The Houghton Mansion is in North Adams, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
The wealthy local businessman Albert Charles Houghton (1844-1914) built the mansion in the 1890s. He and his family moved into the house around 1900. They lived there until tragedy struck in 1914.
The Houghton Mansion has changed hands multiple times after a road accident shattered the lives of the Houghton family in 1914.
The property was open to the public for tours until 2017.
Albert Charles Houghton (1844-1914)
Albert Charles Houghton (1844-1914), originally of Stamford, Vermont, was the first owner of the Houghton Mansion. He was also the first Mayor of North Adams, Massachusetts.
Houghton owned and invested in many businesses in his lifetime. He took over his father’s (Andrew Jackson Houghton) Brewery after he died in 1892. The brewery closed after Prohibition started (Jay R. Roberts, Brookston Beer Bulletin, April 2023). He founded companies such as Houghton Chemical Works (Stamford), Parker Mill (North Adams, Massachuset), Williamstown Manufacturing Company, and the North Pownal Manufacturing Company (North Pownal, Vermont).
Houghton became president of Arnold Print Works in 1881. He was director of the Boston & Albany Railroad and sat on the board of multiple financial institutions.
He returned to managing his businesses after his tenure as Mayor ended.
The Houghton Mansion in the 1890s-1900
Houghton built the Houghton Mansion in the 1890s during his tenure as Mayor.
He had other properties in North Adams. The Houghton Mansion was only one of his building projects in the city. He constructed the mansion ostentatiously in Neocolonial Revival style.
Houghton, his wife, Cordelia, and their youngest daughter, Mary, moved into the property around 1900.
The couple had four daughters: Mary, Florence, Laura, Susan, and Alice. Laura died in infancy. The other girls were married when Albert and Cordelia moved into the Houghton Mansion. One of the girls, Florence, married William Albert Gallup (1851-1930), who worked for Arnold Print Works.
Albert Houghton’s ill-health
Houghton’s health began deteriorating in 1905. Mary, who was in her 20s, was very devoted to their father. She took care of him when his health began failing.
Despite health issues, Houghton continued to be actively engaged in the affairs of his companies, but his son-in-law William Gallup took a more active role.
The Houghton family’s 1914 tragedy
Early in 1914, Houghton bought a new car, the prestigious Pierce-Arrow seven-passenger touring car.
In the summer of that year, he and his daughter, Mary, traveled in their new car to Bennington, Vermont, in the company of friends from New York, Dr. Robert Hutton and his wife, Sybil Cady Hutton.
Mrs. Sybil Cady Hutton was the daughter of Walter Guyton Cady, a wealthy entrepreneur from North Adams. She was Mary’s childhood friend.
Houghton’s wife, Cordelia, did not travel with them. John Widders, the family’s trusted chauffeur, drove the new car.
They left the Houghton Mansion around 9:00 a.m. on August 1, 1914. At about 9:30 a.m., the party reached a stretch of road (now Oak Hill Road) near Pownal, Vermont. While driving past a repair crew working on the road with a team of horses, Widders swerved to a structurally weakened portion of the road on the left side.
The edge gave way as the vehicle passed, traveling at about 12mph. The car fell off the steep side and rolled down to the bottom of the embankment, ending upright after multiple summersaults.
Sybil died at the crash scene. Mary suffered grievous injuries. She died hours later at the North Adams Hospital.
Houghton and Dr. Hutton escaped with minor injuries. He returned home after treatment, expecting to recover, but died days later on August 11, reportedly grief-stricken over losing his daughter.
Widders also survived the accident. Although investigators found he was not at fault, he took his life with a pistol in a barn next to the mansion on August 2, 1914.
Florence and William Gallup moved into the mansion
Houghton’s daughter, Florence, and her husband, William Gallup, had a mansion on Church Street near the Houghton Mansion. Gallup hired Massachusetts architect Neill Wilson to build the house in 1892.
However, after Mary and Houghton died in 1914, Florence and Gallup moved into the Houghton Mansion with Cordelia. Florence took care of her mother until she died in 1916.
Florence and Susan sold the house to the Masons
The Houghton sisters, Florence Gallup and Susan McKeon, sold the Houghton Mansion to the Freemasons in 1920.
The Masons used the property as their Masonic lodge. The Lafayette Graylock Masonic Lodge A.F. & A.M. and the Naomi Chapter of the Eastern Star managed the house until 2017.
Although the Masons added new structures and made changes, the mansion still looks much like it did when the Houghton family lived there early in the 20th century.
The Masons sold the Houghton Mansion
In 2017, the Lafayette-Greylock Freemasons sold the house to developer Benjamin Svenon for $160,000 (Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle, June 3, 2019).
According to local folklore, the Houghton Mansion is one of the most haunted houses in New England.
The dark, shadowy apparitions of the former residents of the mansion linger silently in the various rooms and along the hallways of the house. Visitors reported sensing sadness and gloom when they entered the house, especially the rooms on the upper floor.
The Houghtons’ trusted chauffeur John Widders (also known as Winters) committed suicide on August 2, 1914, two days after the tragic road accident in which Mary Haughton and her childhood friend Sybil Cady Hutton died.
Widders may have blamed himself for the deaths, although investigators absolved him. He shot himself with a pistol.
Some claim that the chauffeur’s apparition haunts the mansion grounds.
Albert C. Hougton’s ghost
Houghton died days after he returned home with minor injuries.
Houghton, Widders, and Dr. Hutton had been thrown out of the vehicle as it tumbled down the slope and escaped with their lives. However, the tumbling vehicle crushed Mary to death.
Folklore claims that Houghton’s ghost haunts the mansion. The ghost allegedly roams the rooms and the surrounding grounds.
Cordelia was heartbroken by the double tragedy which hit her days apart. She lost her beloved daughter, Mary, on August 1 and then her husband on August 11.
Her daughter Florence and her husband William Gallup move into the mansion to take care of her. But she never fully recovered. Cordelia died brokenhearted in 1916.
Folklore alleges that her ghost still occupies her room in the mansion.
Mary died on the scene of the accident on Oak Hill Road. But legend claims that her ghost haunts the mansion where she lived for years before she died.
People reported seeing a shadowy apparition resembling Mary. The apparition loiters in the upper floor area of the house near and inside her former bedroom.
People also reported hearing voices believed to be Mary’s.
The little girl in the basement
People reported seeing the apparition of a little girl in the basement.
The girl’s identity is unknown, but some speculated she might be the daughter of the former owner of a house that occupied the property before the Houghton bought it.
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|172 Church Street, North Adams, MA 01247
|Haunting, Shadow Figures
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In the media
Top image courtesy of Josh karpf is used under Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0.
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