Sheffield Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Sheffield Hall, at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets, on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1894. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

The scene in 2018:

This building had been heavily altered by the time the first photo was taken around 1894, but it was built in the early 19th century by James Hillhouse, a prominent politician who served in both the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate. It was originally intended as a hotel, but in 1812 Hillhouse – who also served as the treasurer of Yale from 1782 to 1832 – began renting the building to Yale, as the first location of the newly-established Yale School of Medicine. The building was smaller at the time, lacking the central tower and the wings, but it included lecture rooms, study rooms, and dormitory rooms for the medical students. Two years later, Yale purchased the property for $12,500, and the School of Medicine remained here until the late 1850s, when it moved to a new facility on York Street.

The property here on Grove Street was subsequently purchased by Joseph E. Sheffield, a wealthy railroad executive who renovated and expanded the building before donating it to the Yale Scientific School. Established in 1847, this school focused on scientific education, as opposed to the more classical curriculum of Yale itself. As a result, many of the Yale students looked down on the students at the scientific school, viewing it as essentially a trade school, and for many years it was only loosely affiliated with Yale.

The renovations on this building were completed in 1860, and it housed recitation rooms, a library, and the offices of the school director. As a result of his sizable donation, the school was renamed the Sheffield Scientific School in honor of Joseph E. Sheffield, and this building became Sheffield Hall. Over the years, more buildings were added to the school, but Sheffield Hall remained here until 1931, when it was demolished in order to build Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. The Sheffield Scientific School would eventually be fully merged with Yale University in 1956, and today this building is still standing as part of the Yale campus, as seen in the 2018 photo.

Cunningham Building, Holyoke, Mass

The building at the corner of High and Suffolk Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This four-story commercial block was built sometime in the late 19th century, probably after 1884, since it does not appear on the city atlas for that year. However, by the early 20th century it was owned by Margaret Cunningham, whose husband Charles was a liquor dealer. Charles was an immigrant from Canada who came to the United States as a teenager, and he operated Cunningham & Co. Liquors out of the storefront on the right side of the building. The first photo was taken sometime around 1910-1915, and was featured in Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts, which includes a glowing description of Cunningham’s business:

To those who are acquainted with the standing of the principal mercantile establishments of Holyoke, the leading position of this house in its line is a matter of common knowledge. To others who are not so well informed a visit to the place of business and an inspection of the fine stock of goods handled here will convey a good idea of its importance. Cunningham and Company are extensive importers of wines, gins and brandies, and are also wholesale and retail dealers in whiskeys, ales and liquors of the best brands. They have been engaged successfully in this business ever since the date of its establishment, twenty years ago. A specialty of supplying fine goods to clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other first-class consumers, in which branch of the business they are known to excel. They also have a handsomely appointed bar, where they supply an active trade at retail. Competent assistants are employed and courtesy and consideration is extended to all.

The first photo also shows The Toggery Shop, which was located in the corner storefront on the left side of the building. This men’s clothing store was similarly lauded in  Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts, which notes that:

This company is one of the hustlers in the haberdashery and gents’ furnishing goods line in the city of Holyoke. Its flourishing business has been in operation here for the past ten years and in that time it has made a host of friends who by their staunch and loyal patronage have contributed largely to its success. These ten years of strenuous and lively competition with stores of its class have made this one wide-awake and very much alive to up-to-date lines of goods and progressive methods. Eternal vigilance is exercised by Mr. Murray in the selection of his stock and discrimination buyers may feel assured that any goods purchased at this store will be up-to-date in styles and patterns and the prices are right. The leading makes of hats, neckwear, hosiery, gloves, underwear, etc. are well represented here in a choice and varied assortment. The store is in a good location for business and presents a neat and attractive appearance at all times, with its complete equipment of modern fixtures and furniture.

Today, many of Holyoke’s historic commercial blocks are still standing along High Street, but the Cunningham Building is not one of them. Its exact fate seems unclear, but it was evidently gone by the mid-1970s. The current building was completed around this time, and features a Brutalist-style brick and concrete exterior that contrasts sharply with the ornate Italianate-style design of its predecessor. Both the haberdashery and the liquor wholesaler are also long gone from this location, and the current building is now occupied by Peoples Bank.

Flatiron Building, Holyoke, Mass

The corner of Main and Race Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

Long before the more famous Flatiron Building was built in New York City, Holyoke had one of its own. At only four stories, it was much shorter than the skyscraper in New York, but it was built on a similar triangular-shaped plot of land here at the corner of Main and Race Streets. It was completed sometime in the 1870s, and was originally owned by the Parsons Paper Company. Although formally known as the Parsons Block, it had acquired the nickname of the Flatiron Building by the early 1890s, a decade before the one in New York was completed.

