Pittsfield, MA

Pittsfield, MA

"Pittsfield" redirects here. For other places named Pittsfield, see Pittsfield (disambiguation).
Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Park Square in Downtown Pittsfield in the 1960s
Park Square in Downtown Pittsfield in the 1960s
Official seal of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Location (dark red) in Berkshire County (light red) in Massachusetts (white).

Coordinates: 42°27′N 73°15′W / 42.450°N 73.250°W / 42.450; -73.250Coordinates: 42°27′N 73°15′W / 42.450°N 73.250°W / 42.450; -73.250

Country United States
State Massachusetts
County Berkshire
Settled 1752
Incorporated 1761
 • Type Mayor-council city
 • Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi (D)
 • Total 42.3 sq mi (109.6 km2)
 • Land 40.7 sq mi (105.5 km2)
 • Water 1.6 sq mi (4.1 km2)
Elevation 1,039 ft (317 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 44,737
 • Density 1,057.6/sq mi (408.2/km2)
Time zone Eastern (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) Eastern (UTC-4)
ZIP code 01201
Area code(s) 413
FIPS code 25-53960
GNIS feature ID 0607643
Website www.pittsfield-ma.org

Pittsfield is the largest city and the county seat of Berkshire County,[1] Massachusetts, United States. It is the principal city of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Berkshire County. Its area code is 413. Its ZIP code is 01201 (01202 and 01203 are zip codes for Pittsfield post office boxes only). The population was 44,737 at the 2010 census. Although the population has declined in recent decades, Pittsfield remains the third largest municipality in Western Massachusetts, behind only Springfield and Chicopee.

In 2005, Farmers Insurance ranked Pittsfield 20th in the United States as “Most Secure Place To Live” among small towns with fewer than 150,000 residents.[2] In 2006, Forbes ranked Pittsfield as number 61 in its list of Best Small Places for Business.[3] In 2008, Country Home Magazine ranked Pittsfield as #24 in a listing of "green cities" east of the Mississippi.[4] In 2009, the City of Pittsfield was chosen to receive a 2009 Commonwealth Award, Massachusetts' highest award in the arts, humanities, and sciences.[5] More recently, in 2010, the Financial Times proclaimed Pittsfield the "Brooklyn of the Berkshires", in an article covering its recent renaissance.[6]

In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places for single people to retire in the U.S. by U.S. News, due to the high number of single older residents and higher likelihood of finding companionship or a partner.[7]


Pittsfield and the surrounding area was originally inhabited by the Mohican (Muh-he-kann) Native American tribe, an Algonquian people, until the early 18th century.

In 1738, a wealthy Bostonian, Col. Jacob Wendell, bought 24,000 acres (97 km2) of lands known originally as Pontoosuck, a Mohican Indian word meaning “a field or haven for winter deer,” as a speculative investment, which he planned to subdivide and resell to others who would settle here. He formed a partnership with Philip Livingston, a wealthy kinsman from Albany, and Col. John Stoddard of Northampton, who already had claim to 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) here.

A group of young men came and began to clear the land in 1743, but threats of Indian raids associated with the conflict of the French and Indian War soon forced them to leave, and the land remained unoccupied by whites for several more years.

Soon, many others arrived from Westfield, Massachusetts, and a village began to grow, which was incorporated as Pontoosuck Plantation in 1753 by Solomon Deming, Simeon Crofoot, Stephen Crofoot, Charles Goodrich, Jacob Ensign, Samuel Taylor, and Elias Woodward. Mrs. Deming was both the first and the last of the original settlers, and she died in March, 1818 at the age of 92. Solomon Deming died in 1815 at the age of 96.[8]

Pittsfield was officially incorporated in 1761. Royal Governor, Sir Francis Bernard named Pittsfield after British nobleman and politician William Pitt. By 1761 there were 200 residents and the plantation became the Township of Pittsfield.

By the end of the revolutionary war, Pittsfield had expanded to nearly 2,000 residents, including Colonel John Brown, who began accusing Benedict Arnold as a traitor in 1776, several years before Arnold defected to the British. Brown wrote in his winter 1776-77 handbill "Money is this man's God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country".[9]

While primarily an agricultural area, because of the many brooks that flowed into the Housatonic River, the landscape was dotted with mills that produced lumber, grist, paper and textiles. With the introduction of Merino sheep from Spain in 1807, the area became the center of woolen manufacturing in the United States, an industry that would dominate the community’s employment opportunities for almost a century.

