As of 1763, lot 36, which would eventually hold one of Williamstown’s earliest taverns, had been assigned to the local minister. The “Schoolhouse” which rested on this property was used as both a classroom and a place for the minister to preach. In 1765, the Reverend Whitman Welch sold this lot and absconded with the £25 gained from its sale. The early structure also was the site where the women of Williamstown gathered on August 16, 1777 to pray for their loved ones fighting in the battle of Bennington. In 1778, the site’s owner, Josiah Hosford, commissioned the first tavern to grace the lot. Benjamin and Thompson J. Skinner were the builders and were deeded the tavern in 1811. They became prominent members of the community through their roles as the proprietors of Skinner’s Tavern. Thompson J. Skinner was particularly successful, becoming both a Trustee and the Treasurer of Williams College and also a general in the State militia. Unfortunately, Skinner took advantage of another of his positions, Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by embezzling nearly $70,000 from the State. Consequently, the State took his property, including the tavern, and the establishment was only returned to private administration after Skinner’s death.
The property then passed through the hands of numerous owners: Peter S. Putnam, his brother John Putnam, George Whitman, William Waterman, and John Hickox, until Williams College became interested in purchasing the property. The Williams College Board of Trustees and President Edward Dorr Griffin were desirous of purchasing a building that would help them alleviate the crisis of inadequate student housing. The listing of the tavern in the Williamstown newspaper, the American Advocate , piqued the interest of both the Board and Griffin. It read: “For Sale — That valuable tavern stand situated in Williamstown, formerly owned by Peter S. Putnam together with about forty-five acres of land is now offered for sale on reasonable terms and immediate possession will be given if required Ð John Hickox.” On February 17, 1830, the tavern was deeded to the College, which immediately began substantial renovations, including the addition of a kitchen and dining hall.
By Jaime Margalotti (Williams Class of 2000)
Perry, Arthur Latham. Origins in Williamstown. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894. p.463.
Adriance, Dr. Vanderpoel. “The Evolution of Greylock Hall” Supplement to Williams Alumni Review XXXVIII (May 1946).