South Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

South Congregational Church on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The church in 2017:


South Congregational Church was established in 1842 by members of Springfield’s First Congregational Church, and its first permanent home was on Bliss Street. This rather plain church had a very conservative architectural design that looked like any number of other churches in the area at the time, but in 1875 the congregation built a new, far larger and more elaborate church here, at the corner of Maple and High Streets.

This church was designed by William Appleton Potter, the half-brother of the equally notable architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It was one of his first major works, and it is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. The 1873-1874 city directory described it as being “a rather bold departure from ordinary models, being much like an amphitheater, and entirely unlike any other church building in Springfield.” This may have been somewhat of a hyperbole, since the Memorial Congregational Church in the North End, built a few years earlier, has many similar Gothic-style features, but South Congregational Church certainly stood out at a time when Springfield was building a number of fine churches.

Like many of the city’s other churches and public buildings of the era, it was built with locally-quarried stone, with a foundation of Monson granite and walls of Longmeadow brownstone. Along with this, terracotta, sandstone, and other materials were used to add a variety of colors to the exterior of the building. Also common in churches of the time period, the building is very asymmetrical, with a 120-foot tower located off-center in the southwest corner, and the main entrance at its base.

In total, it cost some $100,000 to construct, which was substantially more than most of the other new churches that were built around this time. However, the costs were offset by contributions from some of Springfield’s most prominent residents, including dictionary publishers George and Charles Merriam, railroad engineer Daniel L. Harris, and gun manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, who later moved into a massive mansion directly across the street from the church.

At the time that this building was completed, the pastor of the church was Samuel G. Buckingham, who had served in that position since 1847. He was also an author, and he wrote a biography of his brother, William A. Buckingham, a former Connecticut governor and U.S. Senator. Reverend Buckingham remained here at the church for 47 years, until his retirement in 1894. His successor was Philip Moxom, who, aside from his work here at the church, was also the president of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

More than 140 years after its completion, South Congregational Church is still an active congregation, and the building survives as one of Springfield’s finest architectural works. The only major change over the years was the addition of a parish house on the back of the church in the late 1940s. Not visible from this angle, it matches the design of the original building and it was even constructed with brownstone that had been salvaged from the demolished First Baptist Church. The church is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District, and in 1976 it was also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from Union Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

Maple Street in 2017:


These two photos, taken 125 years apart, show he changes that Maple Street underwent in the early 20th century. For most of the 1800s, the lower part of Maple Street was an upscale residential area, primarily with large, single-family homes. Several of these can be seen in the first photo, including one in front of the church, and another one just beyond it. However, as the city grew, these homes were steadily replaced with large apartment buildings. The building just to the left of the church, at the corner of Maple and Temple Streets, was built in 1906, and was followed about 20 years later by the apartment building on the right side of the photo. The most recent building in this scene is Chestnut Towers, visible on the far left. This 240-unit, 34-story apartment building was completed in 1976 at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets, and it is the tallest residential building in the city.

Today, the only surviving building from the first photo is South Congregational Church. It was designed by prominent architect William Appleton Potter, and was completed in 1875, replacing an earlier South Congregational Church that had stood several blocks away on Bliss Street. Some of Springfield’s most prominent residents attended this church, including many of those who lived in the nearby mansions. Despite the many changes to the neighborhood over the years, though, the church has remained as an important landmark. It is one of the city’s finest architectural works, and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.

Henry A. Gould House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 89 Maple Street, at the corner of Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:


Henry A. Gould was born in 1828 in Manlius, New York, and grew up there and in nearby Syracuse. However, in 1854 he moved to Russell, Massachusetts, where he became a clerk at a paper mill. Four years later, he and Springfield resident Charles O. Chapin purchased the business, which became the Crescent Mills. Under the previous owners, the company had already been a major producer of paper, accounting for more than 13 percent of the country’s entire paper production, but Chapin and Gould grew the business even further. They expanded the factory in 1858, and the Crescent Mills went on to become a successful paper company for many years.

In 1855, Gould married Lucy Bliss Lyman, a 26-year-old widow from Springfield, and they lived in Russell until 1871, when they moved here to the corner of Maple and Union Streets. Another house had previously stood on this lot, but it was demolished to build the Goulds’ new home, which was designed in the Victorian Gothic style of the era. This same style can also be seen in other nearby homes, including 210 Maple and, on a much grander scale, 220 Maple.

Henry and Lucy did not have any children, and Lucy died in 1883. Two years later, he remarried to Harriet L. Bliss, who was the granddaughter of prominent early 19th century architect Asher Benjamin. By the 1900 census, they were living here with Henry’s niece, Emily Hedden, plus three servants. After Henry’s death in 1908, Harriet remained here until her death in 1920, and the house was subsequently sold to physician George Weston. Aside from his medical practice, Dr. Weston had also served as president of the Hampden District Medical Society and as a longtime member of the Springfield School Committee, and he lived here at this house until his death in 1931.

Like many of Springfield’s other mansions during the Great Depression, this house was converted into a boarding house. There were ten lodgers living here during the 1940 census, all of whom were middle aged or older, with occupations that included two teachers, a paymaster, a stenographer, and a salesperson. Ultimately, several decades after the first photo was taken, the property was sold to the Insurance Company of North America, who built an office building here in the 1960s. This building later became offices for Milton Bradley, and it is now the Milton Bradley Elementary School. The school itself is just outside of view to the right, but the site of the former house is now a parking lot for the school.