The town was a bustling metropolis by the late 19th century. In 1891, the City of Pittsfield was incorporated, and William Stanley, Jr. who had recently relocated his Electric Manufacturing Company to Pittsfield from Great Barrington, produced the first electric transformer. Stanley’s enterprise was the forerunner of the internationally known corporate giant, General Electric (GE). Thanks to the success of GE, Pittsfield’s population in 1930 had grown to more than 50,000. While GE Advanced Materials (now owned by SABIC-Innovative Plastics, a subsidiary of the Riyadh-based Saudi Basic Industries Corporation) continues to be one of the City’s largest employers, a workforce that once topped 13,000 was reduced to less than 700 with the demise and/or relocation of the transformer and aerospace portions of the General Electric empire.

Currently General Dynamics occupies many of the old GE buildings and its workforce is expanding. Much of General Dynamics' local success is based on the awarding of government contracts relating to its advanced information systems.

1902 Presidential Incident

On September 3, 1902 at 10:15 AM, during a two-week tour through New England campaigning for Republican congressmen, the barouche transporting President Theodore Roosevelt from downtown Pittsfield to the Pittsfield Country Club (see historic photos above) collided head-on with a trolley. Roosevelt, Massachusetts Governor Winthrop Murray Crane, secretary to the president George Bruce Cortelyou, and bodyguard William Craig were thrown into the street. Craig was killed; he was the first Secret Service agent killed while on a presidential protection detail. Roosevelt, whose face and left shin were badly bruised, nearly came to blows with the trolley motorman, Euclid Madden. Madden was later charged with manslaughter, to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to six months in jail and a heavy fine.

Baseball in Pittsfield

In 2004, historian John Thorn discovered a reference to a 1791 by-law prohibiting anyone from playing "baseball" within 80 yards (73 m) of the new meeting house in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A reference librarian,AnnMarie Harris, found the actual by-law in the Berkshire Athenaeum library, and its age was verified by researchers at the

The so-called Broken Window By-Law is the earliest known reference to “baseball” in North America. A finding that baseball was invented in 1839 by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown provided the rationale for baseball centennial celebrations in 1939, including the opening of a National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in that city. Few historians ever believed it and even the Hall's vice president, Jeff Idelson, has stated that “Baseball wasn't really born anywhere.”[11]

In 1859, the first intercollegiate baseball game was played in Pittsfield. Amherst defeated Williams College 73-32.[12]

Professional baseball was played in Pittsfield's Wahconah Park from 1919 through 2003. Teams included the Pittsfield Electrics of the 1940s, the Pittsfield Red Sox from 1965-69 with such then A-league players and future major leaguers as George Scott, Carlton Fisk, and Reggie Smith, the Pittsfield Senators (later Rangers) of the 1970s, and the 1985-88 AA Pittsfield Cubs featuring future stars Mark Grace and Rafael Palmeiro.

From 1989 to 2001, the Pittsfield Mets and Pittsfield Astros (2001 only) represented the city in the New York - Penn League. The Astros have since moved to Troy, New York and are now known as the Tri-City ValleyCats.

In 2005, Wahconah Park became the home stadium of the Pittsfield Dukes, a summer collegiate baseball franchise of the New England Collegiate Baseball League owned by Dan Duquette, former Boston Red Sox general manager. The Dukes had played the 2004 season in Hinsdale, Massachusetts as the Berkshire Dukes. In 2009, the franchise changed its name to the Pittsfield American Defenders. The American Defenders name refers to both the United States Military and a line of baseball gloves produced by Nocona Athletic Goods Company. Duquette's ownership group also owns the American Defenders of New Hampshire, members of the independent Can-Am League.

Ulysses Frank Grant, born August 1, 1865 in Pittsfield, MA (died May 27, 1937), was an African American baseball player in the 19th century, who played in the International League and for various independent teams. Mark Belanger, eight-time Gold Glove winning shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles, Turk Wendell, relief pitcher for the New York Mets, and Tom Grieve, outfielder for the Texas Rangers were all from Pittsfield.

Pittsfield Mass, in 1945, and is buried in St. Joseph’s cemetery.

Geography and climate

Pittsfield is located at 42°27′N 73°15′W / 42.450°N 73.250°W / 42.450; -73.250 (42.4522, -73.2515).[13]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 42.3 square miles (110 km2), of which 40.7 square miles (105 km2) is land and 1.6 square miles (4.1 km2) (3.76%) is water. Pittsfield is bordered by Lanesborough to the north, Dalton to the east, Washington to the southeast, Lenox to the south, Richmond to the southwest, and Hancock to the west. Pittsfield is located 48 miles (77 km) northwest of Springfield and 135 miles (217 km) west of Boston.

