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Williamstown Public Schools

From iBerkshires:

The Baker administration is pushing school districts to form plans that allow all students to return to the classroom, according to comments from the interim superintendent of the Mount Gryelock Regional School District.

Speaking on Tuesday to the School Committee’s Education Subcommittee, Robert Putnam said that while districts are required to create plans for the fall that would allow remote learning or a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction, the message from Boston is that the goal is to get students back in school buildings.

“The commissioner of education, Commissioner [Jeffrey] Riley, basically, he’s prioritized getting kids back into the classroom,” Putnam told the subcommittee. “I must submit three plans on the 31st of July with the priority on getting all kids in the classroom. And [Riley] has — his expectation is that we are right now in the midst of a feasibility study in terms of how many kids we can actually fit in the schools.”

Putnam said full, in-person instruction is the focus for himself, the building principals and the district’s director of buildings and grounds, Tim Sears.

I think that Professor Steven Miller is playing a key role in this discussion. What do you think should happen?

I think that Williamstown public schools should open for all students. First, CV-19 is almost harmless to children. Second, there is almost no evidence that children are vectors. That is, there are almost no documented cases of children infecting their parents, despite being in much closer proximity to them than students are to their teachers. Third, in-person schooling is important, especially for students from poorer families and with less educated parents. Whatever risk there may be to teachers — and the primary risk is almost certainly sharing indoor space with other teachers — is not enough to justify closing schools. Any teacher who feels that the risk is too great should resign and pursue a different career.

What do you think will happen come September? I don’t follow Williamstown politics closely enough to have a strong opinion.


Town is Cracking Up

Townie writes:

I’m coming at this from a different angle, but it’s pretty infuriating how much this Williams craziness is infecting the town as well. You’d think in the midst of this pandemic lockdown and complete uncertainty on the town budget, school openings etc, the town government would have its hands full. But focus seems to be exclusively on improving race relations and atoning for racism in the town. One of your admissions directors regularly writes what I consider to be crazy things on FB boards, about being terrified in town as a person of color.

Who exactly? (At first, I assumed that this would be easy to determine. How many Black admissions folks could Williams possibly employ? Turns out that the answer is 5! (Depending, perhaps, on your definition of Black . . . ) How do you think applications from students who are the presidents of their high school Republican Club fair at Williams today?

She said her son was refused service at a local store because he’s Black, and that she finds the sight of police triggering.

Did she really write that? Provide a link or screenshot, please! I certainly don’t believe that any Williamstown establishment would deny service because of race.

She’s also regularly attacking Ephraim Williams and the fact that the college and town are named after him.

Details, please! I have always thought that Williams College is lucky in that, unlike Yale and Amherst, its namesake had minimal involvement — or at least minimal documented involvement — in things like slavery and genocide.

Putting aside the wisdom of having someone who hates this town as an admissions director for the college, I also don’t see this as our problem. Let’s say I find the sight of women triggering. Does that mean all women need to stay indoors? No, it means I need to get help. But she is likewise terrified by all the racism in town and so we all need to…it’s not clear what. We are festooned with signs and protests, we’re establishing racial equality commissions, the planning board just announced they want to prioritize racial equality and investigate segregation in housing in our overwhelmingly white town. This is madness that’s entirely to virtue signal to one another and has nothing to do with the actual problems faced by people of color across the country.

At the board of selectman meeting on racism last week, a Williams student spoke and said he was at some club meeting in the basement of Thompson Chapel, when all of the sudden two white town policemen barged into the meeting and looked at him ( presumably the only Black person at the meeting) menacingly and put their hands on their guns and then left. Now if this actually happened as told, or if the admissions officer’s son really was denied service at a local store due to his skin color, that’s outrageous and illegal. I would fully support the town investigating both these incidents and throwing the book at anyone found to be guilty. But instead no details are forthcoming, no investigations launched, just more committees on studying endemic racism in town and blaming us for everything. This seems misguided, useless and frankly insulting.

I really hope the college gets its act together because the town is cracking up.

The trend has been in one direction for 50 years. Why should it stop now?


Local swimming hole # 5

The Orchards. 


Local swimming hole #4

The Linear Park.

200 yards from Spring Street.


Local swimming hole #3

The Watershed. 


Local swimming hole #2

The Hopper.

You could jog here. Fast cold water, a nice field to picnic in, and you do not have to worry about trespassing.

Get wet. Yes, everyone go get wet and sandy!


Local swimming hole #1


The Tubs (picture of lower tub)

A series of three large pools with a long natural made slide separating the lower two, and a 25 ft jump at the upper venue.

Warning- the terrain is rough and not really suitable for children.

*edited to include pics of Ephs partying at the tubs in the 1930s from Time Life Magazine 1937. Outstanding find from “EphArchives.” 



Stick around for summer!


View from the Pownal Quarry

With hope Williams students return next year to stick around for the summer. Students should live in the Berkshires at least once during the hot summer months. I don’t think anyone will have the opportunity this season- except maybe the athletes living in “the white house.” 

If you make it here take a few road trips into Vermont. Go over into North Adams to catch a show at MASS MoCA. Spend some time fishing for brook trout in the local rivers and streams. Rock climb and check out the amazing view from the Pownal Quarry .  Get into the Ice House . Go swimming at the Tubs, the Hopper, Linear Park, the Dorset Quarry , the watershed, and Stockbridge quarry 


Enjoy it. It is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.


The Spruces

Via The Record.


The new Williams Inn

The new Williams Inn had opened a little over 2 weeks ago. According to the above article:

The new Williams Inn is set to open with fewer rooms — the old inn had 125 rooms, the new one has 64 rooms — and more amenities, including 55-inch flat-screen televisions and Euro top beds in rooms that sport brilliant views of Spring Street and the surrounding hills. Each room also sports an assortment of energy-saving technology.

After more than a year of work, the $32 million steel and concrete structure now stands three stories tall, with about 58,000 square feet of interior space.

The structure is designed in three sections: the main house, bunk house and barn. The main house section includes the main check-in and greeting area on the ground floor with guest rooms above. The bunk house includes event space on the first floor and rooms above. The barn includes the bar/restaurant on the ground floor and guest rooms on floors two and three. The three sections can be distinguished with three different architectural styles and different siding, with red barnwood-style siding for the restaurant. There will be 64 rooms, including four suites on the top floor.

