Mr. and Mrs. James J. Gaffey, who used to run the Swap Shop on Eagle Street, have swapped an old barn and adjoining small store for a newer-model antiques shop. They did it by a face-lifting.

The Swap Shop, which ran for 10 years on Eagle Street, was torn down — lock, stock and upstairs family apartment — to make way for the new public parking lot at Eagle and Pearl Streets. So the Gaffeys, wise in the antiques business, bought a century-old setup with frontages at 86 Tyler St. and 37 Burbank St.

Acquired from Mr. and Mrs. J. Golan Root, the property had a small barn and small vacant store on Tyler and a 10-room house facing Burbank. The Gaffeys spent considerable sums renovating their house and fixed up the new shop with a combination of old stairs, new overhead-type doors and picture windows — plus lots of paint.

The little old store, vacant seven years, once had housed a shoe-repair business and then radio repairing. The barn had housed carriages and horses for the family of Burdick A. Stewart, grandfather of Mrs. Root.

Still on the property is an antique offered cheap to anyone who’ll take it away — a Victorian pergola which was a feature of the Stewart garden. The garden has become a black topped parking area for 15 cars. Also gone are two elms which were in the way.

Remodeling operations included making a substantial display area by linking the old store and barn together, putting used flooring in the loft of the barn to make a second-floor display room, and installing mahogany stairs that came out of an old house razed on New West Street to make way for a now-building supermarket.

A native of North Adams, Mr. Gaffey had a varied career before getting into antiques. He started work in the mills of North Adams when he was about 14, then had a fling as trolley motorman on the Flatbush Avenue line in Brooklyn, N.Y., eventually to return to the Berkshires and take a job as weaver at Strong, Hewat & Co., in Clarksburg.

In 1928, Mr. Gaffey came to Pittsfield to work for the old Berkshire Furniture Co. He left that firm in 1943 for a wartime assembly job at General Electric, and in January, 1946, opened his Swap Shop at Eagle and Pearl Streets.

Mr. and Mrs. Gaffey — she is the former Viola Austin of Pittsfield — have two children, Marcia Ann, 17, and James A. Gaffey, 12.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989. She can be reached at