Washburn House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Washburn House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Washburn House in 2017:

Washburn House was built in 1878, and is among the oldest buildings on the Smith College campus. It was opened as a dormitory just three years after the school opened, and was named for former Massachusetts governor and senator William B. Washburn, who was serving as one of the school’s trustees at the time. Like many of the other 19th century buildings on the campus, it was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, with a High Victorian Gothic style that matched the rest of the campus.

Today, more than 120 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of Washburn House has not seen any significant changes. In the mid-20th century it was the Spanish House, and the interior had Spanish-themed decorations, along with Spanish names for the rooms. Initially conceived during the Spanish Civil War, when students were unable to study abroad in Spain, the Spanish House continued until 1955, when it reverted to a regular dormitory. It has remained in use ever since, as one of 35 residential buildings at Smith College, and it currently has a capacity of 43 students.

College Hall at Smith College, Northampton, Mass

College Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

College Hall in 2018:

Smith College was established in 1871, as part of the will of Sophia Smith (1796-1870), who left a large bequest to establish a women’s college in Northampton. This building, College Hall, was the first building on the campus, and it was completed in 1875, the same year that the school opened. It was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston-based architectural firm, and its design reflected the High Victorian Gothic style that was fashionable at the time. Smith College has just 14 students and six faculty members when it opened in the fall of 1875, and this building was used for almost everything except dormitory space. When completed, it included classrooms, a laboratory, a social hall, an art gallery, and administrative offices, although this soon began to change as the college grew.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the college’s enrollment had increased significantly. The campus had grown accordingly, and included new residential buildings, a gymnasium, a music hall, an art gallery building, a science building, a chemistry building, and a new academic building. College Hall itself had also been expanded, with an 1890 addition that increased the capacity of the social hall – renamed Assembly Hall – from 500 to 900. In 1901, Assembly Hall was expanded again, by opening up the second floor above the hall and adding another 500 seats. However, this ended up being a temporary change. John M. Greene Hall, with its 2,225-seat auditorium, was completed in 1910, eliminating the need for such a large auditorium here in College Hall, and the second floor above Assembly Hall was subsequently reconstructed.

By the 1909-1910 school year, Smith College employed 104 faculty members and had 1,635 students, with an annual tuition that had just been increased from $100 to $150. At this point, College Hall was only used for the auditorium, some classrooms, and administrative offices, but over time this would continue to change as more buildings were added to the campus. College Hall would ultimately come to be used only for offices, resulting in significant changes to the interior in he process. However, the exterior appearance has remained well-preserved over 140 years after the building first opened, and today the only noticeable difference between these two photos is the lack of ivy on the brick walls of the building.

City Hall, Northampton, Mass

City Hall on Main Street in Northampton, around 1890. Image from Picturesque Hampshire (1890).

The scene in 2017:

Northampton’s city hall is perhaps one of the most unusual-looking municipal buildings in the state, with a distinctive Gothic-inspired exterior that stands about amid the more conventional brick commercial buildings that line Main Street. It was the work of William Fenno Pratt, a prominent local architect who designed a number of buildings in the area, and it was completed in 1850 as the town hall, since Northampton would not become a city for another 33 years. The building’s original layout included an auditorium on the second floor, which could accommodate over a thousand people. This space was often used for lectures, dances, and other civic events, and over the years a number of prominent people gave speeches here, including Henry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Sojourner Truth.

Not long after Northampton became a city, this building played a role in the early political career of future president Calvin Coolidge. An 1895 graduate of Amherst College, he subsequently moved to Northampton and began practicing law, only a few years after the first photo was taken. In 1898, he was elected to his first political office as a city councilor, serving one term before being appointed as city solicitor. In 1904 he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the school committee – the only election that he ever lost – but two years later he was elected as a state legislator. Then, in 1910 and 1911, he served two terms as mayor of Northampton, with his office here in city hall, before being elected to the state senate. From there, he held a succession of state offices, including senate president, lieutenant governor, and governor, and then in 1920 he was elected as vice president of the United States, before becoming president in 1923 upon the death of Warren Harding.

Around the same time that Coolidge became president in 1923, Northampton’s city hall was the center of controversy here in his hometown. The eclectic design of the building had long been unpopular with many people, including then-mayor Harry E. Bicknell, who derided its “flip-flops and flop-doodles,” as he put it. However, despite calls to replace it with a modern, more conventionally-designed building, frugality ultimately carried the day, since it was far cheaper to renovate the old building than to demolish it and build a replacement. The renovations did include some significant changes to the interior, including converting the auditorium into offices, but overall the exterior remained largely the same aside from the wooden crenellations atop the towers, which had rotted away by this point. Since they were entirely decorative and sat atop towers that, likewise, served no practical purpose, these crenellations would not replaced until the late 20th century.

