Smith House

Smith House, one of the oldest remaining buildings on the MCLA campus, has been home to MCLA presidents, an event space, and the current admissions office.

The Smith House, home to MCLA’s admissions office, is the second oldest building on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus. Although it was officially named for Roy Leon Smith in 1967, Smith House was re-dedicated on June 8, 1985, during the annual meeting of the Alumni Association. The building was designed by the same architect as Murdock Hall, though in a very different style. Like Murdock Hall, Smith House was designed by well-known Pittsfield architect H. Neill Wilson. Its style is Colonial revival, and its large columns on the north side face out toward city.

The approximate cost of the original structure, without furnishings, was $13,000 (circa 1911). Originally, this building was home to the college’s presidents and their families. The college’s first and second presidents Frank Fuller Murdock (of Murdock Hall fame) and Roy Leon Smith (for which the house is named) both called Smith House home during their tenure, as did the college’s first female president, Catherine A. Tisinger.

President Tisinger, who was at the college from 1984-1991, made the refurbishment and repurposing of Smith House one of her goals. She decided to keep the second floor of Smith House as her home, while “lectures, recitals, readings, and other activities on the college cultural affairs programs.” The design goal of the building was “to furnish the first floor, which has a large center hall with two living rooms on one side and a kitchen and dining room on the other, with ‘period pieces’ and antiques that reflect the ‘shifting eclectic styles’ of the early 20th century.”

Forming the Smith House Committee, President Tisinger and her staff began to solicit monetary and furniture donations to refurbish the first floor. They especially welcomed “the donation of a major piece of appraised period furniture,” to help restore the atmosphere of the first floor to that of the late nineteenth-century.

This campaign was successful and in very little time, the space was being used for campus cultural and academic events. The college was even awarded the North Adams Historic Preservation Award in 1985 for their “contribution to the restoration and preservation of the heritage of [the] city.” In the 1991 fall season alone, it was noted that “approximately sixty-five people participating at each event.” However, as Thomas D. Aceto took over the office of president in 1991, he became concerned with the “maintenance and wear and tear on the furnishings” of the house. This lead to a reduction in the use of Smith House. It is difficult to determine when the house transitioned fully into the admissions office it is today, however, it was used for admissions purposes as early as 1993.