Table of Contents
Architects: Built by Samuel Boltwood for his family.
Design and construction
Stockbridge House is a traditional colonial structure, characterized by symmetry of plan, twelve over twelve fenestration, and a steeply pitched roof with a long saltbox slope on the west side. Typical of its time and location, the building has a central door leading into a stair vestibule, a central chimney, and a hewn and pegged hardwood frame sheathed in clapboard.
The history of the building begins with Samuel Boltwood, Jr., who built the house for his family on 111 acres that he purchased after the Deerfield Massacre of 1704. It was the first house built in the the town of Amherst and was subsequently used as a blacksmith shop, a tavern, and a farmhouse by Amherst families with familiar names such as Cowls, Hastings, and Strong.
In 1864, Stockbridge House was bought buy the trustees as part of the first purchase of land for Massachusetts Agricultural College. The house was subsequently occupied by college presidents Henry Flagg French, Levi Stockbridge, and ultimately, Sumner Dickinson, who lived there until 1914. It was then badly neglected until 1934, when President Hugh Baker had it restored. Together with the 1735 “Homestead,” which was moved to the site from North Pleasant Street, the house has served as the Faculty (now University) Club since 1973.
Stockbridge House is a 2½-story 18th century side gable wood frame structure. The house is five bays wide and two bays deep, with a shed roof addition on its west side that gives the building a saltbox configuration. Stockbridge House has a rear ell, a brick central chimney, a fieldstone foundation, an asphalt shingle roof and clapboard siding. The house is thought to have been built in 1728. In addition to the rear ell, the house has an extensive 1½-story addition on its southwest side, which is known as Shade Trees Laboratory (Building #90, built in 1959). Part of the Shade Trees Laboratory structure appears to have been converted from what was once Stockbridge House’s carriage shed and stable wing.
Stockbridge House’s main entry is centered in its east elevation. The entrance contains a six-panel single door with strap hinges. Two evenly spaced 12/12 windows are located at either side of the door. The second story has five 12/2 windows.
The building’s north elevation has three 12/12 windows in its first story. The windows in the shed roof section and the rear ell are set lower than the window that is closest to the front wall of the house, at the east end of the north elevation.
The north elevation’s second story has a 12/12 window at its east end and a smaller 3/4 fixed window under the shed roof at its west end. The north elevation’s west end is connected to a one-story clapboard structure known as Stockbridge House Addition (Building #509, built in 1973) that links Stockbridge House to Building #61 Homestead House on its north. The linked buildings serve as the University Club and the area between the buildings is a landscaped courtyard with brick paving.
Although the Stockbridge House Addition is not very old, this structure’s design and materials have some consistency with the two 18th century houses that the Addition links. The Stockbridge House Addition is five bays wide, with a slightly projecting central nine-panel door and a 6/1 transom that are framed by fluted pilasters and a pediment. Two 12/12 windows are located to either side of the door. The roof is hidden behind the parapet wall.
Undated historic photographs on file at Special Collections and Archives, W.E.B Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst show that the 1½-story end gable carriage shed and stable wing on the south side of Stockbridge House once contained a wide covered passageway in the center of its east elevation; with a shed roof covered doorway on the north side of the passageway, adjoining the main house; and carriage doorway with a 4/5 window above it, at the south side of the covered passageway, where the land slopes away from the house. The converted carriage shed and stable wing’s east elevation was obscured by trees in September 2008, but the altered outlines of the passageway and carriage doorway were still visible. The passageway and carriage door have been blocked with clapboards.
Landscape – Visual/Design Assessment
Stockbridge House is located along the west side of Stockbridge Road to the south of Homestead House. At the west side of the site, the ground slopes gently to the west to a bituminous concrete parking lot to the west of the house. Access to the house is provided by a bituminous concrete pedestrian walk from Stockbridge Street. A bituminous concrete parking lot is located to the south of the building, but is obscured from view by planting. Vegetation on the site consists of deciduous and evergreen trees over lawn, high evergreen shrubs (Rhododendrons) along the foundation of the building, and groundcover. The site also features a stone wall.
Stockbridge House, also historically known as Boltwood House, was built by Samuel and Hannah Boltwood in 1728 and is considered the oldest house in Amherst. Samuel Boltwood was the son of a sergeant of the garrison at Hadley and an early settler of the forests of the New Swamp, which was later named Amherst.
