North Adams, Massachusetts

Coordinates: 42°42′N 73°7′W / 42.700°N 73.117°W / 42.700; -73.117
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

North Adams
Main Street
Main Street
Official seal of North Adams
"We Hold the Western Gateway"
Location in Berkshire County and the state of Massachusetts.
Location in Berkshire County and the state of Massachusetts.
North Adams is located in the United States
North Adams
North Adams
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 42°42′N 73°7′W / 42.700°N 73.117°W / 42.700; -73.117
CountryUnited States
Incorporated1878 (Town)
Incorporated1895 (City)
 • TypeMayor-council city
 • MayorJennifer Macksey
 • Total20.61 sq mi (53.39 km2)
 • Land20.35 sq mi (52.70 km2)
 • Water0.27 sq mi (0.69 km2)
707 ft (215 m)
 • Total12,961
 • Density637.00/sq mi (245.95/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code413[2]
FIPS code25-46225
GNIS feature ID0607610

North Adams is a city in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, United States. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its population was 12,961 as of the 2020 census.[3] Best known as the home of the largest contemporary art museum in the United States, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams has in recent years become a center for tourism, culture and recreation.


Early history[edit]

Bird's eye view of North Adams in 1905
Norad Mill

North Adams was first settled in 1745 during King George's War, when the most western of a line of defensive forts was built along the bank of the Hoosic River, and occupied by Massachusetts militiamen and their families.[4] During the war, Canadian and Native American forces laid siege to Fort Massachusetts 30 prisoners were taken to Quebec; half died in captivity. In 1747 Fort Massachusetts was rebuilt with improved defenses, but was never attacked again. In a period of peace following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, many of the soldiers who had been garrisoned at the fort turned to farming instead by opting to each take a 190-acre package of nearby land in lieu of back-pay in the nearby township of West Hoosac (now known as Williamstown).

The North Adams Women's Club began raising funds in 1895 to reconstruct the fort as a memorial site. It was dedicated in 1933 and operated as a historical tourist site until the 1960s. The 1933 Fort's replica chimney is located at the rear of the Central Markets Supermarket that opened at the site in 1960 and closed in 2016 as a Price Chopper Supermarket.[5] The historic site was conveyed to the City of North Adams by the Golub family in 2017.[6]

The town was incorporated separately from Adams in 1878, and reincorporated as a city in 1895. The city is named in honor of Samuel Adams, a leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and governor of Massachusetts.[4]

For much of its history, North Adams was a mill town.[7] Manufacturing began in the city before the Revolutionary War, largely because the confluence of the Hoosic River's two branches provided water power for small-scale industry. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, businesses included wholesale shoe manufacturers; a brick yard; a saw mill; cabinet-makers; hat manufacturers; machine shops for the construction of mill machines; marble works; wagon and sleigh-makers; and an ironworks, which provided the pig iron for armor plates on the Civil War ship, the Monitor.[8]

Expansion westwards started with the creation of three mill villages, Blackinton in 1821, Greylock in 1846[9] and Braytonville in 1832, located to take advantage of the Hoosac River's water power. The 1850 census marked the official shift of the town from agriculture to industry, since more factory workers than farmers now resided in the town.[10] In 1870 the use of Chinese strikebreakers from California to break the North Adams strike at the Sampson Shoe Factory (today part of the Mass MoCA complex) was an important step in the movement of Chinese from the west coast to the east coast, resulting in east coast Chinatowns in the United States. On a national scale, the North Adams strike became known as the primary trigger to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act by the U.S. Congress in 1882.[citation needed]

North Adams was also the headquarters for building the Hoosac Tunnel starting in 1851 and completed in 1874, adding an east–west connection to Boston and Albany to the existing 1842 rail connection to New York. Prior to that time, inter-regional travel was limited to weekly stagecoaches from Albany and Greenfield.[10]

Downtown in 1860, Oliver Arnold and Company was established with the latest equipment for printing cloth. Large government contracts to supply fabric for the Union Army helped the business prosper. During the next four decades, Arnold Print Works became one of the world's leading manufacturers of printed textiles. It also became the largest employer in North Adams, with some 3,200 workers by 1905. Despite decades of success, falling cloth prices and the lingering effects of the Great Depression forced the company to close its Marshall Street operation in 1942 and consolidate at smaller facilities in Adams.

Sprague Electric[edit]

Later that year, the Sprague Electric Company bought the former print works site. Sprague physicists, chemists, electrical engineers, and skilled technicians were called upon by the U.S. government during World War II to design and manufacture crucial components of advanced weapons systems, including the atomic bomb.

