Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke, Mass

The Holyoke Public Library, seen from the corner of Maple and Essex Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The library in 2017:

The Holyoke Public Library was established in 1870, and originally consisted of around 1,200 books that were housed in the Appleton Street School. Then, in 1876, the library moved to a room in city hall, where it was located for the next 25 years. However, in 1897 the Holyoke Water Power Company offered this lot, bounded by Maple, Cabot, Chestnut, and Essex Streets, to the library. The only stipulation was that the library must, within three years, raise enough money to construct a building on the site. This goal was ultimately achieved, thanks in part to the contributions of some of Holyoke’s prominent industrialists, including silk manufacturer William Skinner and paper manufacturer and former Congressman William Whiting, who each gave $10,000. Another $10,000 came from the prominent financier J. P. Morgan, whose ancestors had once lived in Holyoke.

The building was designed by noted local architect James A. Clough, who provided the plans free of charge. The exterior was built of limestone, and included classically-inspired elements such as a columned portico, which gave the building the appearance of a Greek temple in the midst of a modern industrial city. It was completed in 1902, and Whiting, who had served as the library’s president since 1870, gave the dedication address. At the time, the the library’s collections had grown to more than 20,000 volumes, and the building featured space for periodicals, reference works, and a children’s department. Within a decade, it would also house a natural history museum, which was later moved to the Wistariahurst museum.

The first photo shows the library as it appeared around the early 1910s. Since then, it has continued to serve as the city’s library for more than a century, although it has recently undergone significant changes. Between 2011 and 2013, it was renovated and expanded, with a large addition to the rear on the Chestnut Street side of the building. This project involved demolishing the old wing that housed the library stacks, and replacing it with a modern steel and glass structure that sharply contrasts with the original architecture of the building. However, the rest of the building was preserved as part of the renovations, and very little has changed from this view, aside from a small portion of the addition that is visible on the far right.

Phoenix Building, Holyoke, Mass

The building at the corner of Maple and Dwight Streets in Holyoke, around 1910. Image from Holyoke: Past and Present Progress and Prosperity (1910).

The building in 2017:

This large, mixed-use commercial and residential building stands at the corner of Maple and Dwight Streets in downtown Holyoke. It is just a block away from City Hall and the central business district of High Street, and it overlooks Hampden Park, which is located directly across Dwight Street from here. Although completed more than a century ago, the building’s appearance seems very modern in many ways. With its boxy design, numerous balconies, and relative lack of ornamentation, it could almost pass for an early 21st century condominium complex that was made to look old, instead of an early 20th century building that actually is old.

The first photo shows the building soon after its completion in 1910, and was published in Holyoke: Past and Present Progress and Prosperity, along with a glowing description of the new building:

There is no doubt about the fact that Holyoke is progressing along the building line as well as in the many other lines, for with the erection of the Phoenix building during 1909 and 1910, Holyoke has gained a great modern and metropolitan structure, comparing favorably with the most modern of the buildings in larger cities. Located in the commercial heart of the city, facing Dwight and Maple streets, it is ideal for both business and residential purposes. The outward structure is of brick. The entire weight of the building is sustained by a heavy steel frame. This steel frame is covered with Portland cement construction. The floors are of Portland cement. All partitions are made of hollow tile blocks. There are six stories, and a basement of one hundred and twenty feet both on Dwight and Maple streets. There are nine stores of handsome and substantial finish and most stylish entrances and show windows.

There are many offices, each provided with hot and cold water, ample light and air; when one considers the central location of these offices and that this building is fireproof throughout together with elevator service, then it is realized that here is a good place to do business. A word should be said about the plumbing. This work is being done by the well known firm of Carmody & Sullivan, and is of the best and latest constriction for this kind of a building.

