John Ames House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 398 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

 

The scene in 2017:

 

This house was built in 1828 by David Ames, Sr., a prominent paper manufacturer who had previously served as the first superintendent of the Springfield Armory, from 1794 to 1802. He lived in a modest house nearby on Mill Street, at the foot of Maple Street, but in the mid-1820s his son, David Ames, Jr., built a large mansion atop the hill on Maple Street, which came to be known as Ames Hill. Shortly after, in 1828, David Ames, Sr. built this architecturally-similar house for his son John, who was about 28 years old at the time.

John was, along with his brother David, involved with their father’s paper company, and he invented and patented a number of papermaking machines. However, he never actually lived here in this house. It was completed around the same time that he was engaged to be married, and he was supposed to live here with his new wife. The wedding ultimately did not happen, though, and John remained a lifelong bachelor, living in his father’s house on Mill Street until his death in 1890.

In the meantime, this house remained vacant for many years. The grounds occupied the entire triangle of land between Mill, Pine, and Maple Streets, and the house would have been easily visible up the hill when looking out the front windows of the Ames house on Mill Street. Although vacant, it was owned by the Ames family until 1856, when it was sold to Samuel Knox, a lawyer and politician from St. Louis.

Originally from Blandford, Massachusetts, Samuel Knox graduated from Williams College and Harvard Law School, and subsequently moved to St. Louis, where he established his law practice in 1838. He continued to live in Missouri for many years, but in 1856 he purchased this house as a summer residence, and owned it until 1869. During this time, he ran for Congress in 1862, in Missouri’s first congressional district. He lost to incumbent Francis Preston Blair, Jr., but Knox contested the results, and in 1864 he was declared the winner, with less than nine months remaining in his term. He served the rest of his term, but lost re-election in 1864 and subsequently returned to his law practice. He sold this house a few years later, but he would eventually move back to Massachusetts permanently, living in his native Blandford until his death in 1905, and he was buried only a short distance away from here in Springfield Cemetery.

In 1869, this house was purchased by George R. Dickinson. Like the original owner of the house, he was a paper manufacturer, and ran the George R. Dickinson Paper Company in Holyoke. Born and raised in Readsboro, Vermont, Dickinson later moved to Holyoke, and in 1859 he married his first wife, Mary Jane Clark. They had one child, Henry Smith Dickinson, who was born in 1863, but Mary died several days later. The following year, George remarried to Mary’s sister, Harriet, and they had a son, George R. Dickinson, Jr., who was born around the same time that the family moved into this house.

The younger George drowned in 1876 at the age of seven, but his older half brother Henry grew up here in this house, and eventually joined his father in the paper business. Upon George’s death in 1887, Henry inherited this property and also became president of the George R. Dickinson Paper Company. He remained in this role until 1899, when Dickinson Paper was acquired by the American Writing Paper Company, with Henry becoming the company’s vice president.

Along with his involvement in the paper industry, Henry was also active in politics. In 1884, he served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, and he was also chairman of the Republican City Committee here in Springfield. He subsequently served as a city alderman in 1889 and as president of the board of alderman in 1890, and he served one term each as a state representative in 1891 and mayor of Springfield in 1898.

When the first photo was taken around 1893, Henry and his wife Estella were living here in this house along with his stepmother Harriet. However, in 1894 Harriet remarried, and by the following year Henry and Estella had house of their own at 192 Pearl Street. In the meantime, Harriet and her second husband, William W. Stewart, remained here in this house. However, Estella died in 1902, and he subsequently remarried to his second wife Agnes. By the 1910 census Henry had returned to this house, where he was living with William, Harriet, Agnes, and the four children from his first marriage: George, Henry, Stuart, and Harriet.

Henry died in 1912, and Harriet in 1915, but the house was still in the family as late as 1919, when Henry’s three sons were living here. However, by the early 1920s the house was the home of George A. MacDonald, the president of the Chicopee National Bank. He was living here as late as the mid 1920s, but by the end of the decade the house was being rented by George W. Ferguson, the pastor of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. During the 1930 census, he and his wife May were living here with May’s three teenage sons from her first marriage, along with four servants.

