BERNARD DREW: The new affordable housing site has had some interesting owners


Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire (CDCSB) plans to build 49 affordable housing units at 910 South Main St. in Great Barrington, which will be called Windrush municipalities. First, an existing dwelling – formerly a disabled people’s residence at the Kolburne School – will be demolished. This vacant building has a history.

In the 18th century, the land housed an old dwelling, Samuel Lee’s farm and tavern. After the structure was demolished in 1882, there were no buildings on the property for nearly two dozen years.

The Gilbert-Channing House at 910 S. Main St. will be razed to make way for a major affordable housing development by the CDCSB. This is the view to the northwest from the highway. Photo: Donna M. Drew

In 1904, Charles Nelson Gilbert (1842-1934) and his wife Jessie Marion Clarke Gilbert purchased the land and built there, as the Massachusetts Historical Commission record describes it, a “Colonial Revival style shingle house” with a first floor in field stone.

Gilbert, a cousin of the electrical inventor Guillaume Stanley, had spent two summers here, in 1883 and 1884, and had moved permanently to the city in 1886. Gilbert made his fortune by marketing the Gilbert & Barker Manufacturing gas machine. (Stanley’s AC power transformer ultimately bankrupted the gas engine business.)

The specialist periodical Manufacturer and Builder explained in its April 1876 issue: “The apparatus consists… of two essential parts; first the blower, which propels a current of air forward, and which is generally actuated by a weight suspended from a drum, and wound up periodically; second, the generator, which is a container containing gasoline and through which air passes.

University of Maryland professor Donald W. Linebaugh, who wrote “Springfield’s Gas Engine: Enlightening Industry and Recreation, 1860s to 1920s(2011), told me in 2005 that the device was designed “to provide customers, especially those outside the reach of city gas plants, with good, safe and relatively inexpensive gas lighting. “.

The Red Lion Inn installed one of these machines. (It’s stored in a dark corner of the basement.)

Charles N. Gilbert was a manufacturer who briefly published The Berkshire Courier in Great Barrington. Collection of photos courtesy of the author

Gilbert, a Chicago native who attended the Lincoln-Douglas debates as a teenager, graduated from Beloit College and worked with inventor Hiram S. Maxim in Springfield to perfect coal and gas processing equipment. He settled in Great Barrington and was a member of the committee that built the Bryant School. He also worked actively with the Fire District to increase the capacity of the East Mountain Reservoir.

In April 1888 Gilbert bought The Berkshire Courier from Clark W. Bryan and hired Frank A. Hosmer, principal of Great Barrington High School (and mentor of WEB Du Bois) as editor. Much to the dismay of the weekly’s strongly Republican readership, Gilbert presented an independent and Democratic voice. After three years, Gilbert sold the newspaper to a union of local businessmen who restored it to their Republican orientation.

A writer for the November 1, 1934, 100th anniversary issue, said: “The Democratic point of view was not entirely to the liking of any of the townspeople who were leaders in the community …”

According to an obituary in The Berkshire Eagle, Gilbert also had an agrarian side. “He owned and operated the Three Mile Road farm for a time. [Route 23 East] known as Robinson Place, also Hillandale Farm on Stockbridge Road [below Fountain Pond], now owned by Henry A. Stevens. Mr. Gilbert specialized in Jersey cattle and also owned a few racehorses. He owned ‘Carl Anderson’, a well-known show horse at one time… His Jersey Hill, ‘Pride’s Olga’, won first prize at the Pan American Show in Buffalo, NY, in 1901.

In building the new house on South Main Street, “Mr. Gilbert personally supervised all the construction,” according to a Berkshire Evening Eagle story in 1946. “Since its construction the trees have grown tall and the attractive structure has not fully visible from the highway, although not far from the road. “

In 1907 Gilbert took a firm stand against the proposed location of a branch line of the Berkshire Street Railway to South Egremont. The plan had taken him from South Main Street to the west through part of the property of his neighbor John B. Chadwick.

Gilbert protested to the Berkshire County Commission: “Mr. Chadwick’s lands and mine were in common and there was no fence between our lands. If the road is marked out at the present location, there will be an embankment and a fence to close off the trails, “The Eagle reported on January 1, 1907.” This would cut off our friendships altogether so far. “

The light rail line’s lawyer, HL Wilcox, initially defended the company’s position, but on February 20, 1907, the railway decided to place the track south of Chadwick barn. (Now obscured by trees, the trestles that used to take the line on the Housatonic railroad tracks are still there. The platform ran west along the Wyantenuck Country Club to cross Highway 23 and continue to the village. )

In 1910, the Gilbert’s transferred ownership to Roscoe H. Channing and moved to another house on South Street.

910 South Main Street. Photo courtesy of CDCSB

Channing (1832-1916) was born and died in Manhattan. He and his wife, Susan Parke Thompson Channing (1845-1909), had three children: John Parke Channing (1863-1942), Roscoe Henry Channing (1868-1961) and Helen Channing Migliore (1872-1930).

Civil War veteran Channing was a member of the New York Bar Association for 55 years. Her daughter and her husband, Joseph Magliore, lived in the house until his death. The following year, his survivors got rid of the estate, including furniture such as a Weber grand piano, Persian lamps, Eveready radio, floor wax, Singer sewing machine, rugs, refrigerator. General Electric and a garden tractor.

Channing Place (then 15 acres) was sold by Wheeler & Taylor to Ray Palmer (1882-1947), of Long Island and Daytona, Fla., In 1933. Palmer was a former Chicago gas and electricity commissioner from 1912 to 1915, and president and general manager of the New York & Queens Electric Light & Power Co. from 1915 to 1925. The Palmers had designed it as a summer residence, but encountered unwanted invaders when they arrived. prepared to move in in September 1933; a swarm of bees had invaded the back of the house and was preparing for winter. The Palmers were sold to Mr. and Mrs. George Stockfisch of Brooklyn, NY, in 1934.

Jumping in 1978, Barrington Investment Corp., a Panama-based company, was headquartered in the property. Daniel Rosenfield, representing the group, has revealed his intention to buy the Berkshire Motor Inn and land near Nuclear Components off Stockbridge Road. The previous year, Rosenfield had applied for a permit to open a guesthouse at 910 South Main St. Barrington Inn Guest House was short-lived.

In 1979, the New Marlboro-based Kolburne School was granted a special permit to operate a group home for emotionally disturbed and disabled children at 910 South Main Street. life skills program.

Kolburne Therapeutic Communities closed its dormitory, called Waldrum House, in October 2011. Six students had been housed there.

The CDCSB acquired the property in 2018.

And now another chapter begins.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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