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'We need a new home': North Adams Museum of History and Science's search for long-term location starts again

Men in a crane lift take down the sign of the former Holiday Inn

Justin Fruchterman and Willie Dolle of Graphic Impact Signs remove, in pieces, the sign from the former Holiday Inn on Main Street in North Adams on Monday as it is rebranded into Hotel Downstreet. Rhode Island-based Peregrine Group and Stockbridge-based Main Street Hospitality Group finalized their purchase of the hotel last week. 

NORTH ADAMS — Displays about the Hoosac Tunnel and artifacts from the city’s industrial days moved from the Western Gateway Heritage State Park to a space at the Holiday Inn in several years ago when the North Adams Museum of History and Science moved locations.

Members of the North Adams Historical Society, the group that operates the museum, envisioned being in the space long term. But two years after opening in the space, the hotel has changed hands and the museum is now looking for a new location for the spring.

“We need a new home,” North Adams Historical Society member Nancy Canales said while sitting in the museum on a recent afternoon.

“We’ve lost our home and we need a new one,” Chuck Cahoon, the organization’s president, agreed.

The Holiday Inn will soon be rebranded into Hotel Downstreet. Rhode Island-based Peregrine Group and Stockbridge-based Main Street Hospitality Group finalized their purchase of the hotel Thursday, according to Colin Kane, principal of Peregrine Group. The new owners plan to renovate the building with the intention of keeping it “value based.”

After renovations are complete, the museum could occupy a smaller space, Kane said. “They’re terrific,” he said. “It’s a nice little museum.” But Cahoon said the museum needs to continue in a large space and members are now on the hunt for a new home. The history on display in the museum is important, Cahoon said. “This is where we came from.”

Currently, the museum has about 5,000 square feet of space in the hotel. Society members have done some outreach on possible new spaces, but “they have not panned out,” members Jim Bechtel said. “We don’t have a lot of time.”

“The crux of the problem is we’re a not-for-profit museum,” member Jeffrey Kemp said. “We’re on a limited budget.”

At the Holiday Inn, the museum did not have to pay rent to use the space and was responsible for its utilities, according to Cahoon. The museum is currently free, but that could change, Cahoon said.

School groups would come into the museum for tours before the pandemic, and often, people interested in local history come to do research there, members said. One room has maps on the wall and a collection of city directories — books listing who lived at addresses through the city — which have helped people doing genealogical research, Cahoon said.

It was the desire to research that led Bechtel to the museum. He lives in the Eclipse Mill and was poking around the basement one day and got interested in the building’s history, like wondering how the Eclipse Mill got its name. “It quickly led me to here,” he said.

North Adams Museum of History and Science has new home (copy)

Charles Cahoon, president of the North Adams Historical Society, stands in 2019 in front of a model of the North Adams Railroads Yard from the early 1900s, one of the exhibits at the North Adams Museum of History and Science.

The board planned to stay in the hotel location long term and used funds to tailor displays to the space — some of which will be lost, Bechtel said. “We didn’t plan for this,” he said.

Since moving into the space, the museum has grown. Residents regularly walk in with items from their attics and storage, Bechtel said.

“Every week I’m amazed by the items people here want on display.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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