High Street from Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking south on High Street from the corner of Dwight Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows the same section of High Street as an earlier post, just from the opposite end of the block, and the first photo above was taken around 15 years earlier than the one in that post. This photo dates back to around 1891, and shows the commercial center of Holyoke during the time when the city was reaching the peak of its prosperity as an industrial center. Just out of view to the left is city hall, and on the right side of High Street was a row of mostly three and four-story brick commercial buildings, each of which had awnings projecting from the ground-floor storefronts. The automobile was still several years away from large-scale production, but the unpaved street was busy with pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages, along with an electric trolley further in the distance.

Most of the buildings in the first photo were relatively new, dating back to around the 1870s and 1880s. The one in the foreground at the corner was perhaps the oldest, featuring Italianate architecture that contrasted with the far more ornate Queen Anne-style buildings beyond it. When the first photo was taken, it housed the drugstore of M. J. Griffin on the ground floor, with professional offices on the upper floors. These included a real estate agent whose signs advertised, among other things, “Houses on Large Lots Sold on East Terms of Payment.” Further down the street, other signs advertised for physicians, an attorney, a dentist, a bank, a hardware and cutlery store, and Childs Business College, which was painted on the side of a building in the distance.

Today, nearly all of the buildings in this scene are over a century old, but surprisingly few are still standing from the first photo. The two buildings closest to the foreground are actually still there, although they have been dramatically altered. By the early 20th century, the buildings had become home of the McAuslan and Wakelin department store, and in 1920 they were combined into a single building. They retained their original exteriors for a few more years, but in 1929-1930 the facades were reconstructed with a more modern design, including large windows and minimal ornamentation.

Just beyond the McAuslan and Wakelin building are two older brick buildings. Closer to the foreground is the Russell-Osborne Building, which dates back to around 1885. It once housed the hardware and cutlery shop from the first photo, but later housed a hosiery store and then a shoe store. At some point around the mid-20th century, the original Victorian-era exterior was hidden behind a plain aluminum facade, but this was removed by the 1980s, and today the building looks much as it did when the first photo was taken. To the left of it is the Mayberry Building, which dates back to around 1881. It originally had three stories, but was later expanded to four, and the facade has been heavily altered as well. Beyond it is a newer three-story building, which was constructed in 1912, replacing the earlier one that stood on the site in the first photo.

Probably the most historically significant building in the present-day scene is the Steiger’s building at 259-271 High Street, which is visible in the distance on the right side. It was built in 1899 to house the department store of Albert Steiger, a dry goods merchant who had previously operated a store in Port Chester, New York, before going into business here in Holyoke in 1896. He would later expand his company to include stores across southern New England, including a flagship store that opened in Springfield in 1906. The company would eventually go out of business in the 1990s, and the iconic Springfield store was demolished, but the ornate Classical Revival-style building in Holyoke is still standing here on High Street.

Further in the distance, there are at least two other buildings that still stand from the first photo, including the c.1884 Taber Block at 281-283 High Street and the c.1890 Bishop Block at 284-287 High Street. Overall, though, despite the many changes since the first photo was taken, this scene has remained well-preserved in its early 20th century appearance. The most recent major change to this scene came nearly 90 years ago, when the current facade was added to the building on the corner, and today these buildings are now part of the North High Street Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Edward W. Chapin House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 181 Elm Street, at the corner of Appleton Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The house in 2017:

This elegant Queen Anne-style house was built around 1880, and was originally the home of Clemens Herschel (1842-1930), a prominent hydraulic engineer who worked for the Holyoke Water Power Company. Born in Austria in 1842, Herschel immigrated to the United States as a child, and subsequently graduated from Harvard in 1860. After spending the early part of his career designing bridges and working on the sewer system in Boston, he came to Holyoke in 1879. By the following year’s census, he was living here in this house along with his wife Grace and their two sons, Arthur and M. Winston Herschel.

During the decade that he worked for the Holyoke Water Power Company, Herschel invented the Venturi meter, which was the first effective way of measuring water flow. The meter was in commercial use by 1889, allowing the Holyoke Water Power Company to measure the water use of the individual factories in the city. That same year, Herschel left Holyoke for New Jersey, where he worked as the chief engineer of the East Jersey Water Company from 1889 to 1900. He later served as a consulting engineer for major water projects in New York, including the hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls, and in 1915 he became president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Along with this, Herschel wrote several books, including Frontinus and the Water Supply of the City of Rome, which was a translation of the works of ancient Roman civil engineer Sextus Julius Frontinus.

Although he lived in Holyoke until 1889, Herschel only lived in this house until about 1885, before moving to a house at 209 Linden Street. By 1886, this house on Elm Street was the home of Edward W. Chapin (1840-1924), a prominent attorney and judge. Although originally from Chicopee, Chapin came to Holyoke in 1865 to practice law, and in 1877 he was appointed as a justice of the Holyoke district court. He was later appointed as a judge of the police court in 1898, and served in that capacity until 1919. In addition, he held several other political offices, including serving in the state legislature, on the Holyoke city council, on the school board, and as the city solicitor.

