1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pittsfield

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

PITTSFIELD, a city and the county-seat of Berkshire county, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the western part of the state among the Berkshire Hills, and about 150 m. W. of Boston. Pop. (1890), 17,281; (1900), 21,766, of whom 4344 were foreign-born; (1910 census), 32,121. Area, about 41 sq m. It is served by the New York, New Haven & Hartford and the Boston & Albany (New York Central & Hudson River) railways, and by two inter-urban electric lines. Pittsfield is a popular summer resort; it lies in a plain about 1000 ft. above sea-level, is surrounded by the picturesque Berkshire Hills, and is situated in a region of numerous lakes, one of the largest — Lake Pontoosuc — being a summer pleasure resort. On either side of the city flow the east and west branches of the Housatonic river. Standing in the public green, in the centre of the city, is the original statue (by Launt Thompson) of the “Massachusetts Color Bearer,” which has been reproduced on the battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The principal institutions are the House of Mercy Hospital, with which is connected the Henry W. Bishop Memorial Training School for nurses, the Berkshire Home for aged women, the Berkshire Athenaeum, containing the public library, the Crane Art Museum and a Young Men's Christian Association. Prominent buildings are St Joseph's Cathedral and the buildings of the Berkshire Life Insurance Company, the Agricultural National Bank and the Berkshire County Savings Bank. In the south-western part of Pittsfield, on the boundary between it and Hancock, is Shaker Village, settled about 1790 by Shakers. Pittsfield has water-power and important manufacturing industries. In 1905 its factory products were valued at $8,577,358, or 49.1% more than in 1900. Fully half of the manufactures consist of textile goods.

The first settlement in what is now Pittsfield was made in 1743, but was soon abandoned on account of Indian troubles. In 1749 the settlement was revived, but the settlers did not bring their families to the frontier until 1752. The settlement was first called “Boston Plantation,” or “Poontoosuck,” but in 1761, when it was incorporated as a township, the name was changed to Pittsfield, in honour of the elder William Pitt. In 1891 Pittsfield was chartered as a city. It was here, in the Appleton (or Plunkett) House, known as “Elm Knoll,” and built by Thomas Gold, father-in-law of Nathan Appleton, that in 1845 Henry W. Longfellow (who married Nathan Appleton's daughter) wrote his poem “The Old Clock on the Stairs.” For thirty years (1842-1872) Pittsfield was the home of the Rev. John Todd (1800-1873), the author of numerous books, of which Lectures to Children (1834; 2nd series, 1858) and The Student's Manual (1835) were once widely read. From 1807 to 1816 Elkanah Watson (1758-1842), a prominent farmer and merchant, lived at what is now the Country Club, and while there introduced the merino sheep into Berkshire county and organized the Berkshire Agricultural Society; he is remembered for his advocacy of the building of a canal connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, and as the author of Memoirs: Men and Times of the Revolution (1855), edited by his son, W. C. Watson.