The Parsons Paper Company was the oldest paper mill in the city, and had a factory a few blocks away on Gatehouse Road. The company rented space in the Flatiron Building to a variety of commercial tenants, including several stores on the ground floor. Among these was the C. E. Ball & Co. drugstore, which occupied the prominent storefront at the “point” of the building when the first photo was taken. The business later became the drugstore of Charles E. Bardwell, and was located here in this building during the early 20th century.

Also visible in the first photo, just above the second story windows, is a sign advertising the architectural firm of D. H. & A. B. Tower, which had its offices here in the building. The firm was comprised of brothers David H. and Ashley B. Tower, and they specialized in designing factories, including paper mills. Their works included many of the factory buildings here in Holyoke, but they also designed buildings across the country and internationally, with some as far away as Europe, Brazil, and India. The brothers were in business together from 1878 until 1892, when Ashley purchased his brother’s interest in the firm. He would continue to have his offices here in the building for several more years, but moved the firm to New York City in 1897. A sketch in Picturesque Hampden, published in 1892, provides a description of the offices here in Holyoke:

Mr. Tower’s office itself is one of the best possible for its purposes. It is located in what is known as the “Flatiron Block,” at the junction of Main and Race streets, a few rods from the Connecticut River railroad, and occupies the norther portion of the second story. On the eastern side, with entrance near the head of the stairway, is the suite of apartments occupied by Mr. Tower and his draughtsmen and assistants, beyond which is a private apartment or consultation room. A long-distance telephone is at hand in a convenient closet. The draughtsman’s room is on the west side of the block, into which one steps directly from the general offices, and is one of the finest apartments for the purpose imaginable.

In 1899, the Parsons Paper Company was acquired by the American Writing Paper Company, a trust that included many of the paper mills in Holyoke and elsewhere. The Flatiron Building became the corporate headquarters, and its offices were located here throughout the first half of the 20th century. During this time, American Writing Paper sought to compete with other paper trusts, including International Paper, which had been formed a year earlier in 1898. At one point, American Writing Paper produced about 75 percent of the country’s fine paper, but the company was ultimately plagued by many years of mismanagement and labor problems. Its offices remained here in this building until 1952, and by the 1960s the assets of the once-powerful company were liquidated.

Different sources give conflicting dates for when the Flatiron Building was demolished. This may have occurred in either the 1950s or 1960s, but, according to city records, the present-day building on the site was constructed in 1953, suggesting that the Flatiron Building was demolished soon after American Writing Paper relocated its offices. Today, very little is left from the first photo. The former location of the Flatiron Building is now the site of two nondescript one-story buildings, and most of the buildings on the left side of Main Street are also gone, except for a few in the distance near the corner of Dwight Street. Near the center of the photo is the Hotel Hamilton, which was also once owned by the Parsons Paper Company. The historic building is still standing, but it has been altered over the years, and it is now boarded up and abandoned.

Robert B. Johnson Buildings, Holyoke, Mass

The buildings at 195-201 High Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The buildings in 2017:

According to the National Register of Historic Places inventory for the North High Street Historic District, these adjoining three-story brick buildings were built around 1880. However, they may actually date back to about a decade earlier, since they are mentioned in directories from the early 1870s. They were originally owned by Robert B. Johnson, an insurance agent whose offices were located here in the building. He also rented space to other tenants, including the Holyoke Savings Bank on the left side and the Holyoke National Bank on the right, as seen in the first photo. Above the arched entryway in this photo is a sign for “R. B. Johnson &  Son,” and hanging from the second floor is a sign for  “M. O. Hastings Dentist.”

Aside from his insurance business, Johnson was also involved in both of these banks. He served as treasurer of the Holyoke Savings Bank from 1866 until his death in 1899, and he was also the first vice president of the Holyoke National Bank, upon its establishment in 1872. He later became the president of the bank in 1896, and served in that role for the last three years of his life. Following his death, his son Charles W. Johnson succeeded him as treasurer of the savings bank, and he also carried on the insurance business here in the building on the left side.

The Holyoke National Bank was located here until the early 1910s, when it moved to a new location at the end of the block, at the corner of Dwight Street. Then, in 1915 the savings bank purchased both buildings, allowing it to double its available space by expanding into the side that had been vacated by the national bank. However, the savings bank was only here for another decade or so, before moving into a new building that still stands a few blocks away at 143 Chestnut Street, at the corner of Suffolk Street. Later renamed Vanguard Savings Bank, it would remain at the Chestnut Street location until 1992, when it was absorbed by Fleet Bank.

In the meantime, the bank’s former location on High Street is still standing, although both of these buildings have seen some changes over the years. The ground floor has been significantly altered, with three different doors instead of the central arch, and the building on the left side has lost much of the ornamentation above the third floor. However, both buildings are still easily recognizable from the first photo, and they are among the many historic late 19th century commercial blocks that still stand here on this part High Street.

