Foot-Wallace House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 201 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Homer Foot was born in 1810, and was the son of Adonijah Foot, the master armorer at the Armory. However, Adonijah died in 1825, a few months after 14-year-old Homer began working as a clerk at the Dwight store, at the corner of Main and State Streets. At the time, the Dwight family was one of the leading families in Springfield, and their merchant business was among the oldest and most prosperous in the region. The firm was owned by many successive generations of Dwights, who sold dry goods, groceries, and hardware from their corner store. By the time Homer began working here, longtime owner James Scutt Dwight had recently died, but his son, James Sanford Dwight, took over the firm along with several other partners.

Homer worked as a clerk for James Sanford Dwight for six years, but in 1831 Dwight died from malaria at the age of 31, while vacationing in Italy. His untimely death marked the end of many years of Dwight ownership of the company, and later in 1831 it was sold to 21-year-old Homer Foot. Even then, though, the business did not entirely leave the family, because three years later he married Delia Dwight, the sister of his late employer. They were married at the old Dwight homestead at the corner of State and Dwight Streets, in a double wedding ceremony that also included Delia’s sister Lucy and her husband, William W. Orne.

Early in their marriage, Homer and Delia lived in a house at 41 Maple Street, right next to where the South Congregational Church was later built. However, in 1844 he hired master builder Simon Sanborn, Springfield’s leading architect of the first half of the 19th century, to design a house on the hill at the corner of Maple and Central Streets. Foot was among the first of Springfield’s wealthy residents to move to the upper part of Maple Street, which was further from downtown but offered dramatic views of the surrounding landscape. The design of the house itself was also a departure from Springfield’s conventional architecture. Most of the homes in this era were fairly plain, conservative Greek Revival-style homes, but Sanborn designed a large, Gothic Revival-style house that reflected the Victorian-era shifts toward more elaborate, ornate architecture.

Shortly after the completion of his house, Foot embarked on an even more ambitious building project. For many years, the Dwight store had been located in an old brick building at the northeast corner of Main and State Streets, where the MassMutual Center is now located. However, in 1846 he purchased the old Warriner’s Tavern, which was located diagonally across the street. Once the leading tavern in Springfield, this colonial-era building was obsolete by the mid-19th century, and owner Jeremy Warriner had moved his business to the nearby Union House. The old tavern building itself was moved off the property, a little to the west along State Street, and Homer Foot built his new store on the site.

Aside from his own business, Foot was also involved in several other local companies, serving as a director of the Pynchon Bank, auditor for the Springfield Institution for Savings, and treasurer of the Hampden Watch Company. He was also a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, but unlike many of the city’s other prominent businessmen of the era, he never held public office, aside from serving as one of the overseers of the poor. However, this did not stop the Whig party from nominating him, against his wishes, as their candidate for lieutenant governor in 1856, although he ended up finishing a distant third in the general election.

Homer and Delia raised their ten children here in this house, and they went on to live here for the rest of their lives. They were both still living here when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, but Delia died in 1897, and Homer died a year later. By this point, the upper part of Maple Street has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods for the city’s wealthiest residents, and in 1901 the house was purchased by Andrew Wallace, the co-founder and owner of the Springfield-based Forbes & Wallace department store.

Andrew Wallace was born in Scotland in 1842, and immigrated to the United States in 1867, where he found work in Boston with the dry goods firm of Hogg, Brown & Taylor. From there, he moved to Pittsfield and then to Springfield, where in 1874 he partnered with Alexander B. Forbes to establish Forbes & Wallace. Like Homer Foot & Co. a generation earlier, Forbes & Wallace became the city’s leading retail company, with a large store on Main Street in the heart of downtown Springfield.

Andrew Wallace, his wife Madora, and their six children had previously lived in a fine Second Empire-style mansion on Locust Hill, at the corner of Main and Locust Streets in the South End, but in 1901 he purchased this house from Homer Foot’s heirs. By this point, the house was nearly 60 years old, and Gothic-style architecture had long since fallen out of fashion, so Wallace expanded and remodeled the house, adding a large wing that dominates the foreground of the two 20th century photos. Along with this, he added a large stable on the other side of the house, which included a recreation room on the second floor. The result was an interesting mix of architectural styles, which included many of the original Gothic details, combined with a new stucco exterior and tile roof.

