Home for Friendless Women, Springfield, Mass

The building at 136 William Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2017:

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Springfield was experiencing rapid growth in the 1860s. The Civil War had drawn many to work in the Armory and other factories that contributed to the war effort, and the city grew by 45 percent between 1860 and 1865. With an expanding population came more social problems, though, and in 1865 the Home for Friendless Women was established to provide temporary housing and services for needy women and children. Among the founders, and the organization’s first president, was Rachel Merriam, the wife of dictionary publisher Charles Merriam.

The original building was located on Union Street, directly behind the Merriams’ house on Howard Street. Among those who found shelter here were girls and women fleeing physical and sexual abuse, as well as “fallen women,” a Victorian euphemism for prostitutes. Despite its somewhat bleak-sounding name, the Home for Friendless Women provided much-needed services at a time when such assistance from the government was essentially unheard of, and it was the first charity of its type in the region.

By the late 1880s, the old Union Street building had become too small to meet the growing needs of the organization. After Charles Merriam’s death in 1887, Rachel donated her house on Howard Street. This became the new facility for a few years, but there was still a need for a new building, so in 1897 they opened a new building on William Street, which is seen here. Its design reflects the Colonial Revival style, which was coming into popularity at the end of the 19th century, and it was the work of local architects Benjamin R. Bushey and Guy Kirkham.

Over the years, the building provided shelter for women in a variety of situations. Census records during this time give an interesting snapshot of who was living here, and in 1900 there were ten residents, which included four elderly widows, four single girls in their teens or early twenties, and two young children. Ten years later, in 1910, there were 13 residents, most of whom were elderly and/or widowed. There was also a 36 year old single woman and her infant daughter, plus two teenaged girls and, rather curiously, a 13-year-old boy who does not appear to have been related to anyone else at the home. By the 1920s, it became known as the Home for Girls, and focused exclusively on serving unwed mothers and expectant mothers.

This facility was still in use when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, although overcrowding led the organization to move elsewhere in 1940. By this point, the South End had become largely Italian, and the building became the lodge for the Sons of Italy, an Italian-American fraternal organization. Although they no longer use the building, it is still standing, with few exterior changes, and it is an excellent example of institutional Colonial Revival architecture in the city. As for the Home for Friendless Women, the organization is now known as the Children’s Study Home, and continues to serve Springfield more than 150 years after Rachel Merriam helped to establish it.

Edwin S. Gardner House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 250 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Edwin S. Gardner was a lawyer who, for many years, lived in a fine house on Ridgewood Place. However, in 1928 he and his wife Harriet, along with their children Mary and Edwin, Jr., moved into this house. Designed by John Barnard and built at a cost of $48,000, it was a significant step up from their earlier home, not to mention the sweeping views of the city and the surrounding landscape. The Tudor Revival style was popular during this time period, and a number of such homes were built here on Maple Street. Many of them, including this one, are so well-designed that they seem as though they would fit in better on an English country estate than here in a New England city.

The Gardners did not remain in the house for to long, though. By the mid-1930s they had significantly downsized and were living elsewhere, perhaps as a result of the Great Depression. In their place, the house was owned by Ida Day, the widow of Robert W. Day, who had been the president of the United Electric Light Company. She lived here with her son Winsor and his wife Sarah, although Sarah died in 1938, around the time that the first photo was taken. Ida died in 1942, and Winsor left the house soon after and moved to the Forest Park neighborhood.

In 1977, the house became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Very little has changed with its exterior, and the house survived the June 1, 2011 tornado. Today, it stands among many other late 19th and early 20th century mansions that overlook the city from atop the hill.

Loomis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 220 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Since the 1880s, Springfield has been known as the “City of Homes,” and features hundreds of historic late 19th and early 20th century houses with a variety of architectural styles. Despite this, though, very few of these were designed by nationally-recognized architects. One of the exceptions was this house on Maple Street, which was designed by the Boston firm of Ware & Van Brunt. Their works were primarily Gothic in style, and the two men had previously designed Harvard’s Memorial Hall, which is considered one of the finest examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture in the country.

While Memorial Hall was still under construction in Cambridge, Ware & Van Brunt was hired by Frances Loomis to design a house for her on Maple Street, near the top of the hill that overlooks downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River. The actual construction was done by Chauncey Shepard, an architect and builder who, nearly a half century earlier, had designed and built the nearby David Ames, Jr. House. Shepard built the Loomis house from 1873 to 1874, and he died the following year, at the age of 78.