Most of the population occupies roughly one-quarter of the city's land. Pittsfield lies at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Taconic Range to the west. Sections of the Housatonic Valley Wildlife Management Area also dot the banks of the river.

The western portion of the city contains

Pittsfield is located at the crossroads of U.S. Route 7 and U.S. Route 20 which join together in the city. Route 8 passes through the northeast corner of town, with a portion of it combined with Route 9, the central east-west road through the western part of the state, whose western terminus is in the city at Route 7. Route 41 also begins in the southwest corner of town, heading south from Route 20. The nearest interstate highway, Interstate 90 (the Massachusetts Turnpike) is located about 10 miles (16 km) south in Lee.

Long-distance ground transportation in Pittsfield is based at the Housatonic Railroad.

The FBO located at Pittsfield Municipal Airport offers access to the region via private and chartered aircraft ranging from single-engine piston to multi-engine jet. They also offer scenic rides and flight training. The nearest airport with national service is Albany International Airport.

Pittsfield's climate is continental. Winters are harsh, with an average annual snowfall of 73.7 inches (1,870 mm) and temperatures dipping to 0 °F (−18 °C) or colder 13 times per year. Summers, however, are typically warm and pleasant, with temperatures reaching the 90s (32 to 37 °C) just six times per annum. The record high and record low are 101 °F (38 °C) and −26 °F (−32 °C), recorded on July 23, 1926 and February 15, 1943, respectively. Over the course of a year, there are 140 days with measurable precipitation. September and October are the driest months, each with nine days of precipitation.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Average high °F (°C) 31
Average low °F (°C) 13
Record low °F (°C) −22
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.97
Snowfall inches (cm) 17.9
Avg. precipitation days 13 12 13 12 13 11 11 10 9 9 12 13 140
Source: Western Regional Climate Center[15]

The Housatonic River

Background and historical overview

A historically rural area,[16] the Housatonic River attracted increased industrialization in the late 19th century. William Stanley, Jr. founded the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company in 1890 at Pittsfield. The company manufactured small transformers, electrical motors and appliances. In 1903, GE acquired Stanley Electric, and subsequently operated three major manufacturing operations in Pittsfield: transformer, ordnance, and plastics.[17]

Environmental Issues

During the mid-20th century, the Housatonic River and its floodplain were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other hazardous substances released from the General Electric Company (GE) facility located in Pittsfield. The contaminated area, known as the General Electric/Housatonic River Site, includes the GE manufacturing facility; the Housatonic River, its riverbanks and floodplains from Pittsfield to Long Island Sound, and former river oxbows that have been filled; Allendale School; Silver Lake; and other areas contaminated as a result of GE’s operations in Pittsfield.[18]

Consent decree and cleanup

Starting in 1991, legal proceedings by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the General Electric/Housatonic River Site. Initial cleanup work began in 1996 when EPA issued a unilateral order to GE that required the removal of highly contaminated sediments and bank soils. EPA added the site to the Superfund list in September 1997.

The year 1999 was a milestone for Pittsfield, when negotiations between EPA, the state, General Electric and the City resulted in a settlement agreement – valued at over $250 million – to clean up Pittsfield and the Housatonic River. The settlement was memorialized in a Consent Decree that was entered in federal court the following year, making it a binding legal agreement.[19]

Groundwater and long-term monitoring

In the years since the settlement was reached, the EPA, state agencies, the City and GE accomplished one of the largest and most complex cleanups in the country. Clean up work on the first previously PCB-laden ½ mile of the Housatonic River, adjacent to the GE facility was completed in September 2002.[18] $90 million was spent cleaning up the 1½ Mile Reach between Lyman Street and Fred Garner Park, which was completed in June 2007. Biological and sediment samples showed reductions of approximately 99% of PCB concentrations compared to conditions before remediation.[18] GE removed contaminated soil and restored 27 residential properties abutting the river. To date, more than 115,000 cubic yards (88,000 m3) of PCB-contaminated sediment, bank, and floodplain soil have been removed from the river, and residential property.[20]


As of the census[21] of 2000, there were 45,793 people, 19,704 households, and 11,822 families residing in the city. Pittsfield is the largest city by population in Berkshire County, and ranks 27th out of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. The population density was 1,124.3 people per square mile (434.1/km²), making it the most densely populated community in county and 92nd overall in the Commonwealth. There were 21,366 housing units at an average density of 524.6 per square mile (202.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city in 2010 was 86.9% White, 4.99% African American, 0.14% Native American, 1.16% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.77% from other races, and 1.64% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.04% of the population. Major ancestry groups reported by Pittsfield residents include: Irish 20%, Italian 17%, French 11%, English 10%, German 8%, Polish 7%,Black/African American 5%, French Canadian 4%, Puerto Rican 3%, Scottish 2%, Dutch 2%, Scotch-Irish 1%, Russian 1%, Greek 1%, Ukrainian 1%, Lebanese 1%, Portuguese 1%, Asian Indian 1%, Swedish 1%.