Today, the building remains in use as Northampton’s city hall, still standing as an iconic feature on Main Street, with an appearance that is the same as it was over 125 years ago when the first photo was taken. The surrounding buildings have also changed very little over the years, including the 19th century commercial buildings on either side of the photo, as well as the 1872 Memorial Hall, located just to the right of City Hall. All of these buildings, along with the rest of the surrounding area, are now part of the Northampton Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Faith United Church, Springfield, Mass

Faith United Church, at the corner of Sumner Avenue and Fort Pleasant Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The church in 2017:

The origins of Faith United Church date back to the 1860s, when a chapel was established in the area, affiliated with the South Congregational Church. At the time, the present-day Forest Park area was only sparsely settled, with a small community centered around the corner of Longhill Street and Sumner Avenue. A small, wood-frame church was built here on this site in 1872, and served the needs of the residents for several decades. Finally, in 1894, with the congregation was organized as an independent church, becoming Faith Congregational Church.

This move coincided with the beginning of the large-scale development of Forest Park, which would become one of the city’s most desirable residential areas by the turn of the 20th century. With this rapid expansion, however, the old wooden church was no longer suitable for the growing neighborhood, and in 1912 it was replaced with the present-day church building. The new church was built on the same site of the original, and was designed by the Springfield architectural firm of Gardner & Gardner and built by the Springfield-based contractors Fred T. Ley & Co.

The Neo-Gothic Revival exterior of the church has not seen any substantial changes in over a century since it was completed. It looks essentially the same as it did when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and today the only noticeable difference between the two photos is the newer building in the distance on the left. Along with this, the building is still in use by the same church, although the name has changed slightly. In 1977, Faith Congregational Church merged with Hope Congregational Church, becoming Faith United Church, and this combined church continues to worship here in this building more than 40 years later.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Chicopee, Mass

The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, seen from the corner of South and Springfield Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Chicopee began to develop into a major industrial center, with factories located along the Chicopee River at Chicopee Falls and further downstream here in the center of town. With the factories came immigrant workers, starting with the Irish and followed in later years by French-Canadians and Poles. Primarily Roman Catholic, these immigrants brought significant cultural changes to the Connecticut River Valley, which had been predominantly Congregationalist and almost exclusively Protestant until this point.

The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus was one of the first Roman Catholic churches in the area, and was built between 1857 and 1859, just to the south of the center of Chicopee. Its Gothic-style design was the work of Patrick Keely, an Irish-born architect who designed nearly 600 Catholic churches across the United States and Canada, including St. Michael’s Cathedral in nearby Springfield. Along with the church itself, the property also included the rectory, which was built around the same time and can be seen in the left center of the photo. This was followed in the late 1860s by a school for girls and a convent, and in 1881 by a school for boys, all of which were located on the opposite side of the church.

By the time the first photo was taken, around the early 1890s, both the Irish and French-Canadian immigrant groups were well-established in the area, and Polish immigrants had just started to arrive in large numbers. Primarily Catholic, many of them joined this church, and the parish records showed that Polish families accounted for nearly 30 percent of the baptisms and more than half of the marriages here at the church between 1888 and 1890. However, the Polish community soon formed a church of their own, establishing the St. Stanislaus parish in 1890 and dedicating its first building in 1895.

Around 125 years after the first photo was taken, the church is still standing, along with the rectory. although they are mostly hidden by trees in this view. The only significant change to the church over the years has been the steeple, which was struck by lightning and was replaced by the current copper spire in 1910. However, the church has been closed and boarded-up since 2011, when a renovation project uncovered deteriorating masonry and significant termite damage. The following year, the Holy Name School was closed amid declining enrollment, and in 2015 the school buildings and the convent were demolished. The church itself was not part of the demolition plan, although it remains vacant and its future seems uncertain.

Foot-Wallace House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 201 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Homer Foot was born in 1810, and was the son of Adonijah Foot, the master armorer at the Armory. However, Adonijah died in 1825, a few months after 14-year-old Homer began working as a clerk at the Dwight store, at the corner of Main and State Streets. At the time, the Dwight family was one of the leading families in Springfield, and their merchant business was among the oldest and most prosperous in the region. The firm was owned by many successive generations of Dwights, who sold dry goods, groceries, and hardware from their corner store. By the time Homer began working here, longtime owner James Scutt Dwight had recently died, but his son, James Sanford Dwight, took over the firm along with several other partners.

