Cushman Hall, Monson, Mass

Cushman Hall on Main Street in Monson, around 1904-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The building in 2015:

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This former dormitory is the last surviving purpose-built structure from the old Monson Academy, which operated here in Monson from 1804 until it merged with Wilbraham Academy in 1971 and moved to their campus.  Its construction in 1904 was funded by Thaddeus L. Cushman, and it was named in honor of his nephew, Frank Chapin Cushman, who died the year before at the age of 16.

After the school merger, the former dormitory became an apartment building, and it remains in use today.  The 2011 tornado destroyed two of the last three surviving academy buildings, and directly across the street from Cushman Hall the Town Hall/former Monson High School building was damaged beyond repair.  However, Cushman Hall sustained minimal damage, and today it is still an excellent reminder of the town’s educational history.

Holmbrook, Monson, Mass

The Holmbrook mansion on Main Street in Monson, probably around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The building in 2015:

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This beautiful Second Empire style mansion was built around 1870 for local factory owner Cyrus W. Holmes.  He named it Holmbrook, and he lived here until his death in 1891 at the age of 89.  Curiously, his son died only six days later, and the house eventually came into the ownership of Adelaide Wingate, who donated the house to Monson Academy in 1947 to use as a dormitory.  The school built tennis courts and a ski slope in the backyard, but in 1971 Monson Academy merged with Wilbraham Academy and moved to their Wilbraham campus.

The house was damaged by the June 1, 2011 tornado, which destroyed two former Monson Academy buildings across the street from here.  When the second photo was taken, the house was still undergoing repairs more than four years later.  A 1988 Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System report described it as “undoubtedly Monson’s best example of the Second Empire style,” and even after the tornado it still retains much of its original Victorian detail, and it will hopefully soon be fully restored.

First Church, Monson, Mass

The First Church of Monson, probably around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The church on June 3, 2011, two days after it was damaged in a tornado:

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The church in 2015:

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This view is similar to the one in this post, which shows the church from just a slightly different angle.  As mentioned in that post, the church was completed in 1873, and has been a major Monson landmark ever since. The steeple, though, has been replaced twice. The original one, seen in the first photo, was destroyed above the belfry in the 1938 hurricane.  It was reconstructed similar to the original design, but over 70 years later, the June 1, 2011 tornado completely destroyed the entire steeple, as seen in the second photo, which was taken two days later.  In the distance, the remains of the steeple lay in a pile of rubble in front of the church.  The old bell, which had been installed around 1881, was also cracked and had to be replaced.  The steeple was rebuilt in 2013, using stronger building materials of concrete, steel, and fiberglass. Other than the new materials, though, it is identical to the 1939 reconstruction.

Old Meeting House, Monson, Mass

The old meeting house of the First Church of Monson, seen around 1860-1871. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The church in 2015:

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The First Church of Monson was established in 1762, and the first photo here shows its second meeting house, which was completed in 1803.  The building stood here on High Street, overlooking downtown Monson, until 1871, when it was moved across Main Street and the present-day church was built.  Its time in use coincided with the lengthy pastorate of Alfred Ely, who served as the pastor of the church for 60 years, from 1806 until 1866.  After the building was moved, it was converted into stores on the first floor and a meeting hall on the upper floor, named Green’s Hall.  It can be seen in the c.1892 photo in this post, but it burned down in 1895.  The church building that replaced it, though, it still standing over 140 years later, and aside from having its steeple replaced twice, it looks essentially the same as it did when it was completed in 1873.

Ely Road, Monson, Mass

Looking up the hill on Ely Road toward the Keep Homestead, sometime around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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Ely Road in 2015:

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Ely Road is named for Alfred Ely, who lived on the street and served for 60 years as the pastor of the First Church of Monson.  The church is located at the bottom of Ely Road about a quarter mile from here, and from 1809 until 1843 Ely lived at the house at the top of the hill.  The house was built around 1800, and in 1854 it was purchased by Marcus Colton, who conveyed it to his nephew Edward Keep two years later.  From then it would remain in the Keep family for the next 132 years, until the death of Edward Keep’s granddaughter, Myra Keep Lovell Moulton, in 1988.

Upon her death, Myra willed the house to the town, to be used as the Keep Homestead Museum.  The house is hidden from view by the trees in the 2015 photo, but it is still there, and it is open to the public once a month from April to December.  Its collections include Myra’s extensive button collection, along with other antique furnishings, documents, and other items relating to the history of Monson.

Senior Center, Monson, Mass

The Edward Cushman House on Main Street in Monson, which later became the Monson Senior Center, probably around 1916-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The building in 2015:

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The present-day Monson Senior Center was built around 1850, and it is one of the many historic Greek Revival homes along this section of Main Street.  It was originally a private residence, with maps in 1857 and 1870 showing it belonging to a Mrs. L. Keep and a Mrs. Flynt, respectively.  Later in the 1800s, it was owned by Edward Cushman, the son of local industrialist Solomon F. Cushman, who owned a woolen mill on Cushman Street.  Edward and his brothers took over control of the company when their father died in 1900, and they ran it together until 1912, when they sold it to a local hat manufacturer, the Heimann and Lichten Company.

Edward Cushman died in 1915, and as part of his will the house became Monson Home for the Aged, a boarding house for elderly residents in town.  According to the house’s listing on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, the house was enlarged and the tower was added during this conversion in 1916; if accurate, it helps provide the earliest possible date for the first photo.

The building was a boarding house until 1975, and since then it has been used as the Monson Senior Center.  It was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado that passed directly over it, but today it is in excellent condition and it is still serving the elderly residents of the town, a century after Edward Cushman’s death.  Incidentally, his father’s factory on Cushman Street is also still standing, although it is in poor condition and has been abandoned for many years.