Springfield Rescue Mission, Springfield Mass

The former WCA boarding house at 19 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The building at 19 Bliss Street has had a variety of roles over the years.  It was built in 1884, as a boarding house for the Women’s Christian Association.  As Springfield’s population and economy grew in the late 19th century, so did the demand for workers.  The WCA provided a place for young, single women to live while working in the city, and this building served that purpose until the larger YWCA building was completed a block away on Howard Street in 1907.  The old building was then used as a private boarding house for many years, as seen in the first photo.  In 1962, the Springfield Rescue Mission acquired the building, and it has been used by them ever since.  There have been a few changes over the years, the most obvious of which is the removal of the front porch; the “shadow” of the porch can still be seen on the front of the building.  Another fairly recent change was the installation of new windows, which required some brick infilling of the window openings; this can be seen the clearest with the windows on the far left side.  It wasn’t planned this way, but notice how the cars in both photos are in essentially the same locations, representing changes in automobiles over the course of three quarters of a century.  Also of note is the tree in the foreground, which appears to be the same tree that was there in the first photo.

However, the historic building sits literally right in the middle of the planned MGM casino, so it is among the buildings that will be demolished.  In exchange for the building, MGM purchased a new location for the Rescue Mission, the former Orr Cadillac dealership on Mill Street, which will allow the organization to expand from 40 to 60 beds.  Currently, the Bliss Street property scheduled to be the last to be demolished, sometime in December of 2015.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (2)

Howard Street School in Springfield, seen from Union Street around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Another view of the Howard Street School, seen from the Union Street side (see this post for a view from Howard Street).  As mentioned in the other post, the school was built in 1905 and was severely damaged in the 2011 tornado.  It is scheduled to be demolished by MGM Springfield as soon as the Massachusetts Historical Commission gives them the green light, and the MGM parking garage will be built on the site.  It shouldn’t be too controversial, though; even if not for MGM, there would be no saving the building – the tornado left it damaged beyond repair, and it was never seen as a particularly historic structure to begin with.  The second photo was taken on March 24, 2015, the day of the official groundbreaking ceremony that took place on the other side of the school.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (1)

The Howard Street School, seen from Howard Street, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The Howard Street School was built in 1905, and was one of many school buildings built in Springfield around the turn of the 20th century, which included Forest Park School, Classical High School, Chestnut Junior High School, and the Technical High School. This school was used for over 100 years, and was most recently known as the Zanetti School.  The Zanetti School moved to a new location in 2009, and two years later the 2011 tornado caused substantial damage to the building.  It has been vacant ever since, and it is now slated to be demolished to make way for a parking garage for the planned MGM Springfield casino.  The 2015 photo was taken on March 24, the day of the ceremonial groundbreaking, and the old school building is to be the first building demolished, once the Massachusetts Historical Commission signs off on it.

Bliss Street Parking Garage, Springfield Mass

The garage at 16 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Some then & now scenes are remarkable in how much they have changed, while others are remarkable in how little they’ve changed, like this scene on Bliss Street.  The two photos were taken over 75 years apart, yet nothing seems to have changed except for the cars.  Even the fence around the parking lot looks like it is the same one from the 1930s.  The building in the foreground is a parking garage, which was built in 1928, presumably to accommodate workers for the State Building, which was built in 1929 and can be seen behind the parking garage on the left-hand side of the photo.  The State Building at 95 State Street was built as the annex to 1200 Main Street, which at the time served as the main offices for MassMutual.

Although this particular scene has been virtually unchanged since before the Great Depression, it will be changing very dramatically this year.  All of the properties are within the footprint of the planned MGM casino, and the parking garage is currently scheduled to be demolished in June.  The State Building was originally slated to be demolished, but as of March 2015 it appears that it will be preserved as office space for MGM.  If the casino is finished according to the current plans, the location where this photo was taken will be part of the main gaming floor of the casino.

Dwight House, Springfield Mass

The Dwight House on Howard Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2015:

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This scene is soon to change even more dramatically than it did between the first two photos – all of the buildings in the 2015 scene are within the footprint of the planned MGM casino.  Most of the buildings will be demolished, except for the old MassMutual building in the background.  Strangely enough, the building in the old photo will end up outliving almost all of the ones in the present-day photo; its former site is now a parking lot across Howard Street from Red Rose Pizzeria, but the building itself was dismantled and moved to Deerfield, where it sits on Old Main Street in Historic Deerfield.

The house in the first photo, the Dwight House, was built in 1754.  It was originally owned by Colonel Josiah Dwight, and later by his son, Colonel Timothy Dwight.  It was originally located on Main Street, but was moved to Howard Street around 1890, where it was photographed in the first view here.  By the 1930s view, it was divided into a duplex and was used as a tenement, and at this point was probably the oldest building in the city.  However, developers were eyeing the property, so in 1950 it was dismantled and moved to Deerfield, as seen in the photo on the Historic Deerfield website.  This arrangement preserved the building, but it also creates the odd situation of a city’s oldest building being located over 30 miles from the city.

Brooklyn Bridge Construction

The Brooklyn Bridge, before the construction of the walkway, probably taken around 1880. Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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The scene in 2013:

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The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, but before the roadway could be built, the towers were connected by a narrow walkway.  Although intended for the workers, it was also open to the public, and was a popular destination, to the point where bridge management had to start issuing passes in order to cross.  Of course, this was in the days before OSHA regulations and other safety measures, but it actually wasn’t as dangerous as it looks.  Some publicity-seeking daredevils even jumped off of it and into the East River, with varying success rates.  Upon completion of the bridge, the present-day walkway opened, which can be seen around the turn of the last century in this post.  Thankfully, modern-day bridge pedestrians need not balance themselves on a narrow catwalk, nor ascend and descend the two 272-foot tall bridge towers in order to cross the river.