In 1830, Williams College began renovations on the property that had served the town as a public house and changed the establishment’s name to the Mansion House. The College wanted to alleviate its student housing problems and also provide a place to host functions and board faculty. Even future Williams College President Mark Hopkins lived in the Mansion House after he married in 1833.
The Mansion House was now a sprawling structure with three stories surrounded by piazzas and covered in white clapboard. The American Advocate lauded the structure’s renovation, saying: “The Williamstown Mansion House is now open for the reception of company. A first rate public house has long been a desideratum of this part of the country, and we congratulate the travelling public on the successful accomplishment of an object so necessary for their comfort. No place on the continent can boast a purer atmosphere or more romantic scenery than Williamstown, and we believe it is not extravagant to say there is no public house where company can be better accommodated or more pleasantly situated.”
The Mansion House was the scene of the College’s commencement dinner, the early meetings of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, shows, dances, lectures, and other public events, and the management even rented out storefronts in its basement. However, despite the important role that the Mansion House played in the life of the College and the community, this did not have a direct correlation with economic success. The College sold the business to John S. Gray in 1844, who in turn sold it to Stephen V.R. Hoxsey in 1849. Hoxsey also improved the building and held it through the Civil War, but was unable to alter the fortunes of the unprofitable establishment.
On October 6, 1872, the Mansion House was completely destroyed by fire. The New Mansion House, constructed on the same site, would finally experience what none of its previous incarnations had, legitimate financial success.
By Jaime Margalotti (Williams Class of 2000)
Adriance, Dr. Vanderpoel. “The Evolution of Greylock Hotel.” Supplement to the Williams Alumni Review XXXVIII (May 1946).
Brooks, Robert R. R. Williamstown the First 200 years, 1753-1953. Williamstown: Williamstown Historical Commission, 1974. pp.151-2