The Adams Free Library, sometimes referred to as the Adams Memorial Library (Berkshire County).

Location: Adams Free Library, 92 Park Street, Adams
Coordinates: 42°37’26.1″N 73°07’12.0″W
Date dedicated: 1899
Architect: Unknown

The library in Adams was built as a memorial to those from the town who served in the Civil War and was largely funded by the Plunkett Family—the major mill owners of the town.[1] It was designed to include space for the library on the first floor and a memorial hall and related rooms for the local Civil War veterans Grand Army of the Republic Post on the second floor.

The memorial library opened to the public on January 2, 1899 and roughly 2,000 people eagerly toured the building. The North Adams Transcript proclaimed that the “new library memorial building at Adams is one of the finest buildings ever built in this part of the state and the town may always look at it with pride.”[2] The GAR rooms are still well preserved on the second floor and house the same ornate furniture used by the veterans over a century ago.

The local GAR Post No. 126 formed in 1870 and disbanded in 1924. It was named in honor of Corporal George E. Sayles—the town’s first casualty in the war.[3] He was, at the time of his enlistment with the 21st Massachusetts Infantry, a 20 year old bookkeeper living in Adams. The 21st Massachusetts was initially deployed to the North Carolina coast and on March 14, 1862 fought in the Battle of New Bern where Sayles was killed in action. A photo of him is located in a place on honor at the front of the hall.

At the time of the war, the towns of Adams and North Adams were still one. Therefore, the history of the two towns and their involvement in the war is interwoven. When the war began, the prewar local militia company was reorganized and renamed the “Johnson Grays” after Sylvander Johnson who was a major benefactor and organizer of the unit.[4] The company, outfitted in gray uniforms (traditional at that time for state militia), became Company B of the 10th Massachusetts Infantry—the first Berkshire County regiment. The “grays” were the first large group of Adams men to enlist.

Memorial Hall in Adams Free Public Library, once used by the Grand Army of the Republic George E. Sayles Post No. 126

[1]Adams Free Library,” Massachusetts Cultural Resources Information System

[2] “Library Opened,” North Adams Transcript, January 3, 1899, 15.

[3] Eugene F. Michalenko, “The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall,” (Adams, Massachusetts: Adams Free Library, 2016)

[4] S. Proctor Thayer, “Towns of Adams and North Adams,” in A History of Berskshire County with Biographical Sketches, (New York: J.B. Beers & Co., 1885), 566.

Leave a Reply