DATE: 1999
LOCATION: North Adams, Massachusetts, USA
OLD USE: Numerous industries
NEW USE: Museum, small business center


The site has been used for industrial purposes for hundreds of years. The 26 buildings on the site create interlocking courtyards and passageways and are coupled with bridges, viaducts and elevated walkways. Between the late 1700s to mid 1800s, the site included: “wholesale shoe manufacturers; a brick yard; a saw mill; cabinet-makers; hat manufacturers; machine shops for the construction of mill machines; marble works; wagon- and sleigh-makers; and an ironworks, which later forged armor plates for the Civil War ship, the Monitor.” In 1860, Arnold Print Works set up operations at the site and became one of the leading producers of printed textiles in the world. It built 25 of the 26 present buildings. Arnold consolidated its operations in Adams, Massachusetts, in 1942. Later that year, Sprague Electric Company set up shop and retrofitted the interiors to allow for the production of electronics. Competition from abroad forced the company to shut down the location in 1985.


Local leaders began the process by identifying the site as an opportunity for reuse. At the same time, Williams College Museum of Art was in need of exhibition space. With the teamwork of the city government and Williams staff, the state legislature announced its support and funding for the project in 1988. In the end, the structure was adapted through state, nonprofit (institutional), and private funding.[1]


The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arty (MASS MoCA) opened in 1999 and has since created a ripple effect with new investment in the surrounding area. To offset some of the cultural center’s operating costs, MASS MoCA also includes space that it leases out to businesses in an effort to support small business development in the area. “The arts create and bestow community identity. A strong identity rallies confidence, hope, productivity, pride and economic vibrancy. These are base conditions for a healthy community; they cannot be created, however without risk, adventure, and the willingness to embrace the new.”[2]


Images courtesy of Ragged Cloth Cafe, Kwaree, Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., The Boston Globe, and Nicholas Whitman.