Stockbridge House and its farm descended to the Boltwood’s daughter Abigail and her husband John Field, who had become the largest property owner in Amherst at the time of its incorporation in 1759 and was elected an Amherst selectman four times before the Revolutionary War. In addition to farming, his business interests included running an inn and selling liquor. Although imprisoned as a Tory on his own farm in 1777, Field retained his property after the conclusion of the war and he was again elected selectman.
Despite his economic success in the pre-war years, and despite his political adroitness as a Tory who regained political office in the new Republic, Field never recovered from the financial difficulties of the Revolutionary War period. He had been compelled to mortgage half of the Stockbridge House and its farm during the crisis of the 1770s and was a participant in Shays Rebellion of 1786-87, an insurrection against the state by farmers and small property owners initiated, in part, by their desire to stop foreclosures and seizures of properties by debt holders. By 1794, after mortgaging the other half of his farm, Field lost his property, which was taken from him and sold to Elijah Hastings.
In 1805, Hastings’s widow Rebeckah married Levi Cowles, who ultimately purchased Stockbridge House and its farm from the children of Elijah and Rebeckah Hastings. Although Levi Cowles married again after Rebeckah’s death, he had no children and ownership of Stockbridge House farm ultimately went to other members of the Cowles family.
At the same time that Chester Cowles sold the Homestead property to the Massachusetts Agricultural College for $6,710 in 1864, another member of the family, L.D. Cowles, sold Stockbridge House and approximately 114 acres of land to MAC for $14,950. Over all, the original purchase of land for the establishment of MAC included part or all of six farms and parcels totaling 310.55 acres.
Following the acquisition of Stockbridge House by MAC, notable inhabitants have included Henry F. French, first president of the college and his son Daniel Chester French, who became a sculptor best known for creating the figure of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.; and Levi Stockbridge, the first farm superintendant and instructor of agriculture for MAC, who later became the fifth president of the college.
Stockbridge House was restored by MAC president Hugh Potter in 1934 to serve as the Faculty Club, a function it still provides, under the name of the University Club. In 1948 the Shade Tree Laboratory was established in the southwestern section of the building, where the carriage shed and stable wing was located. In 1972, Homestead House was removed from its original location where Lederle Graduate Research Tower now stands and the building was relocated just to the north of Stockbridge House. Stockbridge House and Homestead House are now attached by a 1-story link building, the 1973 Stockbridge House Addition, and together these structures contain the facilities of the University Club.
Stockbridge House was documented for the Historic American Buildings Survey in 1959 by photographer Cervin Robinson and architect Harley J. McKee. A copy of the 1959 HABS report is included in this Form B.
More detail on the owners and residents of Stockbridge House is provided in the Faculty Club University of Massachusetts at Amherst article that is on file at the Massachusetts Historical Commission, where it is attached to the Form B that was completed in 1988 for Stockbridge House. For a more comprehensive narrative of the historic development of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Massachusetts State College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, please see the context narrative in the report University of Massachusetts, Amherst–Historic Buildings Survey.
Construction along Stockbridge Road began with Homestead House and Stockbridge House in 1867. Early historic images of Homestead House show the building set in open lawn with scattered deciduous and evergreen trees. A barn (no longer extant) was located nearby, and an arching unpaved access drive and residential-scale pedestrian circulation routes provided access to the house. Early images of Stockbridge House show the building set close to the road with lawn leading to the sidewalk and street, a specimen deciduous tree in the front yard, and a cluster of evergreen trees at the southern end of the building. Initially, the building’s foundation was bordered by lawn, but later historic photographs show a mixed foundation planting of evergreen and deciduous shrubs. New construction to connect and expand the buildings has changed the character of the site, resulting in reduced site associated with both of the buildings. New planting to screen a new bituminous concrete parking lot to the south of Stockbridge House has resulted in a dense landscape surrounding the buildings in contrast to the historic appearance of the buildings. New buildings construction, including all phases of the Morrill Science Center to the west, has changed the landscape context of the buildings.
Naming of the building
Stockbridge House is named in honor of Levi Stockbridge, its one time resident and former President of Massachusetts Agricultural College.
- From Three Architectural Tours: Selected Buildings on the Campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, 2000)
- Massachusetts Historical Commission, UMass Amherst Building Survey reports (2009).
- For additional information, consult the University Archives (RG 36/101).
- See also the Papers of Hugh P. Baker, Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst (RG 3/1 B35)