Indian Orchard Branch Library, Springfield, Mass

The branch library on Oak Street in the Springfield village of Indian Orchard, probably around 1910. Image from the Russ Birchall Collection at ImageMuseum.

The library in 2017:

Springfield’s public library system dates back to 1857, when the City Library Association was founded. Two years later, the library opened in a room in the old city hall, where it remained until the first permanent public library building was completed on State Street in 1871. Throughout the 19th century, this would remain the only public library in Springfield, but the city also had a number of private libraries, some of which were open to the public. Here in Indian Orchard, a factory village in the northeastern corner of the city, the Indian Orchard Mills Corporation opened a private library in 1859. This library was open to the public, and would serve the residents of the neighborhood until 1901, when a public branch library was opened.

This public library was the first branch library in the city, and was originally located on the ground floor of the Wight & Chapman Block, at the corner of Main and Oak Streets. However, it proved so popular that within a few years it was regularly overcrowded, and a more permanent location was needed. The solution came in 1905, when steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $260,000 to the city in order to build a new central library and three branch libraries. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Carnegie donated funding to build 2,509 libraries around the world, including 43 in Massachusetts, and his 1905 Springfield grant was the single largest one that he made in the state.

Of these four new libraries, the Indian Orchard branch was the first to be completed, opening its doors on March 26, 1909. It featured a Classical Revival design that was popular for libraries of the era, and was the work of Springfield architect John W. Donohue. A prolific local architect, Donohue specialized in designing Catholic churches and other ecclesiastical buildings, but the library was one of his few major secular commissions during his long career. His design also won him national attention, and was featured in The American Architect in 1911.

Nearly 110 years after it opened, the Indian Orchard library is still in use, and it is now one of eight branch libraries in the city. It was threatened with closure in 1982 and in 1990, but it ultimately remained opened and was expanded, undergoing a major renovation and addition that was completed in 2000. This included a large new wing on the back of the building, which is partially visible in the distance on the right side of the 2017 photo. However, the original section of the building was preserved, and today this scene has not significantly changed since the first photo was taken. Because of its historical and architectural significance, the library is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

First Congregational Church, Chicopee, Mass

The First Congregational Church on Chicopee Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Today, this church is known as the First Congregational Church of Chicopee, but the building actually predates Chicopee by several decades. It was completed in 1826 as the Second Congregational Church of Springfield, back when the present-day city of Chicopee was the northern section of Springfield. This section of Chicopee Street, located just east of the Connecticut River, was the site of the earliest settlement in Chicopee, in the second half of the 17th century. For around 75 years, residents of the village had to travel more than five miles to the center of Springfield in order to attend church services, but a new church was established here in 1751. The first meeting house was completed the following year, and stood here until it was replaced with the current church.

The new church came at the request of newly-installed pastor Alexander Phoenix, who agreed to become the pastor of the church only if the old building was repaired or rebuilt. The congregation chose the latter option, spending $4,400 to construct a new church.  The work was done by Alva Whitmarsh and Seba Shepherd, who were associates of noted builder and architect Isaac Damon. Their design reflected the Greek Revival style of architecture, which was becoming popular during this period, particularly for churches and other public buildings, and it also bore a strong resemblance to many of Damon’s own churches, including the First Congregational Church in Springfield.

The first service in the new church was held on January 4, 1826. It was equipped with a stove for heat – something that was still a novelty in many New England churches – but this stove was apparently a source of controversy. Judge E. W. Chapin, in a letter that was read to the church at its annual meeting in 1897, related a story that his mother had told him regarding this stove, writing that “Some woman opposed the innovation, fearing the heat would be too oppressive. The stove, however, was put up, but for some reason no fire was built in it the first Sabbath. This, however, was not known by the woman, who was so overcome by anticipated heat that she was compelled to leave the church during the service.”

In 1841, the church acquired the house immediately to the left of it, in the distance of both photos. This house had been built in 1830 as the home of Silas Stedman, and was later owned by George Hooker before being sold to the church for use as its parsonage. The church was still a part of Springfield at the time, but in 1848 Chicopee was partitioned off as a separate town, and the church became the First Congregational Church of Chicopee. By this point, the main population centers of the town had shifted to the south and east, to the factory villages of Cabotville and Chicopee Falls, but this church building remained in use here at the traditional center of the town.

The first photo shows Chicopee Street as it appeared around 1892, with the church in the center and the parsonage beyond it to the left. Around 125 years later, this scene has not changed dramatically. The trees are gone, the road has been paved, and a newer house now stands on the right side of the church, but overall this scene still looks much the same as it did at the end of the 19th century. Both the church and parsonage remain standing, and both are still owned by the First Church of Chicopee, which continues to worship here nearly 200 years after the building was completed.

Dwight L. Moody Gravesite, Northfield, Mass

The graves of Dwight and Emma Moody, at Round Top on the campus of the former Northfield School, around 1910. Image from All About Northfield (1910).

