - beginning with great-great-grandfather Henry in 1865 and going all the way to the offerings and business of today. A display of memorabilia from the store added interest. This included a model of the original delivery wagon that showed how the vanilla extract was taken to farms and businesses around the county. The model is now on display in Baldwin's Hardware, so check it out!
Earl & Jackie Baldwin (Photo: Carol Kuller)
Many thanks to Jackie and Earl for sharing their history with us - and for the snacks and display!
The Baldwin's Extracts program is part of an on-going series of talks and remembrances presented by the West Stockbridge Historical Society to celebrate the history of our town and the families that made - and make - it what it is. Please help us by sharing your stories and pictures and by joining us at our General Annual Meeting on November 8th at 7:00 p.m. At that meeting we will have the next installment, as we learn about the Masiero family and the coming of the Italians to the Berkshires.
Underground Railroad Presentation
On a warm September evening, the West Stockbridge Historical Society hosted a presentation on the Underground Railroad that included a discussion of whether West Stockbridge had been involved in it.
Escaped slaves were mostly young men, alone, and traveling at night to avoid bounty hunters. Bounty hunters were vigilantes, ruthless, dangerous, and uncontrolled. Captured escaped slaves and free blacks were taken to Virginia and South Carolina for sale, and the bounty hunters collected a reward. Any white caught harboring an escaped slave would lose all his property and likely be imprisoned. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 enabled bounty hunters to operate anywhere in the U.S. Massachusetts, which for all practical purposes had abolished slavery in the late 1700s, didn't legally abolish it until passage of the 13th amendment to the Constitution in 1865. There were no "safe" places for an escaped slave or a free black person until they reached Canada.
Berkshire County had a number of suspected or known safe houses. Jacob's Pillow farm and the Conway House in Sheffield are two known to be stops. Some have hidden rooms and trapdoors; others were just in secure locations. The routes through the county came from Connecticut and then north to Vermont and Canada.
Charles Flint (Photo:Joe Roy, Jr.) Charles Flint, a noted local historian and curator of the "Invisible Wings" exhibit on the Underground Railroad at Jacob's Pillow, started the program with an overview of the Underground Railroad and what is known about it in Berkshire County. His presentation put the movement in context and described the myths and realities associated with it. For example, it was not a "railroad" at all, but rather various hidden, shady routes, mostly through Kentucky and Ohio to Canada, taken by escaped slaves.
Bill Loeb (Photo: Joe Roy, Jr.)
Bill Loeb followed with his investigations into the possibility that West Stockbridge was involved in the Underground Railroad. He described a "hidden room" in the Stone House, which at the time was owned by Charles Boynton. The room has newspaper pages on the wall from an 1853 Presbyterian weekly that promoted temperance and revivals, but was also a strong advocate of abolition.
Boynton was a Congregational minister and was active in the anti-slavery movement. He served as a minister in Housatonic and Pittsfield then Lansingburgh, New York, and Cincinnati, Ohio. Boynton later became Chaplain to the House of Representatives and was one of the founders of Howard University and its first president.
In addition to Boynton, West Stockbridge had a number of people with likely abolitionist and anti-slavery sympathies, as did most New England towns at the time. Masons and Congregationalists were strong voices in the anti-slavery movement, and West Stockbridge had its share of them. Famous local families such as Kniffen, Truesdell, and Spencer were mentioned. Bill talked about various family members and their possible links to the anti-slavery groups of the time. And there were twelve black families living in West Stockbridge during the period between 1850 and 1860.
However, while there are possible connections, locations, and people who might have risked their lives and property during this dark time in American history, the question of whether West Stockbridge was definitely involved in the Underground Railroad movement remains unanswered.
Please support our business and organization members who support our efforts Charles H. Baldwin & Sons
Berkshire Life Coaching
Dana Bixby Architecture
Chris Williams Excavating The Floor Store Girdler Electric
Hotchkiss Mobiles Gallery - Zoftique
The Local Yokel
Queensboro Wine & Spirits
Pet Partners of the Tri-State Berkshires
Shaker Dam Coffeehouse & Stanmeyer Gallery
West Stockbridge Congregational Church, UCC Wisdom Lodge AF & AM
Yellow House Books
*Underlined businesses link to their website ... just click.
Please welcome the following new life members
Sybil and Michael Pollet
Rozann Kraus and Daniel Epstein
Please welcome the following new members
Shaker Dam Coffeehouse & Stanmeyer Gallery
The West Stockbridge Historical Society is grateful for the generous support of its members.
Strong community backing is important when donors review our requests for grants,
and there are many benefits and interesting activities that you will enjoy as a member.
If you have not already joined we encourage you to do so.