The Pelham Houses complex comprises a circa 1800 1½-story Federal-style cottage at 18 Amherst Road, a circa 1829 two-story Colonial-style residence at 20 Amherst Road, and the former circa 1872 Montague Fly Rod factory at 22 Amherst Road in Pelham, Massachusetts. 2
The cottage at 18 Amherst Road was originally part of Home Lot No. 32, drawn by William Johnson in 1739, with the building erected before 1800. 3 It was located along the former 6th Massachusetts Turnpike between 1799 and 1820 and Amherst Road afterward. A fire in the house in 1900 led to a remodeling; when the upstairs was renovated, newspapers calling for volunteers for the Revolutionary War were discovered pasted to the walls.
The farmhouse at 20 Amherst Road, also known as the Eugene P. Bartlett House, was designed in the Greek Revival style and constructed in 1829 for the Jillson family. 4 A carriage barn was added circa 1870, while a Queen Anne-style porch was built circa 1880. An addition was built in 1905. The house was also originally part of Home Lot No. 32, abutting West Pelham Mills, the Allen Mill, and the Montague City Fish Rod factory.
In 1886, Eugene P. Bartlett acquired the house at 20 Amherst Road and emerged as the majority owner of the Montague City Fish Rod factory next door. 4 By 1998, the residence was used as a rental property.
The Montague Fly Rod factory at 22 Amherst Road was also part of Home Lot No. 32 but was one of two lots set aside by the proprietors of Pelham for a mill. 5 The first mills were located along Amethyst Brook north of North Valley Road as early as 1742, with another mill near 18 Amherst Road being erected in the late 1700s, followed by another at 22 Amherst Road by the Jillson’s in 1820.
Around 1858, Horace Gray’s son, Calvin, became interested in making a better fishing pole. 5 He began developing prototypes and developed a market for them with the local fishermen. By 1864, the Grays needed more space, and they acquired the gristmill at 22 Amherst Road and converted the site to manufacture fishing rods which was known simply as the Fish Rod Factory and later as the Montague City Fish Rod Company.
By 1890, the Montague City Fish Rod Company produced three-quarters of the fishing rods manufactured worldwide, employing between 50 and 60 workers and producing 6,000 fishing rods in over 200 styles annually. 5 The onset of the Great Depression and the death of Bartlett in 1925 led to the closure of the Pelham factory in 1931. The property at 22 Amherst Road was later used as a wood shop and machine shop and for a book publisher. 5 6
Home City Development Inc. (HCDI) acquired the 18-22 Amherst Road properties to construct an affordable apartment complex. 1 Originally, HCDI had intended to tear down the fly rod factory at 22 Amherst Road for a new three-story, 28-unit building and rehabilitate the house at 20 Amherst Road into apartments. 2 After extensive structural deterioration was discovered in the house, the company decided that it would be more cost-efficient to tear it down and build a replica to house six apartments. The cottage at 18 Amherst Road will be retained and renovated as a single-family home.
HCDI intends to break ground on the $12 million project in 2023. 1 2
- Gardner, Sophia and Scott Merzbach. “ZBA approves affordable rental housing project in Pelham.” Daily Hampshire Gazette, 18 Aug. 2021.
- Merzbach, Scott. “Pelham affordable housing project on track with permitting.” Amherst Bulletin, 8 Feb. 2021.
- Keyes, Robert Lord, and Bonnie Parsons. “18 Amherst Road.” Massachusetts Historical Commission, 1 Mar. 2005.
- Keyes, Robert Lord, and Bonnie Parsons. “20 Amherst Road.” Massachusetts Historical Commission, 1 Mar. 2005.
- Keyes, Robert Lord, and Bonnie Parsons. “22 Amherst Road.” Massachusetts Historical Commission, 1 Mar. 2005.
- “Amethyst Brook Apartments Notice of Intent.” Berkshire Design Group, 15 Dec. 2020.