Monday, July 22, 2019

Berkshire Journal: Pittsfield

Agricultural National Bank in Pittsfield (photo: F. Levy)
North Street is the central drag in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. It’s a long line of fading two story red brick factory buildings, surrounded in the distance by abandoned factories, which are the legacy that companies like GE left when they moved from the area. It exudes a particular kind of New England decrepitude memorializing the industrial life that flourished at the end of the l9th century (though some gracious examples of early twentieth century architecture like the Agricultural National Bank from 1908 with its Palladium columns grace the landscape). Pittsfield is still a depressed area and vagrants and victims of the Northeast’s opioid epidemic can be seen wandering on side streets as the traveler makes their way to an early evening showing of The Pieces I Am, the Timothy Greenfield-Sanders movie about Toni Morrison playing at the Berkshire Museum. Moviegoers may later repair to  District Kitchen and Bar or Hotel on North two of the more toney examples of the kind of gentrification which characterizes an area with proximity to cultural attractions like Tanglewood, Mass MOCA and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. On a summer evening Pittsfield is an odd confection with its itinerant tourists and homeless population all mingling in the twilight. North is more like an avenue than a street since it’s unusually wide and exudes a kind of emptiness that’s waiting to be filled. It’s more like a marching ground than a thoroughfare and as you make your way down past the pizzerias and deserted store fronts which have yet to be tapped for renovation, you almost feel like a marching bad should arrive to fill the void.

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