With state-of-the-art equipment, Sprague was a major research and development center, conducting studies on electricity and semi-conducting materials. After the war, its products were used in the launch systems for NASA's Gemini missions, and by 1966 Sprague employed 4,137 workers in a community of 18,000. From the post-war years to the mid-1980s, Sprague produced electrical components for the booming consumer electronics market, but competition from abroad led to declining sales and, in 1985, the company closed operations on Marshall Street. Its closure devastated the local economy. Unemployment rates rose and population declined.[11]

MASS MoCA[edit]

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), formerly Arnold Print Works and a facility of Sprague Electronics

After Sprague closed, business and political leaders in North Adams sought ways to re-use the vast complex. Williams College Museum of Art director Thomas Krens, who would later become Director of the Guggenheim, was looking for space to exhibit large works of contemporary art that would not fit in conventional museum galleries. When mayor John Barrett III (serving 1984–2009) suggested the vast Marshall Street complex as a possible exhibition site, the idea of creating a contemporary arts center in North Adams began to take shape.

The campaign to build support for the proposed institution, which would serve as a platform for presenting contemporary art and developing links to the region's other cultural institutions, began in earnest. The Massachusetts legislature announced its support for the project in 1988. Subsequent economic upheaval threatened the project, but broad-based support from the community and the private sector, which pledged more than $8 million, ensured that it moved forward. The eventual proposal used the scale and versatility of the industrial spaces to link the facility's past and its new life as the country's largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts.

Since it opened, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) has been part of a larger economic transformation in the region based on cultural, recreational, and educational offerings. North Adams has become home for several new restaurants, contemporary art galleries, and cultural organizations. In addition, once-shuttered area factories and mills have been rehabilitated as lofts for artists to live and work in.


The Hoosic River flows through the city and was essential to its growth, providing power for the mills built along its banks as well as those of its branches.

According to the United States Census Bureau, North Adams has a total area of 20.6 square miles (53.4 km2), of which 20.3 square miles (52.7 km2) is land and 0.27 square miles (0.7 km2), or 1.31%, is water.[12] North Adams is bordered by Clarksburg to the north, Florida to the east, Adams to the south, and Williamstown to the west.

North Adams is located in the valley created by the Hoosic River, which has been walled and floored with concrete in portions to prevent floods. The city's Natural Bridge State Park contains the only natural white marble bridge in North America. Formed by glacial melt by 11,000 BCE, the arch and abandoned quarry have long attracted attention from hikers, including Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1838, who wrote of it (among other local features) in his An American Notebook. To the east, the city is bordered by the western face of the Hoosac Range, with visibility on its West Summit extending throughout the tri-state area. To the southwest, the city has the northern end of Mount Greylock State Reservation, ending at Mount Williams, which at 2,951 feet (899 m) above sea level is the highest point in the city. The Appalachian Trail passes through the western part of the city, crossing the summit of Mount Williams and briefly passing through Williamstown before heading north towards Vermont.


North Adams has a humid continental climate (Dfb). Winters can be harsh, with temperatures dropping to 0 °F (−18 °C) or colder nine times per year. Summers are warm and pleasant, with temperatures at or above 90 °F (32 °C) four times per year. The record high is 96 °F (36 °C), recorded on July 8, 1988, and the record low is −20 °F (−29 °C), recorded on January 24, 2011 and February 6, 2015. On average, 153 days see measurable precipitation per year.

Climate data for North Adams, MA (1991–2020 normals, extremes 1987–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 32.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 23.3
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 14.3
Record low °F (°C) −20
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.52
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11 10 12 13 14 15 14 14 12 13 12 13 153
Source: NOAA[13][14]


Historical population
* = population estimate. Source: United States Census records and Population Estimates Program data.[15][16][17][18][19][20][21]
U.S. Decennial Census[22]
House on East Main Street

As of the census[23] of 2010, there were 13,708 people, 5,652 households, and 3,156 families residing in the city. The city, which is the smallest in Massachusetts, ranks second (after Pittsfield) out of 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County by population. The population density was 665.4 inhabitants per square mile (256.9/km2), ranking it 2nd in the county. There were 6,523 housing units at an average density of 316.7 per square mile (122.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.0% White, 1.8% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.8% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.4% of the population.

