Herman Melville's homestead getting new Victorian-style porch, other improvements


PITTSFIELD -- Arrowhead, author Herman Melville's historic Pittsfield home and where he wrote "Moby-Dick," is getting a period makeover.

Workers from Historic Preservation Associates in Wales are building a Victorian-style porch in the front of the Holmes Road homestead, now a Melville museum and home to Berkshire Historical Society.

Though the house at Arrowhead was built in 1780, Arrowhead Executive Director Betsy Sherman said the original front porch was put on the building in 1870, likely by Melville's brother, Allan. The building has undergone multiple renovations over the centuries. Originally constructed in the Georgian style, later owners added Federal-style architectural details to the exterior. Other modernizations were made subsequently.

"From Melville's time, we only have one woodcut that shows what the house looked like," Sherman said.

The porch project is part of a series of upgrades that will happen at Arrowhead this year.

The projects are being funded in part by grants that curator Will Garrison applied for and earned from the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Cultural Facilities Fund.

Last year, a repainting project began on the north and east sides of the building. Now the rest of the site is in the process of being painted. Period storm windows also will be installed this year.

Arrowhead also is working with landscape architect Tom Elmore to work on the site's landscape plan.

"We're attempting to make it more [handicapped] accessible and still maintain a rustic look," Sherman said.

This fall, handicapped-accessible bathrooms will be installed in the barn, where the museum's gift shop is located. Alternatives to the gravel pathways are being explored to give people universal access.

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