Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chop Chop

 Hills House, 38 Gray Street

An enormous dead tree in front of historic Hills House awaits a lot more whittling.  Would come in handy inside the Hills House this winter as the historic home boasts eight fireplaces.

The mansion was built in 1865 for one of Amherst's first business barons, Henry Hills, who at one time owned one of the largest hat factories in America.

The Amherst Boys and Girls Club purchased the sprawling estate back in 1976 for $83,500 after the town took their downtown building by eminent domain for the Bangs Community Center project.

Developer Barry Roberts purchased it in 2007 for $725,000 and the Boys and Girls Club moved back to town center renting space from the Knights of Columbus.  The current owners snapped it up from Mr. Roberts in 2008 for the bargain sum of $1,120,000.

Last May Amherst Town Meeting rezoned from General Residence to Neighborhood Business the sprawling front 2 parcels to allow Amherst Media to build a new building there, which of course will somewhat spoil the current majestic views.

Hills House h-u-g-e front lawn rolls down to Main St.  New home of Amherst Media?

Of course back in the day, when the Hills Hat Factory was cranking out palm leaf hats by the trainload, the big brick smokestack was hardly a thing of beauty.

Scott, Edgar T., 1858-1940, "Hills Company hat factory," in Digital Amherst, Item #40, (accessed October 10, 2013).


Anonymous said...

Gosh that would've been a great location for the Community Center.

Why was Bangs crammed into an inaccessible location - with nothing more than meeting rooms and offices?

Was it meant to serve the whole community or as a senior center?

Walter Graff said...

Forget community center. Amherst doesn't have the kind of community that do much together.

With the right lighting that house would be the greatest haunted house going.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it funny how Amherst wants nothing to be built that might spoil the look of town or resemble a business. But when it comes to finding a new home for the crazy liberal Amherst media group then any beautiful parcel can be claimed and it becomes a good thing. What a bunch of hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Larry, what's the story with it's "sister" house next door which houses the Amherst Women's Club? Isn't it Hills' son (or father?) that built it using the same fundamental plans? They are obviously very similar.

Anonymous said...

It's truly tragic, what's been done to that parcel.

We've allowed an important piece of our heritage to be sent down the drain. And now building on those two new front parcels will be the final bit of crapping on the property that will entirely ruin its beauty and historic value.

And we wonder why we like to visit other countries where the ancient buildings aren't allowed to be desecrated, but are kept as the important pieces of patrimony they are.

To think that we can't even keep this unique, distinctive, historically important property in one piece for a piddling 150 years is just pathetic. No wonder so much of American civic space is SO ugly.

I hear people moaning about Historic Preservation, but really, where is it? Where IS IT?

Yay greed. I hope everybody who made money on that property has trouble sleeping.

Larry Kelley said...

Built by his a Dad, Leonard Hills the year before. Designed by the same architect.

Anonymous said...

Read here:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. It seems that the AWC was indeed built by his father, but AFTER Henry Hills built the first house (the one described in your article). It says a lot about the man who ordered the architect to build the house "one foot greater in every dimension."

Anonymous said...

11:44PM, That was the same story I was told back in the 70's when we moved the boy's club in.

Larry Kelley said...

Sorry, meant to say year "later" (gotta stop watching The Walking Dead while moderating comments).

Anonymous said...

I'm just an anonymous observer, who doesn't usually comment, but I have to say that this Wally guy is a very negative character. Wally-I don't know what planet you're on, but Amherst is a very friendly town for most of us with more sense of community than anyplace I've lived. Sadly, you and your family seem to be missing out.

Anonymous said...

They did have an awesome haunted house one year. Unfortunately the Boys and Girls Club kind of went into limbo after that. I'm glad they have a new director and are taking off again!