A.C. Houghton: North Adams' First Mayor
Albert Charles Houghton, though born in Stamford, Vermont, became North Adams’ first mayor in 1895. He was first drawn to the area by business interests. Alongside his brother, he ran a chemical manufacturing business, Houghton Chemical Works, which created products used in the textile industry, amongst other things. “The acids and dye materials that were developed by the Houghton Chemical Works were sold to and used by the developing calico printing industry throughout the country,” including the growing textile mills in North Adams. By 1868, Houghton had decided to settle down in North Adams and begin investing in the economic development of the town through his many business ventures.
The first company he started in North Adams, the Parker Mill was a failure. A few years later, in 1871, Houghton joined forces with “William W. Gallup, Chester Baily and Arthur A. Smith in order to purchase the Beaver Mills property.” Thus began his business success in North Adams and by 1872, he held one-quarter interest in Arnold Print Works. By 1883, he was the company’s president. Though continuing to suffer the ebbs and flows of the market, Houghton’s prestige and influence in the community continued to grow. He became particularly interested in the social and governmental development of North Adams.
In 1882, along with William A. Gallup, he “purchased the former Union Woolen Company and sold the building to the town…so that the existing building could be converted into the Union Street School.” Houghton would continually invest in the development of schools in North Adams and was even credited with helping convince the state government to establish a normal school in North Adams. The Springfield Republican newspaper wrote in 1895 that “he is not only a great captain of industry, and so conspicuously helpful on the material side, but he is the advocate and friend of the forces and institutions that make for better citizenship and good government.” Though it is unknown how much of a direct influence Houghton had on the development of the city charter, “it [was] a somewhat open secret that Mr. Houghton and other leading citizens were extremely anxious that North Adams should secure for herself as near a model city charter as could be drawn.”
However, when it came to time to fulfill the newly established mayoral position in the “model charter,” Houghton wanted nothing to do with it. September of 1895 saw him established as one of the directors of the Boston & Albany Railroad, alongside his regular duties at Arnold Print Works, his job as president of the North Adams Saving Bank and the vice-president of the Adams National Bank of North Adams. But the citizens of North Adams would not stand for this and “such pressure was brought to bear that Mr. Houghton, in spite of business cares that he feels already over tax him, has made public that he will be North Adams’ first mayor, if the people so desire.” Houghton was elected the first mayor of North Adams at the end of 1895, and would go on to serve two one-year terms as mayor, from 1896-1897. Houghton’s time in office was not marked by any major calamities and he successfully re-transitioned back into a full-time business man at the conclusion of his mayoral tenure. He would continue to be dedicated to the development of the city of North Adams, until his untimely death in 1914.
|Albert Charles Houghton Inaugural Address||pdf / 5.34 MB||Download|