After a catastrophic fire destroyed the original Arnold Print Works factory in 1872, Alfred C. Houghton-- an entrepreneur and investor transplanted from Vermont to North Adams in the mid-nineteenth century-- bought controlling interests in the plant and its five subsidiaries from its founders, the Arnold Brothers. He then commenced with the process of rebuilding the site into a formidable complex and reorganizing subsidiary plants in Williamstown, North Pownal, and Adams. (details on Houghton) Under his guidance, several buildings were completed in the inital phase of construction at the Marshall Street site around 1872.
Houghton's reorganization proved a major success, and the under his leadership the Print Works began one major expansion between 1881-82 and another around the turn of the century. In fact, most of the buildings in the complex now were constructed between 1872 and 1902. The Print Works lasted in North Adams through 1942, when war shortages forced the plant to close and liquidate its assets. However, the facility was not vacant for long, and soon after Sprague Electric moved in, adapting the Print Works buildings for the production of electronics components and adding a few buildings (mainly office space and garages) of their own.
Sprague shut down most of its operations within the City of North Adams in the mid-1980's, following several decades of tensions between labor and management, vigorous global competition in the electronics market, and several corporate buyouts. During this period, Sprague had moved its central base of management to the eastern end of the state and scaled down operations in North Adams. The complex was once again empty, until Thomas Krens (then director of the Williams College Museum of Art and now director of the Guggenheim Museum) and numerous colleagues came up with a plan to rehabilitate the facility as a modern art museum. Their plans for this brainchild, now known as the Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art, have been revised and challenged at various points during the last decade (for details, visit the MassMoCA web site). The museum, now scheduled to open this year, has a number of commercial tenants, a community computing center, and has put up some small exhibitions in already renovated space.
Site map used with permission from MassMoCA
These pages are written and maintained by Christia Mulvey.
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