There were 19,704 households out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.9% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.0% were non-families. 34.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.2% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 18.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 90.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,655, and the median income for a family was $46,228. Males had a median income of $35,538 versus $26,341 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,549. About 8.9% of families and 11.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.7% of those under age 18 and 7.1% of those age 65 or over.


Pittsfield employs the

On the state level, Pittsfield has two representatives to the Massachusetts House of Representatives: the Second Berkshire District, which serves portions of Berkshire County as well as portions of Hampshire County and Franklin County, represented by Paul Mark, and the Third Berkshire District, which covers most of the city proper and is represented by Tricia Farley-Bouvier. In the Massachusetts Senate, the city is represented by the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin district, which includes all of Berkshire County and western Hampshire and Franklin Counties and is represented by Benjamin Downing.[23] The city is patrolled by the Fourth (Cheshire) Station of Barracks "B" of the Massachusetts State Police.[24]

On the national level, Pittsfield is represented in the United States House of Representatives as part of Massachusetts's 1st congressional district, and has been represented by Richard Neal of Springfield, Massachusetts since 2013. Massachusetts is currently represented in the United States Senate by senior Senator Elizabeth Warren[D] and junior Senator Ed Markey[D].

Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of February 15, 2012[25]
Party Number of Voters Percentage
  Democratic 12,837 44.04%
  Republican 2,780 9.54%
  Unaffiliated 13,231 45.39%
  Minor Parties 299 1.03%
Total 29,147 100%


Pittsfield operates a public school system which currently has over 6,000 students. There are eight elementary schools (Allendale, Robert T. Capeless, Crosby, Egremont, Morningside, Silvio O. Conte, Stearns and Williams), two middle schools (Theodore Herberg and John T. Reid), and two high schools (Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School). The high schools both offer internal vocational programs. Students also come to the high schools from neighboring Richmond. There are two parochial schools (Saint Mark's for elementary and middle school students, and St. Joseph Central High School for high school students) and one private school, Miss Hall's School, as well as an alternative school.

Pittsfield is the home to the main campus of Berkshire Community College and Mildred Elley's Pittsfield campus. The nearest state colleges are Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and Westfield State University, and the nearest state university is the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The nearest private colleges are Williams College in Williamstown and Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington.

Points of interest


Pittsfield is the geographic and commercial hub of the Berkshires—a historic area that includes Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and author Edith Wharton's estate The Mount. Many buildings in Pittsfield are National Register of Historic Places listings in Berkshire County, Massachusetts.

Downtown Pittsfield is home to the gilded-age Colonial Theatre, the Berkshire Museum, the Beacon Cinema (multi-plex), the Barrington Stage Company, Berkshire Athenaeum, Wahconah Park and Hebert Arboretum. In recent years, the city has undergone a transformation with significant investment in the historic downtown, including a variety of new restaurants (French, Japanese, Sushi, Mexican, American, etc.), condominium and other residential developments and cultural attractions.

The Colonial Theatre, dating from 1903, was named by Hillary Clinton as a National Historic Treasure in 1998. The community invested more than $22 million to refurbish the 100-year old Colonial Theatre, one of the only theaters of its kind from the Vaudeville age and has been described as the "one of the finest acoustical theaters in the world."

Barrington Stage Company, the Tony Award-winning producer of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee invested millions into its newly renovated stage in downtown Pittsfield, along with the development of other stages within the downtown for smaller performances. Barrington Stage's renowned head of its Musical Theatre Lab, William Finn, told the Boston Globe that he is determined to make Pittsfield the "epicenter of the musical theater universe."

The Berkshire Museum, the oldest and most diverse museum in the Berkshires, recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that incorporated a state-of-the-art air control system that will allow it to attract world-class exhibits, which will make the institution an even greater draw.

Many of the Berkshires' oldest homes, dating to the mid-18th century, can be found in Pittsfield, as well as many historic neighborhoods dating from the late 19th century and early 20th century.[26]

Several small multi-generational farms can still be found in Pittsfield, though suburban sprawl and land development have recently claimed some of this land.

Additional Cultural Attractions:


Pittsfield has several country clubs, including the Pontoosuc Lake Country Club. Pittsfield is home to two lakes, Onota and Pontoosuc, both popular for swimming, boating, and fishing. The Berkshire Rowing and Sculling Society, is also located on Onota Lake.

