Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2015 Preservation Award Winners
Pittsfield, Burns Block & Second Burns Block

Pittsfield • Burns Block & Second Burns Block

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitiation & Restoration

The Burns Block and Second Burns Block are two adjacent and connected multistory, brick commercial buildings constructed by James M. Burns, a local merchant, banker, and real estate developer, to house his furniture store, warehouse, and small retail shops. Located on the south parcel, the Burns Block, constructed in 1883, is a four-story building with storefronts at the street level, large display windows on the second floor, regular fenestration above, and a flat roofline with a projecting cornice. Originally three stories in height, a fourth floor was added following a 1914 fire that damaged the building. The New Burns Block, constructed in 1890, is three stories in height and also has street-level storefronts. Its upper fašade features ornate masonry details, including corbelled piers, arches, and brackets. From 1910 to 1994, the primary tenant was the Besse-Clark Company, a landmark department store. Both the Burns Block and the Second Burns Block are contributing buildings in the Upper North Street Commercial Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In the late 20th century, Pittsfield, like many New England manufacturing centers, experienced economic decline after General Electric relocated its transformer and aerospace divisions elsewhere. After 1994, the Burns blocks were occupied by a series of miscellaneous businesses.

In 2012, MM &D, LLC, principally owned by Pittsfield residents David and Laurie Tierney, purchased the buildings with plans to convert them into a unique, independently owned boutique hotel. The buildings were restored using state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. Inappropriate 20th-century sheathing was removed from the Burns Block, and more than 100 new, historically appropriate windows were installed throughout both buildings. Interior columns and brick walls were retained and left exposed to view in guest rooms, and the original wood floors were restored. Original tin ceilings were repaired, and replaced where necessary with new tin ceilings matching the original design. The project team cut a new skylight atrium into the north building, and repurposed historic wood beams from the opening as fireplace mantels, bookshelves, and luggage carts. The sensitive adaptive reuse of the two buildings created a hotel featuring forty-five guest rooms, a lobby with an art gallery that displays a rotating exhibit, a restaurant with a bar and lounge, a banquet room, meeting rooms, and an atrium gathering space. The first new hotel in Pittsfield since 1968, Hotel on North will potentially spur further economic development in the city. The project was honored with the 1Berkshire Trendsetters "Putting the Berkshires on the map" award, and was named by Architectural Digest as one of the best new hotels of 2015. The completed project demonstrates a strong commitment to preserving Pittsfield's historic downtown structures, and will pave the way for further revitalization of the neighborhood.

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