Thames Street at Touro Street, Newport, RI

The east side of Thames Street, just south of Touro Street in Newport, around 1885. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Thames Street is a major north-south street that runs along the waterfront in downtown Newport. It has long been a major commercial center in the city, and the first photo shows parts of three 19th century commercial blocks here on Thames Street, just south of Washington Square. All three have similar Italianate-style architecture, and they were probably built around the 1850s or 1860s. By the time the first photo was taken, the buildings housed several different businesses, including John H. Martin’s sporting goods shop on the far left at the corner of Touro Street, as well as the Young Brothers grocery store in the center of the photo.

In more than 130 years since the first photo was taken, Thames Street has undergone some significant changes. These buildings survived the large-scale redevelopment projects that took nearly all of the historic buildings on the opposite side of the street, but they have had major alterations over the years. The one on the far left, known as the Henry B. Young Building, lost its top floor sometime in the 20th century, and the building in the middle might be the same one from the first photo, with a new facade and without its top floor. Only the building on the far right, which is just partially visible in these photos, has remained relatively unaltered.

Like it was in the first photo, Thames Street is still lined with shops, although they are very different from the ones in the 1880s. The storefront at the corner, once the home of John H. Martin’s sporting goods shop, is now a Banana Republic, and the rest of the Street is similarly lined with  boutiques, souvenir shops, and restaurants that cater primarily to Newport’s tourists. Compared to the rest of downtown Newport, the buildings on Thames Street does not remain as well-preserved, but overall the Street still retains a similar appearance, and his section of the street is now part of the Newport Historic District, a National Historic Landmark district.

Josiah Wright House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 78 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Josiah Wright was originally from Plympton, Massachusetts, but in 1849 he moved to Springfield, along with his wife Sarah and their young children. Here, Josiah formed a partnership with Henry Webster and began manufacturing axles for railroad cars. They later sold the firm to Norman W. Talcott, who continued to operate it for many years, but Josiah Wright remained in the metallurgy business, eventually purchasing the Agawam Foundry on Liberty Street (present-day Frank B. Murray Street), where the current Union Station is now located. He and his business partner, Warren Emerson, formed the firm of Wright & Emerson, which was described in the 1871 city directory as manufacturing “Cast Iron Fences for Cemetery Lots, Balconies and Verandas, also Machinery and Building Castings of all descriptions.”

Josiah’s son Andrew also had a successful business career, becoming treasurer of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company in 1872. Three years later, Andrew moved into a new house here on Bowdoin Street in the fashionable McKnight neighborhood, and Josiah followed soon after. This house was completed around 1877, and was located just up the street from Andrew’s house. Josiah retired a few years after moving here, and in 1882 he sold his business to the Springfield Foundry Company. He and Sarah continued to live in this house for the rest of their lives, until his death in 1890 and her death three years later.

By the end of the 19th century, the house was owned by Andrew’s son Fred, who lived here with his wife Emily. Fred followed his father into the insurance industry, working as an agent for the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and by the 1900 census he and Emily had two young children living here, along with two nurses and a servant. However, they did not live here for very long, because by 1905 they had moved closer to the center of Springfield, to an apartment at 97 Spring Street.

Around 1905, this house was sold to Fred S. Morse, a lumber dealer who was originally from Maine. He came to Springfield in 1889, and over the next decade he worked for several different wholesale lumber companies before going into business for himself in 1899. A year later, he married his wife, Nellie Gloyd, and in 1905 he established the Fred S. Morse Lumber Company. He and Nellie had one child, Samuel, who was born in 1907, and the family lived here until around 1915, when they moved to a house nearby on Bay Street.

By 1918, this house was the home of Ellen T. Hyde, the widow of prominent local businessman and politician Henry S. Hyde. He had, for many years, served as treasurer of the Wason Manufacturing Company, and held positions in a variety of other companies, along with serving as a city councilor, alderman, state senator, and delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1884 and 1888. Ellen was also from a prominent family, with her father, Eliphalet Trask, having served as mayor of Springfield and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. She moved into this house shortly after Henry’s death in 1917, and she lived here until her death in 1923.

The house was subsequently owned by Fred C. Brigham, a physician who lived here with his wife Emma and their three children. They moved in around 1924, and by the 1930 census they were living here with their daughter Alice, her husband James McClelland, and their two young children. By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, James and Alice had moved out, but Fred and Emma were still living here, although he died in 1940.