The Fergusons were living here as late as 1933, but by the following year the house was listed as vacant in the city directory. It was evidently demolished soon after, because it does not appear in late 1930s directories or in the WPA images of Maple Street, which were done in 1938-1939. The site was subsequently redeveloped, and it is now the site of a Colonial Revival-style Mormon church, which was built in 1957. There is no longer any trace of the old house here in his scene, but at least one thing from the first photo is evidently still in existence. The carriage house, barely visible in the distance to the right of the house in the first photo, was apparently moved to East Forest Park and converted into a residence, where it still stands at the corner of Ellsworth Avenue and Gifford Street.

Main and Old South Streets, Northampton, Mass

The south side of Main Street, just east of the corner of Old South Street in Northampton, probably sometime in the 1860s. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows the scene along the south side of Main Street in Northampton, sometime around the 1860s. The four buildings here represent a variety of uses and architectural styles, with two mid-19th century brick commercial blocks on the left, a Georgian-style house in the center, and a Greek Revival-style Edwards Church on the right. The most notable of these buildings was the church, which was built in 1833 at the corner of Main and Old South Streets. Formed as an offshoot of the First Church, it was named in honor of Jonathan Edwards, who had served as pastor of the First Church from 1729 to 1750. The congregation worshipped here in this modest wood-frame church for the next 37 years, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1870.

This same fire also destroyed the adjacent Hunt Building, which was built in 1770 as the home of Dr. Ebenezer Hunt. A 1764 graduate of Harvard, Hunt studied medicine in Springfield under Dr. Charles Pynchon, before returning to his native Northampton in 1768. This house was built two years later, with Georgian-style architecture that was similar the home of his second cousin, John Hunt, that still stands on Elm Street. In 1772, Dr. Hunt married his wife Sarah, and they had eight children, two of whom died in infancy. He lived here for the rest of his life, and during this time he was, in addition to practicing medicine, also active in politics. He served for eight years in the state legislature, in both the House and the Senate, and he was a presidential elector for John Adams in both the 1796 and 1800 elections.

Upon Ebenezer Hunt’s death in 1820, the house was inherited by his son David, who was also a physician. At the time, the property extended as far as Old South Street, but in 1833 David sold the corner lot to the Edwards Church, and the church building was constructed soon after. The house remained in the Hunt family after David’s death in 1837, but by the time the first photo was taken it had been converted to commercial use. The storefront signs are not legible in the first photo, but around the 1860s the ground floor housed three tenants, with a crockery store on the left side, a confectionery and fruit store in the middle, and the dry goods store of Robert J. Fair on the right side. By 1870, Fair’s store occupied the entire ground floor, but on May 19, 1870 he lost nearly his entire stock when both the Hunt Building and the neighboring Edwards Church burned.

After the fire, the Edwards Church constructed a new building a few blocks away at the corner of Main and State Streets, and this site here at the corner of Old South Street was soon rebuilt with new brick commercial blocks. The Columbian Building, located on the right side where he church once stood, was completed in 1871, and two years later McCallum’s Dry Goods opened in a new building on the site of the Hunt house. Both buildings are still standing today, although the latter has undergone significant changes over the years and is now Thornes Marketplace. As for the other two buildings in the first photo, it appears that at least one of them is still standing. The building just to the left of Thornes might be the same one from the first photo, minus its top floor, but if so it has been altered beyond recognition from the exterior. However, the building on the extreme left of the first photo appears to still be there, just with major late 19th century alterations.

Grape Street School, Chicopee, Mass

The Grape Street School at the corner of Grape and Elm Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Chicopee developed into an industrial center, with factories in the villages of Chicopee Center and Chicopee Falls. Although situated less than two miles apart along the Chicopee River, these two villages were largely independent of one another, and for many years each had its own high school. The first high school was built in 1825 on Church Street in Chicopee Falls, and was replaced by a new building 20 years later. In the meantime, though, a second high school was opened in Chicopee Center in 1843, in this school building on Grape Street.

The Grape Street School had been completed a year earlier, and housed a primary school in the basement and the high school on the second floor. At the time, there were just two teachers in the high school, including a principal and an assistant. Thaddeus M. Szetela, in his 1948 History of Chicopee book, describes the layout of the high school: “There was one large assembly hall, equipped with desks for pupils, with a raised platform in front for the principal’s desk. There were blackboards and tables in the rear on which were a few reference books and magazines. There were openings off this platform to the north, three recitation rooms, one a library.”