Captain James B. Hatch House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 210 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

1164_1938-1939 spt

The house in 2017:

1164_2017
Most of Springfield’s wealthy 19th century residents earned their money through manufacturing, banking, insurance, or similar businesses. In this sense, James B. Hatch was somewhat of an exception. He was born in Springfield in 1815, but when he was 15 he left to become a sailor, starting out as a third mate before eventually becoming a ship captain and owner. On one of his early voyages as a third mate, one of the crew members was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who later wrote his famous memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, based on this journey. Dana mentioned Hatch several times throughout the book, writing that:

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, though only a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the next voyage, and rose soon to command some of the finest clippers in the California and India trade, under the new order of things,— a man of character, good judgment, and no little cultivation.

As a ship captain, Hatch made a number of voyages to and from California. The discovery of gold in 1848 was particularly profitable for Hatch, whose clipper ships transported prospectors and supplies to San Francisco in the ensuing years. There were challenges to captains like Hatch, though. The tantalizing lure of instant riches caused many sailors to desert upon reaching San Francisco, making it difficult to find enough crew members for the return voyage.

Captain Hatch retired in the early 1870s, and in 1874 he moved into this house on Maple Street. It was designed and built by Chauncey Shepard, a prolific master builder who was constructing the Loomis House next door at around the same time. Although its architecture is not a distinct as that of the Loomis House, the Hath House definitely matches its neighbor, with a similarly brick exterior and Gothic-style appearance.

Along with his wife Clarissa, Captain Hatch also lived here with their only child, Mabel. In 1879, she married Charles Tremain, a paper manufacturer from New York, but she died of complications from a pregnancy just two years later. To add to the tragedy, Clarissa died the following day. Her cause of death was listed as pneumonia, but her daughter’s untimely death was probably a contributing factor as well.

Captain Hatch lived here until his death in 1894, and the house was inherited by Charles Tremain. In the 1910 and 1920 censuses, it was owned by Clifford D. Castle, a grocer who also served on the Board of Aldermen for several years. Another former alderman, H. Goodman Waters, owned the house by 1930, but died shortly after the census was taken. His family continued living here for some time, but by 1940 it was being rented out for $75 per month.

When the first photo was taken, the house still had much of its original Gothic detail, including the decorative bargeboard under the gables of the roof. The bargeboard now gone, and there have been several other exterior alterations, including a one-story addition on the left side of the front. Like the rest of the neighborhood, the house was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but it survived and still stands as one of many 19th century mansions on Maple Street. Along with the other houses in the area, it is a contributing property in the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Loomis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 220 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

1163_1938-1939 spt

The house in 2017:

Since the 1880s, Springfield has been known as the “City of Homes,” and features hundreds of historic late 19th and early 20th century houses with a variety of architectural styles. Despite this, though, very few of these were designed by nationally-recognized architects. One of the exceptions was this house on Maple Street, which was designed by the Boston firm of Ware & Van Brunt. Their works were primarily Gothic in style, and the two men had previously designed Harvard’s Memorial Hall, which is considered one of the finest examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture in the country.

While Memorial Hall was still under construction in Cambridge, Ware & Van Brunt was hired by Frances Loomis to design a house for her on Maple Street, near the top of the hill that overlooks downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River. The actual construction was done by Chauncey Shepard, an architect and builder who, nearly a half century earlier, had designed and built the nearby David Ames, Jr. House. Shepard built the Loomis house from 1873 to 1874, and he died the following year, at the age of 78.

Frances Loomis was the widow of Calvin Loomis, a cigar manufacturer who had moved from Vermont to Springfield in 1853 and opened a business along with W.H. Wright, who later took over the company. Calvin Loomis died in 1866, and Frances died in 1877, just three years after moving into this house. The house was subsequently owned by Frank L. Wesson, the son of Smith & Wesson co-founder Daniel B. Wesson. He lived here with his wife Sarah and their children, but he was killed in a railroad accident  in Hartford, Vermont on February 5, 1887. He was 34 at the time, and was one of more than 40 people killed when his train stuck a broken rail and fell off a bridge over the White River.

The house remained in the Wesson family for many years, although it does not appear to have been occupied in either the 1900 or 1910 censuses. By 1920, though, it was the home of Frank’s oldest son Harold, who was living here with his wife Helen along with a servant. The couple’s only child, also named Helen, was born in 1908, but died when she was just three days old. Harold eventually became the president of Smith & Wesson, and was still living here in 1930, although by the 1940 census he and Helen had moved to Longmeadow.

The house appears to have been vacant again in 1940, but was later owned by Joseph Loeffler, who added the two-car garage to the front of the house in 1946. Otherwise, the exterior has seen few changes. Like most of the neighboring homes, it sustained heavy damage from the June 1, 2011 tornado, but it was restored. It is an excellent surviving example of the city’s grand 19th century mansions, and is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Howard Reynolds House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 357 Maple Street, at the corner of George Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

1140_1938-1939 spt maplest357img2

The house in 2016:

1140_2016
This house is located in the small triangle between Maple, Pine, and George Streets. It was built around 1865 for George Reynolds, a landscaper and contractor who lived in the house next door at 355 Maple Street. Several generations of the Reynolds family lived here, starting with George’s son Howard. He worked for his father’s company, and lived in this house with his wife Martha and their son, George H. Reynolds.

After his father’s retirement, Howard took over the company, along with his brother-in-law Herbert A. Hastings. He lived in this house for the rest of his life, until his death in 1926. His son George carried on the family business, and also lived at this house, with his wife Edna and their daughter Madeline. They were still living here when the first photo was taken on the late 1930s, nearly 50 years after George had moved into the house as a teenager in the 1890s.

Today, the house stands as a reminder of the days when Maple Street was home to some of the city’s most prominent residents. It is a relatively modest home compared to many of the others on the street, but its Gothic-style architecture is somewhat unusual for homes in Springfield. The exterior remains well preserved from its appearance when the Reynolds family lived here, and the house is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.