Frederick Newman House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 37 George Street, at the corner of Dexter Street, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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This house was designed by its own resident, Frederick Newman, a prominent local architect who had designed a number of important commercial buildings in downtown Springfield, including the Chicopee Bank Building and the Court Square Building. The house was completed in 1896, and in the 1900 census he was living here with his wife Caroline, along with his niece and two servants. However, the Newmans only remained here until 1903, when they moved to New Hampshire. By 1910, the house was owned by Joseph Shattuck, Jr., a banker who worked as the treasurer of the Springfield Institute for Savings. He was 39 at the time, and lived here with his wife Fannie, their four daughters, and three servants.

Yet another wealthy family owned the house in 1920, when Frank Fuller owned the house. He was the general manager and later president of Springfield’s Moore Drop Forging Company, and in 1920 he lived here with his wife Jessie, three young children, and two servants. They were still here in 1930, and still with two servants living with them, although Frank died by the mid-1930s, and the family appears to have left soon after; this would explain the “For Sale” sign in front of the house in the first photo.

Now over 120 years old, the house is still standing, although it has seen better days. It is part of the Maple Hill Local Historic District, but it was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, and is currently uninhabited. Both neglect and vandalism have taken their toll on the historic house, and several years ago it was listed by the Springfield Preservation Trust as one of the city’s most endangered historic resources.

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.

Curtis Hotel, Lenox, Mass

The Curtis Hotel at the corner of Main and Walker Streets in Lenox, around 1905-1915 and 2016. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The hotel in 2016:

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This hotel in the center of Lenox was built in 1829, and prospered in part because of its location next to the Berkshire County Courthouse, which is visible just to the left in both photos. In 1853, the building was purchased by William O. Curtis and became known as the Curtis Hotel, with the business staying in his family for nearly a century. During this time, the county seat was moved to Pittsfield, but Lenox was in the midst of changing roles and becoming a popular tourist destination.

The Curtis Hotel prospered during this time, with visits some of the most prominent Americans from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including presidents Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. Other notable guests included writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Civil War Generals William T. Sherman and George B. McClellan, and businessmen Jim Fiske and John Jacob Astor.

Because of this prosperity, the hotel underwent several major expansions, to the point where it was unrecognizable from its original appearance by the start of the 20th century. The last major addition came in 1898, and by the time the first photo was taken it had largely assumed its present-day exterior. At this point, the hotel faced competition from other nearby hotels, including the Hotel Aspinwall, which opened on a hilltop just to the north of the town center in 1902.

However, like so many other grand hotels of the Gilded Age, the Curtis Hotel was hit hard by the Great Depression. Lenox would no longer be the playground of the rich and famous as it had once been, and many of the hotels began to struggle . The Curtis family sold the hotel by the 1940s, and by the 1970s the deteriorating hotel had closed for good. In 1979, though, the town purchased the historic building and converted it into subsidized housing for elderly residents. The renovations were completed in 1982, and the building has continued to be used in that role ever since.

Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass

Looking west toward Harvard Square on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Harvard Square in 2016:

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The first photo was taken only a few years before the Red Line opened. At the time, people traveling from Cambridge to Boston had to use the streetcars, as shown here. In the distance on the left side of the photo, passengers are boarding a trolley whose destination is “Subway Park Street,” and the trolley to the right of it is presumably heading outbound from Park Street, on the way to its destination at Mount Auburn. This route was replaced in 1912 by the much faster Red Line subway, which originally ran from Park Street to here at Harvard Square, and a station entrance was built in the middle of the square. The station also included a streetcar tunnel that allowed passengers to easily transfer between the subway and the trolleys; this tunnel was later modified for buses and is still in use as the Harvard Bus Tunnel.

As for the buildings at Harvard Square, very little is left from the turn of the century. None of the buildings in the first photo have survived, with most being demolished in the early 20th century to build the current Colonial Revival buildings. Most of the businesses themselves are long gone, except for the Harvard Cooperative Society. Originally located in the Greek Revival-style building in the center of the photo, this bookstore was founded in 1882 as a cooperative for Harvard students. Now commonly known as The Coop, the bookstore is still in operation in a different building on the same spot, and serves students at both Harvard and MIT. Otherwise, the only landmark remaining from the first photo is the gate on the far right side, which connects the square to Harvard Yard.

Center Elementary School, Longmeadow, Mass

The Junior High School, seen from the Town Green in Longmeadow on April 27, 1923. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The building in 2016, now part of the Center Elementary School:

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This school was built in 1921 as the Longmeadow Junior High School, and seven years later another school building was built just to the right of here. The two buildings later became Center Elementary School, and today from this angle they look the same on the outside as they did in the 1920s, but everything on the interior is new. Both buildings were completely gutted in the mid-1990s, leaving only the exterior walls still standing, and an entirely new structure was built inside. They were also connected via a new library, which was built in the back of the school, below the grade of the road.. By preserving the exteriors, and by making the modern addition invisible from here, it helps to maintain the character of the Town Green area, which is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cushman Hall, Monson, Mass

Cushman Hall on Main Street in Monson, around 1904-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The building in 2015:

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This former dormitory is the last surviving purpose-built structure from the old Monson Academy, which operated here in Monson from 1804 until it merged with Wilbraham Academy in 1971 and moved to their campus.  Its construction in 1904 was funded by Thaddeus L. Cushman, and it was named in honor of his nephew, Frank Chapin Cushman, who died the year before at the age of 16.

After the school merger, the former dormitory became an apartment building, and it remains in use today.  The 2011 tornado destroyed two of the last three surviving academy buildings, and directly across the street from Cushman Hall the Town Hall/former Monson High School building was damaged beyond repair.  However, Cushman Hall sustained minimal damage, and today it is still an excellent reminder of the town’s educational history.