Pittsfield is home to Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, 264 acres (107 ha) of woods, fields, and wetlands maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Bousquet Ski Area and Summer Resort entertains visitors and residents year-round with skiing, water slides, go-karts, and other fun activities.

Pittsfield State Forest, a 65-acre (260,000 m2) park provides residents and tourists with hiking and cross-country skiing trails, camping, picnic areas, and a swimming beach. The highest body of water in Massachusetts, Berry Pond, is located at the top of the Pittsfield State Forest.[14]

The Berkshire Bike Path Council is presently working with the City of Pittsfield and local residents to extend the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, a popular 10.8-mile (17.4 km) paved trail located just North of Pittsfield through Pittsfield to Great Barrington, south of Pittsfield and Lenox.



  • The Berkshire Eagle, the main daily newspaper for the Pittsfield area
  • The Pittsfield Gazette, a weekly newspaper devoted to local news, viewpoints, investigative journalism, and city politics
  • The Advocate, a weekly newspaper devoted to the Berkshires and nearby Bennington County
  • Hill Country Observer, a monthly newspaper covering an eight-county region of western Massachusetts, southern Vermont and eastern New York
  • Berkshire Record, a weekly newspaper
  • iBerkshires.com, an online newspaper


Pittsfield is located in the Albany television market and is the community of license for two stations in that market, My Network TV affiliate WNYA, and a low power TV station, W28DA, which rebroadcasts WNYT on channel 13 from a location on South Mountain in the city. Springfield stations also serve the market with three (WWLP-NBC, WSHM-LD-CBS, WGBY-PBS) on cable. WGGB has never been carried on the cable system in Pittsfield, but is viewable over the air in some sections. Also carried on cable, but not necessarily serving Pittsfield, is Boston's WCVB (ABC).

Cable television subscribers of Time Warner Cable (TWC) in the City of Pittsfield receive Public, educational, and government access (PEG) Channels, provided by Pittsfield Community Television (PCTV), on channels 16, 17 and 18:

Pittsfield Community Television is a not-for-profit, 501 (c)(3) organization and a member of the Alliance for Community Media. Programming on PCTV is available 24 hours per day, year-long, and is available online at www.pittsfieldtv.org.


Pittsfield is home to the following radio stations:

Signals from North Adams, Great Barrington, and Springfield, Massachusetts, as well as from Albany, New York also reach Pittsfield as well. In some areas signals from cities well outside of Pittsfield, like Boston and Hartford, Connecticut will be received, depending on the location.

One of Pittsfield's oldest radio stations, WBEC-FM 105.5, was sold and relocated to Mount Tom in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where it became a Springfield radio station (technically licensed to Easthampton). It relays Boston's WEEI. The move changed over two decades of programming on the Pittsfield dial which moved WBEC-FM as a Top 40 station on 105.5 down to 95.9, WUPE (as oldies) up to 100.1 in North Adams, replacing the Beautiful/EZ format on 100.1 known as WMNB.


Pittsfield is home to several businesses, including:

  • SABIC-Innovative Plastics (formerly known as General Electric (Plastics/Advanced Materials Division) and now a subsidiary of the Riyadh-based Saudi Basic Industries Corporation).
  • Chemex Corporation.
  • General Systems.
  • Blue-Q - A design and gift manufacturer owned by two Pittsfield natives.
  • Laurin Publishing, publisher of an international photonics-industry directory, as well as several related periodicals.
  • Thaddeus Clapp House, a historic bed and breakfast inn.
  • General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. (Pittsfield facility originally known as General Electric Ordinance.)
  • Interprint Incorporated - Located on the Pittsfield, Richmond line.
  • New England Acupuncture and Herb Clinic.
  • The Moscow Ballet, national touring dance company and producer of the Great Russian Nutcracker.
  • Berkshire Gas, provides natural gas services to more than 36,000 customers in western Massachusetts.
  • Pittsfield Generating Facility, natural gas fired generating station

Lenco Armored Vehicles (Home of the Lenco BEAR and Lenco BearCat, the number one selling armored SWAT truck in the world)

Notable people

Sister cities

Pittsfield has four sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:

Historic Photo Gallery

Many of the following scenes can still be seen today:

  • Public Domain Postcards


External links

  • Berkshire Historical Society
  • Pittsfield stakes its claim in baseball history, By Adam Gorlick, Associated Press, May 11, 2004, retrieved on 2009-10-16.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: GE/Housatonic River Site in New England
  • History of Pittsfield 1800-1876
  • Pittsfield History, Old Newspaper Articles, Genealogy