Five-year-old Nora Laney cuts the ribbon on the new agriculture program on the historic Arrowhead property.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State and local officials helped kick off Arrowhead's season Thursday and celebrate its recent renovations.
In the last year, the Berkshire Historical Society, which oversees the former home of Herman Melville, has rebuilt the porch, renovated the barn and begun an agriculture program.
The home where Melville wrote whale-tale "Moby-Dick" attracts more than 4,000 visitors annually.
"This property reflects a lot of Berkshire County history," said Betsy Sherman, director of the Berkshire Historical Society. "In refurbishing this house, it is important that we protect it and use it."
In a series of three ribbon cuttings, the organization celebrated the two renovations and the new farming program. First up, Mayor Daniel Bianchi cut the ribbon on the renovated porch.
There was no porch when Melville lived there in the 1850s; his brother built it in 1870 and it was one of the most ornamental in the area. When the historical society took over the building, the porch was gone and the society restored the entrances to the 1850s version.
"It didn't really fit the building because the rest of the house evolved," said curator Will Garrison about the 1850s entrance.
And the old style didn't protect the doorway very well. The sills had rotted out and shingles from the roof were damaged. In the last year, the porch was rebuilt to the 1870s era.
Bianchi said he remembered work was done on the house when he was treasurer of the Berkshire Historical Society but not as extensive as this renovation.
"We did some work but it never looked as good as this," Bianchi said. "We are so happy to see it vibrant and to see programing stepped up."
The second ribbon cutting launched the community agricultural program on the property. Kristin Laney is heading a program to raise chickens and grow herbs and vegetables on the property. When Melville lived there, they lived off the crops they grew so the program adds to the historical accuracy.
City Council President Melissa Mazzeo cuts the ribbon on the renovated barn.
"We're very thrilled to be here," Laney said.
Laney's 5-year-old daughter Nora Laney did the honors of cutting the ribbon.
In the final ribbon cutting, City Council President Melissa Mazzeo christened the reconstruction of the inside of the red barn. The restoration included installing new floors, updating the kitchen and storage areas, and new bathrooms with handicapped accessibility.
The renovations aren't done. According to Garrison, the organization has bids out to rebuild pathways around the property. Later more drainage and a new boiler will be installed.
The society took over the property in 1975 and turned it into a museum dedicated to Melville. It has been planning the renovations for the last five years. The organization set aside funds for renovation projects and received matches from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Mass Development and the Golub Foundation (the corporation that owns the Price Chopper chain).
Thursday's opening kicks off another season featuring an array of programs, from music to joining the city's arts and industry celebration to readings and concerts.
Also in attendance at the ribbon cuttings were state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and William "Smitty" Pignatelli, and Dan Johnson, representing U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.