News & Information on Springside Park
Vol. 2, Winter 2013
Springside House Home to HistoricTreasures
Once known as Elmhurst, Pittsfield's only city-owned historic manor house looks down upon thestretch of downtown from one of its highestpoints, a beacon of both nostalgia and futurehopes. Vacant for more than five years andgradually declining in appearance, the fate of thehouse has lately drawn increasing interest andcalls for the city to take action on this storiedproperty have grown in volume. In December,parks manager Jim McGrath provided me with atour of this fascinating building.The first floor of the building is not muchchanged since the time when it was abandoned asa Parks headquarters in 2007, though variousequipment storage has accumulated among theremaining tables and desks. Behind the front deskis stashed the throne upon which decades of Winter Carnival Queens once sat on special occasions throughout their year reign. Onelarge corner room is stuffed with filing cabinets and boxes whose contents span a century of park and public recreational history inPittsfield. Records, plans, maps, proclamations and photographs numbering perhaps in the thousands.At one time, McGrath explains, the city had sometimes had hired photographer who shot many of its events, and the archives leftover at Springside house are brimming with stunning shots of parades, pageants, races, festivals, picnics, some dating back to before WorldWar I.More memorabilia of Pittsfield's rich parks history languish on the upper floors, where local sports leagues and clubs once used manyof the rooms for storing their equipment and other materials. A sunny, weathered room in the southwest corner of the third floor ispacked with trophies and plaques chronicling the team victories and championships of yesteryear. There are vintage picnic kits,consisting of all trunks full of accessories, games and other entertainment that were once rented by local families for their outdoor excursions, reminders of a time when Pittsfield had a thriving parks department and outdoor spaces drew large crowds.Other traces of the past include a rack of antique civil defense jackets, remnants from when this was also headquartered out of thehouse on the hill, a site busy with activity from for over 65 years of use as the hub of the city parks system. McGrath said he hopes tosomeday see more of the historic materials at the house on display for the enjoyment of residents, most of whom would be hard pressednot to find the name or face of a family member or friend within these voluminous troves of Pittsfield's past."We're getting by," McGrath said of upkeep on the house. "The building's maintained, we're still coming and going here. We still careabout and love the building. But it's a challenge, because it's such a huge job."There remains hope for restoration of the house. The house and park were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008,conferring recognition of its value to local heritage, and currently the city is looking to find a funding source for expensive initialassessments that need to be undertaken to better ascertain the house's condition and restoration needs. A proposal to re-purpose thestructure as a satellite site for educational institutions to expand programs of ecological and environmental education in the many acresof natural Arboretum land there has met with considerable favor from many neighbors and groups involved with Springside.
City Maintains Former Reservoir
Park, Open Space, and Natural ResourceProgram Manager, City of Pittsfield
If you've hiked through Springide Park, you’ve probably comeacross the large concrete-topped structure surrounded by a rustingchain link fence. And chances are you’re curious about its history.Located near the eastern boundary of the park, off of BroadviewTerrace, lies this deteriorating relic to Pittsfield’s industrial past. So, just what exactly is that thing? It’s the former General Electricwater storage reservoir structure.Though it hasn’t been used for nearly fifty years, this reservoir played an important role in maintaining fire safety at the plant.Filled with nearly 1 million gallons of water, it stood ready to servethe fire fighting needs at the facility should that be required.Located at one of the highest points in the city, no pumps wereneeded to get the water to where it needed to go as it was a gravity-fed system. At some point in the 1950’s, the reservoir went out of service. In 1961, the City acquired the 2-acre parcel on which thisstructure stands and incorporated the land area into SpringsidePark. Considered an attractive nuisance, the park maintenancecrew makes regular checks of the area to make sure no one is ableto gain access into the storage tank. As recently as last month, thecity covered over a hole in roof of the adjacent control room thatwas large enough for a small child to fall through. Though theoldreservoir no longer serves a purpose and it has become a targetfor bottle smashers, there are no current plans to raze the structure.It will continue to sit idle as a reminder of the city’s strongindustrial past.
Fall Cleanup Highlights Problem Areas
About a dozen volunteers attended the fall park clean upday,including members of Cub Scout Pack 5. Litter clean up wasconfined largely to the western half of the park, from behind Reidto the pond on Springside Ave, as well as extensive trash pick upand fire pit dismantling at the frequent party area of the oldconcrete cistern, in the southeast corner of the park betweenBenedict Road and Broadview Terrace.Overall litter and dumping was lighter than seen around this timein some other years; however, certain issues of concern werenoticed, such as increased number and locations of unauthorizedfires (which were also seen during April's cleanup) and possibleevidence of one or more persons sleeping/living in the park in anextended fashion within the past few months. In addition to thelarge hole mentioned below, signs of smaller functional fires wereseen in several areas, in addition to the larger party-area bonfireareas we assume to be the work of youth, as well as bedding andmakeshift shelters in places.A full report on areas of concern was sent to appropriate city
personnel following the clean up.