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Legacy of Houghton, North Adams' First Mayor, Commemorated

By Jack Guerino
iBerkshires Staff
08:15AM / Sunday, August 03, 2014
Updated 02:15PM
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The  Masons of the  Lafayette  Greylock  Lodge remembered the legacy  of Mayor Albert C. Hougton on Saturday.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The legacy and live of Albert Charles Houghton, the first mayor of North Adams, was marked on Saturday afternoon, nearly a century after his death.

The service was held in the Houghton Mansion, now the Lafayette Greylock Masonic Temple, and sponsored by the Masons.

Residents came to reflect on the life and achievements of Houghton and the tragic car accident that claimed the lives of his daughter, Mary, and her childhood friend in early August 1914. Houghton died 10 days later on Aug. 11, 1914.

Mayor Richard Alcombright spoke after the service and explained that Houghton is the archetype of Northern Berkshires residents.

"Would he ever come to realize that his grip and his persistence, despite horrific personal loss, would become the standard that exemplifies the toughness and the resilience of those of us who live in the Northern Berkshires," Alcombright said.

The mayor also inquired about what Houghton would think of North Adams now.

“Would Mayor Houghton have ever thought that his factory … would become the home of Mass MoCA, one of the largest museums of contemporary art?" Alcombright said. "Would Mayor Houghton think that much of the property he developed would still be standing today?"

Alcombright said he wondered what kinds of things as a mayor kept Houghton up at night. He said although today’s world is much different and North Adams faces different problems than it did in Houghton’s time, Houghton’s legacy is still relevant today.

"I have come to realize that like many people famous or not, rich or poor, influential or quiet in the back, we all leave a legacy and that legacy is really a timeline of our lives," he said. "Albert C. Houghton left quite the legacy … and he left an indelible mark on this city and on this region."

Houghton was born on a farm in Stamford, Vt., in 1844. He served only one year as mayor, and before that was a selectman, but his civic activities left an indelible mark on the city, such as his gift of the Blackinton Mansion to the city as a library to memorialize his brother.

Local historian Paul M. Marino said Houghton established many of the mills in the  area, including Arnold Print Works, which became the largest printing and dying operation in the world, as well as developing the neighborhood of Houghtonville.

He added that Houghton helped build roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the city.

"What Mr. Houghton wanted was to do big things, and it is fair to say he was a dreamer," Marino said. "He began a campaign of massive upgrading to North Adams; it wasn’t enough for North Adams to be a city. It had to look like a city, and it had to provide the features of a city."

Marino said Houghton drafted the first model charter of North Adams.

"I don't think any other city started with a better charter than he wrote," he said.

David Raby who wrote a book about the family’s history dedicated a garden on the mansion grounds to Mary Houghton, Houghton's daughter. He also spoke after the ceremony about Houghton’s humble beginnings as a farmer in Stamford to his later years as an entrepreneur and politician.

"He thought there were two ways to change this world for the better; one was through education … and the second was wealth," Raby said. "So at a very young age Albert knew he had to amass a fortune so he could do that."


Tags: historical figure,   history,   local history,   

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