Besides the offices there are here many first class chambers, arranged to suit the most critical, an ample supply of light, air, hot and cold water, new furniture and fixtures are provided and of course the fireproof qualities and the elevator apply to this part of the building also. These rooms are rented in single or suite with or without private bath. On the two upper floors, where the view and the air are still better and it is quieter, there are a number of apartments ranging from two to five rooms, all fitted up with the latest improvements. Inspection of this modern and fireproof building is invited. The owners are the Phoenix Realty Associates, the trustees of which are E. L. Lyman, E. C. Bliss and J. J. Ramage.

Mr. L. L. Bridge of Springfield was the architect and engineer. Mr. F. H. Dibble took the contract to finish the building when the steel and cement work was finished.

The 1920 census shows a number of residents here in this building, including 14 families who rented apartments. These included one of the building’s owners, Edmund C. Bliss, who worked as the secretary and assistant treasurer of the Springfield Blanket Company. Other tenants included a mechanical engineer, a sales manager, a railroad freight agent, the physical director of the YMCA, a merchant, a tailor, and several foremen who worked in factories. Most of these families consisted of just a husband and wife living in an apartment, but there were also several families that had children.

However, the majority of the building’s residents during the 1920 census were listed as lodgers, presumably living in the single rooms that were described in the excerpt above. There were a total of 80 such lodgers, nearly all of whom were either single or widowed. In a city that was largely comprised of immigrant factory workers during this period, nearly all of these lodgers were born in the United States, although many were the children of immigrants. Like those who rented apartments, the lodgers tended to hold middle-class jobs, including office clerks, machinists, milliners, dressmakers, stenographers, and one resident was even listed as a bank vice president.

By the 1940 census, the building still housed a variety of middle class residents. None were listed as lodgers, although nearly all of them lived alone, and were either single or widowed. Monthly rents ranged from $15 to $75 (about $275 to $1,370 today), but most tenants paid around $20 to $25 (about $365 to $457 today). Of those who worked for a full year, annual salaries ranged from $600 (around $11,000 today) for an attendant at a state school, to $3,280 (around $60,000 today) for a mechanical inspector who worked at an army air base.

Today, more than a hundred years after the first photo was taken, Holyoke is no longer the prosperous industrial center that it had been during the first half of the 20th century. However, the city has many historic buildings that are still standing, including the Phoenix Building. It has lost the balustrade atop the roof, and the ground-floor storefronts have been altered, but overall it has remained well-preserved over the years, and it survives as a good example of an early 20th century mixed-use development here in Holyoke.

Essex County Registry of Deeds and Probate Court, Salem, Mass

The Essex County Registry of Deeds and Probate Court, on Federal Street in Salem, around 1909-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The courthouse in 2017:

As mentioned in an earlier post, Federal Street is the site of four Essex County courthouse buildings, representing a wide range of architectural styles, from mid-19th century Greek Revival to 21st century Postmodernism. The oldest of these, just out of view on the far right of this scene, was built in 1841, and was followed by a second courthouse in 1862, which can be seen in the distance on the right side of these photos. However, both of these buildings were subsequently dwarfed by the much larger Registry of Deeds and Probate Court building, which was completed in 1909 and is seen here in these two photos.

The Classical Revival-style courthouse was the work of Clarence H. Blackall, a prominent turn-of-the-century architect whose other works included a number of theaters in Boston. This style of architecture was particularly popular for public buildings of the era, and features a granite exterior with a large pediment above the main entrance, supported by six Ionic columns. Other classical elements include the carving above the door, which includes the head of a woman who is wearing a Greek helmet, presumably symbolizing Athena.

Today, this scene looks essentially the same as it did when the first photo was taken a century ago. The building was used by the Registry of Deeds and the Probate Court for many years, and was expanded from 1979 to 1981 with a large addition to the rear. More recently, it was joined by a new county courthouse, which was completed in 2012 and stands just out of view on the left side of the scene. The two 19th century courthouses were subsequently closed, but this courthouse underwent a major renovation that was completed in 2017. This $50 million project included preservation of the original 1909 structure, along with the demolition and reconstruction of the 1979-1981 addition, and the building now houses the Essex County Probate Court and Family Court.