There were 5,652 households, out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 12.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.2% were non-families. 39.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 21.74% under the age of 18, 16.9% from 18 to 24, 21.4% from 25 to 44, 23.7% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.75 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,020, and the median income for a family was $90,000. The per capita income for the city was $19,857. About 9.0% of families and 22.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.0% of those age 20 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]

Windows of the Greylock (Cariddi) Mill used as an art gallery
North Adams Public Library, within the Church Street-Caddy Hill Historic District.
The Boardman apartment buildings were built in 1899 in the Colonial Revival style.
Johnson School
Hathaway Tenement was built in 1850
Eclipse Mill was converted into lofts where artists to live and work


Due to North Adams being the location of MASS MoCA, there are numerous art galleries spread throughout the city, and a few of the old mills have been converted to lofts for artists to live and work in. A new, Frank Gehry-designed Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum is proposed to be built in North Adams.[24][25]

Sites and events[edit]

Lithograph of Blackinton from 1889 by L.R. Burleigh with list of landmarks

Sites listed on National Register of Historic Places[edit]


The city is home to the North Adams SteepleCats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). The SteepleCats play at Joe Wolfe Field in North Adams. The SteepleCats hold the NECBL record for highest single-game attendance. The record was made on July 4, 2006, in a game against the Holyoke Giants in front of 6,714 fans.[28] Holyoke won the game 3–2.[29]

North Adams' first professional sports franchise was the Berkshire Battalion, an expansion team of the Federal Hockey League, which played a single season in 2014–2015. Troubled by an embezzlement charge against its coach and general manager, who had also been manager of the municipal skating ring, and fractious lease negotiations with the city, the team relocated after its single season to Dayton, Ohio.

There are many athletic complexes and recreational fields throughout the city, including the Noel Field Athletic Complex, just south of the downtown, and the recently constructed Alcombright Athletic Complex, in the city's west end.


North Adams is governed by the mayor-council form of government (list of mayors of North Adams, Massachusetts). The city has its own services, including police, fire and public works. The city's public library is the largest in northern Berkshire County and has access to the regional library networks.

On the state level, North Adams is represented in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by the First Berkshire district, which covers northern Berkshire County, and is represented by former mayor John Barrett III of North Adams (elected in a special election in November, 2017). In the Massachusetts Senate, the city is represented by Sen. Paul Mark (the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin district, which includes all of Berkshire County and western Hampshire and Franklin counties).[30] North Adams is located in the Eighth Massachusetts Governor's Council district and is represented by city resident Tara Jacobs.[31] The city is patrolled by the Fourth (Cheshire) Station of Barracks "B" of the Massachusetts State Police.[32]

On the national level, North Adams is represented in the United States House of Representatives as part of Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, and is represented by Richard Neal of Springfield. Massachusetts is currently represented in the United States Senate by senior Senator Elizabeth Warren and junior Senator Ed Markey.

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of November 8, 2016[33]
Party Number of Voters Percentage
Democratic 3,097 33.76%
Republican 635 6.92%
Unaffiliated 5,307 57.87%
Libertarian 92 1.00%
Total 9,171 100%


North Adams operates its own public school system, with three elementary schools (Brayton Elementary School, Greylock Elementary School and Colegrove Park Elementary School) and Drury High School, which also serves several neighboring towns. The city is also home to Charles H. McCann Technical High School, as well as several private and parochial schools.

Former schools[edit]

Higher education[edit]

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) enrolls about 1,980 students. Founded in 1894 as North Adams Normal School, in 1932, the Normal School became the State Teachers College of North Adams. In 1960, the college changed its name to North Adams State College and added professional degrees in Business Administration and Education. In 1997, the name changed to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, reflective of specialty school status within the Massachusetts State College system.[citation needed]


Roads and highways[edit]

North Adams is the western terminus of the Mohawk Trail, which ascends to the West Summit along a steep, curving road. While the trail ends here, Massachusetts Route 2, which the trail is coextensive with, continues westward into Williamstown and towards New York. Route 8 also passes through the city, passing from Adams through the city and northward into Clarksburg. Route 8A, also known as 8A-U (for "upper"), runs parallel to Route 8 east of the main route, and is located entirely within city limits.

The nearest interstate highway is Interstate 91 to the east, almost an hour away. North Adams appears on that highway's signs at Exit 26, located in Greenfield.

Public transportation[edit]

The city is the northern terminus of several lines of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA) and also has regional service. Intercity bus service is provided in nearby Williamstown by Peter Pan Lines with connections to New York City, as well as towns and cities between. North Adams is home to Harriman-and-West Airport, a small regional airport. The nearest airport with national service is Albany International Airport. The freight rail line which passes through the city extends through the Hoosac Tunnel towards the east. The nearest passenger rail service to North Adams is the recently re-routed Amtrak Vermonter in Greenfield, Massachusetts, an hour to the east. Pittsfield, to the south, also has once-daily Amtrak service, the Lake Shore Limited, at its station. There is a proposal known as "Northern Tier Passenger Rail" in the early stages of planning which would extend MBTA's Fitchburg Line westward through Greenfield and terminate at North Adams. This would be the first passenger rail in the town since service ended in the 1950s.[34]

