Mary C. Merriam House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 28 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Today, the Merriam name is probably most commonly associated with the famous Merriam-Webster Dictionary, but the Merriam family’s printing dynasty started long before Noah Webster’s heirs sold the company the rights to publish the dictionary. The family business started in West Brookfield in 1797, when brothers Dan and Ebenezer Merriam began printing and publishing books. Dan had eight children, two of whom, George and Charles, took over the business after his death in 1823. In 1831, the brothers moved to Springfield, which was a much larger market for publishing, and they soon purchased fine houses on Chestnut and Howard Streets.

Other members of the Merriam family followed them to Springfield, including Mary C. Merriam, the younger sister of George and Charles. She never married, and during the 1870 census she was living in Springfield with her sister Dora and their elderly mother, Thirza. About 20 years later, she moved to the fashionable McKnight neighborhood, purchasing this house shortly after it was built around 1889. She lived here until her death in 1896, after having outlived nearly all of her siblings.

In the years following Mary’s death, several different members of the Merriam family resided here, including George’s daughter, Celia C. Merriam and his nephews, Henry and Arthur. The latter two were the sons of George’s brother Homer, who became a partner in their Springfield publishing firm in 1856. Arthur was living here during the 1900 census, along with his wife Ruth, their two children, and a servant. He worked in the family’s publishing company, but he subsequently moved to Pasadena, California, where he died in 1916.

By the next census, in 1919, the house was owned by Ella Lloyd, a 60-year-old widow who lived here with two of her adult children, Henry and Caroline. She died in 1918, but Henry continued to live here for for many years. He was the president and treasurer of a plumbing and heating company, and he remained unmarried until the late 1920s, when, at the age of 54, he married 25-year-old Evelyn Cook. By the 1930 census, they had an infant daughter Henrietta, but they moved out of this house soon afterward.

The 1933 city directory shows Richard and Elizabeth Whittey living here, along with their son, who was also named Richard. The elder Richard worked as a credit counselor for Credit Bureau Inc., with his son working as an investigator for the company. They only lived here for a few years before moving to a house on Dartmouth Street, and by the time the first photo was taken this house was the home of insurance agent Harold Corbin, his wife Frances, and their four children.

In the nearly 80 years since the first photo was taken, the house on the right has since been demolished and replaced with a parking lot. However, this house has remained mostly the same on the exterior, although it now has a new, much steeper roof above the front porch. Aside from this, it retains most of its Queen Anne-style ornamentation, and liek the other houses in the neighborhood it is now part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

John A. Hall House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 52 Westminster Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1882 for John A. Hall, his wife Frances, and their two children. He was originally from New York, but Hall came to Springfield during the Civil War to work in the Armory, and later entered the insurance industry with Massachusetts Mutual. In 1881, shortly before moving into this house, he became the secretary of the company, and in 1895 he became the president. He was still living here at the time, but soon afterwards he and his family moved into a newly-built Tudor mansion on Ridgewood Terrace. This much larger house, with its prominent setting and expansive views, was a substantial upgrade from this house here on Westminster Street, and reflected his new position in the company.

In the late 1890s, the house was sold to Peter Murray, a dry goods merchant. Originally from Scotland, he had immigrated to the United States as a young man, and in 1879 he formed a partnership with fellow Scotsman John MacKenzie Smith. Together, they operated Smith & Murray, a department store that was located here in Springfield, at the corner of Court and Main Streets. The store was a fixture in the city for many years, and Murray continued in the business after Smith’s death in 1898. He never married, but he lived here with members of his extended family, including his nephew Alexander Leith, his wife Minnie, and their children. Leith was also in the dry goods business, and worked as a buyer for his uncle’s firm.

