The “Music Cottages” certainly qualify to be among Umass Amherst's lost heritage and landscape. In sincerity, identifying the buildings by this name nearly eliminates any proof that they ever existed. Photographs of the Old Infirmary Group buildings in the University Special Collections Archives offer tantalizing, but scant evidence about the cottages. Though these photos are accompanied by captions that read, “now music cottages,” a considerably thorough review of the minutes from Trustees meetings dating between the late 1950's and 1996 sheds no additional light on how any of the Old Infirmary Group buildings ever came to be known as “music cottages.” Lack of data notwithstanding, further evidence is available in an article on page 5 of the Umass Chronicle dated September 20, 1996, which announced the University's plans to raze 'cottages A, B, and C' of the Old Infirmary Group as well as Marshall Hall before the winter of that year. It seems most telling, that this article's detailing the destruction of the 'music cottages' keeps so much of the buildings' known history but as the final funeral dirge falls silent, so too do the cottages' stories.
Harold Whiting Cary's The University of Massachusetts: A History of One Hundred Years (1962) mentions 'an infirmary building being occupied in 1961 that replaces the former meager facilities', but he does not indicate how these former facilities may be used in the future. Once again, a thorough review of the Trustees minutes also reveals nothing about the intended use of the Old Infirmary buildings for the future. According to the aforementioned newspaper article, Cottage A had been vacated the previous spring by the Office of the College of Food and Natural Resources. Cottage B had been vacant for several years, and Cottage C had been vacated by the Music and Dance department at the end of July in 1996. That the Music and Dance department had occupied Cottage C gives credibility to the former existence of the 'music cottages' as such but offers little additional information.
It is truly a loss that the Old Infirmary buildings which had occupied a place on the campus and its maps for over eighty years were suddenly wiped off the map after 1996. Prior to the new infirmary built in the early sixties, campus maps just identified the Old Infirmary buildings as the University Infirmary. As early as 1968, the buildings appeared on maps as the Old Infirmary Group, and on every map from then until their demolition they were identified as such. Interestingly, the FY 1972 Comptrollers Annual Statement of Real Property Buildings and Structures lists the Old Infirmary Group as “Hospital A-B-C.” The letter designations are interesting for a seeming connection to the cottage letters of the newspaper article, but they never appeared on any actual campus maps by those names. According to the February 1955/56 College Catalog, the separate buildings each served a particular function as a part of the University Infirmary. One was used for bed-patients, one for out-patients, and the last was for contagious cases requiring quarantine.
If the Old Infirmary Group buildings still stood today, their stories could probably be better resurrected. The 2007 Preservation Massachusetts 10 Most Endangered Historic Places Nomination Form is a less than friendly reminder of the ongoing legal issues surrounding destruction of historic places and its associated consequences. Attachment A lists the Infirmary buildings and Marshall Hall as four buildings already destroyed of several historically valuable sites on campus threatened with the same fate. Attachment C contains some choice language lamenting the “less than exemplary care for...historic sites.”
For those who lived during the time of the 'music cottages' on Umass Amherst's campus, they certainly must have been real. It is surprising to find that the Music and Dance department records detailing departmental operations and administration from 1919 to the present are devoid of any reference to the 'music cottages.' A map from a Parents' Weekend in the year 1988 is another scattered remnant intriguing for the little light it sheds on the existence of the cottages. The only information it contains designates Cottage C as the place where a performance of Afro-American Dance shall occur. Apart from that, only muffled images of the photographs and the newspaper article point to buildings identified as the music cottages. Undoubtedly, someone on campus still remembers the music cottages as such, but more research is needed to give a true voice to the music cottages' stories. For all newcomers to UMass Amherst, the music cottages and their story have fallen silent.
- Date Added
- August 29, 2012
- Orchard Hill
- Item Type
- Still Image
- “Music Cottages,” Lost UMass, accessed November 24, 2017, http://lostumass.omeka.net/items/show/13.