North Adams may seem like a sleepy town, but its past is still very much alive. The Union Church sits in the Blackinton neighborhood, one of the oldest settled areas in North Adams. The church was built in 1871 by Sanford Blackinton, which he also furnished and then gave the church to the community. Other than the spire, which was struck by lightning and destroyed in the early 1900s, the church remains intact to this day with the same original walnut pews and Johnson pipe organ, which was gifted to the church in 1880.
Though minor repairs have been made, such as the replacement of windows and even the entire back wall of the church after a truck rolled down the bank and crashed through the church, this house of worship maintains its original look. The church was first opened for service on Thanksgiving day back in 1871 and remains in service still. The name "union" was given to the church by Mr. Blackinton and truly lived up to its name as it allowed members of all denominations.
The first service was documented in a diary from Oscar Archer, who was the bookeeper at the Blackinton mill and a soloist in the church choir. The temperature on that day was recorded at zero degrees Fahrenheit with strong winds, and yet, people began to show up to the church that morning. They waited an hour in the chilled church as the pipes had frozen over, yet service went on as planned.
Today, the main change to the church is the congregation. 100 years ago, the pews spilled over, but today’s numbers are much lower. Mr. Blackinton used to have his own grocery store, post office, and more, but now all that remains is the Union Church. However, one family had maintained their commitment to the church for 100 years. On the 50th anniversary of the church, Edward Hughes was the church treasurer, and 50 years later, the torch was passed along to his daughter, Gladys.
Though the church might not have the same amount of followers today, the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees has made efforts to try and preserve the history of this place. On Sunday, November 28, 1971, during the centennial celebration, the Trustee Committee compiled the history of the church to be printed in a booklet. So next time you’re walking down Massachusetts Avenue, stop in the Union Church and take a walk through history.