Tabernacle Congregational Church, Salem, Mass

The Tabernacle Congregational Church, at the corner of Washington and Federal Streets in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The Tabernacle Congregational Church had its origins in 1735, when a large group of parishioners, including the pastor, broke away from the First Church of Salem. Following the split, both churches claimed to be the true “First Church,” and the dispute was not resolved until 1762, when the colonial legislature forced the newer church to give up their claim to the name. As a result, the congregation became the Third Church of Salem, although it later came to be known as the Tabernacle Congregational Church.

Its first meeting house burned down in 1774, and was replaced three years later by a new one, located here at the corner of Washington and Federal Streets. In 1812, Samuel Newell, Adoniram Judson, Samuel Nott, Gordon Hall, and Luther Rice were ordained here as the first foreign missionaries from the United States, prior to their departure overseas for India. The building would remain in use for many years afterwards, but it was demolished in 1854 to build the church that is shown in the first photo.

This church building was designed by noted Boston architect Richard Bond, and had an Italianate-style design that was popular for churches of this period. It included a tall steeple that rose 180 feet above the street, and the sanctuary of the church could seat some 1,050 people, which was more than double the membership at the time. Including furnishings, it was built at a cost of $21,400, or about $600,000 today. However, the church made most of this money back in short order. In keeping with customs of this period, the pews were sold to parishioners, with prices that ranged from $25 to $60 in the galleries, and $40 to $250 on the main floor. Through this sale, held in 1854 on the day of its dedication, the church brought in $16,119.48 in revenue.

The 1854 church stood here until 1922, when it was demolished to build the present-day building. This was the third consecutive church building to stand on this site, and incorporated elements of the 1777 structure. This included the tower, which was modeled after the one that had been added to the earlier church in 1805. The new church was designed by Boston architects Philip Horton Smith and Edgar Walker, and it was completed in 1923. It has remained in use by the congregation ever since, and the exterior has been well-preserved after nearly a century since its completion. It is now part of the Federal Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Pickman-Derby Mansion, Salem, Mass

The mansion at the corner of Washington and Lynde Streets in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

The house in the first photo was built in 1764, although it was extensively modified over the years. It was one of Salem’s finest 18th century mansions, and was home to some of the city’s most prominent residents, starting with merchant Benjamin Pickman (1707/8-1773). Originally from Boston, Pickman later came to Salem as a young man, where he became a prosperous merchant, with ships that were involved in trade with the West Indies. He also served as a colonel in the militia, a member of the colonial legislature and governor’s council, and as a judge.

Pickman was about 56 years old when he built this house on Washington Street. He apparently lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1773, although historical records do not seem to specify. According to these sources, the house was “left by him to his son, Clarke Gayton Pickman,” leaving some ambiguity as to whether he personally lived in this house upon its completion, or simply had it built and then gave it to his son, a practice that was not uncommon among wealthy families of this period.

Either way, his son Clarke (1746-1781) ultimately acquired the house, where he lived with his wife Sarah and their four children. However, he died young, at the age of 35, and his four children had even shorter lives. Both of his sons, Clark and Carteret, died in childhood, and his two daughters, Sally and Rebecca, only lived to be 20 and 28, respectively. Sarah only lived in this house for about a year after Clarke’s death, and sold the property in 1782.

The next owner of this house was Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799), who was probably the wealthiest of Salem’s many merchants. During the late 18th century, Salem was the seventh-largest city or town in the country, as well as the richest on a per capita basis, and Derby played a large role in this prosperity. The ships of his fleet were among the first American vessels to trade with China, and his shipping empire also included extensive trade with India, Mauritius, Sumatra, Europe, and the West Indies. Some 50 years after his death, he was even referred to as “King Derby” in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s introduction to The Scarlet Letter. In this lengthy polemic against his hometown, Hawthorne laments the decline of the once-prosperous city, equating Derby with the Salem’s golden age.