Emma would go on to live here until the mid-1940s, when she moved to State Street, but the house has remained well-preserved over the years, with few changes from the first photo nearly 80 years ago. It stands as a good example of one of the older homes in the McKnight neighborhood, and it now forms part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Andrew J. Wright House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 54 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Andrew J. Wright was born in Enfield, Connecticut in 1842, but in 1849 he and his parents moved to Springfield, joining the large number of people who were migrating to the rapidly-growing industrial city in the mid-19th century. After graduating high school in 1860, Andrew worked for the Springfield post office for a few years, before enlisting in the army during the Civil War. He served a one-year enlistment, and upon returning to Springfield he became a bookkeeper for the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, a position that he held from 1864 to 1872.

In 1872, Andrew was promoted to treasurer of the insurance company, and three years later he and his wife Mary moved into this house, along with a growing family that would, by 1877, include five children. The house was newly-built when they moved in, and was part of the early wave of development in the McKnight neighborhood.  Like many of the other early homes in the neighborhood, it has an Italianate-style design, but it is unusual in that it is built of brick, while nearly all of the other homes in the area were wood-framed.

Andrew Wright would go on to become vice president of the insurance company in 1890, and a year later became president after the death of the previous president. Along with this, he was also a director of the Agawam National Bank and the Franklin County National Bank, and he was elected to the city’s common council in 1877 and 1878, serving as the council president in 1878. He lived here in this house for the rest of his life, and he died in 1895 from septic meningitis, which he contracted after having the flu.

During the 1900 census, Mary Wright was still living here, along with her son Royal, daughters Josephine and Grace, and Grace’s husband, Henry H. Bosworth. Mary died in 1908, but Henry and Grace continued to live here, along with their only child, Mary. Henry was a lawyer who was also involved in politics, serving as a city alderman and, from 1897 to 1898, as a state representative. However, he died in 1927, and Grace lived here for only a few more years, before moving to a house nearby on Ingersoll Gove.

By 1930, this house was owned by Raymond T. King, an attorney who lived here with his wife Olive and their large family. When they moved in, they had five daughters and a son, and they would soon add a sixth daughter. They were living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here for the next two decades, until finally selling the house in the early 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the house was sold to Christian Hill Baptist Church, which has owned the property ever since.

Over the years, there have been a few changes to the house, including the loss of the second-story porch, the chimneys, and the brackets under the eaves. However, it survives as one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood, and it is part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Solyman Merrick House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 104 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The house in the first photo was built in 1850 for Solyman Merrick, a tool manufacturer who had previously lived nearby in a house that still stands at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. Best known as the inventor of the monkey wrench, Merrick had patented his design in 1835 and later sold it to Bemis & Call, a Springfield-based tool manufacturer. He married his first wife, Henrietta Bliss, in 1841, and that same year they moved into the house at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. However, they were only there for a few years, because Henrietta died in 1845 and Solyman sold the property two years later. Then, in 1848, Merrick remarried to Anne Clapp, and in 1850 they moved into this new house at 104 Maple Street.

Although his new home was built less than a decade after his first one, it represented a dramatic shift in architectural styles. His first home had been a fairly conservative Greek Revival-style home, but his new one was a far more ornate Italian villa, designed by architect Leopold Eidlitz. It was one of the first buildings in Springfield to be designed by a formally-trained architect, and caused a considerable stir in the small but growing community. Born in Prague in 1823, he later came to America and studied under renowned architect Richard Upjohn, before starting his own firm in 1846. One of his first works was the home of P. T. Barnum in Bridgeport, and soon afterward he designed this house for Merrick in Springfield. He would go on to have a successful career, including designing Springfield’s old city’s hall, and later in life he was one of several architects who worked on the New York State Capitol.

Unfortunately for Solyman Merrick, he died in 1852, just two years after the completion of this house. He was only 45 at the time, and he left behind his wife Anne and their three-year-old son, William. The two of them continued to live here after Solyman’s death, along with Anne’s sister Caroline and her husband, Albert D. Briggs. During the 1860 census, Albert and Caroline lived here with their two young sons, John and Edward, and the household also included lawyer Franklin Chamberlin and his wife Mary, along with four live-in servants.

Albert Briggs was a bridge builder who, as a boy, had moved with his family to Springfield from Brattleboro, Vermont. When he got older, he found work as as a surveyor and engineer during the construction of the Western Railroad between Springfield and Albany. Despite being barely 20 years old, he was also an assistant engineer for the railroad bridge across the Connecticut River, where he worked under William Howe, the inventor of the Howe truss design. This set Briggs on a successful career as a bridge builder, and he worked closely with Howe for the next decade and even purchased Howe’s patent rights for several states. By the time he moved into this house in the 1850s, he had established a successful business that was building bridges in all parts of the country.