Alexander Leith died relatively young, at the age of 52, in 1916. By 1920, Minnie and the children had moved out of this house, and Peter Murray was living here alone, although he rented part of the house to veterinary surgeon Henry B. Hobson and his wife Elsie. Peter died in 1922, and the house was subsequently sold to William J. Murray, who does not appear to have been related to Peter. A child of Irish immigrants, William and his wife Josephine were in their 50s when they moved in here, along with their four sons and Josephine’s sister, Katherine McGrevy.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the house had been converted into the Church of the Nazarene. The building later became St. Mark’s Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, but over time it fell into disrepair. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the McKnight Historic District in 1976, but it subsequently stood vacant for several decades and was threatened with demolition. However, it was ultimately restored in 2011, and today there is hardly any noticeable difference from when the first photo was taken nearly 80 years ago.

George F. Pollard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 72 Westminster Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1891, and was originally owned by George F. Pollard, although he only lived here for a few years. In 1897, he sold the house to Robert W. Broadhurst, a local shoe merchant who lived here with his wife Louisa and their three children. Robert died in 1902, but Louisa continued to live here until at least 1918, although by 1920 she and two of her children were living in an apartment nearby on State Street.

The house was subsequently sold to Springfield’s fire chief, William H. Daggett. He was a Springfield native, and his father had been a blacksmith who later worked at the Armory. As an adult, William also entered the firearm industry, working for both Smith & Wesson and the Armory. However, he left the Armory in 1894, and a year later he was appointed deputy chief of the fire department, a position hat he held until being appointed chief in 1908.

By the early 1920s, he and his wife Genevieve were living in this house along with their son Robert, who worked as an interior designer. They were still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, but William died in 1940, and within a few years Genevieve and Robert had moved into an apartment at 90 Westminster, just a few buildings away from here.

In later years, the house fell into disrepair, but like many of the other historic homes in the neighborhood it has since been restored, complete with a multi-color paint scheme that highlights the Queen Anne-style details. Today, even the tree in the backyard is still standing in both photos, and the house is now part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles B. Cooley House, Springfield, Mass

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

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1892 for Charles B. Cooley, a dry goods merchant in the Springfield-based firm of Carter & Cooley. He and his wife Eliza lived here with their daughter Carrie, who was a kindergarten teacher at the Pynchon Primary School. She worked there until 1902, when she married Arthur A. Adams, a contractor who served as the city’s superintendent of streets.

Both Charles and Eliza died a few years later, but Arthur and Carrie continued to live here for many years, where they raised their two daughters, Elizabeth and Eleanor. In 1918, Arthur was elected as mayor, and served for two years from 1919 to 1920. After his time as mayor, he resumed fork as a contractor, with the firm of Adams & Ruxton, and he and Carrie lived here until the mid-1930s.

Around 1936, the house was sold to Bertha I. Leary, a widow who was living alone in this large house when the first photo was taken. She died a few years later, in 1941, and the house subsequently went through several more owners. At some point, the second-floor porch was enclosed, and the house was later damaged in a fire. However, it has since been restored, and it now forms part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Elihu H. Cutler House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 84 Westminster Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Elihu H. Cutler was born in 1856 in Ashland, Massachusetts, and was the son of grist mill owner Henry Cutler. Like his father, Elihu was involved in the grain business as a young adult, but he was more interested in mechanical engineering. Despite having just a high school education, in 1887 he became the treasurer and general manager of the Brooklyn-based Elektron Elevator Company, where he worked under the prominent inventor and company president Frank A. Perret.

In 1891, Perret moved the company to a new facility on Wilbraham Road in Springfield. Cutler also moved to Springfield, along with his wife Hattie and their three children, and they purchased this newly-built house in the fashionable McKnight neighborhood, just a short walk from the Elektron factory. At the time, Queen Anne style architecture was popular for upscale homes, and their house included many of the style’s common features, including an irregular design, a large front porch, a turret, and a variety of siding materials.

One of Cutler’s apprentices at Elektron was Harry A. Knox, a student at the neighboring Springfield Industrial Institute. Before he was even out of school, Knox had already begun designing and building automobile prototypes, and a few years later in 1900 he founded the Knox Automobile Company. Cutler was apparently impressed with Knox, because he joined the new company as vice president, and he and Knox put their mechanical engineering abilities to work in developing early automobiles.

