Springside Now

News & Information on Springside Park
Vol. 2, Winter 2013

Once known as Elmhurst, Pittsfield's only cityowned historic manor house looks down upon the stretch of downtown from one of its highest points, a beacon of both nostalgia and future hopes. Vacant for more than five years and gradually declining in appearance, the fate of the house has lately drawn increasing interest and calls for the city to take action on this storied property have grown in volume. In December, parks manager Jim McGrath provided me with a tour of this fascinating building. The first floor of the building is not much changed since the time when it was abandoned as a Parks headquarters in 2007, though various equipment storage has accumulated among the remaining tables and desks. Behind the front desk is stashed the throne upon which decades of Winter Carnival Queens once sat on special occasions throughout their year reign. One large corner room is stuffed with filing cabinets and boxes whose contents span a century of park and public recreational history in Pittsfield. 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 World War I. More memorabilia of Pittsfield's rich parks history languish on the upper floors, where local sports leagues and clubs once used many of the rooms for storing their equipment and other materials. A sunny, weathered room in the southwest corner of the third floor is packed 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 the house 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 to someday see more of the historic materials at the house on display for the enjoyment of residents, most of whom would be hard pressed not 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 care about 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 initial assessments that need to be undertaken to better ascertain the house's condition and restoration needs. A proposal to re-purpose the structure as a satellite site for educational institutions to expand programs of ecological and environmental education in the many acres of natural Arboretum land there has met with considerable favor from many neighbors and groups involved with Springside.

Springside House Home to Historic Treasures

City Maintains Former Reservoir
James McGrath, Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager, City of Pittsfield

oldreservoir no longer serves a purpose and it has become a target for bottle smashers, there are no current plans to raze the structure. It will continue to sit idle as a reminder of the city’s strong industrial past.

If you've hiked through Springide Park, you’ve probably come across the large concrete-topped structure surrounded by a rusting Fall Cleanup Highlights Problem Areas chain link fence. And chances are you’re curious about its history. About a dozen volunteers attended the fall park clean up Located near the eastern boundary of the park, off of Broadview day,including members of Cub Scout Pack 5. Litter clean up was Terrace, lies this deteriorating relic to Pittsfield’s industrial past. So, confined largely to the western half of the park, from behind Reid just what exactly is that thing? It’s the former General Electric to the pond on Springside Ave, as well as extensive trash pick up water storage reservoir structure. and fire pit dismantling at the frequent party area of the old Though it hasn’t been used for nearly fifty years, this reservoir concrete cistern, in the southeast corner of the park between played an important role in maintaining fire safety at the plant. Benedict Road and Broadview Terrace. Filled with nearly 1 million gallons of water, it stood ready to serve Overall litter and dumping was lighter than seen around this time the fire fighting needs at the facility should that be required. in some other years; however, certain issues of concern were Located at one of the highest points in the city, no pumps were noticed, such as increased number and locations of unauthorized needed to get the water to where it needed to go as it was a gravityfires (which were also seen during April's cleanup) and possible fed system. At some point in the 1950’s, the reservoir went out of evidence of one or more persons sleeping/living in the park in an service. In 1961, the City acquired the 2-acre parcel on which this extended fashion within the past few months. In addition to the structure stands and incorporated the land area into Springside large hole mentioned below, signs of smaller functional fires were Park. Considered an attractive nuisance, the park maintenance seen in several areas, in addition to the larger party-area bonfire crew makes regular checks of the area to make sure no one is able areas we assume to be the work of youth, as well as bedding and to gain access into the storage tank. As recently as last month, the makeshift shelters in places. city covered over a hole in roof of the adjacent control room that A full report on areas of concern was sent to appropriate city was large enough for a small child to fall through. Though the personnel following the clean up.