Connection with the outdoors figures prominently in the hotel’s aesthetic:

Scenic views are available from any window, and expansive windows are featured in the restaurant and event space. Panoramic views of the Spring Street corridor and much of the Williams College campus grace most of the guest rooms, which are all on the second and third floors.

Hurley said there was a fine focus on tying the interior into the exterior landscape with expansive windows and interior design and artwork.


Berkshire DA Race

Letter to the editor in the Eagle:

This letter is in response to a letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle in August of this year. The letter, authored by John Pucci, a donor to my opponent, claimed that the Berkshire district attorney failed to investigate or prosecute over 40 cases of sexual assault reported by Williams College between 2014 and 2016.

The allegations in this letter were extremely disturbing as they are completely contrary to the mission of the office and goal of protecting victims. I contacted both Williams College and the Williamstown Police Department to begin an inquiry into the matter and found that Mr. Pucci’s claims were not only without merit, but misleading, ill-informed, and insensitive to victims.

What I discovered was that the majority of the information provided by Williams College to the Williamstown Police Department did not contain sufficient data to permit a thorough investigation by law enforcement.

We in the DA’s office fully respect the rights of victims who chose to remain anonymous and not move forward with an investigation and we understand that the college also has an obligation to provide a safe atmosphere for its students to speak freely. What is disappointing, and irresponsible, is that Mr. Pucci chose to blame the Berkshire district attorney’s office for the nature of Williams College’s public disclosures of sexual violence. Politicizing this issue was not ” just politics” — it is just wrong.

Paul Caccaviello,


The writer is Berkshire district attorney and is running as a write-in candidate for election on Nov. 6.

1) Caccaviello is 100% correct. If Williams College won’t report the names of alleged victims or perpetrators, there is hardly anything that the DA or police can do.

2) Williams is 100% correct to not report things to police against the wishes of alleged victims. It is their decision to make.

3) John Pucci is either a knave or a fool.

4) Any comments on the DA race? See here for previous coverage and related links. Does Caccaviello have a chance? I doubt it. Write in candidates (almost) never win. Is there any scenario in which Andrea Harrington is not the next Berkshire DA?


Hopkins Forest

From the Eagle:

Amos Lawrence Hopkins, railroad tycoon and son of Williams College renowned president Mark Hopkins, aggregated modest holdings at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th in order to create a gentleman’s farm on Northwest Hill Road in Williamstown. Some of the town’s most popular hiking trails cross his former estate, which is now managed by the college’s Center for Environmental Studies as a 2,600-acre experimental forest.

Buxton Farms, as he called it, was an agricultural show place, overseen for many years by Arthur and Ella Rosenburg, for whom the college’s classroom facilities, in the former carriage barn, are named. The main house, near the road, was demolished.

Maybe you should try a Moon-light walk. Adelia Moon and her husband, Andrew Jackson Moon, lived off the land in the midst of what Hopkins later acquired. When her husband died, she remarried another Moon, her nephew Alfred. He refused Hopkins’ offers buy their farm. The holdout was immortalized by the town’s American Revolution Bicentennial project, when Peter McChesney, other Williams students and townspeople dismantled Mr. Moon’s barn and reassembled it near the Rosenburg Center as an agricultural museum. The Moon house no longer exists.

Col. Hopkins died in 1912. His widow gave Buxton Farms to the college in 1934. The college deeded it to the U.S. Forest Service as a research facility. The Forest Service, having established research plots, turned the land back to the college in 1968. Williams has increased the holdings by buying, finally, the Moon lot — which had passed to the Primmer family — and others, as well as receiving gifts of land. It now includes land in New York and Vermont. The college continues the same research plots and other Forest Service studies, which explains the caution given to hikers to stay on the trails — and the colorful ribbons off in the woods.

Should EphBlog spend more time on history and less on (boring!) politics?


Berkshire County DA Candidate Forum

I confess that I did not watch this public forum featuring the three candidates vying to become the next Berkshire Country District Attorney. Did anyone? Previous discussion here.


Williamstown Remembrances

A wonderful round-table of reminisces about Williamstown.


Your Alumni Fund Donations at Work

EphBlog Maxim #9: The best way to predict the behavior of Williams is to imagine that the College is run by a cabal of corrupt insiders who seek to use our endowment to better their own lives. Of course, this is not true! Tiku Majumder is a good guy! Steve Klass is competent and charming. But they sure find a lot of strange places to spend money . . .

Williams College has announced a $400,000 gift to the town to help build the new police station on Simonds Road. With college Assistant to the President for Community and Government Affairs James Kolesar in the audience, Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Select Board on Monday that the school’s gift will make it easier to achieve his goal of renovating and expanding the former Turner House on Simonds Road (Route 7) without adding to the town’s property tax rate.

Williamstown is a richer than average town in a richer than average state. Why should alumni fund donations go to pay for its new police station? If the good people of Williamstown want/need a new police station, then they should pay for it themselves. Then again, that might require that Tiku Majumder or Steve Klass or Jim Kolesar face an increase in their property taxes and we wouldn’t want that, would we?

The new police station is, of course, just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the College spending money on local amenities. Recall:

  • Williams already spends $500,000 on local charity each year. Is this $400,000 in addition to that?
  • The $1 million we gave to North Adams Regional Hospital. By the way, NARH has since closed, so that $1 million was (completely?) wasted. Was anyone at the College challenged about that? No! No effort to give away alumni money is ever a failure at Williams.
  • The $250,000 we gave to the local high school back in 2003. This was just a part of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars we have spent to subsidize public education in Williamstown.
  • The $2 million to MASS MoCA in 20007, right before the finacial crisis forced us to cut financial aid to international students.
  • The $200,000 for “rebranding” for the local ambulance service.

And on and on. I don’t know what the future will bring exactly, but you should bet that the College will spend millions of dollars over the next few years on items that, in every other town in the lovely Berkshires, the local residents provide for themselves.


You Can’t Fight Williams College

hoxsey street

From The Berkshire Eagle:

Williams College plan to demolish former home of Dagmar Bubriski leaves some ‘shocked, outraged’

“She would have been horrified it ended this way.”

