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Pittsfield, MA

Preface: This post continues to get comments years after it was first published. I suspect it is perhaps too well indexed in Google for searches on Pittsfield. This was a personal reflection on a cold March day, and reflects how I was feeling that particular day about the city. I would note that I’ve lived in the Berkshires now for 24 years, and in Lanesboro, just north of Pittsfield, for 14 years. My goal in this post wasn’t to trash the town, but to reflect on some of the difficult realities facing Pittsfield. It wasn’t meant to be the last word on the subject, and I’m sorry my words have hurt people’s feelings.

Pittsfield is changing, and for the better. North Street is coming back to life, and the barrier between “the cultural Berkshires” and “the milltown Berkshires” is dropping. But I leave this post here, though it generates some angry comments, as the personal reflection on what I was thinking, feeling and photographing that cold winter day.

– Ethan Zuckerman, May 14, 2013

Coming home from college for vacations, I took a bus that ran from Williamstown, MA to New York City. The day college let out for the semester, the bus would be full of fellow students heading south. I sat with Dennis, a year ahead of me in school, a chainsmoking, fast-talking New Yorker. We passed through Pittsfield, MA, 20 miles south of the college and he said, “My nightmare is that I’ll end up in one of these little, godforsaken, end of the earth towns and get stuck here forever. Can you imagine?”


I could. I remember thinking that it wouldn’t be that bad. I grew up on a dirt road in a town without sidewalks. Any town where you could walk to the library seemed cosmopolitan in comparison. But it didn’t seem cool to disagree with him, so I smiled and nodded as we drove south.

Seventeen years later, I live just north of Pittsfield, just south of the town where we went to college. I’ve lived in this house for eight years, and I still don’t know Pittsfield well. I get my mail in Williamstown, drink my coffee there and know many of the people by face, if not by name. While I pass through Pittsfield every third day, I know only a few places: the hospital, North Street, the ballpark.


There are two kinds of towns in the Berkshires – mill towns and orchid towns. The orchid towns – Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington – are in the culture business, delivering picturesque food and lodging to tourists who come to see the theatre and hear the symphony. The mill towns, for the most part, are no longer in business.

In North Adams, the business was electronics – capacitors, built by Sprague Electric. In Pittsfield, it was transformers, then plastics, built by GE. At its peak, GE employed 13,000 people at the Pittsfield plant. By the time I moved to the area, it employed less than a thousand, and had left enough PCBs in the soil and nearby waterways to turn much of the city into a brownfield.


North Adams is transforming, slowly. The Sprague plant now hosts the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Decaying houses on River Street have been rebuilt into a high-end hotel. There are plans to redevelop Pittsfield, but no one’s holding their breath, especially for the area near the GE plant. The city is huge in comparison to North Adams, far too big for its current population. The bright spots of the city, the businesses we try to patronize – an African grocery store, a burrito shop, a pan-Mediterranian restaurant – are too far from one another to feel like there’s a neighborhood with the potential to transform.


I came into this part of Pittsfield again a few years ago by train. There’s a single train a day from Boston, and it was the logical way home at the end of a long trip. We arrived in late afternoon, passing through dense, green forests and the shadows of hills. Out of the green, we suddenly pulled past industrial parks, decaying warehouses, scrapped cars. For a moment, I thought, “Tough town. I wonder where we are?” And then I realized I was home.

Photos from March 24, 2007, taken near the GE Plastics Plant, Tyler Street, Pittsfield. Full set here.

54 thoughts on “Pittsfield, MA”

  1. I enjoyed this post. It kind of reminds me of home, a mill town that seemed to be on the verge of collapse when I was growing up there. The town’s doing better now (my parents say there’s a great sushi place now!), but I can’t really tell what people do there. It feels like it’s all service work and what’s left of the wood products industry. (The big local company, Roseburg Forest Products, is actually doing quite well now.)

    Growing up, I remember that my friends and I all wanted to escape. But now, I’m pretty glad I grew up in a town like that, and I kind of miss it.