Notable people[edit]

Sister City[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  2. ^ "North Adams, MA".
  3. ^ "Census - Geography Profile: North Adams city, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Spear, W. F. (November 12, 1885). History of North Adams, Mass., 1749-1885: reminiscences of early settlers: extracts from old town records : its public institutions, industries and prominent citizens, together with a roster of commissioned officers in the War of the Rebellion. Hoosac Valley News Printing House. OL 7071051M.
  5. ^ Price Chopper in North Adams to Close. 8 February 2016. Accessed 8 July 2022.
  6. ^ Price Chopper gives Fort Massachusetts parcel to North Adams. By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle, November 22, 2017. Accessed 8 July 2022.
  7. ^ North Adams Historical Society: History of North Adams. Accessed 8 Jul 2022.
  8. ^ "North Adams Marking Monitor Anniversary". Archived from the original on July 29, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  9. ^ Oehler, Kay; Sheppard, Stephen C.; Benjamin, Blair; Li, Lily (2006). "Shifting Sands in Changing Communities: The Neighborhoods, Social Services, and Cultural Organizations of North Adams, Massachusetts" (PDF). Center for Creative Community Development. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
  10. ^ a b Seider, Maynard (2012). "NORTH ADAMS INDUSTRIALIZES" (PDF). farewelltofactorytowns. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
  11. ^ Dobrowolski, Tony (May 28, 2013). "John L. Sprague Reflects on Past, Present Economy". Archived from the original on July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 22, 2014.
  12. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): North Adams city, Massachusetts". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
  13. ^ "NowData – NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  14. ^ "Station: North Adams, MA". U.S. Climate Normals 2020: U.S. Monthly Climate Normals (1991-2020). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  15. ^ "TOTAL POPULATION (P1), 2010 Census Summary File 1, All County Subdivisions within Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved September 13, 2011.
  16. ^ "1990 Census of Population, General Population Characteristics: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1990. Table 76: General Characteristics of Persons, Households, and Families: 1990. 1990 CP-1-23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  17. ^ "1980 Census of the Population, Number of Inhabitants: Massachusetts" (PDF). US Census Bureau. December 1981. Table 4. Populations of County Subdivisions: 1960 to 1980. PC80-1-A23. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  18. ^ "1950 Census of Population" (PDF). 1: Number of Inhabitants. Bureau of the Census. 1952. Section 6, Pages 21-10 and 21-11, Massachusetts Table 6. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1930 to 1950. Retrieved July 12, 2011. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ "1920 Census of Population" (PDF). Bureau of the Census. Number of Inhabitants, by Counties and Minor Civil Divisions. Pages 21-5 through 21-7. Massachusetts Table 2. Population of Counties by Minor Civil Divisions: 1920, 1910, and 1920. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  20. ^ "1890 Census of the Population" (PDF). Department of the Interior, Census Office. Pages 179 through 182. Massachusetts Table 5. Population of States and Territories by Minor Civil Divisions: 1880 and 1890. Retrieved July 12, 2011.
  21. ^ "City and Town Population Totals: 2020−2022". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 24, 2023.
  22. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  23. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  24. ^ Shanks, Adam (August 29, 2017). "Famed architect Frank Gehry to design Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum". Berkshire Eagle. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  25. ^ Chow, Andrew (September 3, 2017). "Frank Gehry to Design Museum for Architectural Gems (and Model Trains)". New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  26. ^ "57th Annual Northern Berkshire Fall Foliage Festival Parade". fallfoliageparade. 2012. Archived from the original on June 25, 2012. Retrieved July 5, 2023.
  27. ^ "Home". Solid Sound Festival.
  28. ^ NECBL Record Book Archived 2009-07-10 at the Wayback Machine at, URL accessed August 16, 2009
  29. ^ NA v. HOL Boxscore 7/4/06 Archived 2006-08-19 at the Wayback Machine at, URL accessed August 16, 2009
  30. ^ "Senators and Representatives by City and Town". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  31. ^ "Councillors".
  32. ^ "".
  33. ^ "Registered Voters and Party Enrollment as of November 8, 2016" (PDF). Massachusetts Elections Division. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  34. ^ "Northern Tier Passenger Rail Study". Trains In The Valley. May 15, 2019. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  35. ^ Carleton, Hiram (1903). Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont. Vol. II. New York, NY: Lewis Publishing Company. p. 105 – via Internet Archive.
  36. ^ "North Adams Transcript Archives, Jul 7, 1961, p. 3". July 7, 1961.


External links[edit]