That’s how Charles Bonenti described how the late Dagmar Bubriski, his former colleague on the Williamstown Historical Commission, would react if she knew her 19th-century home at 42 Hoxsey St. may well be torn down at the behest of its present owner, Williams College — the very entity she had refused to sell the home to during her lifetime.

Dagmar’s daughter, Wanda Bubriski, said she knows the college’s interest in buying the property had gone on for more than 50 years.

But Wanda didn’t expect the college would tear it down — even though her mother did.

“That’s why she stayed in the house,” Wanda said. “Because she knew if she moved, [the college] would demolish it.”

Dagmar and her husband Stanley moved into the home in 1954.

After Stanley died in 1965, Dagmar raised four children in the home.

An informed crusader on civic issues, Dagmar was also a perennial face in the audience at selectmen’s meetings and a frequent letter-writer to the North Adams Transcript regarding a wide range of Williamstown issues.

An advocate for historic preservation, Dagmar helped lead ultimately unsuccessful fights to preserve the Williamstown Opera House and various other properties owned by Williams College, according to her obituary in The Eagle.

EphBlog, sadly, only wrote about Dagmar once. Shame on us! The Record wrote this wonderful story in 2002.

Dagmar died in 2011.

Hemmed in by the college’s Bronfman Science Center following the center’s initial construction in the 1960s, Dagmar’s own home motivated her historic preservation efforts.

The taller, 90,000-square-foot brick science center is set to be demolished this year to make room for an updated science complex. It looms over the yellow Victorian that Dagmar called home.

“This is just one more step in the institutionalization of the village center,” said Bonenti.

Indeed. The College has always been the most important institution in Williamstown, but its power, relative to town residents, seems to grow stronger each year.

The college’s expansion also undermines the town’s architectural diversity, he said.

Buildings that were homes like Dagmar’s are being overshadowed by the college’s new buildings — largely “institutional, bland, generic boxes,” he said.

“Williamstown has become a series of construction sites for massive building,” said Peter Bubriski, one of Wanda’s three brothers, of the college’s expansion efforts. “And I won’t even go into the really sad state of their architectural choices.”

For years, Hoxsey Street was a residential neighborhood filled with family homes like the one Peter grew up in, he recalled.

Now, it’s been taken over for the college’s needs, he said.

Besides the Bubriskis’ former home, the college owns five other buildings on Hoxsey Street — two faculty-staff rentals, two student residences and one building that houses academic offices that will be converted into another faculty-staff rental, said Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for community and government affairs at Williams College.

Presumably, Kolesar (rather than Jim Reische) got involved in this article because he had been sparing with Dagmar for years.

I have no problem with the College owning lots of buildings. Indeed, I think we need more home-like structures so that we can dramatically increase the number of co-ops. But it is absurd how many rentals the College maintains for staff and faculty. What a waste of resources! The College needs to house students. It does not need to house faculty/staff.

The college also owns and maintains more than 75 buildings in town that are at least 100 years old, Kolesar said.

“The college has torn down a number of structures,” said Andrew Groff, community development director for Williamstown. “But I would not characterize them as being a poor steward” of historic buildings. The college has invested in historic rehabilitation of buildings, he said.

When Wanda sold the house to Williams College in 2017, the college told her it would be used for office space during construction and later for faculty housing, she said.

“I thought, ‘Oh, great!'” she said. “”That is just wonderful.'”

She said she now believes the college was simply telling her that so she would sell.

D’uh! Of course the College was telling her whatever she wanted to hear.

But, that said, Wanda could have driven a harder bargain, could have inserted a provision that the College could not tear down the house for 100 years. She choose not to do that, probably because it would have lowered the price she and her brothers received.

I wonder if Dagmar thought about including a relevant stipulation in her will . . .

Kolesar said the college intended to use the house for those purposes.

“The college looked forward to having that as a faculty-staff rental,” he said. “[But] it really had to be vacated.”

After efforts to move the home failed to pan out earlier this year, the college now plans to demolish the building.

In a letter sent March 12, Wanda, her brothers and about 97 other people signed a letter to the president and trustees of Williams College and the Williamstown Historical Commission urging the college to reconsider its decision to tear the building down.

“We are shocked, outraged and saddened to hear of the decision of Williams College to tear down the house at 42 Hoxsey Street,” the letter states. “It was the home of Dagmar Bubriski, a community leader, columnist, a radio host and a widow at 37 who raised a family of four while being the loudest cheerleader and staunchest defender of Williamstown historic and cultural preservation. This history deserves to be preserved.”

Does the College archive the letters it receives? I hope so. Better yet would be to scan them and make them (or most of them) public.

On April 12, the town’s Historical Commission will take up the matter. The commission has the power to delay the demolition for up to a year. If the commission chooses not to delay, the demolition could go forward right away.

Removing the building will facilitate the construction of a new science center building — a core educational priority for the college, according to a Jan. 31 letter from the college’s lawyer to William Barkin, chairman of the Williamstown Historical Commission. Removal will also allow the college to enhance the landscape along Hoxsey Street with more plantings and a geologic rain garden.

It will also enable the college to improve underground utility and stormwater management and relocate a small parking lot to a location that will be more sensitive to the college’s neighbors, according to the letter.

“These decisions have to be made all the time,” Kolesar said in an email. “Once all those [considerations] were weighed, the decision was, it needs to be removed.”

Over the last four years, the college has moved two houses and a barn, facilitated the moving of a third house and has taken down four, Kolesar said.

The college listed the property as available throughout January and February, seeking parties interested in moving the building off the current lot, Kolesar said.

The building was free, with the interested party taking on the cost of moving the home.

The offer expired Feb. 28.

The college received about 17 expressions of interest, Kolesar said.

He recalled there was an entity that was “very serious” about the project, but ultimately backed out.

“In the end, they felt that they couldn’t pull it off,” he said.

Perhaps they could put up a plaque to commemorate Dagmar and her defense of town against gown over the years?


Ambulance Update

From The Berkshire Eagle:

With necessity being the mother of invention, the regionalization of emergency responder agencies has begun in the Northern Berkshires.