After Andrew’s death in 1923, his son Andrew Jr. inherited the house, where he lived with his wife Florence and their children, Andrew and Barbara. During the 1930 census, they lived here with three servants, and the house was valued at $100,000, equivalent to nearly $1.5 million today. They were still living here later in the decade, when the first photo was taken, and Andrew was working as the president of Forbes & Wallace, which remained a retail giant in the region for many more decades, until it finally closed in 1976.

The Wallace family continued to live here until Florence’s death in 1951 and Andrew’s death five years later. The property was then sold to the MacDuffie School, a private school that was, at the time, located across the street at 182 Central Street. The house was converted into a dormitory, and was used by the school until the spring of 2011, when the school moved from Springfield to a new campus in Granby. Coincidentally, the move coincided with the June 1, 2011 tornado, which caused heavy damage to the Springfield campus, including the Foot-Wallace House. Many of the other buildings have since been restored, and the campus is now the home of Commonwealth Academy, but this house is still awaiting repairs, and remains boarded-up more than six years later. Because of this, the house has been included on the Springfield Preservation Trust’s annual listing of the city’s Most Endangered Historic Resources.

Orick H. Greenleaf House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 275 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The site in 2017:

Orick H. Greenleaf was originally from the western part of New York state, but he moved to Springfield as a young man in the mid-1840s. A tanner by trade, he soon entered the paper business, forming a partnership with L. H. Taylor to create Greenleaf & Taylor. Originally only involved in buying and selling paper, the firm later switched to manufacturing paper, and opened a mill in Huntington, Massachusetts. Greenleaf was involved with the firm until the 1860s, and in 1865 he purchased a controlling interest in the recently-established Holyoke Paper Company, which was only the second paper mill in Holyoke. At the time, Holyoke was a small but rapidly developing industrial city, and by the end of the century Greenleaf and other manufacturers had turned the city of Holyoke into the world’s leading producer of paper.

Under Greenleaf’s leadership, the factory expanded and was, by 1867, producing five tons of paper each day. He became a wealthy man, and in the 1870s he and his wife Mary moved to the top of the hill on Maple Street, where many of the city’s most affluent families were building mansions. Greenleaf hired New York architect George Hathorne, who designed this elaborate High Victorian Gothic-style house. At the time, the house looked very different from its appearance when the first photo was taken, with a brick exterior that resembled one of Hathorne’s other Springfield works, the old library building. Situated on a hill directly east of downtown Springfield, the home offered dramatic views of the city and the surrounding landscape, and it was appropriately named “River View.”

Greenleaf was a man of considerable wealth, but he was best remembered for his philanthropy. A devout Baptist, he had made it a habit to give away a portion of his incone, ever since he was a young man. As his wealth grew, so did his giving, and upon his death in 1896 the Boston Watchman cited Greenleaf’s own estimate that he had earned about a million dollars in his lifetime (nearly $30 million today), and had given half of it away. He donated to a wide range of charitable organizations, and he also served as a trustee of both the Mt. Hermon School and Shaw University.

However, Greenleaf’s most lasting legacy came in 1884, while he was serving on the city’s parks commission. At the time, Springfield lacked a large public park, but several ideas had been put forward, including one along the riverfront in the downtown area and another in the vicinity of the Watershops Ponds. Greenleaf settled the issue, though, when he offered to give the city 65 acres that he owned in the southern part of the city. He had originally planned to subdivide the land and build upscale homes, but the economic recession after the Panic of 1873 had delayed these plans. So, instead the property became Forest Park, which grew extensively as more benefactors, including ice skate manufacturer Everett H. Barney, later followed Greenleaf’s lead.

Greenleaf lived long enough to see his park become widely popular with the residents of Springfield, and he died in 1896 at the age of 72. His wife Mary died five years later, and they had no children, so the house was subsequently sold to bank executive James W. Kirkham. An 1872 graduate of Yale, Kirkham had worked for the First National Bank of Springfield for many years, eventually becoming president in 1905. A year later, the bank merged with the Union Trust Company, and Kirkham became its vice president. Along with this, he was also the president of the Agawam Woolen Company, and he served on the city’s board of fire commissioners.

James and his wife Fannie had one child, William, who was also a Yale graduate. He earned his doctorate in biology in 1907, and subsequently taught at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School from 1908 to 1916 before returning to Springfield as a biology professor at Springfield College.  He would also go on to become president of the Springfield Library and Museum Association, serving from 1941 to 1959. After James’s death in 1927, he inherited the Maple Street property, and by the 1930 census he and his wife Irma were living in this house along with their 18-year-old daughter Marguerite, plus three Irish-born servants who were, confusingly enough, all named Margaret.