During Chapin’s time in Holyoke in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city was at the peak of its prosperity as a major manufacturing center. From 1894 until his death in 1924, he was the president of the Farr Alpaca Company, which was the largest textile mill in the city at the time, and he was also a director and vice president of the Mechanics Savings Bank and a director of the Holyoke and Westfield Railroad. Outside of his commercial interests, Chapin was also a director of the Holyoke Public Library and the Holyoke City Hospital, and he also served as president of the board of trustees of Mount Holyoke College from 1906 to 1912.

Edward Chapin and his wife, Mary Beebe, had four children: Arthur, Ann, Alice, and Clara. In 1892, Ann married William F. Whiting (1864-1936), the son of the wealthy paper manufacturer William Whiting, who lived across the street from this house. Arthur continued to live here in his parents’ house until 1897, when he married Tirzah L. Sherwood. A year later, he was elected mayor, and held the office from 1899 until 1904. During their marriage, he and Tirzah lived in a house at 211 Oak Street, but she died in 1901, and by 1903 Arthur had returned here to 181 Elm Street. Arthur would later go on to have a successful political and business career, including serving as Treasurer and Receiver-General of Massachusetts from 1905 to 1909, as State Bank Commissioner from 1909 until 1912, and as vice president of the American Trust Company.

Arthur Chapin remarried in 1907 to Marion S. Murlless, and the 1910 census shows them living here in this house along with his parents and his two unmarried sisters, Alice and Clara. Arthur and Marion moved into their own house by the late 1910s, but Edward and Mary continued to live here on Elm Street for the rest of their lives. He died in 1924, and Mary died four years later, and by the 1930 census their two daughters were living here alone except for a live-in cook.

Alice Chapin died in 1944, at the age of 69, but Clara continued to live here in this house until her death in 1962 at the age of 84, more than 75 years after she moved into the house with her parents and siblings. Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved. From this angle, the only significant change is the loss of the front porch, but otherwise it retains all of its Queen Anne-style ornamentation, and it survives as an excellent example of Holyoke’s historic 19th century mansions. The property is now owned by the Valley Opportunity Council, and provides low-income housing for veterans.

Front Steps, First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

A group of children sitting on the front steps of the First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

As discussed in the previous post, the First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, and moved into this newly-completed Romanesque Revival-style building two years later. It was built of contrasting granite and brownstone blocks, and had two front entrances on the Chestnut Street side. This particular scene shows the northwestern entrance, which is on the right side of the building when facing it from the street, and it provides good detail of the rough-faced blocks that make up the exterior of the building.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the church was completed, and shows a group of five young children sitting on the front steps. Although the children are unidentified, their parents likely worked in some of the many factories in Holyoke, and they themselves probably ended up working in the factories too. Some may have even attended this church for the rest of their lives, since the building was owned by the First Presbyterian Church for more than a century after the photo was taken.

Today, around 125 years later, not much has changed in this scene. The church is still standing, and this entrance has seen only minor changes, such as a new door and the addition of railings on the steps. The building is a good example of Romanesque Revival architecture, and it is one of many historic 19th century churches in Holyoke. Although the original congregation sold it in 2002, is still in use as a church, and is now the home of the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

The First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

The First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, with an initial membership of 77 people. James M. Craig was ordained as the first pastor, and the congregation worshipped in several different locations over the next two years. However, the church soon outgrew its temporary quarters, and in 1887 it acquired this property, at the corner of Chestnut and Cabot Streets. Construction of the church building began in September, and the first services were held here less than a year later, in August 1888. It was formally dedicated on March 5, 1889, in a ceremony that included a sermon by the Reverend John Hall, the prominent pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Contemporary descriptions of the church do not mention an architect, but it features a Romanesque Revival-style design, which was popular for churches of this period. The exterior was built primarily of granite, but it also included contrasting brownstone trim that gave it a polychromatic appearance. The Chestnut Street facade, which is seen here in this view, was almost symmetrical, except for the different-sized turrets on the corners. Like most other Romanesque churches, it also incorporates rounded arches, stained glass, and tall, narrow windows into its design.

The congregation continued to grow over the next few decades, and by the early 20th century it had over 700 members. They would worship here throughout the rest of the century, although during this time the exterior of building was altered, including the removal of the upper part of the roof, and the shortening of the turret on the right side. Overall, though, the building survives as a good example of Romanesque Revival-style architecture, and it is one of many historic late 19th century church buildings that still stand in Holyoke. However, it no longer houses its original Presbyterian congregation. The property was sold in 2002, and it is now occupied by the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

High Street from Hampden Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking south on High Street from the corner of Hampden Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Much of High Street in Holyoke has been remarkably well-preserved over the years, particularly this block on the west side of the street, between Hampden and Dwight Streets. It consists primarily of brick, three and four-story commercial blocks that were built in the second half of the 19th century, during the early years of Holyoke’s development as a major industrial center. The scene had largely taken on its present-day appearance by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, and today the only significant difference is a noticeable lack of horse-drawn carriages.

