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John Philpott, left, and Tom Unsworth discuss the historic town photographs at the Lee Library.
Tuesday February 19, 2013

LEE -- The historic Morgan House Restaurant & Inn has evolved aesthetically over the decades. The 160-year-old mainstay of Main Street once had an open wrap-around porch with hitching posts for horses out front. Parking for "horseless carriages" -- AKA automobiles -- has replaced the posts, and now the front section of the porch is enclosed for additional dining.

Longtime Lee resident Sandy Hayes was unaware of the building’s original look until she saw a photo of its early years.

"I had never seen the side porch before," said Hayes, referring to part of the building that had long since been removed.

The Morgan House photo is one of 64 on display at the Lee Library’s new exhibit, "Places in Lee." The photos from the Civil War era to the 1970s depict current and former homes and businesses of downtown Lee and its outskirts.

The exhibit includes some pencil drawings of landmarks.

This evening, local historian Caroline Young will speak to the early evolution of Lee’s Main Street through its buildings. The talk is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the library’s J. Peter Scolforo Gallery, which hosts the photo exhibit that runs through March 15 during regular library hours.

Young said several fires during the early 1900s reshaped the look of Main Street, destroying structures that were replaced by the ones standing today. For example, Lee Memorial Town Hall, a tribute to the town’s Civil War casualties, was erected where the Housatonic House hotel burned to the ground in January 1857.

"Up until the late 19th century, heating and cooking were done with an open flame, so fires started easily," she said.

The exhibit also includes photos of paper mills, one-room schoolhouses and famous residences no longer in existence. Other pictures show former uses for present-day commercial buildings, such as the space that houses the Meow & Growl pet supply store at the corner of Main and Consolati Way. The storefront was once the town’s post office, followed by a hardware store and more recently, Lee Power Equipment.

"Places in Lee" is the Lee Library Association’s third annual exhibit to showcase part of its 1,000-photo collection of people, places and things that have shaped the town’s past and present. Chairwoman Mary Philpott hopes the exhibit will jog townspeople’s memories of days gone by.

"The biggest problem is there aren’t many dates with these pictures," Philpott said. "We hope people can contribute that information after seeing them."

Library Director Dan Paquette said the exhibit harkens back to his native South Hadley.

"We had similar type buildings, but every town had its own charm," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.