At some point during the Kirkham family’s ownership, the exterior of the house was dramatically modified. By the early 20th century, Victorian-style architecture had fallen out of fashion, and the Kirkhams remodeled the highly ornate brick walls, covering them in stucco instead. The carriage house in the distance on the left also matched the redesigned house, as did the fence along Main Street in the foreground.

The Kirkhams later moved out of this house, and by the 1950s it was the Springfield Chapter House of the American Red Cross. However, the house burned down in 1956, and it was replaced with a nondescript one-story building that now stands on the site. This property was later part of the adjacent MacDuffie School campus, and following their 2011 move to Granby the property was sold to Commonwealth Academy. Not all is gone from the first photo, though; both the fence and the carriage house are still standing today.

Bemis & Call Tool Factory, Springfield, Mass

The factory of Bemis & Call Hardware and Tool Company at 125 Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The origins of the Bemis & Call Hardware and Tool Company started in the 1830s, when merchant Stephen C. Bemis began manufacturing hardware here in Springfield. One of his early business moves was to purchase Solyman Merrick’s patent of the monkey wrench, which would become one of the company’s leading products. He subsequently formed a partnership with Amos Call, and in the 1840s Bemis & Call began manufacturing tools and hardware in a factory here on this site along the Mill River. The company initially rented space in a factory building that they shared with several other tenants, but later in the 19th century they would purchase the entire site.

Stephen C. Bemis retired from the company in 1855,   and went on to have a career in politics. He served as a city alderman from 1856 to 1858, as mayor in 1861 and 1862, and in between he was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 1859, although he lost the general election to fellow Springfield politician Eliphalet Trask. In the meantime, his son, William C. Bemis, became treasurer when Stephen retired, and remained with the company for the next half century.

William became president in 1897, and that same year the company built a large addition to the original factory. This three-story brick building, seen in the center of both photos, was joined four years later by the more ornate two-story section on the right, which was used as the conpany’s offices. The original wooden building stood on the left side until around 1920, when it was demolished and replaced with the current four-story brick building. During this time, Bemis & Call continued to specialize in wrenches, but also produced punches, pliers, calipers, and eventually combination locks.

Bemis & Call finally sold their wrench line in 1939, around the same time that the first photo was taken. However, unlike so many other Springfield-based companies, they survived the Great Depression and remained in business until finally closing in 1988. The factory buildings themselves are still standing, though, with hardly any exterior changes since the first photo was taken nearly 80 years ago, and they serve as a reminder of Springfield’s legacy as an important industrial city in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Dwight W. Ellis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 133 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


Dwight W. Ellis was born in Monson, Massachusetts in 1885, and was the son of textile manufacturer Arthur D. Ellis. Arthur’s father, also named Dwight W. Ellis, had established a textile mill in Monson in 1871, and Arthur took control of it after his father’s death in 1899, adding a second factory in 1908. After Arthur’s death in 1916, the younger Dwight acquired the firm, which became A. D. Ellis Mills Incorporated in 1923. Over the years it made a wide variety of textiles, including uniform fabric for Annapolis, West Point, the Marine Corps, and the New York Police Department, as well as cloth for such diverse uses as billiards tables, caskets, and automobile upholstery. The mills produced upholstery for the White House cars, and also for the car used by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1952.

Although he spent much of his life in Monson, Dwight W. Ellis moved to Springfield in the late 1920s, along with his wife Marion and their three children. Here, he purchased property on Springfield’s exclusive Longhill Street, and built this Tudor Revival-style home, which was described in a 1980s city library pamphlet as “the most extravagant mansion ever built in the Forest Park neighborhood.” It was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Chapman & Frazer, which specialized in Medieval-inspired designs such as this, and cost some $60,000 to build by the time it was completed in 1928.

The Ellis family was still living here when the first photo was taken a decade later, and Dwight’s mills were still prosperous. During the 1940 census, his income was listed as “over $5,000,” which was the highest income bracket on the census, and despite the Great Depression, the family could still afford to hire two live-in servants. However, by the middle of the century the New England textile industry was struggling, and the Ellis mills were no exception. In 1958, Dwight’s son, Dwight Jr., testified before a U.S. Senate hearing, explaining the company’s plight, which he blamed on stiff foreign competition and low tariffs. He told the senators about the company’s long history, their high-quality fabrics, and their state-of-the-art production methods, before explaining how they recently had to lay off half their workers and close one of the mills.