  2. FYI – It is Tyler Street not road. My father owned a store on Tyler Street for over 40 years across the street from St. Mary’s Church in the heart of General Electric. Pittsfield was a great place to grow up. I no longer live there but always meet people who have such wonderful memories of the whole area. It is too bad that Pittsfield had to lose a lot when G.E. died. Unfortunately many people were so closed minded to new things that the money went north to Lanesboro – as in the Berkshire Mall. Pittsfield is beginning to come back slowly. I sure hope so. I graduated in 1971 from Pittsfield High School which is still standing.

  3. One more great Pittsfield business is the Ben & Jerry’s on the south side of town. When planning which route to take between Bennington and New Haven, a journey done about once a month for the better part of 20 years, one big consideration has always been, “the Shelburne Falls coffee shop, or the B&J’s?” Depending on time of day, amount of snow, and degree of hurry, the ice cream stop is often enough to tip the balance for the slightly longer trip through Pittsfield.

    They also used to have a great fish store that was the only place within 50 miles to get fresh seafood, but that’s changed as the grocery stores have gone upscale.

    And, the city remains a mecca for Melville scholars.

    But beyond that, you’re so right…

  4. It is a sad town, however there are many just like it. People who grew up and live in this town know it’s sad, and know why it’s sad, and try to do more. Pretend for a moment it wasn’t the town you grew up in, it was a place you went to help someone, would you say the same thing? Yes, GE has messed up alot now, but in it’s day, most people here had a great job there and retired with full benifits. Maybe it isn’t the town so much but the person who will mention a need for change, and just writes about it instead of doing. South county as a local will tell you is garbage. People from out of state buy up homes and complain about local people just trying to get by. The price of a home ran up, only to be occupied by a family twice a year. North county, just as sad. Williamstown only has the college to ride on, and Vermont folk to visit it. Not enough for me to be convinced this city of pittsfield is so bad, because a town is only as bad as the people in it.

  5. I was born in Pittsfield and lived on Silver Lake, overlooking the GE factory. It is a depressing place to live, not only because of the environment, but also because the area lacks role-models. I never saw anyone get successful in Pittsfield- they left and did well, or they came to Pittsfield full of ideas, dreams and cash, and tried to do something to help.

    That said, there are a few awesome things going on. World Street is an organisation that is modeled after SF’s 826 Valencia- and has been doing amazing work helping young authors refine their craft and get published.

    There is also one of the best BBQ joints in Massachusetts right off North street.

    Pittsfield needs a lot of love, role models, and hope.

    Sure, it looks depressing and abandoned, but to a lot of us, it is home. And we’re trying as hard as we can to make things better for all of us.

  6. Yup — I know that train. If you take it about an hour and a half north you get up here where instead of orchid towns and mill towns you have quarry towns and leaf peeper towns. I live in a former quarry town which now has a plastics factory and a sort of mini-home depot type place that employ a lot of people, but a lot of the rest of them travel a lot to work in the big cities like Rutland and Lebanon and Montpelier and Barre. This town is about the same size as the town I grew up in in Massachusetts. That town is now a commuter suburb and has a lot of those big houses on small lots. I think I like it here because it reminds me of what my town would have been like if it had been trapped in time for a few decades until I could grow up. And yes, I can walk to the library.

  7. I’m reading Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls” at the moment, about life in a fictional former mill town in Maine that reminds me a lot of Pittsfield and North Adams. The post-industrial depression and bitterness that several of your commenters have noted really permeates the book. If you haven’t read it, you’d probably enjoy it.

  8. I enjoyed reading this. We live in southeastern Mass. It is soooooo expensive in this part of the state. We feel we will never get a house. We were contemplating moving to Pittsfield because the homes are ALOT cheaper. My friend at work lived her whole life in Pittsfield and said it is a nice place to raise a family. Is it really a nice place to raise a family?

  9. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Re-reading the piece, I realize that I’m not clear enough about one basic fact: I love the Berkshires, I love the mill towns and I love Pittsfield, though I find it harder to love some days than others. I’ve lived here – in Williamstown, New Ashford and Lanesboro – for 16 of the past 18 years (and one of those years was just over the border in Petersburg, NY). I helped run businesses in Williamstown and founded a nonprofit in North Adams precisely because I’d like to see this country live, thrive and survive.

    All that said, I find it hard to imagine Pittsfield turning around even to the extent that North Adams has turned around. The city is so big that it would require a massive influx of new jobs, new residents and new opportunities – it’s hard to imagine what sort of project would scale to fit Pittsfield in the way that MassMoCA has transformed North Adams.

