If you were to ask any one in the state of Massachusetts 12 years ago how to get to North Adams, they would have replied, "Oh no, you do not want to go there." This is because the once thriving community of North Adams began to fall into decay during the late 1970's. Many of the big textile and other manufacturing companies shutdown, making many of the residents unemployed. A lot of these people moved out of North Adams leaving their homes behind to rot and decay.
As you'd walk down the streets of North Adams you would find many abandoned buildings and warehouses, but above each one you would see the looming shadow of the old Sprague Factory. The Sprague Corporation was an electronics manufacturing company which started during the 1940's. Half of the residents worked there and when the plant shutdown in the late 1987 many people were left without jobs. North Adams was dying.
Then in 1989 an idea was put forth to change the old Sprague factory into a museum. This idea needed funding though and it was continually shot down. Finally, ten years later in May 29,1999, the Museum of Contemporary Art had its grand opening. Many people didn't know what to think, because most of the residents were old factory workers. Some of the puzzling attractions were hanging upside-down trees, strewn car parts and abstract paintings.
Mass MoCA had over 50,000 people show up on the first day and the numbers continued to grow. Many of the area residents were skeptical that a thing like art would be able to turn their town around. Yet it did and the number of people coming to the museum has grown. People (mostly younguns) come from all over to see the odd forms of art and culture in North Adams. Artists started to move into North Adams. For instance: Eric Rudd, a sculptor; moved into the top floor of an abandoned warehouse so he could be able to make massive works of art. He also one day decide to make a side-street of North Adams an attraction by bringing in loads of sand and making a beach right there. Kids and their parents were building sandcastles in the middle of the street.
In addition to the employment Mass MOcA brought, many other businesses started moving in. Tech and Internet companies saw a perfect oppurtunity in the vacant office spaces along Main Street. In addition, a place where there only used to be one or two cafes now had Italian, Chinese and BBQ restaurants come join the party. Main street started to become another part of the buzz in North Adams. Hotels and Bed n' Breakfasts started setting up shop as well.
Up until last year North Adams economy looked like it was straight shooting. After 9/11 the huge economic slump took it's toll on North Adams. Many of the companies that had moved in cut down or moved out. Mass MoCA suffered some, but they say that business is doing pretty well in spite of the economic slump.
North Adams is in a trying time for certain and hopefully the town will come out of it stronger then ever. North Adams is more than a town that thought it had met it's end and finally was revived; it is a symbol of what can happen when hope still thrives. North Adams future is uncertain, but one thing's for sure; the town will keep trying.
Much of the information attained is from a documentary called "Downside Up" by Nancy Kelly, a former resident of North Adams.