Charles A. Bowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 81 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This massive house is one of Springfield’s finest examples of Colonial Revival architecture, and was designed by Guy Kirkham, one of the city’s leading architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Completed in 1894, it was among his earliest works, and was designed for Charles A. Bowles, a paper manufacturer whose father, Samuel Bowles, had been the prominent editor of the Springfield Republican from 1851-1878. Charles’s older brother Samuel succeeded their father as editor after his death in 1878, but Charles went into the manufacturing business instead. He attended Sheffield Scientific School at Yale for a year, but did not graduate. Instead, he worked briefly for the Pennsylvania Railroad before entering the papermaking industry in 1884.

In 1885, at the age of 24, he married Nellie S. Harris of Rutland, Vermont, and early in their marriage they lived in a house nearby at 34 Avon Place. By the time they moved into this house on Mulberry Street in 1894 they had two children, Charles and Dorothy, and they would have one more son, Chester, who was born in 1901. During this time, Charles went into business for himself, becoming a partner in the firm of Dexter & Bowles, which sold paper pulp and other supplies for paper manufacturers.

Charles Bowles lived here until his death in 1933, but Nellie was still living here with her daughter Dorothy when the first photo was taken at the end of the 1930s. Dorothy was in her early 40s at the time, and she worked as a dressmaker, with a shop on Vernon Street. She lived here in this house until her mother’s death in 1943, and she subsequently moved to a house on Maple Court. In the meantime, Charles and Nellie’s older son, Charles, Jr., lived here with his parents until his marriage in 1917, and he and his wife Helen lived in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood until his death in 1946.

It was Charles and Nellie’s youngest child, Chester, who would go on to have the most prominent career, becoming a successful politician, diplomat, and advertising executive. He grew up here in this house and lived here until the mid-1920s, around the time that he married his first wife, Julia Fisk. He briefly worked as a reporter for the Springfield Republican from 1924 to 1926, but he saw limited opportunities for himself in a newspaper that was crowded with other family members. So, he moved to New York City and, in 1929, established the advertising agency of Benton & Bowles, which would go on to become highly successful in the early years of radio advertising. The firm introduced soap operas to radio programming, largely in an effort to advertise to housewives who listened to the radio at home, and during the 1930s the company’s clients included General Foods, Bristol-Myers, Colgate, Dr. Pepper, Prudential Life Insurance, Columbia Records, and Procter & Gamble.

However, Bowles left the advertising industry in 1941, and he went on to become a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration during World War II. From 1943 to 1946 he served as the administrator of the Office of Price Administration, and then served one term as governor of Connecticut from 1949 to 1951. Later in 1951, he was appointed as ambassador to India, and served until the end of Harry Truman’s administration in 1953. He served one term in Congress, from 1959 to 1961, and after being defeated for re-election he was appointed Under Secretary of State by John F. Kennedy. In 1963, Kennedy appointed him as ambassador to India again, and Bowles went on to serve in this capacity until the end of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1969.

By the time Bowles was in the midst of his political and diplomatic career, his childhood home here on Mulberry Street had been converted into apartments. It would remain a multi-family home until 1991, when it was severely damaged by a fire that gutted the back of the house and destroyed much of the roof. For the next decade, the house stood vacant and exposed to the elements, and was nearly demolished by the city several times. However, it was sold in 2000 and restored the following year, earning an award from the Springfield Preservation Trust in the process. Today it hardly looks any different from when the Bowles family lived here 80 years ago, and it still stands as one of the finest homes in the Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Frederick A. North House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 28 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1895, and was originally the home of Frederick A. North. He only lived here for a few years, though, because by 1898 he had moved to New York, and by the following year the house was owned by James M. Van Deusen. He was a graduate of Rutgers and the Hartford Theological Seminary, but never entered the ministry, and instead worked in the four and grain business, with the firm of Van Deusen & Foley. He and his wife Isabel lived here with their five children for about a decade, but in 1908 they sold the house and moved to Pasadena, California, where James died in 1921.

The house subsequently became the home of Henry L. Thomas, a Canadian-born mason who is also listed in city directories as being a building supervisor. He and his wife Eleanor had seven children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 26 at the time of the 1910 census. The oldest, William, was listed in the census as working as a stage electrician for an opera company, although city directories from the same period list his occupation as an actor. Either way, he later married and moved to a house on Winthrop Street in the South End, where he was living in 1917 while working for Poli’s Palace Theatre. Several of William’s younger siblings also moved out of this house during the 1910s, and around 1920 Henry and Eleanor moved to an apartment at 663 State Street, where they lived with their three youngest daughters.

This house would remain in Henry’s family, though, because during the 1920 census his daughter Mary was living here with her husband, John E. Keefe, and her daughter Patricia. John was a dentist and oral surgeon who was originally from Fall River, and in the aftermath of World War I he traveled to Romania with the American Red Cross. He was featured in several photographs taken by the Red Cross in 1919, including the one below, which shows him at work in his clinic in Bucharest.

