Since its construction in 1888, the Berkshire Home for Aged Women has provided a retirement home for elderly, retired, and widowed women. The original money to construct this handsome Richardsonian Romanesque building came from an $18,000 bequest from Pittsfield's Crane family to be used as a home for "the elderly ladies of Berkshire County." Over the years, this building has reflected the changes in attitudes and ideas regarding care of the elderly. In 1891, the home only had two requirements--that applicants pay an entrance fee of $300, and that they own a black silk dress. For many years, the citizens of Berkshire County and Pittsfield contributed generously to the upkeep and support of the home--gifts of fruits, vegetables, and even one $50,000 donation made the Berkshire Home for Aged Women one of Western Massachusetts finest retirement homes. In the 1930s, the home enjoyed the patronage of a wealthy local woman--Catherine Cary--who eventually donated well over $500,000 dollars to the home. The rising costs of home care depleted the Berkshire Home's resources, however, and by the 1950s, the home's chief problem revolved around finances. With a capacity of only 29 women, the home's waiting list rose to 9 years. In the 1960s, the Federal government's Social Security program allowed the elderly to stay in their own homes longer, but depleted the number of women applying and staying at Berkshire Place. The Berkshire Home for Aged Women continued to struggle financially in the 1970s and early 1980s, and in 1989, when a report indicated that most retirees had no desire to live in a gender-segregated environment, the Berkshire Home for Aged Women began to accept male applicants, 101 years after its establishment. Today, the Berkshire Retirement Home, Inc. Continues to administer the property, one of the oldest continually operating nursing homes in Massachusetts.
Berkshire Home for Aged Women
Courtesy of Robert Boland.
The Berkshire Place Home for Aged Women is located at 89 South Street, Pittsfield, MA. The property is a retirement home and not open to the public.
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