This building continued to be used for Center High School throughout most of the 19th century. During this time, by far the longest-tenured and most prominent of its principals was George D. Robinson, who took the position in the fall of 1856. A native of Lexington, Massachusetts, Robinson was a 22-year-old Harvard graduate when he began working as principal, and remained here at the school until 1865, when he left to study law. He subsequently became a prominent lawyer and politician, serving as a Congressman from 1877 to 1884, and as governor of Massachusetts from 1884 to 1887.

Chicopee continued to have two high schools up until the fall of 1890, when Falls High and Center High were combined here at the school on Grape Street. A year later, a new high school building was built on Front Street, midway between the two villages, but the old Grape Street School continued to be used as a public school. It was subsequently renamed the Robinson School, in honor of its famous principal, and in 1899 a second school building was completed just to the right of it, known as the Valentine School.

The Robinson School remained in use well into the 20th century, but it was ultimately demolished in 1959 and an apartment complex was later built on the site. However, the neighboring Valentine School was used as a school into the 1980s, and it has since been preserved and converted into apartments. It stands just beyond and to the right of the apartment buildings in the 2017 photo, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

George M. Stearns House, Chicopee, Mass

The house at 111 Springfield Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house in 2017:

This house was built around the early 1830s, and appears to have originally been owned by Rodolphus Kinsley, a locksmith who held several patents for door locks and latches. At the time, the house was significantly smaller, with relatively plain Greek Revival-style architecture, and likely would have only consisted of the central portion of the house. In 1834, the house was temporarily used as the first home of the Third Congregational Church, which later built its own church building just down the street from here, and by the mid-1850s maps show that the house was owned by a S.F. Williams.

The most prominent owner of this house was George M. Stearns, a lawyer and politician who was living here by the 1870 census, along with his wife Emily and their two young daughters, Mary and Emily. Born in 1831 in Stoughton but raised in rural Rowe, Massachusetts, Stearns came to Chicopee as a 17-year-old in 1848 and studied law under John Wells, a lawyer who later became a judge on the state Supreme Court. Stearns was subsequently admitted to the bar in 1852, and became Wells’s law partner for several years.

Aside from his law practice, Stearns also held several political offices, including serving a term in the state House of Representatives in 1859 and in the state Senate in 1871. In 1872 he was appointed as District Attorney for the Western District of Massachusetts, and in 1886 Grover Cleveland appointed him as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. He was also involved in the Democratic Party, and served as a delegate to both state and national party conventions.

George and Emily Stearns ultimately outlived both of their daughters, and they were still living here when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. By this point the house had been significantly altered from its 1830s appearance, including wings on both the left and right side, and the original part of the house was modified with a two-story bay window to the left of the front door. These changes helped to give the house more of an ornate Queen Anne-style appearance, although it still retained some of its original Greek Revival features.

George Stearns died in 1894, several months after he and Emily moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, and this house went on to have a number of different residents over the following years. By the 1900 census it was the home of Alexander Acheson Montgomery-Moore, an Irish immigrant who was the proprietor of the Kendall House hotel in the center of Chicopee. He lived here with his wife Lillian and their infant son Cecil, along with Lillian’s mother Nancy. The family did not live here in this house for long, and by 1909 they were living in Bermuda. Young Cecil would go on to have a distinguished career in the Royal Air Force. He served as a fighter pilot during World War I, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross in the process, and during World War II he was a major, in command of both the Bermuda Volunteer Engineers and the Bermuda Flying School.

In the meantime, by the 1910 census this house was being rented by George S. Ball, who worked as a machinist for Spalding. He and his wife Ina were both in their early 50s at the time, and they lived here with their three children, who were all in their 20s. The oldest, Laura, worked as a trimmer for the Ames Sword Company, William was a shipping clerk for the Stevens-Duryea car manufacturing company, and the youngest, Susie, was a stenographer.

By the 1920 census, the house had become a boarding house, owned by French-Canadian immigrant Elzear X. LaBelle. He and his wife Josephine lived here with their children Leo, Eva, and Edward, and the census shows 11 boarders living here with them. The boarders were all men, mostly in their early 20s, and included two immigrants from Ireland and three from Greece. Most were employed in area factories, including five who worked in a rubber shop and two who worked as die makers in a forge shop, but there were also two firemen, a barber, and a pool room clerk.

