If you have ever walked down Woodbridge Street in South Hadley, you may have noticed a peculiar inscription on the chimney of one of the houses stating, “This is the House that Jack Built.” This “house that Jack built” is the Croysdale Inn located at 21 Woodbridge Street.
The inn was built by John (Jack) Parfitt, a Holyoke builder, in the spring of 1911. “Jack” constructed the inn for his two sisters, Frances and Isabella, so that they could expand their business, Ye Old English Tea Rooms. The sisters began their business in the spring of 1909 in a small red building located near the village common. The business quickly became popular, especially with the Mount Holyoke College girls. In need of more space, the sisters moved the tea rooms into a nearby house just a year later, which shortly proved unable to accommodate the increasing business. The following spring, their brother constructed the spacious Croysdale Inn (named after a family ancestor) so that the tea rooms could expand.
Upon the completion of the Croysdale Inn, the many people who helped plan and construct the inn decided to engrave on the north chimney, “This is the House that Jack Built” to capture the heart and effort put in to its establishment. Whether coincidence or not, I cannot help but think that the inscription also serves as a nod to the popular British nursery rhyme by the same name. Regardless of who or what the dedication was truly meant to honor, the inn has become best known by those words rather than by its given name.
The substantial three story building originally had a gray colored stucco exterior with dark green trimmings. The first floor, decorated in gold and brown was comprised of four dining rooms, a large kitchen, and a wide piazza at the back which was used to serve afternoon tea. The three smaller dining rooms were called the English, Dutch, and Japanese rooms, and they were designed to accommodate small parties. The north dining room ran the length of the building and was used for larger parties. According to Irene Cronin, who had written a piece on the building in the Hampshire Weekend Gazette in 1995, “The inn catered to parties, private lunches, and dinners and was noted for its home cooking.” Frances and Isabella not only ran their business on the first floor of the inn, but they lived upstairs in one of the many bedrooms on the second and third floors.
The sisters operated the tea room for 18 years until they decided to close the business and divide the building into apartments. They remained in the house for a few more years while Frances worked at Mount Holyoke College as secretary to the treasurer. In 1937 they turned the house over to the Home Owners Loan Corp. The property then went through several owners until it was purchased and renovated by Mount Holyoke College in 1959.
Today, the apartments continue to house faculty of Mount Holyoke College.
Like the nursery rhyme that tells a cumulative tale of people and things indirectly related to the house of a man named Jack, “The House that Jack Built” has a long history in South Hadley that undoubtedly will continue to grow.
Special thanks to Irene Cronin for her information on the building through her article “Inn was ‘the house that Jack built’” published in the Hampshire Weekend Gazette 1995.