Homer worked as a clerk for James Sanford Dwight for six years, but in 1831 Dwight died from malaria at the age of 31, while vacationing in Italy. His untimely death marked the end of many years of Dwight ownership of the company, and later in 1831 it was sold to 21-year-old Homer Foot. Even then, though, the business did not entirely leave the family, because three years later he married Delia Dwight, the sister of his late employer. They were married at the old Dwight homestead at the corner of State and Dwight Streets, in a double wedding ceremony that also included Delia’s sister Lucy and her husband, William W. Orne.

Early in their marriage, Homer and Delia lived in a house at 41 Maple Street, right next to where the South Congregational Church was later built. However, in 1844 he hired master builder Simon Sanborn, Springfield’s leading architect of the first half of the 19th century, to design a house on the hill at the corner of Maple and Central Streets. Foot was among the first of Springfield’s wealthy residents to move to the upper part of Maple Street, which was further from downtown but offered dramatic views of the surrounding landscape. The design of the house itself was also a departure from Springfield’s conventional architecture. Most of the homes in this era were fairly plain, conservative Greek Revival-style homes, but Sanborn designed a large, Gothic Revival-style house that reflected the Victorian-era shifts toward more elaborate, ornate architecture.

Shortly after the completion of his house, Foot embarked on an even more ambitious building project. For many years, the Dwight store had been located in an old brick building at the northeast corner of Main and State Streets, where the MassMutual Center is now located. However, in 1846 he purchased the old Warriner’s Tavern, which was located diagonally across the street. Once the leading tavern in Springfield, this colonial-era building was obsolete by the mid-19th century, and owner Jeremy Warriner had moved his business to the nearby Union House. The old tavern building itself was moved off the property, a little to the west along State Street, and Homer Foot built his new store on the site.

Aside from his own business, Foot was also involved in several other local companies, serving as a director of the Pynchon Bank, auditor for the Springfield Institution for Savings, and treasurer of the Hampden Watch Company. He was also a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, but unlike many of the city’s other prominent businessmen of the era, he never held public office, aside from serving as one of the overseers of the poor. However, this did not stop the Whig party from nominating him, against his wishes, as their candidate for lieutenant governor in 1856, although he ended up finishing a distant third in the general election.

Homer and Delia raised their ten children here in this house, and they went on to live here for the rest of their lives. They were both still living here when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, but Delia died in 1897, and Homer died a year later. By this point, the upper part of Maple Street has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods for the city’s wealthiest residents, and in 1901 the house was purchased by Andrew Wallace, the co-founder and owner of the Springfield-based Forbes & Wallace department store.

Andrew Wallace was born in Scotland in 1842, and immigrated to the United States in 1867, where he found work in Boston with the dry goods firm of Hogg, Brown & Taylor. From there, he moved to Pittsfield and then to Springfield, where in 1874 he partnered with Alexander B. Forbes to establish Forbes & Wallace. Like Homer Foot & Co. a generation earlier, Forbes & Wallace became the city’s leading retail company, with a large store on Main Street in the heart of downtown Springfield.

Andrew Wallace, his wife Madora, and their six children had previously lived in a fine Second Empire-style mansion on Locust Hill, at the corner of Main and Locust Streets in the South End, but in 1901 he purchased this house from Homer Foot’s heirs. By this point, the house was nearly 60 years old, and Gothic-style architecture had long since fallen out of fashion, so Wallace expanded and remodeled the house, adding a large wing that dominates the foreground of the two 20th century photos. Along with this, he added a large stable on the other side of the house, which included a recreation room on the second floor. The result was an interesting mix of architectural styles, which included many of the original Gothic details, combined with a new stucco exterior and tile roof.

After Andrew’s death in 1923, his son Andrew Jr. inherited the house, where he lived with his wife Florence and their children, Andrew and Barbara. During the 1930 census, they lived here with three servants, and the house was valued at $100,000, equivalent to nearly $1.5 million today. They were still living here later in the decade, when the first photo was taken, and Andrew was working as the president of Forbes & Wallace, which remained a retail giant in the region for many more decades, until it finally closed in 1976.

The Wallace family continued to live here until Florence’s death in 1951 and Andrew’s death five years later. The property was then sold to the MacDuffie School, a private school that was, at the time, located across the street at 182 Central Street. The house was converted into a dormitory, and was used by the school until the spring of 2011, when the school moved from Springfield to a new campus in Granby. Coincidentally, the move coincided with the June 1, 2011 tornado, which caused heavy damage to the Springfield campus, including the Foot-Wallace House. Many of the other buildings have since been restored, and the campus is now the home of Commonwealth Academy, but this house is still awaiting repairs, and remains boarded-up more than six years later. Because of this, the house has been included on the Springfield Preservation Trust’s annual listing of the city’s Most Endangered Historic Resources.