Aside from his bridge building, Briggs was also involved in politics, serving as a city alderman in 1864 and as mayor from 1865 to 1867. He did not, however, serve in the Civil War, but his widowed sister-in-law did. Anne Merrick was 42 years old at the start of the war, and she joined the war effort as a nurse for the 10th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The history of this regiment, published in 1909, highlights her service, writing that:

“When, in the fall of 1861, typhoid fever was decimating the ranks of the Tenth and Brighwood, two ministering angels in human form, left their happy northern homes to serve these men in camp. Their stay with the regiment was a blessing from the start and every soldier, whether well or ill, has never failed to sing their praises when the names of Mrs. Merrick and Miss Wolcott were mentioned.”

The author, Alfred S. Roe, went on to write:

“Mrs. Merrick, it will be observed, was a widow when she volunteered to minister to the suffering soldiers in Washington. In this capacity she continued until, herself stricken with fever, she was compelled to return home, Miss Wolcott accompanying her.”

Anne Merrick had died long before the book was published, but her fellow nurse, Helen Wolcott, wrote a short letter to the author, describing their experience in the war:

“In regard to Mrs. Merrick and myself, nurses in the old Tenth Regiment, I could tell you more than I can write. It is all very fresh in my mind. The first night we slept on the floor of the tent. The next day the carpenter made us a very good bedstead. I shall never forget how glad the sick men were to see us, as one said, ‘Any one in petticoats.’ I fully recall one from Northampton, who died very soon, his parents coming at the very last moment.”

After her service in the war, Anne Merrick continued to live here with her son William, along with Alfred and Caroline Briggs, until her death in 1879. In the meantime, William followed in his father’s footsteps as a businessman, eventually becoming treasurer of the Springfield Gas Light Company as well as a director of the John Hancock Bank. He was also involved in several city organizations, including the library and the Springfield Hospital, and he donated the land for Merrick Park, at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets. However, like his father, William died young, in 1887 at the age of 37.

Albert Briggs died two years after Anne Merrick, in 1881, but Caroline continued to live here in this house, even after William’s death. She died in 1895, and the house was subsequently sold to lumber dealer Frank C. Rice. He was the president of the Rice & Lockwood Lumber Company, and during the 1900 census he was living here with his wife Emily and their son Julian, along with Emily’s mother Charlotte Anderson and sister Martha Anderson.

A decade later, during the 1910 census, Frank and Julian were still living here, but Emily had died in 1907 from appendicitis, at the age of 50. Frank lived here until around 1916, when he moved into an apartment nearby at 169 Maple Street, and he sold this house to Dr. Richard S. Benner, an obstetrician who lived here with his wife Marion and their four children.

Dr. Benner lived here until his death in 1939, right around the same time that the first photo was taken. Marion continued to live here for at least a few more years, although by the mid-1940s she had moved to Randolph Street in Forest Park. In the meantime, her old house stood here on Maple Street until around the early 1960s. Despite its historical significance as the home of the inventor of the monkey wrench, and despite its importance as one of the city’s early architectural landmarks, it was demolished and replaced with the office building that now stands on the site.

James H. Morton House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 123-125 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This fine Italianate home was built in 1853, and was the home of James H. Morton, a lawyer and judge on the city’s police court. He was born in Taunton in 1825, and was the son of Marcus Morton, a lawyer and judge who served in Congress, on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and as governor of Massachusetts. James attended Brown and Harvard, and subsequently moved to Springfield, where he married his wife, Elizabeth W. Ashmun, in 1852. Her father was George Ashmun, a lawyer and politician who served three terms in Congress from 1845 to 1851, and he lived nearby at the corner of Mulberry and School Streets.

During the 1870 census, James and Elizabeth were living here with their five children, George, Elizabeth, Lucy, Charlotte, and Walter, and they also employed three live-in servants. James was a wealthy man at this point, with the census listing the value of his real estate as $105,000 (over $2 million today), and the value of his personal estate as $60,000 (over $1.1 million today). However, James died six years later, at the age of 51. His cause of death was listed as “congestion of the brain,” a somewhat vague 19th century term that could have included such conditions as meningitis, encephalitis, or a stroke, and was also sometimes used as a euphemism for deaths caused by alcoholism.

By 1880, Elizabeth was living here with four of her children, plus her niece, three boarders, and three servants. The house was far less crowded by the 1900 census, though, when Elizabeth was living here with her daughters Elizabeth and Lucy, along with a single servant. Soon after, the house was divided into a two-family home, with Elizabeth and her family living in one half and renting out the other half. Starting about 1904, this half was rented to Olin H. Smith, who was the president of E. O. Smith Company, a Springfield-based wholesale grocery.