Heading into the third month of the merger of Village Ambulance in Williamstown with the North Adams Ambulance Service, officials say the task of melding procedures and communications continues apace.

Village Ambulance is about the only non-profit which merits direct contributions from Williams, mainly because its services are so commonly used by students. So, I don’t mind some College involvement. I also don’t know enough about the local politics to understand the reasons behind the merger and the winners/losers associated therewith.

I always worry, however, that the local power brokers —- Williamstown town manager Jason Hoch ’95, North Adams mayor Thomas Bernard ’92 — are very smart and that they recognize two fundamental truths: Williams College has endless money and the people who run Williams are (over) eager to use (too much of) that money to improve their own lives. So, what should Hoch/Bernard do? Get the College to contribute much more to the ambulance service, especially for aspects (like coverage outside of Williamstown) that it did not contribute much to before. And what do we see?

The cost of the rebranding, as well as others costs incurred by the merger, is being covered by a contribution from Williams College and Williamstown of up to $200,000. Meanwhile, the service responded to 892 calls In January. The average for North Adams Ambulance has been about 500 in a month. At the time of the merger, Village Ambulance was averaging around 333 per month.In January, the first month of the merger, the newly combined ambulance service responded to 892 calls.

$200,000 is way too much! And I bet this is in addition to the money that Williams usually contributes.


Berkshire DA Resigns . . . Williams Connection?

A comment from Friday:

You may have noticed the recent resignation of the Berkshire DA. A friend of a friend says there is a direct connection to Williams. And Adam Falk in particular.

Falk Quad? Odds low and falling fast . . .

From MASS Live:

At an awkwardly timed press conference on Thursday, Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless announced he was planning to retire.

The news, that was billed as a “major announcement” on Wednesday afternoon, came as police reported that apparent human remains were found in Hatfield. That drew the friends of Joanne Ringer, who was last seen in her Clarksburg home on March 2 a year ago, to the scene.

Capeless, who has served as the Berkshire District Attorney since 2004, said he will officially step down from the position on March 15.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will appoint Berkshire First District Attorney Paul Caccaviello to take over as his successor.

The Berkshire Eagle provides much more detail:

Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn [Williams ’93] said he was surprised by the announcement, but he understood and respected the decision.

Capeless is a Pittsfield native and is the son of former Pittsfield Mayor Robert Capeless and grandson of former state Rep. Matthew Capeless.

He began his career as an assistant DA in Middlesex County in 1982, and came to work in the Berkshire office in 1991. He was appointed in 2004 to succeed Berkshire District Attorney Gerard Downing, who died while in office.

Caccaviello has been a prosecutor for 28 years, the last 13 of which have been as first assistant DA. In 2008, Caccaviello was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association.

He is an active member of the Berkshire County community, serving as a member of the Berkshire Bar Association and the Berkshire Community College Board of Trustees. He attended Western New England School of Law after graduating from North Adams State College and Pittsfield High School.

Opinions from Berkshire readers eagerly sought!

1) I highly doubt that this is related to Adam Falk in any way. Perhaps kt22’s friend of a friend could elaborate? I can’t even imagine what the connection might be. Falk announced his departure last June, which means that he was involved in the Sloan Foundation job search months before that. How could Capeless’s resignation this month possibly be related to Falk? I also can’t come up with a potential link to Williams. Can anyone?

2) Downing (the DA prior to 2004) only appears in EphBlog once, in conjunction with the Gensheimer/Foster rape trial. Capeless also appears only once in a main post. He seems to have been too much of a drug warrior, at least for my tastes. He earns one mention in the Record. But there was also this EphBlog comment last year:

HOWEVER, almost every rape case that arises on a college campus like Williams centers on the issue of capacity-to-consent, and how “seriously” law enforcement treats an accusation made under such circumstances varies, subject to the local D.A.’s unilateral discretion. No way can you say that, as a rule, law enforcement takes these types of cases very seriously.

Take a look at the track record of Berkshire County D.A. David Capeless, as an example. He is the long-time chief flaw enforcement officer for a county that includes multiple college campuses, and NEVER ONCE has he brought rape charges in a capacity-to-consent type case. He pursues child rapists and violent rapists with zeal, but I challenge you to find one single instance where he charged, let alone convicted, a man for assaulting a woman who was incapacitated and legally incapable of providing consent. Capeless clearly refuses to go there, and since he has unilateral, unchecked authority regarding such matters, there’s not a damn thing the complainant can do about it.

True? I don’t know. More background here.

Any opinions on new DA Caccaviello? He does not seem [put on snotty Williams sweater] over-educated . . .


Williams Inn Approved


From iBerkshires:

At long last, the new Williams Inn is “shovel ready.”

On Thursday night, Williams College received the final regulatory approval it needed to build a 64-room, 60,000-square foot inn at the bottom of Spring Street to replace the current 100-room inn at the Field Park rotary at the junction of Routes 2 and 7.

I was talking to an administration official a few years ago about this project. He claimed that the reason it was needed as that “Spring Street was dying.” That was (and is) absurd. Spring Street has never been more vibrant. And, to the extent that it is “dying,” that the small merchants who used to sell school supplies and newspapers are disappearing, it is because Williams has been raising their rents for years.

The real reason for the Williams Inn is that it will be great for rich people. (Not that there is anything wrong with rich people!) If you were, for example, a trustee, the lodging situation at Williams has been problematic for 30+ years. The old Williams Inn is decrepit, probably the worst hotel that you have ever stayed at. The Orchard is adequate but it is too far away from campus. You usually bring your spouse for trustee meetings, but you travel in one car. Then, either you have an annoyingly long walk to campus for your meetings, or you drive and leave your spouse stranded at the Orchards without a car. Not good!

The new Williams Inn solves those problems. It will be plush. It is as close to campus as possible, allowing you to walk to all your meetings while your spouse keeps the car to explore the local region.

I am not claiming that anyone on the Trustees ever discussed these issues out loud. But I guarantee that they all thought about it. If the Record were a decent paper, we would have a lot more detail on the costs involved with this project, including the costs associated with the purchase of the old Williams Inn. It isn’t, so we don’t. Still, I am in favor of the new Williams Inn. First, it will be very convenient for all us rich guys. Rich Eph Lives Matter Too! Second, it is probably a good idea for Williams to make any visits to Williamstown for major donors as pleasant as possible. My sense is that our peers all have first class hotels within easy walking distance of their campuses.