The scene in 2017:

As discussed in the previous post, the 19th century evangelist Dwight L. Moody was born here in Northfield, in a farmhouse that still stands just to the south of here, at the corner of Moody Street and Highland Avenue. Moody lived in Northfield until 1854, when, as a teenager, he moved to Boston and worked in his uncle’s boot and shoe store. He would not return to live permanently in Northfield until 1876, by which point he had become a world-renowned evangelist. He and his wife Emma subsequently purchased a house at the foot of this hill, on Main Street, and they lived there for the rest of their lives. During that time, Moody established the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies, a private school for girls that was located on a campus behind his house.

Dwight L. Moody died on December 22, 1899, and was buried, in accordance with his wishes, on this knoll, known as Round Top. Located just 300 yards to the north of his birthplace, this spot provides dramatic views of the Connecticut River Valley and the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside. Northfield is located at the tri-point of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont, so all three of these states are visible from the hill, although it is the Green Mountains of Vermont that dominate the background of this particular scene. Moody was buried here on December 26, and his grave was marked with a headstone that reads “He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” His wife Emma died four years later, in 1903, and was buried beside her husband on the right side of the photo, with an inscription on her headstone that reads “His servants shall serve him, and they shall reign for ever and ever.”

In 1912, only a few years after the first photo was taken, the Northfield Seminary acquired a one-quarter ownership of the gravesite, with Moody’s heirs owning the remaining three quarters. The school later merged with the nearby Mount Hermon School for Boys, which had also been founded by Moody, and became the Northfield Mount Herman School. Both campuses continued to be used for many years, but in 2005 the Northfield campus was closed, and most of the property was sold. However, the school still retains its ownership interest in the plot here on Round Top, and very little has changed in this scene more than a century after the first photo was taken.

Dwight L. Moody Birthplace, Northfield, Mass

The house at the corner of Moody Street and Highland Avenue in Northfield, around 1910. Image from All About Northfield (1910).

The house in 2017:

During the late 19th century, Northfield underwent a transformation, shifting from a small New England farming community and into an important educational and religious center. This came as a result of the efforts of Dwight L. Moody, a Northfield native who went on to become a world-famous evangelist in the 1870s. Returning to his hometown, he established the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879, and the Mount Hermon School for Boys in nearby Gill in 1881, and for many years he held major religious conferences here on the Northfield campus. In the process, Northfield became a summer colony for Christians from around the country, who came for the various conventions that were held each year.

Despite his influence later in life, Moody came from a humble background. He was born here in this house on February 5, 1837, and was the sixth child of Edwin and Betsey Moody. The house itself was built sometime before 1827 by Simeon Moody, a cousin and brother-in-law of Edwin, and was purchased by Edwin in 1828, the same year that he married Betsey. Edwin, like his father Isaiah Moody, was a brick mason, and he also ran a small farm here at his house. However, the family struggled financially, and the situation only got worse after Edwin’s sudden death in 1841, at the age of 40.

Betsey was left to raise seven children, the oldest of whom was 13, and a month after his death she gave birth to twins. Edwin had been heavily in debt, and after the funeral one of his creditors took most of the furniture in the house, along with a horse and buggy and livestock. However, Betsey was able to retain the house itself, and the four oldest boys were able to earn money by working at nearby farms. She also received assistance from Oliver C. Everett, the pastor of the Unitarian First Parish Church, and in 1843 she became a member of his church.

Dwight was just four when his father died, and was unable to join his four older brothers in supporting the family. He did attend school, although not always consistently, and in later years a close friend of his estimated that Moody only had the equivalent of a fifth grade education. Moody lived here in this house until 1854, when he was 17. That year, he moved to Boston, where he found a job with his uncle, Samuel Holton, who ran a boot and shoe store on Court Street. However, Holton did place one condition on Moody’s employment, requiring him to attend a church. Growing up in Northfield, Moody had never been particularly interested in religion, and had dreaded spending his Sundays at the Unitarian church. However, he complied with his uncle’s demand, and began attending the Mount Vernon Congregational Church.

It was through the church’s Sunday school that Moody ultimately converted to evangelical Christianity, beginning what would be a long career in the ministry. As a conscientious objector during the Civil War, Moody did not enlist to fight, but he did serve with the United States Christian Commission, and made many trips to the front to provide support for Union soldiers. After the war, he started a church in Chicago, and was present when most of the city – including his home and his church – was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. He went overseas in 1872, where he spent the next few years holding revival meetings across Great Britain, often drawing crowds of thousands of people.

Moody’s tour of Britain helped to establish him as a major evangelist and an internationally-renowned figure. Upon his return to America, Moody came back to Northfield, purchasing a house just down the hill from his birthplace, where his mother and several of his siblings were still living at the time. Then, in 1879, he opened the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies. The school was originally located in his new house, but over the next few years it expanded to include multiple buildings on a sprawling campus just to the north of his birthplace and to the northeast of his house. The Seminary was followed two years later by the Mount Hermon School for Boys in the neighboring town of Gill, and these two schools would eventually merge to form the present-day Northfield Mount Hermon School.