The caption of this photo explains that he performs around 400 major dental operations each month, while one of the other captions explains how “The war has wrought many changes in the life of the people of southwestern Europe and has brought them in contact with many people they had never seen before. Here is Capt. John Keefe of N.Y. who has charge of the A.R.C. dental hut at Bucharest which is the mecca for native dental experts anxious to learn the mysteries of modern dental surgery.”

Dr. Keefe returned to Springfield after his time overseas, and for many years he worked out of an office at 1490 Main Street, where Tower Square now stands. He and Mary were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here until Mary sold the house in 1953, a few years before John’s death in 1957.

In the second half of the 20th century, the McKnight neighborhood entered a decline, and many properties were abandoned or taken by the city for tax delinquency. This particular house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but several years later the city took the property, and it stood empty for many years until it was finally destroyed in a fire in 1999.

Mary McKnight House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 2 Glen Road in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

The McKnight neighborhood was developed in the late 19th century, with hundreds of upscale homes in the area, but some of the finest of these homes were built in the vicinity of the McKnight Glen, a wooded ravine in between Dartmouth Terrace and Ingersoll Grove. This particular house was built in 1899 for Mary E. McKnight, the widow of John McKnight, who had been one of the area’s developers along with his brother William. Like the McKnight brothers, Mary was originally from western New York, but she later moved to Springfield, where she married John in 1864. About six years later, John and William entered the real estate business, transforming a sparsely-settled section of Springfield into one of its most fashionable residential areas.

After John’s death in 1890, Mary had lived in several different homes in the neighborhood, including a house on Ingersoll Grove on the opposite side of the glen, but by the end of the century she was living in this large, elegant home on Glen Road, right at the corner of Dartmouth Terrace and Cornell Street. The 1900 census shows Mary living here with two of her children, Marion and Robert, along with her sister Ada. She went on to live here for the rest of her life, until her death in 1906 at the age of 64.

The house was subsequently sold to Mark Aitken, a florist who was living here during the 1910 census, along with his wife Effie and their three young daughters. However, they did not live here fore very long, because by 1915 this house was owned by John D. Plummer, the publisher and treasurer of the Springfield Union newspaper. He was about 45 years old at the time, and five years later he was still living here, along with his wife Alice, their two teenaged children, and Alice’s parents, Albert and Ada Belden. Like the two previous owners, though, the Plummers lived here for less than a decade, and moved out by 1924.

The next owner of this house was Emmett H. Naylor, a lawyer who was originally from Minnesota. He was educated at three Ivy League schools, earning degrees from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Columbia, before moving to Springfield. Here, he was involved in the paper industry, working in a variety of roles, including as secretary and treasurer of the Writing Paper Manufacturers Association, Cover Paper Manufacturers Association, and Tissue Paper Manufacturers Association. In addition, Naylor served as secretary of the Springfield Board of Trade and as the editor of the Western New England Magazine, along with involvement in a variety of other trade organizations.

In 1914, Emmett Naylor married his wife Ruth, and they had three children before divorcing in 1925, shortly after moving into this house. Two years later, Emmett remarried to his second wife, Janet, and by the 1930 census they were living here along with his children from his first marriage: Genevieve, Winford, and Cynthia. They were still living here as late as the 1934 city directory, but by this point Emmett’s second marriage had also ended in divorce, and he subsequently moved to New York City, where he lived on East 64th Street in the Upper East Side. However, he continued to own this house in Springfield, and he also maintained a summer home in Cummington, Massachusetts, where, at the age of 52, he suffered a heart attack and drowned in the swimming pool in 1938.

In the meantime, Emmett’s daughter Genevieve would go on to become a prominent photographer. In the early 1930s, she attended the Music Box, an art school in the Berkshires, where she fell in love with, and subsequently married, one of her teachers, Ukranian painter Misha Reznikoff. Later in the decade, she worked as a photographer for the WPA and the Associated Press, and from 1940 to 1943 she and Reznikoff traveled to Brazil, where she documented Brazilian culture as part of a State Department program to strengthen wartime ties between the United States and Brazil. Following the war, she was given a one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art, and subsequently worked as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and as the personal photographer for Eleanor Roosevelt.

Here in Springfield, Genevieve Naylor’s childhood home stood vacant for several years after Emmett’s departure. Around the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, though, it was sold to Lewis L. McShane, who lived here with his wife Lorena and their daughters, Doris and Marjorie. Originally from Illinois, Lewis worked in the publishing industry, and since 1927 he had worked as the manager of the subscription department for G. & C. Merriam, the famous Springfield-based publishers of Webster’s Dictionary. He later became the vice president of the company, and he lived in this house until the early 1950s, when he moved to Pennsylvania.

