It’s All About the History

The mill building at One Cottage Street was built in 1859 and produced batten, twine, and elastic thread, powered by a dam at the mouth of Nashawannuck Pond. In 1976, textile giant J.P. Stevens Co. donated the building to Riverside Industries, who have helped nurture Easthampton’s creative community by restoring and maintaining the five-story building housing nearly 100 artists and artisans.

Riverside Industries is an agency that empowers people with developmental disabilities to pursue meaningful employment and fulfilling lives. The building was a perfect spot for artists looking for studio space.

Each room had large windows to let in an abundance of light, high ceilings, a loading dock, working elevator, heat, and reasonable rent. Plus a nice social and working environment for artisans who often work in isolation.

In 1986, five of the building’s tenants grouped together to create a “Holiday Seconds Sale”. They hung 100 fliers around Easthampton, placed an ad in the local paper, and displayed their wares in one small area of the mill.

But this was no ordinary group of artisans; each had national reputations and sold their works at galleries.

The original five Holiday Seconds Sale artisans were sculptor Denise Herzog, fine lighting designer Janna Ugone, glass artist Lynn Latimer, White Dog Pottery, and Kaleidoscope Pottery.

We sold our work wholesale and offered great bargains to people in the area. -Denise Herzog

By the early 1990’s the Holiday Seconds Sale was attracting thousands of people. More craftspeople become involved and lines of customers looking for good bargains would form outside the building and around the block. The event became so successful, the artists and craftspeople felt they needed to open their studios to accommodate the crowds.

Opening the studios was a huge benefit to customers who got to see where the artists worked. People got to see the equipment artists used, and even works in progress.

It’s a nice way to educate people on how things are made. Many people may not have seen an artist’s studio before. It’s fun. – Lynn Latimer

For a few years, many people in Easthampton knew very little about Cottage Street Studios. The Open Studios were a terrific opportunity to invite the community into see and purchase the works of outstanding artists and craftspeople who literally lived next door.

After each show, the artisans would discuss what went right and how they could improve the following year. With the help of Easthampton Savings Bank, Florence Savings Bank and the Gazette, Cottage Street Studios designed a graphics package, made billboards and signs, bought newspaper and radio advertising to publicize the show, and hired greeters to help customers navigate the massive old factory building.

It’s a rare and wonderful thing for this building to be a cohesive base for this group of artists who came together when they were young and are now all established. It’s amazing to live in a community like Easthampton with people who love and support art. It’s a rare thing and we’re all very appreciative of it. – Denise Herzog

These days, Cottage Street Open Studios is known far and wide and attracts people from as far away as New York and Pennsylvania, as well as from all over New England.