    I do think the Berkshires are a great place to live and for the commenter who’s looking at house prices in Pittsfield, I’d suggest that there are a lot of communities here – Pittsfield, Dalton, Lanesboro, Cheshire, Adams and North Adams – where it’s very much worth looking at property. But it’s very much worth understanding that Pittsfield isn’t Northhampton, and it’s not likely to transform into the next Northhampton any time soon…

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  12. This reminds me of Dar Williams’ song “Southern California Wants to Be Western New York,” with its imagined theme partk “designed to make you laugh and say ‘I bet this crumbling milltown was a booming milltown in its day.'” Here in Southern California I feel nostalgia for places like Pittsfield, but mostly because there’s something mysterious about them that allows us to imagine. I think you have a great situation: living close to Pittsfield, but not in it. And I love your thoughts about the Berkshires, for which I have such warm feelings.

  13. Thanks for a great post that really captures my feelings about the area. I moved to North Adams almost seven years ago, in large part to participate in the grand experiment in revitalization that got it’s kick-start with Mass MoCA.

    Let me say right at the start that I love this area and North Adams. So many of the people here are warm, kind-hearted and open…the opposite of the distant, disapproving “you can’t get there from hee-ah” New Englander stereotype. The Berkshires are a beautiful place: Harsh and relentless in winter, stunning in spring and summer. It’s like living through an endless Gaian ritual of ablution and feasting.

    But the towns here have big, big problems, starting with a general sense of resignation and defeat that permeates every layer of life, like a mold or an infection. Everything is impacted: Economic development, education, the environment, culture and the community.

    We have to figure out how to get this area off life support. There are people and groups that are starting to make an impact, but the obstacles they face…

    I want to be part of the solution, though I sometimes find myself giving in to the malaise–it’s so much easier.

    Posts like yours remind me that there are other people around here that want to help make things better. And that’s the first step. Thanks again.

  14. My wife is from Pittsfield and we were married there in the late 80s. While dating in the early to mid 80s, just as GE began to vacate in a meterial way, I use to love visiting this charming town and her family and close friends some of whom still live there. My father-in-law owned a shoe shine shop off of North Street. My heart aches to see where it is today mostly because I know the type of people, real – high quality – people, who it produced. I hope it does come back. We don’t visit too much today primarily because I would like to keep fresh the town I fell in love with.

  15. I grew up in Pittsfiled. My family has been there for a long tim. Though I left for college many years ago and redside with my family in bucolic northern Vermont, I still miss home, google Pittsfield for tid- bits on old friends, old neighborhoods and memories.
    We travle ‘home” often to visit and I am always on the look out for familiar faces, buildings and settings. A meal at the Highland, a ball game at Demming park of maybe a chat with coach Belanger passing by. Pittsfield has had it’s knocks but it really is a city with a heart.

  16. Well written, poignant, and true to the feeling here in Pittsfield. HOWever…

    I do feel Pittsfield is doing much, much better than it has. When I came here in 1985 I looked at the place and said, “Why would anyone come to Pittsfield to visit?” (other than the fact that it’s in the Berkshires)

    Well, there was the museum and the antheneum. And Berkshire Community College. Thanks to the Millers of Miller’s Art Supply there is now the Colonial Theatre, restored and producing plays. Downtown is finally coming back, more than it has since I’ve been here. There’s a new movie theater going downtown. They’ve stopped ‘renovating’ old buildings to look new ala the 60’s redevelopment that took out the beautiful train station.

    In part and more than before, people here are realizing that they are responsible for their own successes now. They can’t just line up for a paycheck from the local factory.

    There’s still more to do. With a transformation this big, there always will be. From industrial base to technological and arts/performance based is a big step. And we need to take care of our scenic areas, too. The Housatonic river clean up, the lakes, the trails.

    When I moved here in 1985 someone asked me why I moved up. “Oh from Maryland? Did you come up to work for GE?”, they asked me. “Uh, no. Should I?”

    That seemed to be THE reason to move here. Now Pittsfield is well on its way to being a destination of its own.

    Thanks for your piece.