Springside Now
News & Information on Springside Park
Vol. 2, Winter 2013

Enjoy Winter

Get Ready For Spring
Garden Volunteers Needed

Think Spring! Have you visited the Butterfly Garden and Memory Garden at the back of the greenhouse at Springside? People have come from all parts of the world to visit, and there were two weddings held there last summer. The gardens are lovely and fun, but require a lot of work. One of our volunteers of many years will not be able to help in 2013 and our small group is concerned about whether we can keep these gardens up. Do you like to be outdoors in a pretty environment? Do you garden or want to learn to garden? Could you use more plants for your own garden? (We're always dividing plants.). If you have a little time and some interest, call Judy at 445-5540 -Judith Gitelson
Spring Park Cleanup April 20
th While Springside's pond is no longer a site of ice skating crowds, The 24 annual Earth Day cleanup day at Springside Park will be held on Saturday, April 20, from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Meeting place the park is still an active hub of many winter activities. Snow is at the playground parking lot near the old zoo area with shoe and cross country ski excursions are popular throughout its entrance off upper North Street at the Springside House. The rain extensive trails, and there are several ideal locations for sledding date is set for the next day, Sunday, April 21st, at the same time in the park. and place. Volunteers are asked to come at any time during the Several snow men were constructed near the Rotary day and to bring gloves if possible. Gloves and bags will also be Playground at Springside Park on January 16, as part of a special provided. -Friends of Springside Park contest sponsored by Pittsfield Parks & Recreation to create a Springside Greenhouse’s Plant Sale May 10 and 11 fun activity on the recent school snow day. Great spots for sledding include the hill overlooking the pond Springside Greenhouse members are busy taking cuttings and area on Springside Avenue and the hill leading down from the propagating seeds to offer a wide selection of flowering plants and vegetables at their annual sale just before Mother’s Day. Mark your Springside House toward Abbot Street. The hill at Reid Middle calendars now and stop by for a unique hanging basket or stunning School, which was once formally part of the park, is also a combination for a larger pot. Our knowledgeable members are favorite traditional sledding site. happy to answer your questions and guide your selections. -Bert Pritchard, Springside Greenhouse Group Nature in Winter at the Arboretum

Trails through the park are criss-crossed with tracks left by snow shoes and skis, as many this winter have partaken of the natural beauty on display throughout the hundreds of acres of woods, meadows and wet-lands that make up the Arboretum at Springside. In the words of naturalist Victor Capelli, “even in the harsh season of winter, it's beauty shines like a frosty jewel in the crown of Berkshire County Red Tailed Hawk parks.” Dozens of species of birds, from red-tailed hawks to the blackcapped chickadee, state bird of Massachusetts, can be spotted dotting the mostly barren branches of the 45 types of trees within the park Arboretum. Explosions of green can still be seen, though, from our Conifer Garden to the extensive Dark Pines section. Now, plotting a course through the hundreds of acres of woodlands is much easier thanks to a new enhanced trail map. Pittsfield High School's Cross Country program undertook the legwork to provide detailed GPS mapping of the trails, which was then superimposed onto the city's map of the park to create the first truly accurate picture of this system of paths. A copy of the map can be found online in pdf form and copies will be available in the informational kiosk by Springside House at 874 North Street. -Vincent J. Hebert Arboretum

Pittsfield Shade Tree Commission Resurrected The Pittsfield Shade Tree Commission met for the first time since the 1980s in December. The commission was formed in the 1950s to combat tree loss, advise on city tree planting, and to support and promote strategic tree cultivation efforts in Pittsfield, and are looking to hear from those involved in this effort. Interested parties should contact Dan Wojtkowski at 413-329-5433 Pittsfield Beatiful Roundtable Meeting of Green Groups Groups devoted to public gardening, beautification and arboreal pursuits gathered in mid December as part of a now twice annual meet up organized by Pittsfield Beautiful. Representatives from around a dozen organizations discussed their priorities, volunteer needs, and strategies for getting their information out, including the use of social networking. A list of allied groups and resource agencies devoted to local beautification is available from Claudine Chavanne (claudinec@roadrunner.com). Another meeting will take place in late Spring. Message from Morningside: The Morningside Initiative is proud to be a part of an ongoing collaborative Community effort to revitalize Springside Park. Through the efforts of so many groups and individuals working for a common goal, a true sense of community pride has arisen, which will make this endeavor a gratifying success for all those involved ,and give the city of Pittsfield a new outlook on one of it’s most valuable assets. We plan on continuing to participate in projects with Springside Park in the future, whether it be cleanups, or beautification, or social events, we are willing to lend a hand. Thanks to everyone for your efforts we are happy to be working alongside of you. We look forward to seeing Springside a vibrant and busy park this year. -Gail Krumpholz

In Other News...

Springside Now #2, Winter 2013. Editor: Joe Durwin. Send questions, comments, or submissions to springsidenow@gmail.com