Bernard A. Drew: Chimney Mirror House and its notable owners

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> If houses could speak, they'd have lots of stories to tell. The Chimney Mirror House on Route 2 east of Williamstown's village center, for example, was built in about 1765 by Samuel Kellogg (1753-1788), who feared Indian attack and sometimes spent the night at the nearby Fort Massachusetts. His first child, a son of the same name, was born here in 1766 and succeeded to ownership of the dwelling and hill farm. This information comes from Arthur L. Perry's "Origins in Williamstown."

Perry said Samuel Kellogg the elder "is believed by his descendants to be in the direct line of Joseph Kellogg, one of the original settlers in old Hadley in 1660, a Puritanic family, and, as first exemplified in Williamstown, intelligent and enterprising and prosperous and patriotic."

Kellogg was a Crown justice of the peace. And conversely he was on the Williamstown Committee of Safety, sent to Boston on April 25, 1776, with the instruction (in a document held at the American Archives, Northern Illinois University): "as far as our circumstances will allow, to join in the common cause of American liberty, and to assist with our lives and fortunes, as occasion may require, to maintain our rights and liberties against all the hostile attempts to deprive us of our rights and liberties, made by the cruel and oppressive Acts of the British Parliament ."

Kellogg bore arms at the Battle of Bennington, where his wife Chloe's father, Daniel Bacon, was killed.

Kellogg the younger (1766-1829) was captain of the local militia company, selectman and legislator in Boston. A successful farmer, he took home the Berkshire Agricultural Society's silver beaker in 1826.

Thus the house had good parentage. Years passed. Frank and Marcella C. Ikeler of Rochester, N.Y., purchased the house from James Fleming in May 1947, "converting it from a two-family dwelling to a tourist home, and decided to restore it as much as possible to its colonial lines," the North Adams Transcript said April 1, 1949. "The result is that one can stand in the low-ceilinged living room with its wide floor boards and quaint fireplace and almost expect to hear Indian warwhoops echoing from the nearby hills."

The fireplace had an interesting feature. "The famous 'chimney mirror' installed in later years by the Smedley family," the Transcript said, "still is a striking feature of the living room. This mirror, about three inches high and running the length of the fireplace, is at eye-level height from the floor when one is sitting before the hearth in a low chair. The Ikelers were at a loss to explain its purpose, though they assumed it was merely ornamental."

It would have been such a nice story if the mirror had been installed in the chimney so Samuel Kellogg could see if a marauder was sneaking up behind him. But we can't make up history.

Reputed to be the first two-story dwelling built in Williamstown, it had 18 rooms and six fireplaces. The Ikelers said they had taken in 1,400 guests in their first year of running Chimney Mirror Guest House.

The Ikelers in 1948 purchased two adjacent plots of land from James and Mary Fleming in order to put up eight tourist cabins. "The cabins have been designed to harmonize with the main house," the Transcript said June 16, 1948. "Each will be heated and will have shower baths and toilet facilities and will be furnished in Colonial maple."

In 1955 the Ikelers petitioned the Williamstown selectmen for a water line extension so they could put up a modern motel.

Frank Ikeler died in 1956 while on vacation in Cuernevaca, Mexico. Later that year, Marcella Ikeler put up a double cabin on the property. Marcella Ikeler sold the property to Russell and Lina Lanoue of North Adams in 1952.

There was a chimney fire in the mirror chimney in December 1965 but members of Gale Hose Company quickly extinguished it. Little need. The old building was about to be razed.

The Lanoues built a motel in 1966. Reported the Transcript March 12, 1966: "They have torn down the old house to make room for Williamstown's newest tourist facility. The new eight-unit motel also includes living quarters for the owners and a large paneled office and lounge for both the family and motel guests. There is a large fireplace in which wood fires burn daily and the only timber saved from the 1760 house is a large plank that has been rough hewn for the fireplace mantel."

So the chimney mirror was gone by the time Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and local policos "went to the Chimney Mirror Motel in Williamstown for a social gathering which lasted past midnight," as the Transcript said Feb. 7, 1969. The next morning, Kennedy joined others for breakfast across the street at the Howard Johnson's.

That's the story of Chimney Mirror Motel, still in business on Route 2.

Bernard A. Drew is a regular Eagle contributor.


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