60 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 60 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house is one of the few Carpenter Gothic-style homes in Springfield. The style was most often seen in rural settings, most famously in Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, but there were several here in Springfield, including one that still stands at 357 Maple Street. This one here on School Street is somewhat more modest in size, but it features many classic Gothic-style details, including board-and-batten siding on the exterior walls and decorative bargeboards under the eaves.

The history of this house does not appear to be well-documented, but it was probably constructed sometime around the 1860s. By the early 1870s it was owned by Robert O. Morris, a prominent local figure who served for many years as clerk of courts. He owned the property until at least the early 1880s, but he likely did not live here much, if at all. The 1873 city directory lists this house as his address, but by the following year he was living nearby on Temple Street. He listed the house for sale in 1875, with a classified ad in the Springfield Republican that described it as “centrally located, nicely fitted up with the modern improvements. Good water and sewerage.” However, it evidently did not sell, because by the following year he was placing classified ads looking to rent the house.

Morris had several different tenants who lived here over the next few years. In 1876 it was the home of Henry M. Burt, a publisher whose company, H. M. Burt & Co., produced the New England Homestead and the Sunday Telegram. Burt would also go on to write several local history and genealogy books, including The First Century of the History of Springfield, which was published in two volumes in 1898. However, he was only in this house for about a year, because by 1877 he was listed at 15 Oak Street. By 1880, the house was rented by electrotyper Charles Van Vlack, who lived here with his wife Mary, plus a son, three nieces, and a servant. He too had a short stay, though, and within a year or two he was living elsewhere.

By the late 1880s, the house was the home of three sisters: Harriet, Flora, and Mary White. Together, they ran a school here in the house, which was listed as the Misses White’s School. However, this school evidently did not last very long, because both it and the White sisters left here by the early 1890s. Starting around 1893, it was occupied by Wallace M. Burt, a lawyer and real estate agent. He was still living here during the 1900 census, along with his wife Bertha, their two daughters, his parents, and a servant. Wallace had his law offices here, while Bertha ran a dance school here in the house as well. They probably lived here longer than any of the other late 19th century residents, remaining until around 1908, when they moved to Woburn.

The house was subsequently owned by Jeremiah J. Haggerty, a violinist who lived here with his wife Susan. For many years he was the leader of the Court Square Orchestra here in Springfield, and he also taught violin lessons. However, he died of pneumonia in 1919, at the age of 45. Susan remained here at this house, though, and the 1920 census shows here living here with her sister, Mary O’Grady. Like her husband, Susan was also an accomplished musician, and she similarly worked as a music teacher.

Susan was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Mary had died in 1935, but another sister, Eleanor O’Grady, was here during the 1940 census. At the time, the home was valued at $10,000 (equivalent to just under $200,000 today), and Susan had evidently retired, although Eleanor was listed as working as a public school teacher. Susan would go on to live here until her death in 1947, and Eleanor was here until at least the early 1950s.

Today, about 80 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the house is not dramatically different, aside from the loss of the chimneys. It is now used as the management office for a group of nearby apartment buildings, but it has been well-preserved, and it stands as a good example of residential Gothic architecture. Like the other surrounding buildings in this neighborhood, it is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District.

Albert T. Folsom House, Springfield, Mass

The building at 60-62 High Street, near the corner of School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

This wooden Second Empire-style two-family home was constructed around 1869, and it was originally owned by Albert T. Folsom, who lived in the unit on the right at 62 High Street. Folsom was a prominent Springfield resident who served as city clerk and treasurer from 1862 until 1887, and as a state representative from 1897 to 1899. In addition, he was a director of the Second National Bank for 20 years, including six years as president. He lived here from about 1869 until his death in 1909, and he and his wife Mary raised their four children in this house.

The left side of the house, at 60 High Street, had several different residents during Folsom’s time here. The longest of these appears to have been George I. Hodskins, a clerk who ran the linen department in the dry goods firm of Smith & Murray. The 1880 census shows him living here with his wife Nancy, their daughter Georgia, and two boarders, and he continued to live here throughout the rest of his life, until his death in 1903 at the age of 70.

By 1910, Mary Folsom was still living here at 62 High Street, along with her son Robert, a servant, and two roomers. She owned the entire building, and rented the other half to William E. Davis, a physician who lived here with his wife Louisa and a roomer. Mary continued to live here for several more years, but by 1915 she was living two buildings away, in an apartment block at 52 High Street. Her old house here at 60-62 High Street subsequently became a rooming house, with the 1920 census showing ten roomers living here, including a chauffeur, several machinists, and a foreman in an auto factory.

The first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and by this point the building was owned by Oscar Fine, a Russian immigrant who ran a grocery store on the ground floor of the building. He and his wife Ruth were living here with their children Shirley and Harold, and he also rented space here to three other families, two of whom sublet their units to roomers. The 1940 census shows a total of 18 residents living here, including the Fine family, and they generally held low-wage jobs, including a waitress, seamstress, maid, painter, and laborer.