A few years later, Cutler left the elevator business in order to focus on automobiles. He sold his interest in Elektron to the Otis Elevator Company, and ultimately ended up as the president of Knox, whose main factory was located directly across the street from the Elektron facility on Wilbraham Road. Knox was just one of the many new companies in the rapidly-growing automobile industry, and some of these companies formed the  Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers. Cutler went on to become the association’s president, and in this capacity he was involved in an unsuccessful legal dispute over patent rights with an upstart rival, Henry Ford.

As it turned out, the Knox and Ford companies were on two completely different trajectories, and by 1915 Knox had discontinued its production of automobiles. Cutler ultimately left the industry and returned to his roots in the grain business, serving as vice president of the Cutler Company, a wholesale grain firm. He and Hattie lived here in this house until 1927, when they moved to New York City.

By 1930, the house was owned by Mary A. Burke, a 59-year-old widow who had immigrated to the United States from Ireland as a child. She lived here with five of her adult children, all of whom were unmarried. Two of her daughters, Mary and Katherine, worked for a lumber company, and her other two, Angela and Frances, were teachers. Her son, Thomas, also lived here, and he worked as a lawyer. Mary died in the 1930s, but her children were sill living here when the first photo was taken at the end of the decade.

The Burke children sold the house in 1950 to Reverend James H. Hamer, who lived here for many years and served as pastor of Faith Baptist Church. During this time, the house has been well-maintained, and the exterior has hardly changed since the Cutler family moved in over 125 years ago. The adjacent apartment building, completed in 1901, is also still standing, and is one of a handful of apartment buildings in a neighborhood that is predominantly single-family and two-family homes. Today, both buildings, along with the rest of the neighborhood, are now part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Westminster Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Westminster Street from the corner of Bay Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

When brothers John and William McKnight entered the real estate business in the early 1870s, they began by purchasing the 22-acre farm of Josiah Flagg, which was located between State and Bay Streets. They laid out Thompson, Westminster, Buckingham, and Sherman Streets roughly perpendicular to State Street, and began subdividing the property into individual house lots. Because of a nationwide recession, development was slow in the 1870s, but began in earnest in the early 1880s. Most of the homes on Westminster Street to the south of Bay Street were built during this time, but the development soon extended to the north of Bay Street.

These two photos show the northern half of Westminster Street, from the corner of Bay Street. These homes were mostly built in the late 1880s and early 1890s, and construction was largely complete by the time the first photo was taken, although a few homes on the left side were built later in the 1890s. By the early 20th century, the entire McKnight development would go on to include some 800 homes for some of the city’s leading residents. The northern part of the neighborhood, primarily around Worthington Street and Dartmouth Terrace, became a wealthy enclave with massive Queen Anne-style mansions, but other parts of the neighborhood, such as here on Westminster Street, remained more middle class, with residents who worked as teachers, insurance agents, ministers, contractors, factory managers, and similar middle-class professions.

Architecturally, the houses on this street have similar, but not identical Queen Anne-style designs, reflecting the prevailing architectural tastes of the 1880s and early 1890s. To ensure a consistent appearance throughout the neighborhood, the McKnights included deed restrictions on the properties that they sold, mandating setbacks from the street, prohibiting fences in the front yards, and setting minimum construction costs. These policies produced streetscapes like this, with unique houses yet a uniform appearance, and made McKnight a desirable neighborhood for the city’s upper middle class.

Over time, the McKnight neighborhood entered a decline. By the mid-20th century, large numbers of middle class residents were leaving for the suburbs, and many of the large homes were converted into cheap rooming houses. Queen Anne architecture, with its eclectic style and often excessive ornamentation, had fallen out of favor, and many of these homes were renovated with plain exteriors of aluminum siding or asbestos shingles. However, the neighborhood remained one of the largest concentrations of Victorian homes in New England, and in 1976 part of it, including this section of Westminster Street, was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the McKnight Historic District. Since then, the neighborhood has undergone somewhat of a revitalization, and many of the homes have been restored to their original appearance, including most of the ones here on this block of Westminster Street.