WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Williamstown Historical Museum reaches beyond its walls to promote knowledge of the town's history.
Biannually since 1999, the WHM has offered Historical House Tours.
This year, on Saturday, May 11, the Tour will feature seven houses located on Southworth Street, Moorland Street and School Street. David Larabee will be driving a horse-drawn cart for rides during the tour.
"Southworth Street and Moorland Street were the first developments in Williamstown," said Rita Watson of the WHM, who works long and hard to unearth the stories historical houses hold.
The story of 34 Moorland St .has a twist: It was built on Southworth Street in 1894. The Queen Anne cottage was moved to its present location when Fred Moore decided to develop his land between Southworth Street and Cole Avenue. He needed to put in a road, and the cottage was in the way. Instead of tearing it down, he relocated it.
The house changed hands several times before the current owners, Ralph Lieberman and Valerie Krall, purchased it in 2009.
Working from a plan by architect Martha Montgomery, they made the house more livable by 21st century standards, with a minimum of intervention. In addition, Lieberman has restored many interior details to their original historic condition.
Especially notable is the gracious porch; and inside, a three-part stairway which one might expect to see in a much grander house.
Twenty-eight Southworth St. was built in 1898 by Catherine and Emma Coaker. There are eight bedrooms in the house, which at one time was called the Greystone Lodge.
Often, young ladies who came from out of town to visit their Williams men, stayed at the Lodge.
"We still can see the indentations of the numbers on the doors," said Sylvia Deveaux, who together with her husband, Richard Deveaux, bought the house 10 years ago. There are four fireplaces in the house, and tiles in the dining room fireplace were broken. Wanting to stay true to the historic character of the house, Sylvia searched near and far to find tiles that matched the existing ones.
At 96 School St., Devyn and Tracy Benson are opening their apartment to tour participants.
Originally the Southworth Schoolhouse, the building was constructed in 1898 at a cost of $31,000.
According to "Williamstown: The First 250 Years" the facilities were so inadequate by the 1950s that teachers conducted classes in closets and in hallways.
When Mount Greylock Regional High School opened in September of 1961, 518 students moved to the new high school, alleviating the over-crowding at Southworth School.
Following the construction of the $16 million Williamstown Elementary School, the Mitchell School and Grant School buildings were demolished, but Williams College bought the Southworth School building. The college spent nearly $6 million to acquire and renovate the building into faculty apartments and offices.
The building facade was largely preserved in its original state. Though the interior was dramatically altered, many original window casings remain and chalkboards now serve as back splashes in the new, modern kitchens.
The colonial revival style house at 25 Moorland St. was built in 1931, based on a design by the celebrated architect John Russell Pope, who designed the Jefferson Memorial and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., as well as large New England "summer cottages."
The plans for 25 Moorland St. were sent to Sears which packaged and provided all the building materials, including hardware, plumbing, heating and appliances. The brick was obtained locally, and the house was erected by a local contractor.
Members of the Kellogg family have owned and lived in the house since it was built for Williams College professor James Kellogg and his wife Ida in 1931.
In 1946, college librarian Willis Wright and his wife Helena (Kellogg) took over the house and in 1965, the Wrights' son, Larry, and his wife Judy purchased the home. The kitchen, baths and heating have been updated, and the back porch has been enclosed.
Because 168 Southworth St. is a six-bedroom house, visitors may wonder if three generations of a family had ever lived together there happily, as did the family portrayed in the classic movie "Meet Me in St. Louis." Any child who bounced a ball in the house, as children are wont to do, did not have to fear that it would hit the ceiling and leave a telltale mark: The ceilings are as high as nine feet.
The house was built between 1906 and 1909. "We cannot be certain," said Rita Watson, but "when John and Sara Holden bought the house in 1991, they became the fifth owners. Now the Holdens have put the house on the market, as they have downsized into a smaller house."
Dr. Susan Yates, former owner of the house at 45 Moorland St., has described it as a "family house." And according to Yates, that is why she sold it to the current owners, John and Susan Hogan: The couple has four children. On the second floor, there is a large space suitable for a play area.
Built in 1916 by I.L. Sherman (Isabelle), the house has had very few owners. Michael and Irene Monahan lived in it for 25 years and Dr. Yates owned the house for 14 years before selling it to the Hogans. The Hogans have redone the kitchen, but the living room and dining room with all the built-ins are original to the house.
The story of the Casey House, at 71 Moorland St. began in the World War I era: 1916.
The first owners were Dr. William Hamilton, a dentist, and his wife Anna Edna McLean Hamilton. They lived together in the house until they were parted by death in 1955.
After Mrs. Hamilton's death, the doctor lived alone in the house, but had a cook/housekeeper. One night in November 1964, the 83 year-old widower feel asleep while smoking on the porch and set the house on fire. According to then-Fire Chief Edward McGowan it took three hours to put out the fire. There was extensive damage to the porch, attic and roof. Hamilton moved to a nursing home and the house was vacant for approximately a year.
When William Grennon and his wife, Betty Ann, bought the house from Dr. Hamilton, it was still in need of major repairs. In addition to repairing the fire damage, the Grennons renovated to provide more room for their growing family. Their daughter Maribeth Grennon Casey shared some of her memories of growing up in the house with her sister, Michelle, and her three brothers - Bill, Chris, and Terry. "Every house on Moorland Street had at least three children," Maribeth recalled. "The streets were filled with kids riding bicycles and skateboards and playing ball."
In December 1999, Maribeth and her husband, David Casey, purchased the house from her mother. Other former residents of Moorland Street have recently relocated to their family homes. Thus for some of the children who had played together on Moorland Street, life has come full circle: As in years gone by, they need walk only a few steps from their home to enjoy each other's company.
The Historical House Tour will be held Saturday, May 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. Rain date: Saturday, May 18. Tickets cost $25, and may be purchased in advance at the Williams Inn, Where'd You Get That!?, Goff's Sports and Wild Oats Market. The day-of-the-event tickets will be available at a kiosk at the Southworth building on School Street, at the Williams residence at the corner of Southworth and Main streets, and from David Larabee. Proceeds of the tour will benefit the Williamstown Historical Museum.