Lost America: Peace Party House, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Houses and buildings in America–including those gone forever, like the subjects of this blog series–can become historically noteworthy for any number of reasons, but this is the first one I’ve seen that became famous for a party that happened there. Although owned by the illustrious New England families of Easton and Williams at different times, the “Peace Party House” seems to be the only name by which history remembers this structure, which was originally built at 76 East Street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Today the site on which it stood is directly across from the Berkshire Superior Courthouse.

The house was constructed originally in 1773 for James Easton, a Revolutionary War hero who was involved in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775. Unfortunately Easton ran out of money before the construction was complete and he was forced to sell the half-completed house. The building had a gambrel roof, also known as a Dutch roof, popular in the late 18th century. In 1782 the house came into the possession of John Chandler Williams and his family. In the fall of 1783 they threw the grand party that gave the house its name, to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War. The party was evidently a rager the likes of which had never been seen in Pittsfield, including roast ox, geese and turkey among the eatables and lots of wine and other booze. It must have been a pretty impressive party, if it gave a name to the entire house. Evidently the house was moved to a new site, 1 Wendell Avenue (not far away), in 1869 where it remained a famous local landmark well into the next century.

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In her 1971 book series Lost America–the inspiration for this series of articles–Constance Greiff dates the demise of the Peace Party House to 1957, when it was demolished to make room for Pittsfield’s new City Hall, which she says was never actually built. Another source I found states that the house came under the ownership of the city of Pittsfield shortly before its destruction. As with so many Lost America sites, neither the will nor the money materialized to save it despite its beautiful lines and historic heritage.

That’s a shame, because the house was quite beautiful, as you can see from the header image, which was taken sometime in the 1930s. You will also notice to the left of the first-story window on the corner there’s a historical plaque. Unfortunately I can’t read what it says, except that the title does read “Peace Party House.” There was obviously some appreciation of this place in Pittsfield’s history at one time. Sadly now, it’s gone.

I wonder what happened during that party so many years ago, and what it was like to be in the rooms where it took place. Photos like this make it seem easy to slip back in time.

The photo of the Peace Party House in the public domain. The cover of Lost America is copyright (C) 1971 by The Pyne Press; I believe my inclusion of it here constitutes fair use.
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