  17. It’s sad to read some of the comments. I grew up in Pittsfield (graduated in 1977) and have so many fond memories of this town. I probably would have lived my whole life here, if it wasn’t for the economy. I remember parades, the fireman’s muster, “the dome”, Friday night dances at the boys club, mountains, rivers, nature at it’s best, nothing compares to fall in the berkshires, good blue collar people who worked hard and loved their families. Lenox just 7 miles away is where I met my husband and moved to Texas where we’ve been longer than we were there. But Pittsfield will “always” be home. I never appreciated the beauty of Pittsfield until I left. My child grew up in air conditioning, cause it’s too hot, never knew what it was like to play in the snow, or feel the first crisp day of fall. We played outside all the time, in local parks (they use to have at least 24 of them) or just in our neighborhood. Times do change, but I wouldn’t have changed growing up there for anything else in the world. Thanks for taking me back!

  18. While Pittsfield still holds its reputation of being a dead city from a few years back it has changed dramatically. I graduated in 1983 from PHS while Pittsfield was dying from the vibrant economy it had for many years. I remember that, even before it started to wither, I wanted to leave Pittsfield and never return. When I turned 18 I did move, starting with one town over, Lenox, (of Tanglewood, Edith Wharton’s The Mount, etc. fame to tourists and locals and Joe’s Bar fame to just the locals), Northampton, Cape Cod, California as well as other places. I seemed to always return to The Berkshires though, yet only Pittsfield once for economic reasons at the time. Well, make that two times. The first time the revitalization program for Pittsfield basically just consisted of bumper stickers and billboards saying “Pittsfield! It’s Home.” It was still a palce seemingly named for being “the pits” rather than William Pitt. I moved back here for the second time about one year ago because I followed the news of the Renaissance and it seemed believable this time. And I’m glad that I did. Pittsfield now has the Colonial Theater (not just plays as posted earlier) where I saw Arlo Gutherie the other night. The Colonial hosts many famous national and international acts. North Street, while not flourishing as it was in the eighties, is certainly alive again. The Tony Award winning Barrington Stage Company relocated to Pittsfield last year. I am certainly happy with my move back. If you have to move to or visit a Superfund city, this one ain’t bad (Well, I did have to mention one of Pittsfield’s warts too).

  19. I grew up in Pittsfield, mass but live in Phoenix az now. I do miss it sometimes. May be a small town but everyone seems friendlier there.

  20. I feel like Pittsfield is like the Earth. It is green with some roads but not a superhighway going through it. Polluted but not completly. Pretty until you stare. Given a chance it would have new life and meaning if only the proper care and attention was adheared to.

    I love Pittsfield cause the people from Lenox drive through it to go to Williamstown and don’t stop.

  21. I at age 22 have lived in Pittsfield all my life and have always said that i want to move away because there is nothing to do here But i know that if i do move away I will always want to come back here.In the summer you have the ball park where Baseball was discovered. In the fall you have the beautifull scenery of the mountains and all the wonderful colors of the trees. In the winter you have Bascay and Jimmney Peak ski resorts and in the spring you have the beautiful flowers. Being here in Pittsfield you do not have to worry about bad weather because you are surrounded by the mountains. Downtown Pittsfield is not like it used to be as so i am told but it it starting to come back with the Coloniel Theatre and the Barrington Stage Company along with many restaurants and the few shops on art.I live right off Elm Street where there you never have to leave. You can go to the doctor, go shopping and get your hair cut all while you wait for your prescription at the pharmacy.On thew West side of town you have the college were i go to school for Hospitality. There may be run down buildings from GE or not to much industry happening but with all the arts that the mayor has been bringing to Pittsfield, the town is starting to look up. I don’t think that this town has ever been bad. I look at this town as home. The place were I grew up going to the arena skating rink on Friday nights and going to school dances at the Girls club. If you go cultvill you will no longer see the run down Bradless building you will see Dicks Sporting goods, Panera Bread and Papa Ginos a.ong with variouse other restaurants and if you go onto Hubbard Ave you will see Berkshire Crossings with even more shops and restaurants.So with not much to do you here you will never get bored by spending a lazy sunday afternoon looking in shops or going to the mall just up the street in the next town. Ok maybe once this towen was run down and ran shackled but for me i see the beauty and the grace that everyone around here is contributing to make Pittsfield MA, a great place to live. I will always call this home.