The LaBelles were still here in 1930, this time with seven boarders, six of whom were men. They were a wide range of ages, from 27 to 71,  and all were either single or widowed. All but two were immigrants, including one from Scotland, one from Northern Ireland, one from Quebec, and two from Greece, and their jobs included working for a sporting goods company, an electric light company, a rubber factory, a shoe shine parlor, and a restaurant.

The building remained a boarding house for many years, but the exterior has not significantly changed during this time, and it is now a contributing property in the Springfield Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was undergoing a significant renovation when the first photo was taken and, when complete, the interior will include 16 units for low-income housing.

Universalist Church, Chicopee, Mass

The Universalist Church at the corner of Center and Springfield Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This Greek Revival-style building was constructed in 1836, and was originally owned by the Mechanics’ Association. However, within a few years it was sold to a Universalist society, which had been founded in 1835 and formally established as a church in 1840. At the time, Chicopee was still part of Springfield, and this neighborhood was known as Cabotville, but in 1848 Chicopee was incorporated as a separate town. The church building occupied a prominent location in the new town center, at the southern end of Market Square, and the Universalists continued to meet here until the society was disbanded in 1883.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, the building had become the United Presbyterian Church. However, because of its valuable location in the center of Chicopee, the ground floor was rented to commercial tenants, including Carter & Spaulding’s grocery store, which can be seen on the left side of the first photo. Subsequent early 20th century tenants included the Gaylord-Kendall Company bankers and the Association Co-Operative meats and groceries, and the Presbyterian church remained here until 1925, when the congregation moved to a new church building on Newbury Street.

After this move, the old church building was converted entirely to commercial use. By the mid-20th century the ground floor was home to Paul’s Shoes on the left side and the Peter Pan Café on the right, and the church sanctuary had been converted into the Peter Pan Ballroom. Around this time the exterior was also significantly altered, including the removal of the cupola and the installation of aluminum siding, which hid most of the building’s original architectural features.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, the old church building is still standing, although it is hardly recognizable. The exterior is now covered in brick, and only the window arrangement gives any clue that it is still the same building from the first photo. Formerly Bernardino’s Restaurant, the building is now home to the Munich Haus, a German restaurant that opened here in 2004. At the time, the three-story brick Temple Block, seen on the right side side of the first photo, was still standing. It was built in 1876 but was destroyed in a fire in 2011, and the site of the building is now a biergarten for the Munich Haus.

First Baptist Church, Newport, Rhode Island

The First Baptist Church, seen from the corner of Spring and Sherman Streets in Newport, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Settled in the 1630s as a haven for religious minorities, Rhode Island is home to some of the oldest Baptist congregations in the United States, including Roger Williams’s First Baptist Church in America, which was founded around 1638 in Providence. Around the same time, Baptist minister John Clarke started holding services in Portsmouth, on the northern end of Aquidneck Island, but he subsequently moved to Newport, on the southern end of the island, where he lived for the rest of his life. Here, he founded what would become the First Baptist Church of Newport, and he became an important figure in colonial Rhode Island, including obtaining the Rhode Island Royal Charter from Charles II in 1663.

Also known as the Second Baptist Church in America, this congregation would occupy several different meetinghouses over the next few centuries, first on Tanner Street and then, starting in 1737, at this lot on Spring Street, near the corner of Sherman Street. The 1737 church stood here until 1846, when the current Greek Revival-style church building was constructed, but the old church was moved to Sherman Street and stood there until it was demolished in 1929. In the meantime, in 1885 the church built a Queen Anne-style parsonage, which is seen here on the left side of this scene.

The 1846 church building remained mostly unchanged until 1938, when Rhode Island was hit by a Category 3 hurricane. Newport avoided a direct hit, but the storm still caused considerable damage, including destroying the original steeple of the First Baptist Church. A few years later, in 1946, the church merged with the Second Baptist Church, which had been formed as an offshoot of the First Baptist in 1656. The combined congregation, named United Baptist Church, sold the Second Baptist building and used the proceeds to restore this church, which was rededicated in 1950.

The restoration included a new steeple, which is of the same design as the original but smaller, which gives the building a somewhat disproportional appearance today. Otherwise, very little has changed in this scene, although it is hard to tell in the 2017 photo because of the large tree – perhaps the same one from the first photo – that mostly obscures the view of the church. Both the church and the parsonage are now contributing buildings in the Newport Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.