Tourism in Williamstown

In 1899, the Troy Times said of Williamstown: "Once a summer visitor means in general always a guest, for the really beautiful spot can never be forgotten.  The residential position of the town is on a series of slightly rolling hills and is charmingly laid out.  In the centre are Williams College buildings, surrounded by patches of green and approached by broad, firm paths and streets.  The streets are fringed deeply with green, and almost everywhere the eye rests on that rich carpeting of nature."   

Affluent individuals often left the major cities to spend their summers in less congested surroundings.  The Berkshires were a common destination and the Greylock Hotel was one of the most popular establishments.  Individuals would reserve hotel rooms for anywhere from one week to three months.  Others rented the homes of Williams College professors or fraternities.  Some visitors, who would return each year, had luxurious summer cottages built in town.  Residents were encouraged to take in 'Fresh Air Children' for the summer.  The North Adams Transcript enthusiastically encouraged: "The cost of keeping the children is very small and it is a great treat for the little ones to get out into the country where they can get the fresh country air.  The children are examined before leaving the city to avoid diseases following them."

Most summer visitors hailed from New York City, Boston, and Troy.  Special railroad accommodations were made to facilitate travel between New York and Williamstown.  Such planning benefited both the travelers and the hotel business, for many businessmen who had to spend the week in the city were more likely to send their families to the country if they were easily accessible on the weekends.  Visitors also came from a variety of other places, including Washington D.C., Chicago, and Mexico.  Prominent guests announced in the local papers included Bishop Littlejohn of Brooklyn and Miss Mary Mackenzie, a New York actress.

Although the prominence of Williams College and the Institute of Politics played a part, the growing notoriety of the Greylock Hotel was primarily fostered by its manager, Henry N. Teague.  Teague had a positive reputation from his previous managerial positions, leading many of his former patrons to frequent his new establishment.  He also had exemplary skills in advertising.  He helped to produce a number of illustrated brochures in which he introduced the now classic slogan, 'Williamstown, the Village Beautiful."  Teague even had a series of tinted postcards produced, featuring views of the Greylock's exterior, lobby, dining room, sun parlor, kitchen, and office. 

In addition to a general desire to leave behind the crowds of the city, vacationers found many ways to enjoy the Berkshires.  One of the most popular attractions was the Taconic Golf Course.  According to the Greylock Hotel brochure: "It is a well-kept course, very sporty, up hill and down dale, and most picturesque.  The club house with its broad porches, lounging, locker, dressing and bath rooms, is most commodious and attractive.  Guests of the Greylock on introduction, may use the club house, links, tennis courts and croquet grounds on the payment of a reasonable fee.  During the Summer and Autumn season the social life of the village centers at the Club."  The College grounds and landmarks were also desired destinations.  The Greylock Hotel offered carriage rides to the mineral baths at Sand Springs, also in Williamstown.  When motoring became a new phenomenon, touring groups would often spend time traversing the Berkshires.  The rapid growth in the popularity of driving led the  proprietors to add a garage to the Greylock Hotel in 1905.

The ascendancy of the Greylock Hotel and other hotels in the area began to wane with the Depression and subsequent government road building programs.  One would expect road building to aid the tourism industry, however it managed to make it nearly impossible to get to the Greylock during the years in which construction took place.  Even Williamstown itself inadvertently helped to kill the Greylock, as the town's rebuilding of Main Street in 1934 made the hotel nearly unapproachable.  By the time new roadways were completed, people's summer vacationing preferences had changed and the Greylock no longer had a clientele.

By Jaime Margalotti (Williams Class of 2000)

SOURCES:
North Adams Transcript. 29 June 1899; 1 March 1900; 29 May 1900; 27 June 1900; 3 July 1900; 10 July 1900; 17 July 1900; 31 July 1900; 25 April 1901; 28 September 1905.
"The Village Beautiful and the Greylock Hotel." 1918.

 

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