In the meantime, Betsey Moody continued to live here in this house until her death in 1896, nearly 70 years after she moved in to the house, and more than 50 years after her husband’s untimely death. At some point during the 19th century, the house had been divided into two units, with Betsey living with her son Edwin, Jr. on the left side, and her son George on the right side. Edwin never married, but George had a large family, and lived in his half of the house with his wife Harriet and their eight children. During this time, he expanded his half of the house to accommodate his growing family, adding a porch on the right side and a wing on the rear of the house.

Dwight L. Moody outlived his mother by just three years, and his brothers George and Edwin died in 1905 and 1907, respectively. The house would remain in the family until it was sold in 1921 to Moody’s brother-in-law, the publisher Fleming Revell. He converted the house into a faculty retreat, and subsequently gave it to the Northfield School. It was later used as a museum as well, and it remained a part of the Northfield campus throughout the rest of the 20th century. In 2005, the Northfield Mount Hermon School closed the Northfield campus, consolidating their operations at Mount Hermon, and later sold most of the property. However, the school still retains ownership of this house, which has not seen significant changes in its exterior appearance in more than a century since the first photo was taken.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Northfield, Mass

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, on Main Street in Northfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Franklin (1891).

The church in 2017:

The Catholic church in Northfield was established as a mission of the church in Millers Falls, and originally held services in the town hall, until the construction of this church building on Main Street in the center of town. The small, wood-frame building featured Gothic Revival architecture, and included a clapboarded exterior, narrow windows with pointed arches, and a steeply-sloping roof. It was dedicated on December 5, 1886, and included an organ that had been donated by prominent evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who was a native of Northfield.

The first photo also shows houses on either side of the church. On the right side is the elegant Greek Revival house that was built in 1840 for merchant Benjamin B. Murdock. Later in the 19th century, it was owned by Albert S. Stratton, a businessman who was reportedly the wealthiest man in Northfield at the time. Today, this house is still standing with few significant exterior changes, although it is hidden by trees in the 2017 photo.

The only major difference between the two photos is the house on the left. The house in the first photo was likely built in the late 18th or early 19th centuries, and was owned by the Lord family around the time that the photo was taken. However, it burned sometime around the 1890s, and was replaced by the present-day house, which was built elsewhere in Northfield but was moved to this site around 1900. It now serves as the parsonage for the church, and, along with the church and the Murdock house, it is now part of the Northfield Main Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

First Parish Church, Northfield, Mass

The First Parish Church, at the corner of Main Street and Parker Avenue in Northfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Franklin (1891).

The church in 2017:

The origins of the First Parish Church date back to 1673, when Northfield was first settled by colonists. However, the town’s frontier location at the far northern end of the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts made it vulnerable to attack from Native Americans and their French allies, and it would be several more decades before Northfield was permanently settled. The church also had a somewhat nomadic existence during these years, with worship services usually being held in private homes until 1718, when the first meetinghouse was built in the middle of Main Street, right near where the present-day church is located.

The first meetinghouse stood here until 1767, when its replacement was built on the west side of the street, near site of the current church. This new church stood here for more than 60 years, and during this time the New England Congregational church experienced a major schism, between the theologically liberal Unitarians and the orthodox Trinitarians. Thomas Mason, who served as pastor from 1799 to 1830, was among the Unitarians, and during his pastorate the First Parish became a Unitarian church, with most of the congregation supporting him.

A third meetinghouse was built on the site in 1833, and was used by the church until it burned in 1870. During this time, the First Parish had perhaps its most famous congregant, the young Dwight L. Moody, who would later go on to become a prominent evangelist in the second half of the 19th century. Moody was born in Northfield in 1837, and was just four years old when his father died, leaving his mother Betsey Moody to raise nine children on her own. The pastor of the church at the time, Oliver C. Everett, provided support for the family, though, and Betsey and her children were subsequently baptized into the church. However, the family left the church after Everett’s departure in 1848, and many years later Dwight L. Moody would decline an invitation to speak here at the First Parish Church, citing the incompatibility between his orthodox views and their Unitarian beliefs.

The present church was built in 1871, standing on approximately the same site as its two predecessors. Its ornate Gothic-style design was the work of Elbridge Boyden, a prominent architect from Worcester, and it stands out in a town center that otherwise consists primarily of early 19th century Federal and Greek Revival-style homes. It was built at a cost of nearly $15,000 (a little over $300,000 today), and the interior of the church included an organ that had previously been installed in the old Unitarian church in Springfield. Originally built in 1842 by E & G. G. Hook of Boston, it was used by the Springfield church until its new building was completed in 1869, and was later given to the Northfield church.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the church has not seen any significant changes. It remains a well-preserved example of a wood-frame Gothic Revival church, and it is still in active use by the First Parish Church. The only significant difference between the two photos is the small building on the left side of the scene. This was built in 1901, about 10 years after the first photo was taken, and was originally a motorcycle repair shop. It was later used a printing shop, but it has since been converted into a house. Today, both this house and the church, along with the rest of the historic buildings along Main Street, are now part of the Northfield Main Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.