According to district’s National Register of Historic Places listing, the one-story building in the foreground was built in the mid-20th century, but it seems possible that it might actually be the same one from the first photo, just with some major alterations. Either way, this is the only noticeable change in the buildings on this block. Just beyond this building are two matching three-story buildings, located at 169-175 High Street. These are perhaps the oldest buildings in the scene, dating back to around 1855, and have a fairly plain exterior design, unlike the more ornate building further down the street.

To the left of these two buildings is the four-story Dougherty’s Block, at 177-179 High Street. This was built sometime around the late 1880s, and was probably the newest building in the first photo. Beyond it is the 1870 Taber Building, with its distinctive ornate pediment above the third floor. However, the most architecturally-significant building in this scene is the Second Empire-style Caledonia Building at 185-193 High Street. It was built in 1874, and was originally owned by Roswell P. Crafts, a businessman who went on to become mayor of Holyoke in 1877 and from 1882 to 1883. The building was later owned by the Caledonian Benefit Society, which provided aid for Scottish immigrants.

Beyond the Caledonia Building, most of the other buildings also date to between 1850 and 1880. These include, just to the left of the Caledonia Building, the Johnson Building at 195 High Street and the R.B. Johnson Block at 197-201 High Street, both of which date back to around 1880. Further in the distance is the 1850 Colby-Carter Block at 203-209 High Street, and the c.1870 Ball Building at 211-215 High Street. The only noticeable change in this section is the six-story Ball Block, at the corner of Dwight Street. It was completed in 1898, a few years after the first photo was taken, and is visible on the far left side of the 2017 photo.

More than 125 years after the first photo was taken, this section of High Street survives as a good example of Victorian-era commercial buildings, representing a range of architectural styles from the plain brick buildings of the 1850s, to the more ornate Second Empire and Queen Anne styles of the 1870s and 1880s. Holyoke is no longer the thriving industrial city from the first photo, having experienced many years of economic stagnation since the mid-20th century. However, this has probably contributed to the survival of so many 19th century buildings, since there has been little demand for new construction, and today these historic buildings and streetscapes are among the city’s greatest assets.

School of the Immaculate Conception of Notre Dame, Holyoke, Mass

The former School of the Immaculate Conception of Notre Dame, on Chestnut Street opposite Hampden Park in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke grew into a major industrial center during the second half of the 19th century, and the jobs in the mills attracted large numbers of immigrants, particularly the Irish and French Canadians. Most of these immigrants were Catholic, in a region that had previously been almost entirely Protestant, and they soon set about establishing Catholic churches and other religious institutions. The first of these churches was St. Jerome’s, which was established in 1856. Two years later, the parish constructed a church building that still stands at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets, just out of view to the right of this scene.

In 1869, St. Jerome’s Parish opened its first parochial school, the School of the Immaculate Conception of Notre Dame. It was originally an all-girls school, and was located in a wood-frame building that was moved to this site. That same year, the Convent of Notre Dame was completed just to the right of the school. It housed the nuns who taught at the school, and can be seen in the center-right of both photos, with its central tower and Second-Empire style architecture. Then, in 1872, the St. Jerome’s Institute was established as a school for boys, and was located on the other side of Hampden Street, at the corner of Elm Street.

The original Immaculate Conception building was replaced in 1883 by a much more substantial brick school building, which stands on the left side of both photos. It was designed by architect Donat R. Baribault, with an Italianate-style design that included a symmetrical front facade and a tower above the main entrance. By 1890, around the time that the first photo was taken, it had an enrollment of about 550 girls, and the principal of the school was also the sister superior at the adjacent Convent of Notre Dame.

The Immaculate Conception School later became the St. Jerome High School, and in 1963 it merged with several other parish high schools in the city to form Holyoke Catholic High School. The old 1883 school building became part of the Holyoke Catholic campus, and remained in use until 2002, when the school relocated to Granby. Holyoke Catholic has since merged with Cathedral High School in Springfield, and the consolidated school has been known as Pope Francis High School since 2016.

Today, most of the historic 19th buildings from the St. Jerome’s Parish are still standing, including the former Holyoke Catholic buildings. Although they were boarded up for more than a decade after the school moved to Granby, the buildings have since been converted into the Chestnut Park Apartments. This work was completed in 2015, and now there is hardly any difference between these two photos, which were taken 125 years apart. The buildings are now part of the Hampden Park Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.