Mary McKnight House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 79 Ingersoll Grove in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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The McKnight neighborhood was largely developed by John and William McKnight, two brothers who were born in Truxton New York but later moved to Springfield. Here, they first worked as dry goods merchants, before ultimately entering the real estate business. John died in 1890, but his wife Mary continued to be involved in real estate, and built this home on Ingersoll Grove in 1896. Most of the other houses in the neighborhood have Queen Anne architecture, but because this house was built somewhat later, its design reflects the Colonial Revival style, which was coming into popularity at the end of the 19th century.

By 1900, Mary McKnight had sold this house to Cooper Robeson, who lived here with his wife Josephine and their children,  Rebecca, Dorothy, and James. They moved to Boston around 1910, and sold the house to woolen manufacturer Edwin H. Pinney. Originally from Stafford Springs, Connecticut, he was the son of Edwin C. Pinney, who was a state legislator and the president of a woolen company. When he and his wife Jennie moved to this house, they joined the many other business and industrial leaders who lived in the McKnight neighborhood, and they would remain here for many years. They were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and not much has changed in the house’s exterior appearance since then. Today, along with the rest of the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Frederick Harris House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 270 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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Frederick Harris and Emily Osborne were married in 1879, and shortly afterward they moved into this new house near the crest of the hill on Maple Street. Frederick was the son of Frederick H. Harris, a banker who came to Springfield in 1838 at the age of 15 and found work as a bank clerk. After a few years, the elder Frederick began working in the lumber industry, but later returned to banking as the cashier of Pynchon Bank. In 1864, he joined Springfield’s Third National Bank as cashier, and became the company president in 1886.

Emily, however, came from an even more prominent family. Originally from Auburn, New York, her father David was a prominent businessman and mayor, but her family was even better know for social activism. Her grandmother, Martha Coffin Wright, and her great aunt, Lucretia Coffin Mott, were both leaders of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, and her brother, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the warden of Sing Sing and an influential prison reform advocate. Her sister, Helen Osborne Storrow, was a wealthy philanthropist, and Helen’s husband was James Jackson Storrow II, a Boston businessman who briefly served as president of General Motors in the company’s early years.

The younger Frederick Harris followed his father’s footsteps as a banker, starting out as a messenger for Third National in 1871. He steadily advanced in the bank, though, and eventually became vice president and then president, succeeding his father after his death in 1911. In addition, he was also active politically, and served as an alderman and as a member of the school committee. When the house was completed, it was considerably smaller than its current appearance. The first major expansion came in 1886, followed by the addition of a ballroom in 1900, bringing the house to over 10,000 square feet of living space.

Frederick and Emily had two children, Florence and Helen, but they were hardly the only residents of this house. Like other wealthy families of the era, they regularly employed multiple servants who lived here. In the 1900 census, they had three, and by 1910 they had four: a housekeeper, waitress, cook, and laundress. Florence moved out after her marriage in 1907 to Frederic Jones, and the couple later moved into a nearby house on Maple Street. Like his father-in-law, Frederic Jones would later go on to serve as president of Third National Bank.

By 1920, Frederick and Emily were living here alone, aside from their army of servants. Frederick died in 1926, and two years later he was memorialized in the naming of the Frederick Harris School, an elementary school on Hartford Terrace in the East Forest Park neighborhood. Emily was still living here when the first photo was taken, and she died in 1940, some 60 years after she first moved in. Since then, the house has remained well-preserved on both the exterior and interior. It was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but was restored and remains as an important part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles Hosley House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 1166 Worthington 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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This house is located on Worthington Street opposite the Thompson Triangle in Springfield’s historic McKnight neighborhood. It was built in 1889, the same year as the neighboring house at 1154 Worthington Street. However, the two houses are very different in architectural style, with this one being an early example of a Colonial Revival design. Its original owner was Charles D. Hosley, a jeweler who co-owned the Springfield firm of Woods & Hosley until his retirement in 1898. He lived here with his wife Harriet and their son Walter. Harriet was the daughter of prominent publisher Charles Merriam, the co-founder of the current Merriam-Webster company. Her sister, Eleanor Woods, lived in the house next door at 1154 Worthington.

Both Charles and Harriet died in 1917, and by 1920 the house was owned by Dr. William C. Hill, the longtime principal of Central and later Classical High School. He served as principal from 1910 until 1945, and lived here for many years with his wife Gertrude and their son Charles. Gertrude died in 1954, and William lived here until his death in 1964 at the age of 90. Since then, the house has remained well-preserved. The only significant difference is the lack of the enclosed porch over the entryway, which was probably not original to the house anyway. Like the hundreds of other houses in the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight District on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.