In the midst of the company’s financial problems, the older Dwight sold his house to the Melha Shriners in the mid-1950s. They expanded the house to use it as the organization’s headquarters, and the renovated building was dedicated in 1959. This included a large addition to the back, but the front of the house remained essentially unchanged, as the two photos show. Unfortunately, things did not end so well for Ellis or his mills. With both his company and his health failing, 75-year-old Dwight committed suicide in 1961, leaving Dwight Jr. to take over as president until the following year, when the nearly century-old firm finally closed.

Today, the house is one of the many early 20th century mansions that still stand on Longhill Street, and it is a contributing property in the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It has remained as the headquarters of the Melha Shriners ever since Ellis sold the house in the 1950s, but earlier this year the organization announced plans to sell the property. Amid declining membership and high upkeep costs, the Shriners are looking to downsize in order to focus on their primary mission of supporting Springfield’s Shriner’s Hospital, so as of right now the fate of this building seems uncertain.

Robert Darling House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 215 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Most of Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when it became a popular place for Springfield’s wealthy residents to live. Prior to this, was only sparsely settled, with a small community centered around the corner of Longhill Street and Sumner Avenue, with the latter being referred to simply as “the X road.” A city map from 1870 shows about two dozen houses in the vicinity, plus a school, cemetery, and a few brick yards, but otherwise the area was still rural, despite being located just to the south of downtown Springfield.

All of this began to change at the end of the 19th century, however. Forest Park was established in the 1880s, and by the following decade trolleys were running to and from the park, making it easy to commute into the city from here. By the turn of the 20th century, most of the land near Longhill Street and Sumner Avenue had been subdivided, and new streets were laid out across previously undeveloped land. Nearly all of the older homes were ultimately demolished to build newer, more fashionable ones, and even the cemetery was replaced by the Sumner Avenue Elementary School.

This house, located on the east side of Longhill Street, just south of Sumner Avenue, is one of the few surviving remnants of the old neighborhood. Built around the early 1850s, it was once the home of Robert Darling, a Scottish immigrant who came to the United States in 1853 when he was about 20 years old. He was living in this house by at least 1870, and during the 1880 census he lived here with his daughter Elizabeth, his sister-in-law, and his nephew. He was a longtime employee of the Armory, and the 1900 census indicates that his job involved gas plumbing.

Around the same time that large-scale development began in the area in the late 19th century, Darling built a second house on his lot, located just to the south of here at 223 Longhill. Although still modest compared to the mansions that were soon to be built along the street, it was still larger than his old house, and by 1900 census he was living in this house along with Elizabeth, her husband Edward L. Janes, and their daughter Edith. He still owned the old house, though, and rented it to Appleton Greenwood, an elderly retired store clerk who lived here with his wife Eliza.

After Robert Darling’s death in 1912, Elizabeth and Edward inherited both houses, and continued to rent out 215 Longhill. By 1920, their daughter Edith was married and living with them at 223 Longhill with her husband Alvin W. Fuller, while Alvin’s mother, Martha, lived here at 215 Longhill with her brother Walter, sister Deborah, and Debora’s husband Austin. After Walter’s death in 1927, the other three continued to rent this house, paying $35 per month in 1930. However, all three of them died in the mid-1930s, shortly before the first photo was taken, and the house appears to have been empty during the 1940 census.

Very little has changed in the appearance of this house since then, and it survives as the oldest building in the area. It has seen the area transformed from a small farming community into a  wealthy suburban neighborhood, and its plain architecture contrasts with the elegant early 20th century mansions that now surround it on Longhill Street. Along with these other homes, though, it now forms part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

David C. Coe House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 237 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1908, and was one of many upscale homes that were built on Longhill Street at the turn of the 20th century. It was originally the home of David C. Coe, a tailor who had a shop on Main Street here in Springfield. Originally from Kansas, where his father had been a merchant and a Civil War officer, David later came east with his father and settled in Springfield. In 1901, he married his wife, Laila Phelon, and they had three daughters, Mary, Carolyn, and Kathleen.

The Coe family was still living here into the 1930s, but Laila died in 1935 and David moved out soon after. By the time the first photo was taken a few years later, the house was being rented by Howard S. Stedman, the president and treasurer of the Dentists and Surgeons Supply Company. At the time, and his wife Marion paid $80 per month, and lived here with their two children, Barbara and John. In 1942, though, Howard purchased the house outright, and lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1958.

The house would remain in the Stedman family until it was finally sold in 1977. Since then, very little has changed, and the exterior of the house remains well-preserved as a good example of early 20th century Colonial Revival architecture. Like the other homes on Longhill Street and the surrounding neighborhood, the house is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.