Today, some 80 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the building is not significantly different, aside from some alterations to the storefront, and it is now part of the Lower Maple Local Historic District. Most of the windows had been boarded up in the recent past, but by the time the second photo was taken these had been removed, and the building received a new coat of paint. However, most of the building appears to still be vacant, with a number of “No Trespassing” signs posted on the property.

Underwood Building, Springfield, Mass

The Underwood Building at the corner of Main and Worthington Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

This two-story, Classical Revival-style commercial building was constructed in 1916, and over the years it has housed a variety of businesses. Its name comes from one of its early tenants, the Underwood Typewriter Company, which had its Springfield offices here. In its early years, the upper floor of the building was occupied by the Knights of Columbus, which met here until 1929, but perhaps the most noteworthy tenant here was the Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition, which had its offices in the building from 1917 until 1949. Later named the Eastern States Exposition, but better known as the Big E, this annual agricultural fair has become one of the largest in the country, and it is still held every September at the fairgrounds on the other side of the river, in West Springfield.

The Eastern States Exposition offices were still located here in the Underwood Building when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and the photo shows a variety of other commercial tenants on the ground floor, including Bill’s Liquor Store, which occupied the corner storefront. Since then, the exterior of the building has remained largely intact, although it has steadily declined over the years. In 2012, it was damaged by a nearby gas explosion, and, as the 2018 photo shows, it is now vacant and boarded up. It was recently threatened with demolition, prompting an attempt to have the city designate it as a one-building local historic district. This effort failed, and the mandated nine-month demolition delay expired in 2018, but as of January 2020 it is still standing.

Old Post Office, Springfield, Mass

The old post office building, at the corner of Dwight and Taylor Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

For most of the 19th century, Springfield did not have a dedicated post office building. Instead, it was often housed inside of a store that was run by the postmaster, so over the years the post office had ten different locations before the first purpose-built post office was completed in 1891, at the corner of Main and Worthington Streets. This imposing Romanesque-style brownstone building functioned as both a post office and a customs house, but it soon proved to be too small, as Springfield’s population continued its dramatic growth into the early 20th century. As a result, this post office lasted barely 30 years before it was closed in 1932 and demolished the following year.

Its replacement was constructed several blocks away, on a lot that is bounded by Lyman, Dwight, Taylor, and Kaynor Streets. The latter was added to the city’s street network when the new post office was built, in order to provide access to the rear of the building. It was named in honor of the late W. Kirk Kaynor, a congressman and former Springfield postmaster who was killed in a plane crash in 1929.

The new building opened in September 1932, and it is shown here in the first photo only a few years later. it was primarily a post office, but it also housed a variety of other federal offices. A May 8, 1932 article in the Springfield Republican, published several months before it opened, outlined the intended use of the building. The post office would occupy much of the basement, all of the first floor, and most of the second floor. The rest of the second floor would be used by the customs appraiser, and the third floor would house the federal courtroom, judge’s chambers, district attorney’s office, and other Department of Justice offices. The allocation of space in the fourth and fifth floors was still tentative at the time, but these floors were intended to house a variety of other federal offices.

Architecturally, the building is very different from the previous post office. By the 1930s, the Romanesque architecture of the late 19th century had long since fallen out of fashion, and this new building featured the simplicity of Art Moderne architecture, with a light-colored exterior of polished Indiana limestone. However, it was built with some decorative elements, including the colored terra cotta spandrels in between the windows. Like many Depression-era post offices, it also included interior murals in the main lobby. The ones here were painted by Umberto Romano, and they consist of six murals that are collectively titled “Three Centuries of New England History.”

This building was used as a post office until 1967, when the present post office building opened a few blocks to the north of here. The rest of the federal offices were relocated in 1980, upon the completion of a new federal building at Main Street, and this property was sold to the state three years later. Since then, it has served as the Springfield State Office Building, housing a variety of state agencies, along with the Western Massachusetts office of the governor. Its exterior has remained well-preserved since then, with few noticeable changes from the first photo, and it stands as an excellent example of 20th century architecture in Springfield.

Memorial Church, Springfield, Mass

The Memorial Church, at the corner of Main and Plainfield Streets in Springfield, around 1905. Image from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

The church in 2018:

Springfield’s Memorial Church was established in 1865 as a nondenominational Christian church. It was named in honor of “the memory of the deceased ministers of New England,” and, according to one of its early resolutions, it welcomed “to its membership and communion all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, and who agree with it concerning the essential doctrines of the Christian religion, by whatever name they may be called.” Many of its founding members had come from North Congregational Church, but the first pastor was Mark Trafton, a noted Methodist clergyman who had previously served a term in Congress.

