First Baptist Church, Holyoke, Mass

The First Baptist Church, at the corner of Northampton and South Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

Holyoke’s First Baptist Church is significantly older than Holyoke itself, and was originally incorporated in 1803, back when Holyoke was still part of West Springfield. At the time, this northern section of West Springfield was known as Ireland Parish, and most of its development was centered along present-day Northampton Street. The First Baptist Church built its first permanent church building here on this site in 1826, at the corner of Northampton and South Streets, and over the next decade the congregation steadily grew, eventually peaking at 179 in 1835.

Holyoke was incorporated as a separate town in 1850, and at the time, it was being transformed into a major industrial center. However, this development was concentrated more than a mile to the east of here, along the banks of the Connecticut River. This drew people away from the old village center on Northampton Street, and First Baptist Church steadily lost members, who moved closer to the new town center. By 1879, church membership had dwindled to just 69, but, despite its small size, the congregation embarked on a building project, demolishing the old wood-frame building in 1879 and replacing it with a new brick, High Victorian Gothic-style building that was completed in 1880, on the same site as the old church.

This proved to be a wise move, because by the late 19th century, the surrounding neighborhood was being developed as a suburban residential area. Originally known as Baptist Village, the neighborhood became Elmwood, and the influx of residents helped to grow the church. By the first decade of the 20th century, membership had tripled from its 1879 numbers, requiring an addition in the right side, which was built in 1906. Since then, the exterior has not changed significantly, and First Baptist Church remains an active congregation that still worships here in this building, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken.

Highlands Methodist Episcopal Church, Holyoke, Mass

The Highlands Methodist Episcopal Church, at the corner of Lincoln and Nonotuck Streets in Holyoke, arounn 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke’s First Methodist Church was established in 1853, and met in various locations in the downtown area until 1869, when its first permanent church building was completed on Main Street. However, in the following years, the city steadily grew westward and northward, away from Main Street, and by the 1880s there was a need for a church here in the newly-developed Highlands neighborhood. As a result, this church was built in 1886, at the corner of Lincoln and Nonotuck Streets, and it originally served as a branch of the downtown Methodist church. The pastor of the downtown church, Gilbert C. Osgood, would preach here on Sunday afternoons, and this arrangement continued until 1889, when the Highlands church was organized as a separate congregation.

The Highlands Methodist Episcopal Church remained here in this building until around 1926, when it was sold to a Christian Scientist congregation, which would worship here until at least the mid-20th century. Today, this scene remains much the same as it did 125 years ago, with the church as well as the houses in the distance still standing. The exterior of the church remains particularly well-preserved, although the interior is dramatically different. It has not been used as a church since at least the 1970s or early 1980s, when it was converted into a house, and more than 40 years later it is still a private residence. However, it did recently gain national attention when, in 2016, the church-turned-house was labeled as a Pokémon GO gym, resulting in dozens of people showing up around the house every day.

Unitarian Church, Holyoke, Mass

The Unitarian Church at the corner of Maple and Essex Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The first Unitarian church in Holyoke was established in 1857, but it only lasted for about a year, and the city’s Unitarians would not form another church for more than 15 years. Finally, in 1874, the Liberal Christian Congregational Society was established with 55 members, and the church met in several different temporary locations for the next two years. In 1875, the Holyoke Water Power Company donated this lot at the northeast corner of Maple and Essex Streets, and construction of a church building began later that year.

The building was completed in 1876, and originally consisted of just the section on the left side of the first photo, to the left of the tower. However, in 1889, the building was significantly expanded to the right, with a matching addition that more than doubled its capacity. The church remained here until about 1930, but by 1931 it was demolished to build the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company building, which still stands here on the site. Its exterior has been altered over the years, and the first floor windows and doors have been bricked up, but it remains as one of the few Art Deco-style buildings in Holyoke.

