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AHS, “Baker Street ,” Amherst Historic, accessed March 31, 2023, https://amhersthistoric.org/items/show/37.
- The Westside Historic District is located west of downtown Amherst by a half-mile on Northampton Road. Its 40 acres include Hazel Avenue, Baker Street and Snell Street west of the former Boston and Maine Railroad (now a rail trail). Northampton Road from University Drive to Blue Hills Road forms the northern boundary.
Westside's oldest buildings were constructed after the Civil War on Baker Street on a scale and density typical of a suburban street.
The Hawkins House at 33 Baker Street (ca. 1869 MHC #329) is the oldest house on the street, built around 1869. The three by two-bay principal mass rises two stories to a low-pitched, side- gabled roof clad in asphalt shingles. A two story rear addition creates an L-shaped plan. Vinyl clapboards are on the exterior walls and the foundation is built of brick. Original windows have been replaced with vinyl sash.
All ornament except the gable returns on the north gable end has been removed. This is the only side-gabled house on the street.
- The Hawkins House #33 Baker Street
House of William and Mary (Elizabeth Powers) Hawkins and their 10 children. William was a laborer, doing odd jobs throughout the community and Mary was a laundress working out of the home. In 1910 their daughter Alice (Age 19) and their son Frederick (age 17) also helped to make ends meet, the former working as a servant in private households and the latter working in a dry good store in town.
Mary was the adopted daughter of Charles and Eliza Thompson.
- Josiah Hasbrouck House #43 Baker Street
This homestead was built circa 1870.
Perhaps its most noted resident was Josiah Hasbrouck (sometimes spelled Hasbrook). At one time, this house held three generations of the family. Josiah was born in 1840, in Fishkill, NY, to parents that were slaves of the same-named Josiah Hasbrouck. That Hasbrouck family owned a sprawling 385 acre farm in Gardiner NY and are recorded as owning 14 slaves. When the estate passed to the son, the slaves were freed and Josiah Hasbrouck's family moved to North Elba in the Adirondacks where a community of free born or manumitted black people lived. Josiah’s parents were Montauck Indians.
Hasbrook had an important friendship and association with John Brown and his family. He met Brown in the Adirondacks. After Brown was hung for treason in 1859, (Josiah attended the funeral), Josiah assisted the widow Brown for nearly a year, accompanying her move to California. Josiah then enlisted in the Civil War in a "Colored Infantry Regiment. In 1897 Josiah and his wife Jane Anne Hazzard, who was a Narragansett Indian moved into the home. They had two children, Carroll and George. Josiah and his family were listed on the tribal roles of the Montauk Indians.
- Charles Thompson House #55 Baker – Built in 1874, the home of Charles Thompson, nicknamed “Professor Charlie”
Charles was born in Portland Maine in 1824 and, in the mid 1830s, came to work for William Stearns of Boston. He worked for a time as a fireman in Cambridge. He left this household to work as a sailor on the whaling ship “Warren.” It is said when the ship’s crew mutinied, he was the only man to stay faithful to the captain. The voyage lasted four years. After the Warren voyage, Thompson sailed around the world on the Kremlin.
Charles left the sea and resumed work at the Stearns’ household. They moved to Amherst when William Stearns was named President of Amherst College.
Frazar Stearns, son of William Stearns, was a volunteer for the Civil War. He was a close friend of Emily Dickinson and, no doubt, a very close friend of Charles. In fact, Charles Thompson is recorded by Emily Dickinson as playing the fiddle at her home. On 22 June 1851 Dickinson (age twenty) wrote to her brother: “Our Reading Club still is, and becomes now very pleasant—the last time Charles came in when we had finished reading, and we broke up with a dance—”
Thompson played the fiddle and taught some of the local children his tunes. We know from published accounts that Thompson played the tune “Money Musk.” He likely would have also played “Fisher’s Hornpipe” and the minstrel tune “Old Dan Tucker” which was immensely popular. These were tunes that Dickinson knew and are among the music that she collected.”
Charles married Eliza Thompson who was born in 1832 in Albany, NY, tshe daughter of James Thompson. From 1850 through 1857, she lived in the household of Christopher Thompson. Christopher may have lived in a rented tenement on North Pleasant Street at the time. He enrolled in the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment and was in Texas to announce the end of the war and slavery.
Christoper was married to Matilda Richardson Bias.
They adopted a daughter Mary Elizabeth Powers. Eliza is listed as working as a housekeeper in Amherst in 1870.
By 1865, he was named “Professor of Dust and Ashes” at the school and for a while he was in charge of all its janitors.
Charles worked for Amherst College most of his life and when he was 82 and nearly destitute, Stearns’ daughter, Abigail Eloise Stearns Lee, appealed to those who benefitted from his service, writing a book “Professor Charlie” Charles and his wife Eliza lived in this house until their deaths. There adopted daughter Mary lived on Baker Street with her husband William Hawkins.
Published on Mar 11, 2022. Last updated on Oct 14, 2022.