Since then, this house has remained well-preserved, and has hardly changed in the nearly 80 years since the first photo was taken. The house still occupies one of the most desirable lots in the neighborhood, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and encompasses most of the land that Mary McKnight’s husband had developed in the late 19th century.

Frederick H. Stebbins House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 86 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1911, at the very end of the development of the McKnight neighborhood. As such, its design is very different from most of the other homes in the area, with a symmetrical Colonial Revival-style design and brick exterior that contrasts with the eclectic wood-frame Queen Anne-style homes that dominate the neighborhood. It was originally built for Frederick H. Stebbins, a Harvard-educated lawyer who served on the city council and the school committee in the early 20th century. He lived here with his wife Martha and their son Frederick, who was born around the same time that they moved into this house.

The Stebbins family was still living here nearly 30 years later, when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Frederick died in 1939, but Martha and Frederick Jr. were still living here during the 1940 census. Like his father, the younger Frederick became a lawyer, and later moved to Longmeadow. However, Martha continued to live in this house for many years, and was later joined by her widowed sister, Bessie Lyford. Both women lived well into their 90s, and Bessie was still living even after Martha’s death in 1964. She later moved into a nursing home, where she died in 1974 at the age of 99, and in the meantime Frederick sold the house in 1972, more than 60 years after his father had purchased it.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, and over a century after the house was built, very little has changed in this scene. In 1976, only a few years after Frederick sold the house, it became part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and today the house still stands as a well-preserved example of Colonial Revival architecture in the McKnight neighborhood.

James R. Wells House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 62 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The site in 2017:

Most of the homes in Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood were built in the last decades of the 19th century, with only a few homes built after the turn of the 20th century. This house was among the last to be built, and was completed in 1910 for James R. Wells, the Register of Deeds for Hampden County. He was about 50 at the time, and had recently married his second wife, Eliza. They had previously lived in a house a few blocks away on Clarendon Street, but they moved here around 1910 along with several of James’s children from his first marriage.

James lived here until his death in 1923, and the house was subsequently sold to Frederick J. Hillman, an accountant who was the president of the New England Audit Company and a member of the Springfield-based accounting firm of Hillman, Peters & Leary. Along with this, he was also the vice president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and secretary of the Bozart Rug Company. He and his wife Maude were in their late 40s when they moved into this house, and during the 1930 census they were living here with their daughter Muriel and their son, Frederick Jr.

Later in the 1930s, the family moved to a house on Federal Street, and by the 1940 census this house was being rented by Irene MacDonald, a nurse who lived here with her elderly father, William, along with a cook and three lodgers. At the time, she was paying $75 a month in rent, but she would later purchase the property, and she lived here until she sold it in 1951.

The house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but it was destroyed in a fire in 2011. The gutted, boarded-up remains of the house were deemed structurally unsound, but the house stood here for the next five years, until it was finally demolished by the city in 2016. However, the tree from the first photo survived the fire, and it still stands on the vacant lot nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken.

Mary A. Chapman House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 127 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1894, and it is located where Mulberry Street makes a sharp turn next to Springfield Cemetery. It was originally the home of Mary A. Chapman, a widow who was in her late 40s at the time. She lived here with her three children, Temple, Grenville, and Heloise. All three were in their 20s during the 1900 census, and Temple worked as a mine manager while Grenville worked as a bank bookkeeper. Mary was living here as late as the 1909 city directory, but by 1910 the house was owned by George D. Chamberlain, an accountant who lived here with his wife Ellie and their four children, Emily, Sydney, Eleanor, and Rodger.

Chamberlain was originally from Troy, New York, but later came to Springfield. Here, he held a number of different positions, including working in the paymaster’s office at the Armory, as an auditor for the Connecticut River Railroad, and as treasurer of the Warwick Cycle Manufacturing Company. He also worked in the publishing industry, and from 1898 to 1901 he was the publisher and editor of Good Housekeeping. By the time he moved into this house, he was just beginning a career in politics. From 1907 to 1908 he served on the city council, and from 1909 to 1912 he was on the board of aldermen. He then entered state politics, serving as a state representative from 1913 to 1916, as a state senator from 1917 to 1928, and as a member of the governor’s council from 1929 to 1933.

George and Ellie lived in this house until the late 1920s, and by 1929 it was the home of James G. Gilkey, the pastor of the South Congregational Church. A graduate of Harvard and Union Theological Seminary, Gilkey became the pastor of the church in 1917 and went on to serve in that role for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1955. During this time, he also wrote a number of books, mostly on theology, along with a 1942 book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the South Congregational Church.

James Gilkey was living in this house when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, along with his wife Calma and their children, Gordon, Margaret, and Edith. They remained here until the early 1950s, and the exterior of the house has been essentially unchanged since then. The surroundings have also remained the same, including the cemetery fence on the left and the house on the right, and even the tree in the front is still there. The rest of the neighborhood is also well-preserved, and today it forms the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.