Sunday August 12, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The historic Thomas Colt House on Wendell Avenue has been purchased by a Pittsfield-raised New York City attorney who plans to establish an arts and cultural center there.

Lisa Whitney purchased the structure, built in 1866, for $225,000 from the Wally O. Fritz Nominee Trust, according to documents on file at the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds. The Fritz Nominee Trust includes downtown Pittsfield developer Beth Pearson, according to Whitney.

"I thought about buying it before she bought it," Whitney said. "But when it went back on the market I said this house is calling my name."

Pearson had purchased the 15-room Italinate-style villa from the Women’s Club of Pittsfield, which had owned the property for more than 70 years. The Women’s Club put the structure on the market two years ago because it could no longer afford the upkeep. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Trust decided to put the property back on the market because it was busy with other projects, according to Realtor Thaddeus "Tucker" Welch, of Tucker Welch Associates in Richmond, who brokered the sale to Whitney.

"The timing wasn’t right," Welch said. "They couldn’t fit it in."

Pearson did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Whitney said she is still formulating a business plan for the structure, which was built as a private residence in the mid-19th century by Thomas Colt, who co-owned Crane & Co.’s Government Mill.

"It would be nice to have singers, performances and art shows, things of that nature," Whitney said. "But we don’t want to do too much before we get everything approved."

The Colt House has been vacant for several years, and Whitney said she and a colleague have hired SK Design of Pittsfield to do a structural review.

"There’s a lot of work to do there, but not too much," Whitney said. "The Women’s Club didn’t improve it, but they kept it well."

Founded in 1890, the Women’s Club took possession of the Colt House in 1937 when retailer Simon England donated the building to the nonprofit organization in memory of his wife, Francis.

When the Women’s Club first put the Colt House on the market, president Belle O’Brien said the organization would like to remain in the building after it was sold. O’Brien is on vacation, and could not be reached for comment, but Whitney said she would be willing to speak with club representatives if they were interested in maintaining a presence there.

"I’d be very happy to be speak with them about that," she said. "It’s almost a salute to their heritage."

The Colt House was originally put on the market for $499,000, but the asking price quickly dropped to $399,900. The Fritz Nominee Trust purchased the structure for $250,000, according to Welch.

The total value of the parcel was assessed at $423,700 by the city of Pittsfield in fiscal 2011, but dropped to $239,180 in fiscal 2011. The decrease in value was due solely to a $139,780 decrease in the value of the house, according to city records.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com
(413) 496-6224
On Twitter: @tonydobrow