Central Street and Madison Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The corner of Central Street and Madison Avenue in Springfield, with the Goodhue House in the distance, around 1905. Image from Springfield, Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in 2017:

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This neighborhood of Springfield, variously referred to as Maple Hill and Ames Hill, was the city’s most fashionable residential area of the city in the 19th century. Here on Central Street, this site was once the home of Henry Sterns, a merchant who built his house here in 1827. By the late 1860s, though, his property was subdivided and two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were built here. The old house was moved to the back of the lot around 1870, and can be seen in the distant right of both photos.

The original location of the house later became the site of a new mansion, which was completed in 1894 for Charles L. Goodhue. He was a contractor and businessman who, among other things, served as president of Chicopee National Bank and the Knox Automobile Company, and he was still living here when the first photo was taken. His house was among the largest ever built in the city, and offered commanding views of downtown Springfield from atop the hill.

By the 1940s, the mansion was owned by Mayor Roger L. Putnam, but in the second half of the 20th century it was owned by several different schools, before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. Despite a 1950s classroom wing on the left side of the house, its exterior is otherwise unaltered from the first photo. Similarly, the other houses on Madison Avenue have also survived, and the entire street is part of the Maple Hill Local Historic District. The Goodhue House, however, is also part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles L. Goodhue House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 216 Central Street in Springfield, at the corner of Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This site near the top of the hill on Central Street had been the home of merchant Henry Sterns since 1827. Around 1870, his house was moved to the back of the lot, where it still stands on Madison Avenue, and several decades later Charles L. Goodhue purchased the property. A contractor who specialized in building municipal water systems, he had done work across the country, including here in Springfield. He built the city’s reservoir in Ludlow, and also served as the chairman of the Water Commission for many years.

Completed in 1894, this house had few rivals among the Gilded Age mansions in Springfield, and remains one of the largest private residences ever built in the city. Goodhue lived here with his wife Harriet and their daughter Grace, and during this time he expanded his business activities. Along with building water works, he also served as president of the Chicopee National Bank, and as the president of the Knox Automobile Company, an early Springfield-based car manufacturer.

Harriet Goodhue died in 1903, and Charles in 1912. After his death, Grace inherited the property and rented out the house. By the 1920 census, she was renting it to Arthur T. Murray. Just 29 at the time, he was the president of the American Bosch Magneto Corporation, and had previously been the president of the Bethlehem Motor Corporation. He lived here with his wife Anna, their daughter Ruth, and five servants, which included a butler, maid, chambermaid, cook, and a governess for young Ruth.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was owned Roger L. Putnam, who served three terms as Springfield’s mayor, from 1937 to 1943. His political career subsequently included serving in the Truman administration as the director of the Economic Stabilization Administration from 1951 to 1952. In the 1940 census, soon after the first photo was taken, he and his wife Caroline were living here with their six children, along with a lodger and three servants. They remained here until 1956, when he sold the massive home to the Ursuline Order.

The house became Ursuline Academy, and was expanded to include a classroom wing on the west side of the building, which is partially visible on the far left of the photo. It has since changed hands several times, becoming Springfield Christian School in 1980 before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. The building is still in use by Head Start, and retains much of its historic appearance. Despite the changes in use, it survives as one of the city’s finest 19th century mansions, and it is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

City Hall, Pittsfield, Mass

The Post Office building, which later became City Hall, on Allen Street in Pittsfield, around 1910-1930. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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City Hall in 2016:

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For many years, it was common for post offices, even in relatively large cities and towns, to be located within commercial buildings rather than in separate buildings. Springfield, for example, did not get its first purpose-built post office until 1890. Here in Pittsfield, the post office had been located in the Berkshire Life Insurance Company building until 1910, when this post office opened on Allen Street.

Its classical revival architecture was designed by James Knox Taylor, who, as Supervising Architect of the Treasury was responsible for designing government buildings across the country. Its design was fairly standard for post offices of the era, but its location was somewhat unusual. It is located at the corner of Allen and Federal Streets, two relatively minor side streets a block away from the far busier North and East Streets. However, it served its purpose well, and was used as a post office for over a half century until it closed in 1966.

After the post office left, the building was renovated into City Hall, replacing the much older building a block away, which had served as the seat of Pittsfield’s municipal government since 1832. It has remained in use ever since, and has now been City Hall for almost as long as it had been a post office. The original interior has been somewhat altered over the years, but exterior is essentially unchanged from the first photo, aside from the significant addition in the back.

Rhode Island State House, Providence, RI

A view of the southwest corner of the Rhode Island State House, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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The first photo was taken only about a year after the completion of the Rhode Island State House. As mentioned in an earlier post, it was the state’s first purpose-built capitol building, and was designed by the prominent architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. Today, it is still in use as Rhode Island’s capitol, with legislative chambers for the General Assembly, as well as offices for the governor and other state officers. Nothing in its exterior appearance has changed, and the only differences in the two photos are the trees in the foreground and the Transportation Department building in the distance on the left.

Union Trust Company Building, Providence, RI

The Union Trust Company Building, at the corner of Westminster and Dorrance Streets in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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The Union Trust Company was a Providence-based bank that dated back to 1851, when it was founded as the Bank of America. Unrelated to the present-day bank of the same name, it was renamed the Union Trust Company in 1894, and a new corporate headquarters was soon in the works. Reflecting both the prominence of the bank, as well as the aspirations of the rapidly-growing city of Providence, the elegant 12-story skyscraper was completed in 1902.

The most significant change to the building came in 1920, when it was expanded along the Westminster Street side, nearly doubling its depth. Otherwise, its exterior has seen few changes. As for the Union Trust Company, it remained here until it was merged into the Industrial National Bank in 1957. In the years that followed, the ground floor continued to be used as a branch office for the bank, but today this elegant bank area is now a restaurant, The Dorrance. The rest of the building was used as offices for many years, but the upper floors of the historic building are now in the process of being converted into apartments.

Rhode Island State House, Providence, RI

The south side of the Rhode Island State House in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Rhode Island is known for having the smallest land area of any US state, but despite its diminutive size, it had an unusual state capital situation for many years. Providence had been the capital of colonial Rhode Island for over a century, but starting in 1776 the legislature alternated sessions between the five county courthouses, effectively giving the state five capital cities. While much larger states managed to make do with just one capital city, this arrangement continued until 1853, when the rotation was reduced to just two, Providence and Newport. Having joint capitals was not unique to Rhode Island – neighboring Connecticut did the same for many years – but Rhode Island continued the practice until 1900.

At this point, when the legislature was in Providence, they were still meeting in the small colonial-era courthouse on Benefit Street. It hardly compared to the far grander capitol buildings other New England states such as Connecticut and Massachusetts, so in 1895 construction began on the present-day Rhode Island State House. It was built on Smith Hill, a hill that overlooks downtown Providence on the other side of the Woonasquatucket River. Its architecture resembles the US Capitol Building, with wings on either side for the two legislative houses and a large rotunda in the center, and it was designed by the prominent firm of McKim, Mead and White in their distinctive Classical Revival style.

The Rhode Island legislature began meeting in the new building in 1901, although it was not completed until 1904, after nearly a decade of construction. Today, the area around the State House has seen some dramatic changes. Interstate 95 now passes just west of here, and just to the east is the Northeast Corridor, the busiest passenger rail line in the country. To the southwest is Providence Place, a large shopping mall with adjacent parking garages. However, here on the State House grounds, very little has changed. The grounds retain a park-like atmosphere, and the historic building itself is still the seat of Rhode Island’s state government.