George Hadley -- "The Father of the Overpass"

George Hadley was the key backer for building the overpass that now bears his name.

Born in 1878 in Nyack, NY, he moved with his parents at age 6 to North Adams where his mother had roots. She was Ellen (Cady) Hadley, a member of one of the city’s oldest and most prominent families in town. His father was John C. Hadley.

In 1897, Clarence, as he was called by nearly everyone who knew him, graduated from Drury Academy, then attended Cornell University for 2 years, returning home in 1899 to begin work for the James Hunter Machine Company. Shortly after, he was transferred to the machine shop where he later became foreman, and in later years, purchasing agent, assistant treasurer and finally treasurer for the remainder of his career which spanned 46 years.

George Hadley and Christine Birch were married on December 16, 1908. They had two sons, George C. Hadley, Jr. and James B. Hadley. George Jr. served in the Navy and James in the US Army.

It was in service to his city that Mr. Hadley is remembered today. He showed a keen interest in public affairs and as a young man he served on the city council. A man of vision and determination, he was an early advocate of the orderly planning and development of the city and waged almost a lifelong fight against haphazard municipal government.

Mr. Hadley lived long enough to see one of his dreams for the city carried out; the overpass which bears his name. Opened to traffic on August 22, 1941, the 4 men who went to Boston to set the project in motion, Mayor Francis O’Hara, City Engineer Irving H. Call, George C. Hadley, secretary of the planning board and James E. Wall, president of the Wall-Streeter Shoe Company, rode in the first car driven across it. Dedication took place a month later with a parade and celebration on September 28th. It was by unanimous vote of the dedication committee that the overpass be names for George Clarence Hadley who is still regarded as the “father” of the project.

Not all projects contemplated by the Planning Board during the Hadley era were carried out during that time, but they bore fruit in later years when the city built its new central fire station and an up-to-date athletic field on State Street. A new school planned for the Blackinton section was later built in Braytonville.

Mr. Hadley was also vice-president and finance committee chairman of the old YMCA on Summer Street.

Always interested in local engineering, Mr. Hadley began in the 1930’s making what became known as the “Hadley Topographical Map”. Traveling to Babson Institute to obtain maps of the Berkshires he was able to use them to construct his cardboard and wooden design. Some of this work was done at home but the final map was put together on the 3rd floor of the James Hunter Machine Company. 

The map traveled to many locations in the Berkshires including the original City Hall, the North Adams Public Library, the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and the Adams Historical Society. The existence of the map was brought to the attention of the North Adams Historical Society by Mr. Hadley’s son James who wished this fine piece of history permanently displayed for the education and enjoyment of all people.

Donated to the North Adams Historical Society through the generosity of the Adams Historical Society, the “Hadley Topographical Map” remains in the North Adams Historical Society’s archive.

George C. Hadley died at his home at 83 Hall Street on Monday afternoon, September 10, 1945. On the afternoon of his funeral, September 12th, his body lay in state in the First Universalist Church where he was a member. The James Hunter Machine Company closed for the afternoon so that its employees could attend the funeral.

Adapted from a story for the North Adams Historical Society.