  22. I was sad to read this post, especially about GE ruining the local environment with PCB’s. Was there any restitution to the town for that?

    I lived in Pittsfield on Kellog Street, when I was very little, around 1962-’64. I have very fond memories and my family still keeps up with our next-door neighbors from that time. I remember there was a GE building right across the house from our duplex. I know the duplexes we lived in are long gone. My dad was actually stationed there with the Navy, for some reason.

  23. Good post. I might be reading this a little late compared to when it was first written but it’s still pertinent. Being born and raised here in Pittsfield I know first hand the sad truth of this post. I might only be 22, but my eyes are open to the dispiriting sights and actualities of the city, and area for that matter (except for a few, pretty much anywhere but Pittsfield or North Adams). The author made some good points about GE devastating this city after they left, leaving us with polluted waters and soil throughout most the city. It is true the city flourished under GE. It was in the former USSR’s top ten cities to bomb because of the defense systems that GE used to create and test (SONAR for submarines was first tested here in Silver Lake). But the author missed some of the biggest problems facing this city. It’s not the fact that the only jobs are in the service industry (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We have one of the highest (if not the highest) teen-pregnancy rates in the state (which maybe indirectly related to a high incest level, not that we’re sister f*cking hicks as some tend to believe, but drug addicted/psychologically challenged fathers molesting their daughters). As a result, the high school drop-out rate is rising continuously, the people aren’t getting a good education and resort to the same vices their parents did. I can’t even count with my fingers AND toes the amount of kids I grew up with who have a child, let alone the ones who have more than one. Most of all the biggest problem with my city (and most cities) is drugs. This may be the underlying cause for the decline of the city. Real drugs: heroin, coke, crack, oc, meth, etc. Since we are equidistant to Boston and NYC, big time dealers send lower level runners here to sell their product for higher prices than they would get in those areas. Though it isn’t reported they fight over turf issues. Also, the hospital has a detox program that people are sent to from all over the state. When that program fails those people, or when they complete and relapse, they know from the other patients in the program that it is too easy to score whatever it is they need. The city built a bigger jail but are wasting most of the space with mandatory sentenced (2 years and a day) school-zone cases of possessing/dealing marijuana. In some cases, though it can’t be proved, the police waited and purposely pulled over suspected offenders in a school-zone (1000 ft within a daycare, school, or church, which is almost anywhere in the city) in order to get the school-zone charge. I’m not going to turn this in to a legalization argument but it is a problem that needs to be resolved. I’m not a politician so i don’t know how these problems can resolved but they need to be addressed. I’m not as pessimistic as it might sound from reading this response, but these are the tragic inevitablities of my city. There are signs of growth with the Housatonic River clean up, the Colonial Theater, Barrington Stage Company, a cineplex coming to North St, the discovery that Pittsfield is the self-proclaimed “Craddle of Baseball” with the earliest known documentation of the game (and the site of the first ever inter-collegiate baseball game), and the possibility of a few sci-tech companies moving to the city. All being said, I love this city, and like most kids growing up here have said “I hate this place, and I can’t wait to get out of here!” Being a little older and a bit more mature/wiser I realize this is a beautiful city and a great place to raise children, if done properly.

  24. I’m a 22 year old recent college grad looking to move to Pittsfield later this summer to begin a year long Americorps position in community revitalization. The dialogue here has been very helpful as I make my decision, and I thank the author and the accompanying posters for their thoughtful words. Without stepping foot in Pittsfield, it is evident that the city has some deep scars that progress has been slow to heal. At the same time, however, there certainly have been positive developments and will undoubtedly be more in the future. My personal concern, as yet another young, energetic and idealistic person seeking to change the community for the better, is that the community isn’t actively supporting the efforts being made by city to revitalize the area. Part of my job, of course, would be to change this culture. But I was hopeful that I could work in a community that was as interested in improving their living environment as I am. It is sometimes difficult for an outsider to enter a community and attempt to spur change when that community simply views you as an outsider. After that diatribe, I suppose my question is: is the community at-large supportive of the efforts being made to improve the area? Will this job a lonely one, or will I find a community actively involved in making Pittsfield a better place

  25. Mainer, thanks for your post. This post has provoked a lot of discussion. I’m sorry in retrospect that the post is/was so dark – in my defense, late March is probably the darkest part of the year in terms of the mood of folks living in Western MA.

