Sarah J. Bull House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 204 Longhill Street, directly opposite Sumner Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1908 for Sarah J. Bull, the oldest child of Smith & Wesson co-founder Daniel B. Wesson and his wife Cynthia. Born in 1848, Sarah was a child when her father established the pistol manufacturing company, but by the time she was a teenager he had become one of the richest men in Springfield. In 1870, Sarah married Dr. George J. Bull, a Canadian physician, and the couple moved to Worcester, where Sarah’s father built them a mansion at 55 Pearl Street as a wedding gift. They would go on have five children, whom they raised in the house: Florence, Maria, George, Harcourt, and Alice, although Alice died in infancy.

However, the house in Worcester was evidently not well-received by George, who saw it as a costly white elephant. According to a 1904 article in the Boston Post, George had objected to Daniel Wesson’s wedding gift, expressing concern about the expense of maintaining such a large, lavish mansion. To this, Wesson reportedly replied that “my daughter is accustomed to such surroundings and I am unwilling to allow this marriage to cause any unhappiness or inconvenience in her life.” But, despite – or perhaps because of – this mansion, their marriage was apparently not a happy one, and the couple divorced in 1883, an action that was almost unheard of in high society of the Victorian era. Soon after, George moved to Colorado, while Sarah returned to her parents’ house at 132 High Street in Springfield.

In 1899, Daniel and Cynthia Wesson moved into a new mansion at 50 Maple Street, perhaps the most elegant private home ever built in Springfield. Sarah moved with them, and was living there during the 1900 census, where her marital status was erroneously – but perhaps deliberately – listed as “widowed.” She remained here with her parents until their deaths in 1906, and she and her two surviving siblings inherited the mansion, which was valued at $1 million, or over $27 million today. However, none of them had any interest in living in the 20-room house, and they subsequently sold it to the newly-formed Colony Club in 1915.

In the meantime, Sarah built a mansion of her own in the fashionable Forest Park neighborhood, just to the south of downtown Springfield. Located on the west side of Longhill Street, it was in the most desirable section of the neighborhood, on a bluff above the Connecticut River, with expansive views of the river and surrounding countryside. The large house was completed in 1908, and she lived here alone except for two servants. The 1910 census listed two Irish-born servants, Mary and Bridget Millett, who were 30 and 24 years old, respectively. A decade later, her servants were immigrants from Finland: 35-year-old Ida Nordman and 43-year-old Signe Lindberg.

Sarah Bull died in 1928, and the house was sold to Edwin C. Gilbert, the general manager of the Chapman Valve Company in Indian Orchard. During the 1930 census the house was valued at $50,000 (over $730,000 today), and he lived here with his wife Elizabeth and their three young daughters: Jenn, Sarah, and Elizabeth. They also employed three servants, who were listed in the census as a butler, a cook, and a nurse. However, he Gilbert family did not live here for very long, because in 1933 Edwin sold the property and subsequently moved into a nearby house at 251 Longhill Street.

The next owner of the house was Hattie C. Long, a widow who was about 75 years old when she purchased the house from Edwin Gilbert. She moved here a few years after the death of her husband, Charles L. Long, a prominent lawyer and judge who had served as president of the city’s common council from 1885 to 1885 and as mayor in 1895. Charles and Hattie had only one child, Milton C. Long, who was born in 1882 and grew up in the family home at 42 Pearl Street. However, in 1912 Milton was returning home from a visit to Europe, and booked first class passage aboard the Titanic. He was among the 1,517 who died in the disaster, and his body was later recovered and buried in Springfield.