Townie Redux … Williamstown area by a knowing author

67101edd53c0c03f19c948d0247695a7--amusement-parks-beautiful-picturesReaders of my ‘Townie’ post on Andre Dubus III will like this short story written by ‘Anon’ in the late ’70s on townies in the Williamstown area he either knew or was.

The Boys of Bennington

The carnival was set up on the high school sports field in Bennington. It was an old school kind of carnival that originated in the South and traveled through the North during the summer months. It still showcased the bearded lady, the snake woman, and the smallest man in the world, when such things could be seen in Vermont- back in 1978.
Stevie and Mark were drinking beers under the concealing overhangs of a big spruce tree in a stand of pines next to the carnival. The boys were small for thirteen; ninety pounds and five feet tall. Through the trees they watched the action and listened to the sounds of buzzers, grinding gears, bells, and vendors’ loud solicitations. The carnival lights danced in the shadows of the trees; flickering about the boys’ faces.
Stevie was a fair haired kid in a white T, a cute boy. Mark was more awkward. He had curly brown hair and freckles so deep they could even be seen in the flickers from the carnival. His new black T-shit had large crisp white letters that lit up with a strobe effect from the flashing lights- proclaiming “Disco Sucks.”
Read more


Cultural Hub

From the Wall Street Journal:

When it opens, it will be the first destination hotel in this once-great manufacturing town. But visionary ideas have been percolating in North Adams since the mid-’80s, when plans emerged to renovate a 28-building industrial campus, the former Sprague Electric capacitor plant—at one time the city’s biggest employer—into a showcase for cutting-edge art. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (or Mass MoCA), which opened there in 1999 after a long gestation, has helped transform the city. “We saw the [plant] closing, the desperation in the community,” says North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright. “And we all admit one thing, resoundingly: Where the hell would we be if it were not for Mass MoCA?”

A slew of projects, starting to roll in this summer with the mayor’s support, promises a leap forward, further changing North Adams into a destination for art and performance, accommodation and food. It may be a turning point for a city that’s dealing with population depletion, high unemployment and addiction rates and empty storefronts that starkly contrast with the well-heeled Williamstown, home to Williams College, right next door.

Read the whole thing. There is a great senior thesis to be written about the rise of North Adams as a cultural destination. Who will write it?

And there’s much more in the pipeline for North Adams. Though clearly ambitious, the ventures under construction this summer are a fraction of the city’s proposed master plan, a grand scheme to build a “cultural corridor” that’s currently outlined in blueprints and feasibility studies, featuring at least four new museums along with a distillery and “art hotel,” both designed by Jean Nouvel. It’s all the brainchild of Thomas Krens, who hatched the original idea for Mass MoCA before moving to New York in 1988 to run the Guggenheim for almost 20 years.

Krens, who has a home in neighboring Williamstown, would not discuss details of his official return to the Berkshires, but they’re easy to discover by talking to local power players. His Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum, a quirky 34,000-square-foot institution featuring model trains zipping by landmark buildings by architects such as Frank Gehry, is most likely to break ground first, followed by the Global Contemporary Art Museum, a motorcycle museum and a museum of time. If even a portion of the plan gets off the ground, it may be as significant for the area as Mass MoCA’s opening 18 years ago. “We’re one attraction away,” says Mayor Alcombright, “from being a weeklong place to be.”

Is there an alum who has had more of an impact on the local area than Krens? If so, who?


Williamstown as Sanctuary City

Williamstown does not appear to be a sanctuary city.


There was an interesting e-mail last week about the “Williamstown Immigrant Trust Act” which seems to, in all but name, turn Williamstown into a sanctuary city.

In the United States and Canada, a sanctuary city is a municipality that has adopted a policy of protecting unauthorized immigrants by not prosecuting them for violating federal immigration laws and by ensuring that all residents have access to city services, regardless of immigration status. Such a policy can be set out expressly in a law (de jure) or observed only in practice (de facto). The term applies generally to cities that do not use municipal funds or resources to enforce national immigration laws. The cities usually forbid their police or municipal employees to inquire about a person’s immigration status or share such information with immigration enforcement. The designation has no precise legal meaning.

1) Am I correct that Williamstown is not currently a sanctuary city and that this act, if passed would turn it into one?

2) Does anyone have any insights into the local politics involved? Williamstown is overwhelmingly liberal and had fewer than 15% of its votes going to Trump. So, presumably, anything that goes against Trump would be popular . . .

3) How much leverage does the Federal Government have over Williamstown? The town’s budget is $19 million, with 10% coming from “Other Governments.” But how much of that is state versus federal? How how much of the money from the state is actually funding that originates from the federal government? Best info I can find is here:


I think that this is just school-related revenues and that there are few other sources of state/federal aid to the budget. Would Trump ever start to take away education-related money from sanctuary cities? Would a loss of $400,000 make Williamstown rethink its stand?

Governor Baker seems committed to keep the state government out of the discussion. That is good news for Williamstown since a withdrawal of state funding would cause chaos for its budget. But what happens when the Feds start to put pressure on the States? Imagine if Trump (and the Republican congress) decided to cut off funding to any state which insisted on giving its own funding to sanctuary cities.

Is the new construction for the high school — and the tax free bonds that support it — a possible pressure point?

Again, informed commentary from Williamstown residents wanted!


Rail and Architecture Museum

Via our friends at Williams twitter, this article from The Berkshire Eagle:

Just over a year ago, Thomas Krens was flanked by two former Massachusetts governors as he introduced his proposal to revitalize downtown North Adams.

On Tuesday, Krens’ team detailed the continued work toward opening the Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum at Western Gateway Heritage State Park — which he believes would draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to downtown North Adams — at a North Adams Chamber of Commerce event.

The event, an annual holiday tradition for the chamber, drew plenty of interest from chamber members, who were taken on a tour of the studio where a team of Krens’ employees are designing the museum step by step, including a long and detailed model of the planned model railroad museum.