    Pittsfield is changing, and changing for the better. There’s a lot to be excited about. I’m especially excited about the influence of Brazilian and Colombian immigrants who’ve done a great job of creating new businesses and institutions in the town. Pittsfield is a very different place from the rest of the Berkshires… and that’s a very good thing. I think you’ll find some traction here, and I hope you’ll come and find me as well. (I’m in the phone book.)

  26. Thanks for the posting. I’d like to know more about the closing, how it was done and when. Are there magazine articles or books that describe what people did, the effect on the town, etc. I’d like to read them.

  27. Well, I think it is time a non-Pittsfield native makes a comment here. My first comment to a lot of you has to be: You are kidding, right?

    We moved to Pittsfield from central Michigan twelve years ago -intentionally. We have no plans to ever leave, even after we retire. It all came about after a vacation we took to Massachusetts. We toured Boston and then drove up through Pittsfield and the surrounding area on our way to Niagra Falls. The area struck me as one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse places I have ever seen and experienced. The beauty though, is not Pittsfield as an individual town. It is how Pittsfield and all the surrounding towns fit together to make the total experience of living in this area exciting and memorable. Pittsfield and each neighboring town in the Berkshires has something unique and historical to offer. There have been many great families and people that have called this area “home” over the years and most have left something remarkable behind for future generations. This generation should do the same. For people not familiar with the area, I can best describe it as living on Walton’s Mountain WITH all the cultural, historical and outdoor recreation experiences imaginable.
    I would also like to suggest that there are plenty of jobs here. If you can’t find an existing job that suits you, make one for yourself. This community is definitely not lacking in opportunity. I see one around every corner.

  28. I grew up in Pittsfield and would not change that for the world. It was a great place to spend your childhood. We had quiet neighbors to the right (a cemetary) and lady who had a road side farm stand. Fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long. I have moved to the other end of the state (yes people of Boston, the state does not end at Springfield)and have always said, the people in Western Ma are nicer. As I get older, I find myself thinking about the old town. I have been back a few times, my father’s funeral, meeting a friend who came home for a visit and recently for the Memorial Day tradition of placing flowers on the graves of loved ones and I have to say, the town is starting to look better. Each time I go back, it looks to have a little more sparkle. I have great hope for this city. Thanks for taking me back.

  29. I grew up in Dalton, which is the next town to the east of Pittsfield. My wife grew up in the southeast section of Pittsfield. We were married in 1970 and lived in Lenox (6 miles south of Pittsfield) for 3 years before moving to California in late 1973. That’s when the big recession and oil crisis hit, and we ended up moving back home in 1974 and settled back in Pittsfield, and have lived here ever since. We really love it here, and agree with some of the previous posters that it is a very exciting place to live. The scenic beauty is awesome and the cultural venues are diverse and numerous. It is a fact that GE leaving put a big hurt, economically, on the city, and much of the area, but its bouncing back. Its a beautiful place to live and we don’t expect to be leaving again any time soon.

  30. first of all, i enjoyed reading the article. Reading through most of the replies, I noticed that the picture painted starts bleak and gradually as the year passes on since the article, the posts become more and more optimistic. and that does please me no end, as myself and my family shall be moving to Pittsfield next week. From Istanbul, so we hope we can add a little Turkish colour. My wife is the Turk, I’m British and its for her work we are coming. I recently spent a week there and was quite impressed. I was particularly excited by seeing live music on the street across from the Museum and was told its a Third Thursday concert. We are skiers, so the area was naturally an attraction. I do hope that the people prove to be as laid back and friendly as my first impressions gathered. Our main concern, coming from such a huge cosmopolitan city, is that clicky aloofness so often apparent in small towns. so anyone help in making our stay a good one, will be appreciated.

  31. :) I live in Pittsfield, I have my whole life. Sometimes, I hate it and feel like it’s boring and kindof dead. Kindof scummy. But that’s only some parts. Other times I do love it. It is home and that’s all i can say. You always miss where you grow up. I say I can’t wait and want to move away when i get older and do something important in my life, move somewhere “better”, I know i most likely will. But i know i will end up missing it here even though i say i dislike it so much. it’s an ok place.

