HINSDALE — Once more in its 154 years, the 35-room Shady Villa on Main Street will get a new lease on life.

This week a new owner, Dr. John J. Stritch, with the help of a three-man crew, began the seemingly insurmountable task of bringing the ancient structure back to life.

The brick and wood building has been a private home, inn, restaurant and apartment house and, for the past decade, has been considered by some a "haunted house."

All windows are broken, the floor boards are warped, the ceilings defy gravity, the roof leaks and the once attractive red barn behind it is a pile of rotten lumber.

Dr. Stritch, well known metal sculptor, and his wife purchased the venerable building and the surrounding two acres of land at a tax auction last month for $8,300. The property adjoins the Stritch home.

With visions of restoring a long-forgotten pond to the rear of the structure, gutting and rebuilding most of the interior, "and maybe even building a sun deck and garden on the roof," Dr. Stritch sees the old landmark as a definite challenge to tackle.

Vandalism has taken its toll on the building. Dr. Stritch deplored the fact that not one window remains unbroken. Fixtures have been ripped off the walls, wiring and plumbing have been stolen. One lovely handmade corner cabinet which had remained in the house over the years was ripped from its spot and stolen. Thieves had trouble getting a bath tub out, however. It was found stuck on the stairway, Dr. Stritch said.

The three story former inn is one of the oldest landmarks in town. Built in 1819, it once was situated in the center of the village.

It remains on its original foundation, but the center of town moved a mile west when the Boston & Albany Railroad laid its tracks and began running trains through the community in 1842.

For example, the First Congregational Church, built 20 years before Shady Villa, was moved down steep Maple Street to its present location. Church members moved the big building in 1857.

Its heyday as a summer resort came under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Bardin. From 1901 until the early 1930s, Shady Villa attracted hundreds of tourists each season, most of whom arrived in the Berkshires by train.

At that time, the Maple Street hostelry was one of the few summer inns in Western Massachusetts to boast its own, private swimming area. 

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.