​SPRINGSIDE PARK HISTORY

 Springside Park History


The name “Springside” for this geographic area dates back to at least the mid 19th
century, and refers to the small hillside natural springs which feed its waterways.
Abraham Burbank built Elmhurst (now known as Springside House) originally as a
private residence, sometime between 1856 and 1860. Designed primarily in the
Italianate style, the Springside House, which was unusually complex in form and
massing, sits on the hill above what today is known as North Street in Pittsfield.
Originally fertile farmland, the site of present day Springside Park has long been
considered an area of great natural beauty. The “Springside Hotel” formerly located
near the corner of North & Abbott St was a popular tourist destination, and another
was proposed near the site of Springside pond in the 1890s.


In 1910, Kelton B. Miller, a former Pittsfield mayor and the editor of the Berkshire
Evening Eagle, and his wife Eva, donated 10 acres of land in the vicinity of Elmhurst
for use as a public park, which then became Abbott Park. By 1919, with the
donation of additional land and the sale of some existing lots, the park had increased
in size to 15.5 acres and by then was called Springside Park.


Early descriptions and images of Springside Park depict a small but thriving open
space popular for picnics, ice skating on the pond, and a small playground. Later the
first of two petting zoos would be established, and was ultimately closed in the late
1930s for lack of funds.


In 1939, an additional 74 acres making up the former Stevens estate including the
Elmhurst manor, was purchased and donated by Donald and Lawrence Miller. As a
condition of the donation, the city acquired the abutting 36 acre Pierce property.
Subsequently, the Park Commission authorized caretaker Harry J. Watson to
renovate what was now known as Springside House for use by clubs and community
organizations and in 1941 it was opened for public use. Four of the first floor rooms
were renovated for meetings, parties and other adult activities on a seasonal basis.
In 1945, a small observatory was established on the hill to the east of the Springside
House, equipped with professional quality telescopes on a seasonal basis.
Between 1941 and 1955 gifts and purchases of additional acreage added to the size of
the Park.


In 1954 the city bought 38 acres from Hillcrest Hospital at the price of $16,000, in
replacement for thirty park acres taken out for construction of North (Reid) Junior
High. In 1954, Springside House was remodeled and became the office and
headquarters of the Pittsfield Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

 

In 1955 the park further enlarged with the purchase of a 58-acre tract at the price of
$6,500. In that same year D.B. Miller also gave a 5-acre lot to the City of Pittsfield.
In 1964 the City of Pittsfield added a 30-acre tract on Benedict Road.

 

Following the completion of an updated Master Plan in 1965 several new
developments of the land occurred over the course of the late 1960s.

 

A new petting zoo opened in the summer of 1967. Recurring incidents of vandalism
over the following 16 years, combined with budgetary shortages, lead to the zoo's
closure in the Spring of 1984.

 

The current North Little League facilities were constructed along with a new
basketball court on Springside Avenue, as was the North Playground adjacent to the
former zoo. This period also saw the first planning and planting for an arboretum at
Springside, and a boom for the early Greenhouse organization.

 

By the beginning of the 1970s the approximately 240 acre Springside was the largest
park in the city and the center of operations for Pittsfield's still growing system of
city parks.

 

Two decades of rising misuse and receding budgets took a toll on maintaining the
large heavily forested property, and the city arrived at a crossroads of decision on
whether to maintain the majority of Springside Park in its natural state, or entertain
an alternate proposal to convert a majority of the property into a commercial golf
course. 

 

In response to the golf course proposal, petitions, letters and widespread organizing
took place in favor of preserving and restoring the park in its natural state. A
number of park neighbors established the Friends of Springside Park, and over the
Spring and Summer of 1990, four major clean up days were held removing an
estimated ten tons of accumulated trash and dumping.


Also in the 1990s, efforts renewed to cultivate an arboretum within the park, first in
cooperation with Pittsfield Beautiful and then under the auspices of its own
nonprofit organization, the Vincent J. Hebert Arboretum. Since that time the
arboretum has planted a range of specimen trees, several landscaped gardens, a
Daffodil Hill and Lilac Walk in the area surrounding the Springside House.


In 2007, the Department of Community Services/Parks and Recreation was officially
removed from the city code. In July of that year James McGrath, the Director of
Community Services, was relocated to City Hall and given his current title of Park,
Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager. Park maintenance
administration, now Buildings and Grounds Maintenance, was moved to the
Building Maintenance Department. Park recreation was moved to the Community
Development Department, leaving the Springside House vacant except for VistaCorp
volunteers which occupied the rear apartment until 2012.

 

In recent years, the park has seen an increase in utilization, and is heavily
frequented for children's play, hiking, dog walking, sports, environmental education
activities, mountain biking, picnics, yoga classes, concerts and much more.


Today, Springside Park, is the city's largest park and a number one recreational
attraction for the populous Morningside neighborhood. The entire property came
to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

FLAG FOOTBALL

BASKETBALL

SOCCER

BASEBALL

FLOOR HOCKEY

INDOOR SOCCER

Music

 

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Visual Arts

 

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DRAMA CLUB PRESENTS:

Grease

JANUARY 15-25

TICKETS ON SALE NOW!

Performing Arts

 

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​SPRINGSIDE PARK CONSERVANCY