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Northampton Massachusetts
Aug 20, 2019 13:48:44   #
rehess Loc: South Bend, IN, USA
 
My wife and I spent the past week in Northampton, in Western Massachusetts, along the Connecticut River; the town was settled in 1654 .... within a generation of when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. The central part of downtown is fairly active - especially now that Smith College students are returning to campus - but the western part is not very active. This is a view of their "City Hall".



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Aug 20, 2019 13:52:47   #
rjaywallace Loc: Wisconsin
 
Very interesting architecture, rehess. Appears the building may have been a church in a past life.

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Aug 20, 2019 15:01:49   #
AndyH Loc: Massachusetts and New Hampshire
 
It's an interesting building, Ralph - pretty uncommon style for this neck of the woods. I'm very familiar with it. It was never a church (stands next to two others, though) but built as the town hall (later city hall) and was somewhat controversial in its design. The rural town hired a big city Boston architect to design it, and the result was, um... "distinctive".

Here's what the Massachusetts Historical Commission had to say about it in its nomination for the National Register of Historic Places:

Quote:
Northampton’s town hall is something of an architectural folly, which is to say that it was intended to be a picturesque building
drawing on the Gothic and Italianate styles for its inspiration, and its stylistic features were exaggerated for their romantic effect.
Had there been a large budget, according to the architectural precepts of the period the building preferably would have been
pure masonry, but it is stucco-covered as a second choice to convey the appearance of a Gothic fortress, and its trim re-created
in wood. At the time it was designed, architectural designers such as Andrew Jackson Downing were recommending Gothic and
Italianate models for rural country houses (and stucco was recommended) and the two styles were appearing in urban settings
for institutional buildings such as churches and schools. Town Hall is a tall, two-story building with a flat roof from whose eaves
are suspended scroll-cut wood barge boards carved in the same pattern as the cornices of many of the neighboring brick
commercial buildings – an Italianate arch and pendant design- -and backed up with paired brackets. Centered on the roof of the
north façade is a low pediment on paired brackets. The north façade is divided into four bays with square piers at the building’s
corners and octagonal towers setting off the center bay. The piers and towers rise above the roofline of the building as high as
tall chimneys and have been capped with crenellated wooden parapets. Without these crenellations, the building would be
largely Italianate in design. The center bay of the north façade is recessed. It has at first story level a main entry flanked by tall
narrow windows and at the second story leading on to a balcony is a centered pair of doors flanked by tall, narrow windows.
Doors and windows have label lintels in a contrasting, painted sandstone. The building is six bays deep, and as it is on a lot that
slopes steeply down to the south, the granite basement is increasingly exposed in that direction.
Northampton’s town hall is something of an archite... (show quote)


Andy

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Aug 21, 2019 06:39:06   #
rjaywallace Loc: Wisconsin
 
AndyH wrote:
It's an interesting building, Ralph - pretty uncommon style for this neck of the woods. I'm very familiar with it. It was never a church (stands next to two others, though) but built as the town hall (later city hall) and was somewhat controversial in its design. The rural town hired a big city Boston architect to design it, and the result was, um... "distinctive". Here's what the Massachusetts Historical Commission had to say about it in its nomination for the National Register of Historic Places: Andy
It's an interesting building, Ralph - pretty uncom... (show quote)

Wow, thanks Andy! Lots of informative detail there. I love knowing more about it. /Ralph

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Aug 21, 2019 10:13:28   #
rehess Loc: South Bend, IN, USA
 
rjaywallace wrote:
Very interesting architecture, rehess. Appears the building may have been a church in a past life.
Today, the city is home to artists and other modern intellectuals, but in its earlier days it was home to famed Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards; I’m guessing the crosses are in honor of its past..

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Aug 21, 2019 13:04:38   #
josquin1 Loc: Somerville, Ma
 
The Grahm Cracker was also started there.

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Aug 21, 2019 15:15:26   #
AndyH Loc: Massachusetts and New Hampshire
 
rehess wrote:
Today, the city is home to artists and other modern intellectuals, but in its earlier days it was home to famed Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards; I’m guessing the crosses are in honor of its past..


I don't think so - the crosses are Templar's Crosses, four axis symmetrical, associated with the Crusades and medieval castles that were the models for Gothic romantic designs like this one. Edwards was long gone and his neo-Puritans did not especially favor the use of a cross as a motif. I think it's far more likely associated with the architect's Gothic "inspirations".

We are very lucky in Massachusetts to have, without doubt, the best online database of historic structures that "might" be eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places - the Massachusetts Cultural Resources Inventory System. We use it all the time in researching a building's history. Other state historical commissions have similar on line resources - you can google them. Lots of great information on historic buildings.

It's a great image of the building, by the way!

Andy

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