Upon purchasing this house in 1782, Derby soon set about renovating it. He hired noted local architect Samuel McIntire, who made alterations to the original design. This included the addition of the cupola, which provided Derby with a view of the waterfront and his incoming ships. However, Derby soon began planning for a new house, and in the 1790s he hired Charles Bulfinch to design a mansion a little south of here, on the present-day site of the old town hall. Derby moved into this new house upon its completion in 1799, but he did not get to enjoy it for long, because he died later in the year.

In the meantime, this house on Washington Street was acquired by Derby’s son, John Derby (1767-1831). Like his father, he was also a merchant, but he was involved in other business interests here in Salem, such as the Salem Marine Insurance Company and the Salem Bank. His first wife, Sally, died in 1798, leaving him with three young children. However, in 1801 he remarried to Eleanor Coffin, and the couple had eight children of their own.

Among their children was Sarah Ellen Derby, who married John Rogers and had nine children. Their oldest son, also named John Rogers (1829-1904), was born here in this house, and later went on to become a prominent sculptor. He specialized in small, mass-produced plaster statues, known as Rogers Groups, and these inexpensive pieces of artwork found their way into many homes across the country and overseas.

John Derby died in 1831, and the house was subsequently sold to Robert Brookhouse. It would remain a single-family home throughout the 19th century, although it steadily declined over the years. This reflected the declining prosperity of Salem as a whole, which had peaked in its prominence as a seaport around the turn of the 19th century. It slowly dropped off the list of the ten largest cities in the country, and by the time Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in 1850 it had become a shadow of its former glory.

In 1898, the mansion was sold and converted into a commercial property. It became the Colonial House hotel, as shown in the first photo a little over ten years later. The ground floor had two storefronts, with the Colonial House Cafe on the left and a bar on the right. Just to the left of the hotel is a nickelodeon, an early movie theater that, as the signs in front indicate, cost a nickel for admission. These were common during this period, in the early years of film, and the sign above the entrance advertises “Moving Pictures and Illustrated Songs.”

Only a few years after the first photo was taken, the property was sold to the Masonic lodge. The historic 150-year-old mansion was demolished in 1915, and the present-day Masonic Temple was built on the site. This large, Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1916, and featured stores and offices on the lower floors, while the upper floors were used by the Freemasons for office space and meeting rooms. The building was badly damaged by a fire in 1982, which caused over a million dollars in damage to the upper floors, but it was subsequently restored and is still standing. Along with the other nearby buildings, it is now part of the Downtown Salem Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Radding Building, Springfield, Mass

The Radding Building, at the corner of State and Willow Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2017:

This eight-story, Classical Revival-style commercial building was built in 1915 by real estate developer Edward Radding, and was one of the largest early 20th century buildings on State Street. It was the work of Boston-based architect Charles R. Greco, and featured decorative elements such as Corinthian columns and pilasters on the first two floors, carvings in between windows on the third floor, and cornices above the third, seventh, and eight floors. Upon completion, the building housed a variety of commercial tenants, and included stores, offices, and assembly halls.

The first photo shows the building as it appeared in the late 1930s. There are a number of of signs in the windows, although only a few are legible. The ground floor storefront on the left side was the State Barber Shop, while the storefront on the right was vacant, with a “For Rent” sign in the window. Directly above this empty storefront was a fur retailer, but none of the other signs are visible from this distance. Only a few years later, in 1943, the Mutual Fire Assurance Company began renting space in the building. This company would later become its primary tenant, and was headquartered here for many years.

Nearly 80 years since the first photo was taken, the exterior of the Radding Building has seen few changes. Because of its level of preservation and its architectural significance, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and it remains well-preserved today. When the first photo was taken in 2017, it was undergoing major renovations to convert it from an office building to a Holiday Inn Express. This project was completed earlier in 2018, and the hotel now occupies the historic building.