Hattie was still living here, alone except for two servants, when the first photo was taken. Despite already being in her 80s at this point, she lived here for well over a decade afterward, until her death in 1952 at the age of 95. Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, with hardly any changes since the first photo was taken. It still stands atop the hill overlooking the Connecticut River, alongside a number of other historic early 20th century mansions. Together, these homes comprise part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Albert P. Janes House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 24 Spruceland Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Albert and Greta Janes were married in 1896, and the following year they moved into this newly-built house in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood, which was just beginning to be developed at the time. Homes such as this one attracted middle-class buyers who, thanks to the advent of electric trolleys, could live in a fashionable neighborhood on the outskirts of the city and commute to work. For Albert, this commute would likely have involved a short walk to Longhill Street, where he would have taken the trolley through Springfield, into Chicopee, and finally across the river to Holyoke, where he worked as a manager in one of the city’s many paper factories.

The Janes’s only child, Beatrice, was born a few years after they moved in, and she grew up here in this house. By the early 1920s, she was working as a clerk for Massachusetts Mutual, at their old headquarters at the corner of Main and State Streets, and she continued living in this house with her parents until her marriage in 1925. However, Albert and Greta would remain here for many years, and they were still living in the house, and nearly 70 years old, when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. However, Albert died in 1946, and Greta sold the house the following year, after having lived here for 50 years.

At some point, probably after Greta sold the house, the exterior clapboards were replaced with aluminum siding. However, the house was later restored to its original appearance, and today there is essentially no difference between the two photos. It remains as good example of late 19th century Colonial Revival architecture, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Edwin L. Bemis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 32 Spruceland Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1902, and was originally the home of Edwin L. Bemis, a member of one of Springfield’s leading industrial families. Born in 1858, he was the grandson of Stephen C. Bemis, who had founded the Bemis & Call Hardware and Tool Company in the 1830s. The company would remain in the family for many years, and Edwin’s father, William C. Bemis, eventually became president of the company in 1897. Edwin also worked for the company, and was an assistant superintendent by the time he, his wife Carrie, and their daughter Marion moved into this house at the turn of the 20th century.

Edwin Bemis would later become the secretary of Bemis & Call, and he and Carrie continued to live here in this house for many years. Carrie died in 1925, and Edwin retired two years later, but continued living here until his death in 1933. Later that year, the house was sold to Paul and Sally Vining, who were living here with their children, Pauline and William, when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Paul worked as an assistant trust officer for the Springfield Safe Deposit and Trust Company, where he earned $3,000 per year (around $53,000 today) during the 1940 census.

The Vining family would remain here in this house until they sold it in 1953, and since then very little has changed in this scene. Like most of the other historic homes in the neighborhood, the house has been well-maintained and well-preserved in its original condition. Even the balustrade over the front porch, a detail that is missing in many other Forest Park homes, is still there in the present-day photo, although its appearance is slightly different from the first photo. Today, this house is, along with the rest of the neighborhood, part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Harry C. Collins House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 240 Washington Boulevard in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1915 on the north side of Washington Boulevard, directly opposite Forest Park. It was originally the home of Harry C. Collins, a civil engineer who worked as a manager for the Berlin Construction Company. According to its advertisement in the 1918 city directory, the company specialized in “steel buildings, bridges and structural works,” and was headquartered on Sanford Street in downtown Springfield, at the current site of the MassMutual Center.

Collins lived here with his wife Marion and their daughter Nancy until 1935, when he sold the house to Charles R. Clason, a lawyer and law professor at the Springfield campus of Northeastern University. Now known as Western New England University, Clason taught at the school beginning in 1920, and he also served as district attorney from 1927 to 1930. He and his wife Emma had previously lived in a house on Rupert Street, but in 1935 they moved into this house on Washington Boulevard. A year later, Clason was elected to Congress, and he went on to represent Massachusetts’s 2nd district for six terms, from 1937 to 1949.

The first photo was taken several years after Clason’s election to the House of Representatives, and he lived here throughout his entire time in Congress. During this time, perhaps his most important vote came on December 8, 1941, when he was one of 388 representatives who voted to declare war on Japan after the previous day’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He continued to serve in the House for the duration of the war, and was ultimately defeated for re-election in 1948, losing to future governor Foster Furcolo. He was, to date, the last Republican to represent the Springfield area in Congress, but he remained active in politics, serving as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1952, 1956, and 1960.