“It’s a work in progress, so everything is made of foam and held together by tape,” said Andr e Heller, the project’s manager. “It’s a working model, and our posters change and our models change on a daily basis.”

The installation will be rooted in a historical narrative, delving into what moments were important in railroad and architectural history and how they intersect with American history, Heller said.

In addition to the design, the museum’s planners face the challenge of raising funds to actually build it.

“It just came out of knowing my members would love to hear it firsthand from him, and he’s moving right along,” program coordinator Ricco Fruscio said of the event. “[Chamber members] get excited because they realize there are other people that are investing here too.”

Krens, a visionary behind the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and former director of the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation in New York City, announced a proposal for the model train museum last December.

A Williamstown resident, Krens has made creating Route 2 a “cultural corridor” the center of his work. Krens has also detailed plans for a privately owned, 160,000-square-foot contemporary art museum at the Harriman and West Airport in North Adams and a revitalization effort at the Mohawk Theater, which has been closed for 25 years.

If and when it is completed, the museum will be the park’s largest building and feature nearly 10 miles of track for up to 100 precisely scaled model trains.

Fruscio also praised the ongoing progress of private development at the Redwood Motel and Greylock Mill.

“People are very excited, there’s a lot of investment coming into the area,” he said.

Good stuff! The more that Ephs like Krens ’69 can turn the area around the College into a “cultural corridor,” the better for Williams.


Pittsfield Police Chief Wynn ’93 and the Civil Service

From The Berkshire Eagle:

The state Civil Service Commission has rejected a request to allow acting Police Chief Michael Wynn to become the city’s permanent chief.

The commission has denied the request from Mayor Linda M. Tyer, and it advised the city to offer a Civil Service exam for police chief “forthwith.”

The Civil Service process relies on competitive examination rather than political appointment to determine leadership. A mayor can then choose from the top three candidates.

While the city subscribes to the Civil Service process, its mayors long have opted to appoint acting chiefs, circumventing that process.

Wynn was a captain with the department in January 2009 when he was named acting chief by former Mayor James M. Ruberto. He retained that title under Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, whom Tyer defeated in November 2015.

Tyer asked the commission in June to officially appoint Wynn chief based on his Civil Service exam results in June 2009 — the last time it was given — when Wynn and Lt. Jeffrey Bradford took the test. Wynn placed first; Bradford ranked second.

“I felt that it was important that we undertake this administrative appeal, to settle once and for all whether Michael Wynn had any remaining standing to be eligible for the appointment permanently as our chief of police,” Tyer told the Eagle on Thursday.

But in a five-page letter dated Dec. 8, commission Chairman Christopher C. Bowman said Wynn should have appealed to the commission on his own — and more immediately following his 2009 appointment — if he wanted to serve as more than acting chief.

The commission also cited the need to avoid the “appearance” of a conflict of interest: Wynn’s wife served on Tyer’s campaign committee. Bowman acknowledged the commission found no evidence that the request was politically or personally motivated.

The results of the 2009 tests were good through 2012, the letter stated.

Members of the police union, who had opposed Tyer’s request, applauded the commission’s ruling.

“All we asked for was a fair process,” said Pittsfield Police Sgt. Matthew Hill, who represents Local 447S, the union for department supervisors. “We really wanted to see the Civil Service process followed. We’ve been going far too long without a Civil Service chief.”

Hill said having an acting chief leaves the department in limbo and diminishes the point of Civil Service.

The union opposition “has never been about [Wynn] or how he has done the job. It has been about doing the process right,” he said.

The Civil Service exam can take two forms: a written test and what’s known as an “assessment center,” which tests police on real-life scenarios in addition to the written exam.

Historically the city has only offered the written exam.

Tyer said the city will offer another test, though she was unclear on a timetable or which version it will use.

“We are assessing what our options are,” she said. “Within the next week or so will we have a final plan for how to proceed.”

She said Wynn will remain acting chief in the interim.

Wynn directed all questions regarding the commission’s decision to the mayor; he confirmed he will remain with the department.

“I’m proud of my service with the Pittsfield Police Department, and I’m happy to continue my service in my current capacity, or any other capacity that may be requested or required,” he wrote in an email.

Regardless of the type of test, Hill said he knows of at least three officers who are interested. He did not have a time frame in mind but added, “We’d like to have something happen sooner rather than later.”

The city has had an on-again off-again relationship with Civil Service.

In 1981, after 70 years with Civil Service, the city voters opted out of the process. During the 10 years without it, the police department had three different appointed chiefs, a temporary chief and went two years without one.

Civil Service was reinstated by voters in 1991.

The city’s fire department is also led by an acting chief. Tyer said she does not plan to make changes there any time soon.

It is very hard to know what to make of this. PTC: Help us out!


1) In the numerous Williams College puff pieces about Wynn (example here), I have never seen him referred to as an acting chief. Politeness, sloppiness or something else?

2) Does race play any role here? Wynn is African-American in a city (and department?) that is overwhelmingly white.

3) What is the deal with the Civil Service in Massachusetts? I am embarrassed to admit I know nothing about it. Does it also play a role in the governance of Williamstown and North Adams?

4) One of the many sad side effects of the destruction of the business model for regional papers is that there is so much less coverage of local events. Any Williams student with an interest in writing/journalism should start by reporting on news in the Williams region. We would be eager to provide hundreds of daily readers for her prose . . .


Yesterday I passed a protest at Field Park …

Where I witnessed the pretense of those who claim the moral high ground in this election. Many held signs professing support for “peace” and “love.”

Is there anyone “here” who can honestly claim that Hillary Clinton does not have a record as a hawk who has been involved in the escalation of war for decades?

How can you legitimately claim the moral high ground of “peace love and understanding” when you voted for a war candidate?

The lesser of two evils argument I understand. That is very different than claiming the moral authority of “peace and love.”

A vote for Hillary Clinton was a vote for war. War is not peace and love.


+2.4 Grades in Williamstown

The New York Times has an interesting graphic on money/race/schooling. Here is Williamstown:


Click on the image for more detail. From the Times:

We’ve long known of the persistent and troublesome academic gap between white students and their black and Hispanic peers in public schools.

We’ve long understood the primary reason, too: A higher proportion of black and Hispanic children come from poor families. A new analysis of reading and math test score data from across the country confirms just how much socioeconomic conditions matter.

