Coca Cola Ledge

Most everyone in the vicinity of North Adams is aware of the cliff face known as Coca-Cola Ledge. But do you know it’s true name and how it eventually became a symbol for a soda company?

The actual name of the precipice is Witt’s Ledge. In the late 1800’s it was used as a quarry where its rocks were taken for macadamizing area roads. At its peak, up to 20 men were employed by a Hudson Valley company to do the work.

By 1903 however, the quarry was abandoned and the residents of North Adams began to view the ledge as a scenic destination. Many took pride in the natural landmark which overlooked the city. The pleasure of seeing its gleaming limestone, however, was shattered on the morning of June 3, 1914, when “a large sign was being painted across the face of Witt’s Ledge, advertising an out-of-town product.” Many citizens considered the defacement of the ledge as “an offense against the sensibilities of the people of this city…”

The following day, an editorial stated, “There is every justification for the indignation that has been aroused over the defacement of Witt’s Ledge, one of the rugged and dominating landmarks of North Adams.” Communications against the Coca-Cola sign were written by many over the next several months. On September 10, 1914, members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union wrote, “Now the greed of man has marred [Witt’s Ledge]. We behold, not its gleaming outlines, but a mass of rocks vulgarized by a cheap advertisement.”

In September of 1914 a “praiseworthy” petition to have the sign removed was started by “eight little girls, none of them more than 14 years of age…” The petition stated: “We, the undersigned citizens of North Adams, desiring that the natural beauty of our surroundings be preserved, request that the Coca Cola sign be removed from Witt’s Ledge in the western part of the city, which sign may be seen from any point.”

The petition circulated around North Adams and many, many names were added to it. By December of 1914, news of the defacement of Witt’s Ledge and the petition reached the White House in Washington, D.C. In an editorial it was said, “When the president of the United States personally backs up the sentiment expresses on paper by at least a thousand citizens of North Adams, there can be no question as the weight of public opinion.”

Unfortunately, all of the complaints, the letter writing, the signature gathering and even a stated opinion from President Woodrow Wilson, did not sway the Coca-Cola Company to remove the sign. As time went on, the citizens of North Adams began to refer to that area as Coca-Cola Ledge, initially with a heavy dose of anger and sarcasm. Only time and the weather removed the sign, but people kept referring to it as Coca-Cola Ledge, perhaps because most citizens forgot its original name of Witt’s Ledge.

Adapted from a story in Hoosac Trails, Volume XXXI Issue IV (June 2022)