St. Mary’s Church, Northampton, Mass

The St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church on Elm Street in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The church in 2017:

Like most other New England communities, Northampton was predominantly Protestant throughout its first few centuries, but this began to change after the Industrial Revolution, when the region saw large-scale immigration from Catholic countries. Here in Northampton, most of the early Catholics were French-Canadian, and began arriving by the mid-19th century. Within a few decades there were several Catholic parishes in Northampton, including Saint Mary of the Assumption, whose church building was built here on Elm Street in 1881.

The church was designed by Patrick W. Ford, an Irish-born architect who was responsible for a number of Catholic churches in New England. Its polychromatic brick and brownstone exterior reflects the High Victorian Gothic style of the era, and it matches the design of College Hall at Smith College, which is located directly across the street from here. The front of the church is nearly symmetrical, although the left tower is slightly taller and wider than the one on the right. As the first photo shows, the towers did not initially have spires, although they were added a few years later in 1895 and were also designed by Ford.

Aside from the spires, the exterior of the church has not significantly changed in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. However, it is no longer in use as a church, after having been closed in 2010 along with a number of other Catholic churches in the Diocese of Springfield. Some of the parishioners appealed the closing, but the Vatican upheld the decision in 2015. The building has since been offered for sale, although it currently remains vacant, more than eight years after it closed.

Third Congregational Church, Chicopee, Mass

The Third Congregational Church, on Springfield Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

Chicopee’s Third Congregational Church was established in 1834, and originally met in the nearby Stearns House. After meeting in several other temporary locations, the church built its first permanent building in 1837, here at the corner of Springfield and Pearl Streets. The congregation worshipped here for three decades, but in 1868 the old building was demolished and replaced with the present brick church, which was completed in 1870. It features High Victorian Gothic-style architecture, which was common in churches of the era, and it was designed by Charles Edward Parker, a Boston-based architect who would go on to design Chicopee City Hall several years later.

In 1925, Third Congregational Church merged with the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, forming the Federated Church. Central Methodist subsequently sold their building on Center Street, and the merged church continued to worship here in the Third Congregational building. The church has since been renamed Christ’s Community Church, but it remains here in this building, which has seen few changes in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. The house next door, which is now owned by the church, is also still standing, and today both buildings are part of the Springfield Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

St. Jerome’s Church, Holyoke, Mass

St. Jerome’s Church and Rectory on Hampden Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Holyoke was developed into a major industrial center. Many factories were built along the city’s network of canals, and were powered by water from the Connecticut River, which drops 58 feet at the falls between Holyoke and South Hadley. The factories led to a dramatic population growth, particularly with immigrant groups such as the Irish and the French Canadians, who came to Holyoke in search of work, and this led to an abundance of Catholic churches to serve these two predominantly Roman Catholic communities.

The first of these Catholic churches was St. Jerome’s Church, which was established in 1856. The church building, seen here in the center of both photos, was constructed two years later, diagonally opposite Hampden Park at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets. It features a brick, Gothic Revival-style design and, like many other Catholic churches of the era, was designed by prominent Irish-born architect Patrick Keely.

As the Catholic population of Holyoke continued to grow, a number of additional buildings were added around St. Jerome’s Church. The St. Jerome Institute was established as a school for boys in 1872, and was located in a building just to the left of the church, on the far left side of the first photo. Then, in 1879, a Second Empire-style church rectory was built to the right of the church, on the opposite side of Chestnut Street, and is visible on the right side of both photos. Other buildings constructed during this time included the Sisters of Notre Dame Convent (1870), the Convent of the Sisters of Providence  (1886), and the School of the Immaculate Conception (1883), all of which were located across Hampden Street opposite the church, just out of view to the left.

St. Jerome’s Church was significantly damaged by a fire in 1934 that left only the exterior brick walls still standing. However, the building was reconstructed a year later, and it remains in use today as an active Roman Catholic parish. Most of the other 19th century buildings nearby are still standing, aside from the St. Jerome Institute, which was demolished in the late 20th century. Today, these remaining buildings, including St. Jerome’s Church, now form part of the Hampden Park Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.