Exchange Block, Hartford, Connecticut

The Exchange Block at the northeast corner of Main and State Streets, on December 6, 1903. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

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The scene in 2016:

This location at the corner of Main and State Streets, directly opposite the Old State House, has long been an important commercial center for the city. Known as the Exchange Block, it dates back to the 1830s, when it replaced an earlier building destroyed in a fire. By 1903, when the first photo was taken, the signs here indicate a wide range of businesses and professional offices, including a coal company, cigar store, clothing store, tailors, lawyers, a real estate broker, a dentist, and a physician.

The oldest portion of the building appears to be the section in the center, with Greek Revival architecture that likely dates back to the 1830s. The left side of the building has more of an Italianate design, and was probably built or renovated around the 1850s or 1860s. This part of the building was demolished in the 1920s, and everything else from the first photo was gone sometime between the 1930s and 1984, when construction began on State House Square, the office building that now stands on the site here.

Union House, Springfield, Mass

The former Union House/Chandler Hotel building on the right side of the photo, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2016:

The building on the right side of this scene is one of the oldest existing commercial blocks in downtown Springfield, although much of it will soon be demolished as part of the MGM Springfield casino project. When it opened as the Union House in 1846 it was one of the finest hotels in the city, and it was built for Jeremy Warriner, who had previously operated a tavern a block away at the corner of Main and State Streets. His old tavern had been popular in the stagecoach days, but with the opening of the railroad a half mile away, his inconventiently located, colonial-era building faced stiff competition from modern hotels like the Massasoit House.

Here at the corner of Main and Bliss Streets, his new hotel was actually slightly further from the railroad, but it was at least in a modern building. Within a few years, the hotel had attracted some prominent guests, including President James K. Polk, who stayed overnight here in 1847, accompanied by future president James Buchanan, who was Secretary of State at the time. In 1849, author Sara Jane Lippincott, who wrote under the pen name of Grace Greenwood, visited the hotel and later raved about the quality of the meals here, explaining “I am not about to attempt a description of Warriner’s dinner, with their endless succession of delicious dishes, their inimitable sauces, and exquisite puddings and pastry. For this I have neither time nor talent sufficient.”

However, the Massasoit House continued to draw guests with its convenient location next to the railroad station, and “Uncle Jerry” and “Aunt Phoebe” Warriner retired from the hotel business a few years later. The building continued to be used as a hotel through several changes in ownership, and by the 1880s it had become Chandler Hotel, a name that would remain until it closed in 1933. During this time, the building was extensively renovated, to the point where very little is left from the original 1846 structure.

The first photo was taken soon after the hotel closed, and at the time the first floor was being used as a drugstore. Most recently, it was the home of Glory Shoes, but the upper floors have been vacant for years and are in poor condition. Most of the building will soon be demolished except for the Main and Bliss Street facades, which will be incorporated into the casino design. As for the other buildings in the first photo, the Metropolitan Furniture Company was one of several furniture companies that were once located in the South End. This building was either demolished or trimmed down to one floor at some point, because there was a one-story commercial building here that was demolished as part of the casino project, along with the one on the far left side of the first photo.

First Church Parsonages, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking south along the Town Green from Williams Street in Longmeadow, around 1902-1921. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The view in 2016:

The first photo shows two of the houses that have been used as the parsonage for Longmeadow’s First Church of Christ, which is located just out of view to the right of the photos. The building in the distance just to the left of center is the Cordis House, which was built in 1832 for Jonathan Condit, the pastor of the church. He briefly lived here, as did the next pastor, Hubbard Beebe, but in 1845 it was sold to Thomas Cordis, whose descendants continue to own the house.

The house on the right side of the first photo was built only 25 years later, but it shows a shift in architectural style from the fairly plain Green Revival design of the Cordis House to the far more decorative Italianate style that became popular in the mid 19th century. This parsonage was built in 1857, and was first occupied by John Wheeler Harding, who served as pastor from 1850 until 1891. Several other pastors lived here before it was moved in 1921 to build the Community House. The old parsonage is now located just to the south of the church, where it has been used as a church school, the residence of the church caretaker, and currently as a Montessori school.

1007-1017 Main Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at the corner of Main and Union Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2015:

The section of Main Street south of State Street was once primarily residential, but as the city grew in the second half of the 19th century many of the homes were either demolished or, in many cases, had storefronts built in front of them. Based on its blend of Greek Revival and Italianate architectural styles, this house was probably built around the 1850s, but sometime around 1900-1910 the owners built a one-story commercial building around it, presumably incorporating the first floor of the house into the stores. This is similar to what happened to the John Avery House, a c.1825 house located diagonally across the street from here.

When the first photo was taken, the building had several commercial tenants, including The Linoleum Shoppe on the left and a cigar store on the right. The old house was still clearly visible at the time, but later taken down after a fire. The rest of the building was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, and was subsequently renovated into its current appearance, as seen in the 2015 photo.

Breezy Corners, Lenox, Mass

Looking north on Cliffwood Street toward Greenwood Street in Lenox, with the Breezy Corners house on the right, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The street in 2015:

As mentioned in previous posts, Lenox was a popular summer resort in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the house on the right side of the road was one of many summer “cottages” in the area. It was built around 1860, and in 1882 it was sold to Emily Meigs Biddle, a member of the prominent Biddle family in Philadelphia. She and her three adult children spent many summers here, and after Emily’s death in 1905, her youngest daughter, Emily Williams Biddle, inherited the property and kept it until she died in 1931. Over the nearly 50 years that the Biddle family owned the house, they made a number of additions to the original structure, including a third floor, a tower, and a larger servant area. Only part of the house is visible from this angle, but there are not many differences in these two views. There have not been any dramatic changes since the first photo was taken, and the historic home is still standing at the corner of Cliffwood and Greenwood Street.