    I liked reading all your perspectives, thanks :]

    I really liked this one, #24: very true.

    Scott Says:
    December 27th, 2007 at 8:45 pm
    I feel like Pittsfield is like the Earth. It is green with some roads but not a superhighway going through it. Polluted but not completly. Pretty until you stare. Given a chance it would have new life and meaning if only the proper care and attention was adheared to.

    I love Pittsfield cause the people from Lenox drive through it to go to Williamstown and don’t stop.

  32. As a native Pittsfielder, some of these posts make me want to scream — people like you, Ethan, drive through Pittsfield, see about 1/20 of the city, and write it off as another burned out mill town. Pittsfield has absolutely seen some tough times, and will see more, but it is a beautiful, complex, and yes, tough city. It is distinctive, sad, joyous, and the only place I would ever want to live. Take some time and get to know the city. Go to the East Side Cafe for pizza on a Friday night; go for a long walk at Canoe Meadows or the state forest; walk the old streets off East Street near the athenaeum, or have a meal at Reba’s on Tyler Street (if you can get a table); talk to the people with art studio space on North Street or to the old timers who worked at GE; to the new people putting down roots here or the natives coming home. But don’t assume what you please based on your fleeting drive-by impressions. You’re an educated person. You can do better by a place that many people love dearly, and know a lot better than you do. Get out of your damn car and go for a walk.

  33. Ann, sorry you are so troubled by my impressions in this post. I’ve lived in Berkshire County since 1989 and in Lanesboro since 1998. I know Pittsfield pretty well, both on foot and by car. Yes, this was a very one-sided view of the city. It was my set of impressions based on a particular cold, dark day in town. It’s not all I think about the town – it’s one set of impressions.

  34. I live in Pittsfield and have been here my whole life and believe its up to us (the new generation) to pick up the pieces that were shattered by ignorant people who relied to heavily on a large company! To make the change you will have to have the creative eye to see that something so hideous to someone else almost a waste could be the jewel in our lives! We must preserve this town and not just for our memories but to share with the next generation!!

  35. I stumbled upon these posts and articles and now feel I need to add my 2 cents..I left the Pittsfield area 11 years ago or should I say escaped .I grew up in Lanesboro ,spent 25 more years in Lenox and Pittsfield was always the hub of business and entertainment for us locals.. GE messed it up and the city allowed it and the people resisted any change or any other company to set up a new tent ..I remember many years ago the talk of vw coming in and somehow GE and the city blocked it..I really dont know if there is any truth to it…but its a ghost town now by comparison.. then the sinking ship out in coltsville..how fitting was that.I remember Pittsfield being refered to as the city in the country ,,then refered to as the drug capital of the northeast wow what a slippery slope the berkshires have.. Like I said I escaped many years ago and when I do visit family that is still there ,I get chills that runs up my spine..what an armpit Pittsfield has turned in to..drugs ,crime,unemployment,taxes,bad weather,empty buildings,a enviromental disaster area wow and I just scratched the surface,,Im so glad I left .. the world has so much more to offer than Pittsfield Massachusetts

  36. I have lived in Pittsfield all my life (42 years) and seen it go from great to a dump. The main reason Pittsfiel is the way it is, no jobs;crime on the rise..ect is because of two things: People don’t want change, crooked politicians. Pittsfield hasn’t seen a good mayor since Ann W. Every mayor since including the one we have now is useless! Our present mayor promises the world and hasn’t done anything but raise our taxes every year he has been in office.

  37. robert Olsen, Ph.D Economics

    I grew up in Pittsfield and left in 1966. From experience I realize the wonderfull place it was to grow up. Good schools, good services and plenty of community spirit. When G.E. pulled out the City lost its economic engine. However, it still is a beautiful natural location that will come back in time. Meanwhile all who read this should be aware that the American Corporation is the perfect sociopath with no concern for humanity or culture. G.E. has well proven this with regard to Pittsfield. Workers and citizens invest human capital in a firm just as much as stockholders invest financial capital.They are the unrecorded assets that allow the firm to prosper.G.E. merely transferred wealth from the City to its stockholders.