Frances Loomis was the widow of Calvin Loomis, a cigar manufacturer who had moved from Vermont to Springfield in 1853 and opened a business along with W.H. Wright, who later took over the company. Calvin Loomis died in 1866, and Frances died in 1877, just three years after moving into this house. The house was subsequently owned by Frank L. Wesson, the son of Smith & Wesson co-founder Daniel B. Wesson. He lived here with his wife Sarah and their children, but he was killed in a railroad accident  in Hartford, Vermont on February 5, 1887. He was 34 at the time, and was one of more than 40 people killed when his train stuck a broken rail and fell off a bridge over the White River.

The house remained in the Wesson family for many years, although it does not appear to have been occupied in either the 1900 or 1910 censuses. By 1920, though, it was the home of Frank’s oldest son Harold, who was living here with his wife Helen along with a servant. The couple’s only child, also named Helen, was born in 1908, but died when she was just three days old. Harold eventually became the president of Smith & Wesson, and was still living here in 1930, although by the 1940 census he and Helen had moved to Longmeadow.

The house appears to have been vacant again in 1940, but was later owned by Joseph Loeffler, who added the two-car garage to the front of the house in 1946. Otherwise, the exterior has seen few changes. Like most of the neighboring homes, it sustained heavy damage from the June 1, 2011 tornado, but it was restored. It is an excellent surviving example of the city’s grand 19th century mansions, and is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

East Granby Congregational Church, East Granby, Connecticut

The East Granby Congregational Church, at the corner of North Main Street and Rainbow Road, around 1930. Image from Sketch of the Congregational Society and Church of East Granby, Conn. (1930).

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The church in 2017:

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Early 19th century stone churches are rare in the Connecticut River Valley, where most meetinghouses were built of either wood or brick. As a result, this granite church in East Granby stands out in contrast to the archetypal white, wood-frame churches of small-town New England. It was completed in 1831, and was one of many churches designed by Northampton, Massachusetts architect Isaac Damon, whose most prominent existing work is probably Springfield’s Old First Church. However, the East Granby church is very different from most of his other churches, which were almost invariably wood, with a columned portico in the front and a tall spire above it.

At the time of its completion, the church was actually located in Granby. The present-day towns of Granby and East Granby had been part of Simsbury in the colonial era, but in 1786 the two northern parishes were formed into the town of Granby. The eastern parish, originally known as Turkey Hills, subsequently split off from Granby in 1858 to form East Granby, with this area here as the town center.

The first photograph was taken around the time of the building’s 100th anniversary. At the time, East Granby’s population was just about 1,000 people, not much higher than when the town had been incorporated over 70 years earlier. However, in the nearly 90 years since then, the town has undergone significant growth as a suburb of Hartford, and now has over 5,000 residents. Part of Bradley International Airport is also located in the town, just over a mile east of the church.

Despite all of these changes, though, the church is still standing, and remains in active use. There have been several large additions over the years, which are partially visible behind and to the left of it, but Isaac Damon’s original section is largely unaltered. It is a prominent landmark in the center of town, and is part of the East Granby Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hagyard Store, Lenox, Mass

The Hagyard Store at the corner of Main and Housatonic Streets in Lenox, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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Built in 1910, this building at the center of Lenox was the home of Frank C. Hagyard’s drugstore. When the first photo was taken, Lenox was a popular resort destination for the wealthy, and the drugstore would have catered to many of these summer visitors. Like some of Lenox’s other prominent buildings of the era, it was designed by Pittsfield architect George C. Harding, and it reflects the Renaissance Revival style that was popular at the time.

More than a century later, the former drugstore building is still standing. With modern air conditioning, large awnings are no longer needed over the windows to keep the upper floors cool, but otherwise the exterior does not look much different from its appearance in the 1910s. There is no longer a drugstore on the first floor, but the building now houses, among other things, the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.

Town Hall, Lenox, Mass

The Lenox Town Hall on Walker Street in Lenox, around 1905-1915 and 2016. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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The corner of Walker Street and Old Stockbridge Road has long been the site of Lenox’s town government. When Lenox was designated as the seat of Berkshire County, the first county courthouse was built here in 1791. A new courthouse opened a short distance away in 1816, and the old one became the Lenox town hall, serving in that role until the current one was completed in 1903. The old building was preserved, though. It was moved off the site, to a new location at the corner of Housatonic and Church Streets, where it still stands today.

The new town hall was designed by George C. Harding, a Pittsfield-based architect who also designed some of the additions to the Curtis Hotel across the street. Because of this, the two buildings match each other with their similar Colonial Revival architecture. Aside from its role as the town hall, the building also housed the post office, a bank, the police department, and the fire department. Most of these secondary functions, except the police station, would later be moved to separate buildings, but it remains in use as the town hall, with few exterior changes over the years.