The two leaders in establishing the Memorial Church were George M. Atwater and Josiah G. Holland. Both men were prominent Springfield residents; Atwater was a businessman who, a few years later, would establish the city’s streetcar system, and Holland was a nationally-renowned author, poet, and editor. Holland also served as the leader of the choir and the superintendent of the Sunday school, but he left Springfield in 1868 and eventually moved to New York, where he became one of the founders of Scribner’s Monthly.

During its first few years, the church met in a school building, but in 1869 this new building was completed at the corner of Main and Plainfield Streets, in the city’s North End. It was constructed with granite from nearby Monson, with contrasting brownstone trim, and its Gothic Revival design was the work of New York architect Richard Upjohn and his son, Richard Mitchell Upjohn. The elder Upjohn was one of the leading church architects in the United States during the mid-19th century, and his other notable works included Trinity Church in New York City. He had also previously designed George Atwater’s house, Rockrimmon, here in Springfield, which is probably how he ended up with the commission for Atwater’s church. The younger Upjohn was also a successful architect in his own right, and he subsequently designed the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford.

Also in 1869, William T. Eustis was installed as pastor of the church. He had been the pastor of Chapel Street Congregational Church in New Haven since 1848, but he left there in order to accept this position here in Springfield. Eustis would go on to serve as pastor of the Memorial Church for nearly 20 years, until his death in 1888, and during this time the church saw significant growth, with around 350 members and 400 Sunday school students by the mid-1880s. Eustis’s replacement was John L. R. Trask, formerly of the Second Congregational Church in Holyoke, who remained here until his retirement in 1904.

The first photo was taken around the same time that Reverend Trask retired, and it depicts a winter scene, with snow on the ground and even some patches of snow clinging to the steep roof. At the time, the church was situated on the southern end of Round Hill, a roughly triangular-shaped raised ground bounded by Main, Plainfield, and Arch Streets. Although the rest of the North End was largely working class, Round Hill featured several large mansions, one of which is visible in the distance on the right side of the church. Constructed around 1868, this was the first of the houses to be constructed here, and it was originally the home of Dr. William G. Breck, a local physician.

The Memorial Church remained an active congregation here until 1940, when it sold the property to the Church of St. George, a Greek Orthodox parish that had previously worshiped in several other buildings nearby in the North End. This church became the St. George Greek Orthodox Memorial Church, and the interior was remodeled to meet the needs of its new congregation. Only a few years later, in 1944, the rear of the building was severely damaged by a fire, but it was restored by the following year.

Round Hill was all but obliterated by the 1960s, when Interstate 91 was constructed through the area, just to the west of the church. All of the mansions were demolished by then, and most of the hill was leveled to create an interchange with Route 20. The site of the Breck house is now a McDonald’s, and today the church is the only surviving 19th century building on Round Hill. It was nearly vacated in the 1970s, when St. George explored the possibility of relocating to Longmeadow, but the parishioners ultimately voted to remain here. The church was subsequently renamed St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and around the same time it acquired the former Memorial Square Branch Library, which was converted into the Greek Cultural Center. St. George is still here today, and the building stands as an important architectural landmark in Springfield, with few exterior changes since the first photo was taken more than a century ago.

Old Newgate Prison Gates, East Granby, Connecticut

The front gates of the Old Newgate Prison in East Granby, around 1895. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1895).

The scene in 2018:

The Old Newgate Prison opened in 1773, in an abandoned copper mine in Granby – now present-day East Granby – Connecticut. The prisoners were housed underground in the old mine tunnels, with the idea that this would be a virtually escape-proof facility. However, the prison proved far less secure than its proponents had anticipated, and it was practically a revolving door in its early years, with some prisoners escaping almost as soon as they arrived.

During its first nine years in operation, more than half of the inmates who were confined here had reportedly escaped, and the above-ground buildings were burned on three separate occasions as part of escape attempts. Nonetheless, the facility remained in use, and in 1790 it became a state prison. A number of new buildings were constructed in the following years, and a new wooden fence was constructed around the perimeter of the prison yard in 1790. However, this was replaced by a more substantial stone wall in 1802, as shown here in these two photos.

The prison ultimately closed in 1827, and all of the inmates were transferred to the newly-built state prison in Wethersfield. This site was subsequently used again for copper mining, in the 1830s and 1850s, but neither attempt was particularly successful. In the meantime, most of the old prison buildings fell into ruin. By the time the first photo was taken in the 1890s, only two of the buildings were substantially intact, and one of these ultimately burned down in 1904.

Newgate had already become recognized as an important local landmark by the turn of the 20th century, and it was a popular destination for curious visitors. The site was eventually acquired by the state of Connecticut in 1968, and it was converted into a museum. Since then, the ruins have been stabilized, and Newgate has been preserved as a National Historic Landmark. As shown in these two photos, the 1802 stone wall has remained particularly well-preserved, and this view of the front gate still looks much the same as it would have to the prisoners who arrived here more than two centuries ago.