  38. I love Pittsfield. I grew up in CT, traveled the world in the USAF (lived in MS, TX, Germany), lived in eastern MA, VT, Maine and other places but consider Pittsfield the place where I feel at home and had so many peak experiences. I moved there in 1985 worked at GE until i got laid off in 89 and regretted moving. Everytime I visit I get a warm feeling of all the special feelings from the place.
    I would stop at the causeway at Onota lake to fish with the sun low in the sky.
    I used to take walks in all parts of the city, and there is nothing like seeing the streets just walking around. It has the added benefit of the mall and shopping that wasn’t there in the late 80’s. Every part of the city has something to offer… walk around the park at Lake Pontusic or Onota beach.. hang out at the pier on the lakes. Walk around Williams street area admiring the amazing victorian homes.
    Yes, drugs have moved into the city since then, but so has it in every other city in the country.
    Pittsfield is surrouned on all sides by mountains, how beautiful. Like someone said, no major highway running thru it… it’s off the beaten path.. keeps it quieter than most cities. It’s only a 15 min drive to the new walking paths at cheshire lake… 15 min to tanglewood, 15 min to the Peru wilderness mountains, the highest point in MA is nearby.
    People used to paying for parking everywhere they go will find you can go to the lakes and just park and fish, swim, or just walk around!
    Baseball, ice skating on the lawn downtown in the winter… small town atmosphere with bigger city stores. The mall in Lanesborro allows walking around in the dead of winter… (try that in the middle of VT, even though I love VT)
    I moved out during the recession of 1990, lived in Sheffield MA in 98-2001 but it wasn’t the same, I was always driving up to pittsfield. I work mostly from home so don’t need local work so I may just move back this time.. I miss it very much

  39. I met my wife over the Internet in 2000 and moved in with my wife in Pittsfield in 2001. We lived together there from 2001 then moved to my home state of Kentucky in 2004. We separated last year and now she lives in Pittsfield again (I live in Chicopee an hour away). Chicopee does have the benefit, IMO, of being part of “western Massachusetts”, but it’s not quite the same as Pittsfield. I will probably move back to Pittsfield to be closer to my 3 1/2 year old son, but I really don’t mind Chicopee, either. But, folks, Pittsfield…..if you’ve never been there….is something special!

  40. I grew up in Pittsfield too. Left 40 years ago but have been back frequently to visit family and friends. It’s not the same place I grew up in, not by any stretch of the imagination. Pittsfield is a good metaphor now for what much of the U.S. is becoming economically.

  41. I love going home!!! My wife and I visited Pittsfield this past fall. On a Saturday morning we parked in front of Berkshire County Savings Bank and walked Norht Street to St Joe and back on the other side of the street to the car. It was great. We had coffee, something to eat, bought some books and I talked the entire time aobut every memory, every building, everyone. Can’t wait to visit again this spring.

    One more thought. When our children were growing up they spent a month every summer with my mom and dad in Pittsfield. They are now 20 and 23 in NYC and London and still look forward to a week in Pittsfield every year.
    They ,like my wife and me, feel at home, comfortable and welcomed in my home town.

  42. I came from Pittsfield. Left during school years with family. I returned to visit relatives. Pittsfield never out of my heart. Visited the Tyler theater when the shows changed which was 3 times a week. Was a student at St. Joseph’s and, earlier, Crane school. My memories of North St. are of a busy busy place….both sides of the street just bustling with people and activity. Loved Newberry’s & Grant’s dime stores. The popcorn stand at Park Square…..I could go on and on……hurray for Pittsfield!

  43. I have really enjoyed reading these posts. I have been coming to Pittsfield for 2 to 3 weeks every summer with my job since 2007 and have seen so many changes just in that time. Last year when I pulled into town in July, 2010, there was a big sign that read “Your Tarp Money at Work”) and sure enough, this year sidewalks are either repaired or being repaired, new glassfronts for store and awnings–Barrington Stage keeps getting better–There is definitely a transformation going on. Having grown up in an itty bitty town in Virginia near Williamsburg with no mountains or pretty lakes, I envy all the posts from those of you who had the privilege to grow up here. Yes, there is a definite feel of past struggles, but a beautiful area and folks are really friendly and warm.

  44. actually now pittsfield is slowly becoming better… north street has more life and the buildings left behind from GE are slowly coming down. there is hope for pittsfield. just give it time.

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