Children in the school districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts.

1) An article like this that doesn’t even mention genetics is too embarrassing to spend much time on. Summary: School achievement is at least 50% genetic. So, unless you control for this effect, it will hard to tease out the independent effects of income/spending.

2) But there is a lot of great data here! Economics/statistics majors looking for a good senior thesis topic should dive in.

3) Williamstown is an interesting outlier. I bet that lots of college towns are above the fitted line, meaning that the students do much better than a simple measure of SES would suggest.

4) There is endless complaining from the faculty/administration about the quality of Williamstown schools, followed by demands that Williams spends its own money to help. This is natural, in that parents complain about the local schools everywhere. But it is also absurd because, in comparison with other towns to which Williams employees might conceivable move, the Williamstown schools are much better. Williams College should spend zero dollars on the local school system.


Change on Spring Street

Lovely article from Phyllis McGuire about change on Spring Street over the years.

At the post office on Spring Street last week, I mailed “birthday” cookies to my son Christopher, who lives on Long Island. It is a tradition that took root when he was a freshman at Williams College far from our home in New York.

Memories took me back to the Saturday we drove Christopher to Williams to start his first year as a college student. And I set eyes on Spring Street for the first time.

With flower boxes and green spaces, it was very different from shopping areas in New York. I especially liked the white clapboard houses that served as business offices or stores.

We stopped at Slippery Banana to buy snacks before unpacking the car and moving Christopher’s belongings to his dormitory.

In a window of The House of Walsh, a high-end clothing store, a sign read SALE, but we did not have time to shop — sale or not.

Slippery Banana and The House of Walsh were on the west side of Spring Street, as were the eateries Colonial Pizza and Cobble Café.

Before starting back to New York, Bill and I drove to B&L Service Station at the bottom of Spring Street to fill the gas tank of our nine-year-old Dodge.

Years later as a resident of Williamstown, I would pick up a local newspaper at the Williams Newsroom on Spring Street after attending Mass at St. Patrick’s Church.

The aroma of freshly baked bread wafted from the Clarksburg Bakery.

Whenever time drew near to send a greeting card to a friend or relative, off I went to McClelland’s Stationery, just a couple of doors down from the Williams Newsroom.

It was not long before I was greeted with a friendly, “Hello, Phyllis. How are you?” in a number of stores.

Shopping for clothes one day at Salvatore’s, I bought a pair of black loafers that turned out to be the most comfortable, long-lasting shoes I ever wore.

I received a lot of compliments on the pink floppy sunhat and pink cloche I bought at Zanna’s, a women’s clothing store.

All those stores are gone.

On the other hand, a barber shop founded 100 years ago is still located on Spring Street. It is no longer known as St. Pierre’s Barbershop, but as Empire Cutz, having been renamed by Duane Griffiths who bought the business from Roger St. Pierre in 2015.

Goodman’s Jewelers is in its 73rd year on Spring Street.

Harts, previously Harts Pharmacy, has changed hands a few times in its 85 years on Spring Street. Until 1970, it was owned by members of the Hart family. Then Phillip Hart sold the business to Edward Conroy. When Conroy retired in 2012, he sold the business to Steven Wiehl who decided that prescriptions would no longer be filled at the store. Harts is now a general store.

According to information available from the Williamstown Historical Museum, Spring Street was strictly residential into the 1890s. Stores were scattered all over town.

Now, stores on Spring Street come and go.

The Barbara Prey Gallery and the Harrison Gallery closed their doors forever in the last months of 2015. I had visited them often and will miss them.

The space The Barbara Prey Gallery had occupied is now home to The Progressive Palette Studio and Gallery.

And on March 1, Amy’s Cottage will relocate from Water Street to the building that used to house the Harrison Gallery.

Amy Bryan, owner of the business, says they have outgrown the space on Water Street.

“It was getting squishy and we couldn’t display our merchandise properly,” she said.

“Now we are focusing on great sales in our Water Street location to empty the store before we close it in mid-February.”

The saying goes “change is the only constant.” So be it, but I wish that any change that comes to Spring Street would not detract from its small-town charm.

We ought to recruit McGuire to write for EphBlog. Given the bloodbath among local papers, I doubt that the Berkshire Eagle is long for this world.


First Church and Williamstown: 250 Years Together

Williamstown Historical Museum Presents First Church & Williamstown 250 Years Together with Moira Jones from WilliNet.

Hat-tip to our friends at the Williams Twitter feed.


Cross the Vermont Border to Peter Hopkins’ New Home Brewing Shop

Hoppy Valley Hops photo, via Twitter

Hoppy Valley Hops photo, via Twitter

When returning to the Purple Valley after an absence, it can be hard for Ephs to leave the Williams College campus at all, even for draws like the Pine Cobble Trail or the Clark. But now Peter Hopkins ’74 has a new reason for Ephs to venture the two and a half miles north up Route 7 to Pownal, Vermont: his organic hops farm, Hoppy Valley Organics, is ready to supply everyone’s homebrewing needs, and offering tours:

The company is in its third year of growing hops on property on Route 7 and at end of July, the owners are opening up the yard for those sightseers to get a closer look.

Concurrently, the company is showcasing its new home-brew supply store at the nearby Hoppy Valley Vermont Tasting Room.

“Over the last 2 1/2 to three years, we’ve had hundreds of people buttonhole us, taking pictures,” co-owner Peter Hopkins said…

The home-brewing shop joins the “Vermont Tasting Room” that Hoppy Valley has been operating inside the Hillside House Furniture barn for the last two years. As the inclusion of “Organics” in the business name suggests, Hopkins and his partner (Hillside House proprietor John Armstrong), are focused on premium, artisanal hops:

The hop-growing operation isn’t typical though. Hopkins and John Armstrong started the business with a focus on returning to the “roots of Vermont’s” hop growing. The two handcrafted teepee-like structures with ropes to pull the hops up and down. The business even kicked off with a community hop planting party, which mirrored an old-fashioned barn raising.

“The structures we built were typical of 19th-century hop growing,” Hopkins said.

Besides growing four standard varieties — Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, and Nugget — the owners have traveled all over the state seeking the oldest hops plants they could find to grow.