High Street from Hampden Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking south on High Street from the corner of Hampden Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Much of High Street in Holyoke has been remarkably well-preserved over the years, particularly this block on the west side of the street, between Hampden and Dwight Streets. It consists primarily of brick, three and four-story commercial blocks that were built in the second half of the 19th century, during the early years of Holyoke’s development as a major industrial center. The scene had largely taken on its present-day appearance by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, and today the only significant difference is a noticeable lack of horse-drawn carriages.

According to district’s National Register of Historic Places listing, the one-story building in the foreground was built in the mid-20th century, but it seems possible that it might actually be the same one from the first photo, just with some major alterations. Either way, this is the only noticeable change in the buildings on this block. Just beyond this building are two matching three-story buildings, located at 169-175 High Street. These are perhaps the oldest buildings in the scene, dating back to around 1855, and have a fairly plain exterior design, unlike the more ornate building further down the street.

To the left of these two buildings is the four-story Dougherty’s Block, at 177-179 High Street. This was built sometime around the late 1880s, and was probably the newest building in the first photo. Beyond it is the 1870 Taber Building, with its distinctive ornate pediment above the third floor. However, the most architecturally-significant building in this scene is the Second Empire-style Caledonia Building at 185-193 High Street. It was built in 1874, and was originally owned by Roswell P. Crafts, a businessman who went on to become mayor of Holyoke in 1877 and from 1882 to 1883. The building was later owned by the Caledonian Benefit Society, which provided aid for Scottish immigrants.

Beyond the Caledonia Building, most of the other buildings also date to between 1850 and 1880. These include, just to the left of the Caledonia Building, the Johnson Building at 195 High Street and the R.B. Johnson Block at 197-201 High Street, both of which date back to around the 1870s. Further in the distance is the 1850 Colby-Carter Block at 203-209 High Street, and the c.1870 Ball Building at 211-215 High Street. The only noticeable change in this section is the six-story Ball Block, at the corner of Dwight Street. It was completed in 1898, a few years after the first photo was taken, and is visible on the far left side of the 2017 photo.

More than 125 years after the first photo was taken, this section of High Street survives as a good example of Victorian-era commercial buildings, representing a range of architectural styles from the plain brick buildings of the 1850s, to the more ornate styles of the 1870s and 1880s. Holyoke is no longer the thriving industrial city from the first photo, having experienced many years of economic stagnation since the mid-20th century. However, this has probably contributed to the survival of so many 19th century buildings, since there has been little demand for new construction, and today these historic buildings and streetscapes are among the city’s greatest assets.

School of the Immaculate Conception of Notre Dame, Holyoke, Mass

The former School of the Immaculate Conception of Notre Dame, on Chestnut Street opposite Hampden Park in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke grew into a major industrial center during the second half of the 19th century, and the jobs in the mills attracted large numbers of immigrants, particularly the Irish and French Canadians. Most of these immigrants were Catholic, in a region that had previously been almost entirely Protestant, and they soon set about establishing Catholic churches and other religious institutions. The first of these churches was St. Jerome’s, which was established in 1856. Two years later, the parish constructed a church building that still stands at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets, just out of view to the right of this scene.

In 1869, St. Jerome’s Parish opened its first parochial school, the School of the Immaculate Conception of Notre Dame. It was originally an all-girls school, and was located in a wood-frame building that was moved to this site. That same year, the Convent of Notre Dame was completed just to the right of the school. It housed the nuns who taught at the school, and can be seen in the center-right of both photos, with its central tower and Second-Empire style architecture. Then, in 1872, the St. Jerome’s Institute was established as a school for boys, and was located on the other side of Hampden Street, at the corner of Elm Street.

The original Immaculate Conception building was replaced in 1883 by a much more substantial brick school building, which stands on the left side of both photos. It was designed by architect Donat R. Baribault, with an Italianate-style design that included a symmetrical front facade and a tower above the main entrance. By 1890, around the time that the first photo was taken, it had an enrollment of about 550 girls, and the principal of the school was also the sister superior at the adjacent Convent of Notre Dame.

The Immaculate Conception School later became the St. Jerome High School, and in 1963 it merged with several other parish high schools in the city to form Holyoke Catholic High School. The old 1883 school building became part of the Holyoke Catholic campus, and remained in use until 2002, when the school relocated to Granby. Holyoke Catholic has since merged with Cathedral High School in Springfield, and the consolidated school has been known as Pope Francis High School since 2016.

Today, most of the historic 19th buildings from the St. Jerome’s Parish are still standing, including the former Holyoke Catholic buildings. Although they were boarded up for more than a decade after the school moved to Granby, the buildings have since been converted into the Chestnut Park Apartments. This work was completed in 2015, and now there is hardly any difference between these two photos, which were taken 125 years apart. The buildings are now part of the Hampden Park Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.