Neither Elizabeth nor Lucy ever married, and Lucy lived here until her death in 1911 at the age of 51. Her mother Elizabeth died five years later, at the age of 86, after having outlived James by 40 years. Olin Smith also died in 1916, and by 1920 the younger Elizabeth was living here with a servant and a roomer. She continued to rent the second unit to a variety of tenants throughout the 1920s, and she was still living here as late as the 1929 city directory. However, by the 1930 census she was living in a boarding house on Union Street, and she died later that year.

In the meantime, by the 1930 census the other half of the house was being rented by Percy W. Long, a dictionary editor for G. & C. Merriam. A Harvard graduate, Long had also served as secretary of the American Dialect Society, and during his time in Springfield he was one of the editors for the second edition of Webster’s International Dictionary. He and his wife Florence lived here in this house for several years, but they moved to New York in the mid-1930s, where he worked as an English professor at New York University and served as the executive director of the Modern Language Association, a position he held from 1935 to 1947.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the house was owned by William B. Remington, who moved into the house around 1933, along with his wife Helen and their son William. Originally from the Rochester area, Remington entered the advertising business, and worked for a number of different companies before coming to Springfield in 1925 as a partner in the J. B. Bates Advertising Agency. Two years later, he started his own advertising firm, William B. Remington, Inc., and was working as the company’s president and treasurer when he moved into this house.

Helen Remington died in 1938, right around the time that the first photo was probably taken, and the following year William remarried to Margaret L. Brown. During the 1940 census, Margaret was working as a copywriter for William’s company, and she was earning $4,000 a year, which was a considerable sum at the time, equal to over $70,000 today. William’s income was listed as $5,000+, which was the highest bracket on the census, and was equal to over $88,000 today.

The Remingtons lived in this house until the early 1940s, but around 1943 they moved to a nearby house on Ridgewood Place. Since then, this house on Mulberry Street has remained well-preserved. The interior is now divided into three units, but the exterior looks essentially the same as it did in the 1930s, aside from the missing shutters and the balustrade above the front porch. Alogn with the rest of the neighborhood, it is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Varillas L. Owen House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 383 Union Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, many of Springfield’s upper class residents built fine Italianate homes such as this one, which is located at the corner of Union and Mulberry Streets, on a hill overlooking downtown Springfield. It was built around 1864 for Dr. Varillas L. Owen, a Harvard-educated physician who moved to Springfield in the early 1850s and opened his practice in the rapidly-growing city. He lived here with his wife, Maria Tallant Owen, a Nantucket-born botanist who would go on to achieve fame in the scientific community, particularly with her 1888 work Catalogue of Plants Growing Without Cultivation in the County of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Here in Springfield, she worked at several different schools, teaching botany, French, astronomy, and geography. Along with this, she also served for many years as the president of both the Springfield Women’s Club and the Springfield Botanical Society.

The Owens had two children, Walter and Amelia, who grew up in this house. Walter attended M.I.T. and went on to become an architect, and later moved to New York, where he joined the firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell. Among his works was the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, which was completed here in Springfield in 1896. That same year, he became a partner in the firm, which was renamed Renwick, Aspinwall & Owen, but he died only a few years later in 1902, at the age of 38. In the meantime, Walter’s parents continued living here at this house, long after Walter moved to New York. Varillas died in 1897, and Maria went on to live here for the next 10 years, before moving to Long Island to live with Amelia and her husband, Dr. James Sullivan.

By 1910, the house was owned by Charles H. Barrows, a lawyer and author who lived next door at 375 Union Street, just across Mulberry Street from here. He apparently used this house as a rental property, because during the 1910 census he was renting the house to Cheney H. Calkins, a dentist who lived here with his wife Alice, their son William, and two servants. The family was still living here in 1920, but by the middle of the decade this house was the home of Frederick H. Clodgo, a salesman who lived here with his wife, Charlotte. They were living here as late as 1927, but by 1930 the city directory listed this house as being vacant.

This house appears to have only been sporadically occupied during the 1930s, but around 1936-1937 it was the home of George and Bertha Rand. During this time, they rented rooms to several other people, but they had moved out of here by 1938. The house appears to have been vacant around the time that the first photo was taken, but it has since been restored, and still stands here at the corner of Union and Mulberry Streets. It is probably the best-preserved example of residential Italianate architecture in Springfield, and it forms part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.