In 1952, Clason became the dean of the Western New England College School of Law, and remained in this position until his retirement in 1970. Both he and Emma lived here until they sold the property in 1976, and they both died in 1985, when they were over 90 years old. Since then, their former house has remained essentially unchanged, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Francis D. Foot House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 42 Florentine Gardens in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Francis D. Foot was one of ten children born to Homer and Delia Foot, and grew up in Springfield, in his father’s house at the corner of Maple and Central Streets. Homer Foot had been one of the many self-made men of 19th century Springfield, beginning his career in 1825 as a 14-year-old clerk in the old Dwight store at the corner of Main and State Streets. However, by the age of 21 Homer Foot purchased the company, and it went on to become one of the area’s leading hardware retailers throughout the rest of the 19th century.

Like his older brother Homer, Jr., Francis Foot grew up working as a clerk in their father’s store, and they both became partners in the company, in 1866 and 1879, respectively. The younger Homer later built a house on Mulberry Street, but Francis never married, and lived with his parents until their deaths in the late 1890s. Around 1901 the old family home was sold to department store magnate Andrew Wallace, and a year later he moved into this newly-built home on Florentine Gardens, in the fashionable and newly-developed Forest Park Heights neighborhood. Like most of the other houses in the neighborhood, it features a Colonial Revival-style design, although it is somewhat unusual in that it has an asymmetrical front facade, with a wing on the southern side of the home.

By the time he moved into this house, Francis Foot was the president of Homer Foot & Co., and he would hold this position for many years. The 1910 census shows him living here with his brother Cleveland and sister Maria, both of whom were also unmarried, and the family also employed two live-in servants. Maria died in 1914, but Francis and Cleveland lived here until Francis’s death in 1928.

The house was subsequently sold to Nelson J. Hibbard, the secretary and treasurer of Perfection Grate & Stoker Company. He and his wife Gertrude were living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and by this point he had become the president and treasurer of the company. They lived here for the rest of their lives, until Gertrude’s death in 1956 and his death in 1959, and since then very little has changed in this scene. The exterior of the house remains remarkably well-preserved, down to small details such as the balustrade over the front porch and the Gothic-style window panes, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Leander H. Day House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 26 Florentine Gardens in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This Colonial Revival-style house was built in 1901, and was originally the home of Leander and Nellie Day. A year earlier, during the 1900 census, they had lived a few blocks away from here, where they rented half of a two-family home on Firglade Avenue before moving into this house. Leander worked a traveling salesman, while Nellie was the owner of N. S. Day, an “artistic novelties” company that had a factory on Bridge Street in Springfield and a store at Union Square in New York City. Leander was 55 during the 1900 census, and Nellie was 48, and they lived with their daughter Bessie, their son Jesse, and Nellie’s mother, Elizabeth Phelps.

By the 1910 census, Nellie was still living in this house and was still listed as being married to Leander, although he apparently was not living here at the time. Instead, she lived here with her mother Elizabeth, her sister Anna, and Anna’s husband, Charles F. Crocker. The family was still here until the late 1910s, but by 1920 Nellie had moved around the corner to Cherryvale Avenue, and this house was sold to Harry B. Ellis, the treasurer of the Garrettson-Ellis Lumber Company. He was about 37 at the time, and lived here with his wife Ethel, their children Robert and Helen, and two servants. However, they were apparently only here for a few years, because by 1922 they had moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The house was subsequently sold to W. Walter Cummings and his wife Edith, who were both in their late 40s at the time. Like the previous owner, Walter was a corporate treasurer, holding that position for many years with the Consolidated Dry Goods Company, a Springfield-based company affiliated with Forbes & Wallace. Walter and Edith were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here for many more years. Walter died in 1952, and Edith appears is listed in city directories as late as 1958. Since then, the house has seen few changes, and survives as one of the many well-preserved turn-of-the-century homes in the Forest Park Heights Historic District.