Hopkins has also been supporting efforts to change Vermont law to authorize farm-brewing licenses to be issued to Vermont farmers brewing from their own ingredients:

Peter Hopkins, who grows hops in Pownal, said he believes the bill would boost Vermonters’ efforts to grow hops, grain and malt.

“It should bring the farmers and the brewers much closer together. Each will depend upon the other,” said Hopkins, whose farm is called Hoppy Valley Organics. “If all of a sudden there’s increased demand, there’ll be more hops in the ground,” he added.

But Vermont-grown hops can be significantly more expensive, said Todd Haire, operations manager for Switchback Brewing Company in Burlington.

Switchback has brewed with local hops through University of Vermont Extension, Haire said. He said brewers are willing to try Vermont hops but need a consistent supply.

Hopkins is working on that! Another legislative change that could help Hopkins and Hoppy Valley Organics would be a repeal/reduction of the drinking age. Williams students, with their interest in organic farming, are both a natural labor source and a likely market, if Hoppy Valley expands. If students could lawfully home-brew from the product of their labors, this could be a virtuous circle. And being just on the north side of the Williamstown border places Hopkins in astate that has considered, at least twice, reforming its drinking age in recent years.

Williams Students help plant first hops at Hoppy Valley, via Twitter

Williams Students help plant first hops at Hoppy Valley, via Twitter

Other Ephs from the Class of ’74 — and perhaps others from the “4” and “9” years who arrived early to Reunion 2014 — are likely already familiar with Hopkins’ hops from a Thursday night kickoff BBQ he hosted and catered last year. Other Ephs should make time for the short northward detour on their next trip to Williamstown, or even plan a trip for the weekend of August 1. Then, in conjunction with a home-brew festival in downtown Bennington on Saturday, Hoppy Valley Organics will host two events:an open house on Friday, July 31 from 2 to 8 p.m. Parking for the event will be located across Route 7 on the west side of the Pownal View Barn and food and beverage will be available. And the grand opening of the home brew shop will be held Sunday, Aug. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

. You can keep up with Hoppy Valley Organics on Facebook and Twitter.


Hoch ’95 Hired as Williamstown Town Manager

Jason Hoch - 2014An Eph has been hired to replace longtime Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin, who recently retired. Jason Hoch, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his graduation from Williams College, was named the unanimous choice of the Board of Selectmen on Friday.

Hoch was a Political Economy major while at Williams, and his work there put him on the road to Spring Street. As a senior, his thesis was entitled “Crisis on Main Street,” examining downtown Adams about two years after the opening of Walmart near the North Adams/Adams border in September, 1993. In the thesis, Hoch applied Albert Hirschman’s “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” framework, a longtime linchpin of the Political Economy curriculum.

Hoch has been working his way around New England as a town manager ever since. From 1997 to 2004, he served as town manager in Littleton, NH, where he enlisted public school students in the planning and execution of a revitalization program that helped rejuvenate Main Street, construct an educational nature trail, and develop a GIS mapping system. His efforts in Littleton helped create an unusually walkable small town:

Hoch, Littleton’s town manager, has worked hard to make his town inviting to pedestrians, and he’s eager to show off some of the recent innovations.

Before him, a red-roofed bridge stretches across the water. The sign over the entrance reads “2004,” the year the federally funded bridge opened.

Hoch steps onto the bridge. Its wide planks and waist-high railings make it a place to linger as well as walk. Halfway across, an elderly couple has paused. She perches on the railing and he holds her safe. They kiss like teenagers…

In the early 1990s, Littleton was on a downslide. The vacancy rate on Main Street was up and the number of people coming into town was down. A non-profit Main Streets program sparked the commercial district back to life, but the task of bettering downtown remained…

On his walk through Littleton, Jason Hoch ambles on the western side of the Ammonoosuc, along a gravel trail the city developed last year. Green and quiet, aside from the burble of the river, it’s hard to imagine that the interstate is a fraction of a mile away. This side of the river hosts a farmers’ market every Sunday.

“People park downtown and walk over the bridge to the market,” Hoch says. “Businesses started finding there were more people downtown, and the farmers’ market extended hours.”

Hoch is proud of what the town has accomplished.

“Littleton was an old mill town, and over the past eight years, it has started to become a different place,” he says. “On Main Street, it feels like a real town.”

The gravel crunches beneath his feet. “Little changes like this make a difference,” he says. “A simple gravel path. This isn’t hard to make happen. People can do stuff like this.”

From Littleton, Hoch moved on to Plaistow, NH, where he purchased a home and started a family. After a two-year stint in Plaistow, some work as an independent consultant, and with the addition of a bear, Hoch became the town administrator in Litchfield, NH, in mid-2010. He quickly earned plaudits for helping the town become better organized and its administration more creative and more efficient:

“People are asking for my advice, and sometimes even following it,” he said, half-joking. “I’m not just pushing paper somewhere.”

He said one example was an addition of ground-speed salt dispensers to Highway Department trucks, which he recommended to road agent Jack Pinciaro. The electronic dispensers measure the speed of the truck and lay down the appropriate amount of salt.

“It was something I saw in my years in Littleton, and it makes work easier and saves us money,” he said.

Hoch said he also brought in “a completely different approach” to the town’s budget system. He reviewed the original proposal by the Budget Committee and then made adjustments and cuts that went beyond their recommendations. The process brought praise from taxpayers and town officials.

“That’s always a good validation that you’re in the right direction,” he said.

Other highlights from his first year include helping to negotiate a new police union contract, renewing the town’s cable franchise agreement and developing a more efficient financial system that led to the town’s “clean audit” this summer.

More recently, Hoch helped update Litchfield’s personnel policies, improved efficiency in the town roads department, and helped the town establish an annual “Winterfest” celebration.

During his time in New Hampshire, however, Williamstown has never been far from his mind. As news reports of his hiring note, he warned Litchfield at the time of his hiring that “You need to be concerned when the vacancy come up in Williamstown.” Previously, Hoch participated in an EphBlog survey on Twitter about “Courses to Audit” while at Williams:

Jason, Welcome back to the Purple Valley! May the town/gown divide ever be lessened with you on the town side.


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