Houghton Mansion

Building History


The History of the Houghton Mansion
Paul W. Marino

Albert Charles Houghton, President of the Arnold Priont Works and first Mayor of the City of North Adams, built what is now the Masonic Temple in the 1890's, shortly after his term as Mayor Expired.  It was his third home in North Adams, and the most extravagant, reflecting his wealth and status in the community.  Built in the Neo-Classical Revival style, it has strong Greek features with many influences from diverse sources.  Its roof was of Spanish tile, and the Clapboards were thinner near the bottom to make the house appear taller then it actually was.  There was a formal garden in the rear, which was often used for parties to raise money for the North Adams Hospital.  The Houghtons moved in circa 1900, the family then consisting of Mr. Houghton, his wife Cordelia, and their youngest survinving daughter Mary, then 23 years old.  Another daughter, Cordelia died in infancy, while three others lived to grow up, marry, and produce children of their own.  In 1905, when Mr. Houghton was 61, his health began to fail.  At that point, Mary resolved that she would never wed, but devoted her life to taking care of her father.  A manic workaholic with a passion for business, Mr. Houghton did not in fact retire, but only cut back, dividing his time between the APW sales officer in New York City and North Adams, leaving the major decisions to his son-in-law, William Arthur Gallup.
     In the spring of 1914, the Houghtons invested in their first car, a seven passenger Pierce-Arrow touring car, and sent their long time chauffeur, John Widders, to learn to drive it.  On August 1st of the year, Mr. Houghton and Mary decided to go to Bennington, VT for a pleasure drive.  Mrs. Houghton chose to remain at home, and they were accompanied instead by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Hutton of New York.  Sybil Hutton was a childhood friend of Mary's and a daughter of the North Adams shoe manufacturer WG Cady.  With Widders at the wheel, the car left the Houghton mansion at 9:00am; at 9:30 it was in Pownal, VT heading up what is now Oak Hill Rd.  The road was under repair, and a team of horses was parked on the right hand side.  Widders went around them on the left, at about 12 mph.  On the left shoulder, the car tilted and went down a teep embankment, rolling over three times before coming to rest in an upright position in a farmer's field.  Everyone except Mary Houghton was thrown out of the car.  The men all escaped with minor injuries:  Cuts, scrapes, bruises, minor fractures.  Mrs. Hutton, on the other hand, was killed almostinstantly when the car rolled over her.  Mary Houghton was just as badly hurt and died of her injuries fave and a half hours later at the North Adams Hospital.  Expecting to survive, Mr. Houghton was taken home.  The investigator for the State of Vermont exonerated Widders of all wrongdoing, blaming the accident instead on the soft shoulder of the road.  But Widders still blamed himself and, at 4:00am on the morning of August 2nd, he shot himself in the head in the cellar of the Houghton Barn.  Mr. Houghton died on the 11th of the month.
     Following the tragedy, one the the surviving Houghton daughters, Florence, moved into the house with her husband, William Arthur Gallup, and made their home there, looking after Mrs. Houghton until her death in 1916.  They continued to reside in the house until Mr. Gallup retired in 1926, when they sold it to the Masons and moved to Boston to be nearer their son.  The Masons did away with the formal Garden and erected their lodge building in it's place.  In more recent years, for the sake of economy, the Spanish tile roof was removed and replaced with asphalt, and siding has been put on over the clapboards.  Otherwise, the house continues to look as it did when it was built.