Simeon E. Walton House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 80 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is known locally as the “Peter Proud House” for its role in the 1975 film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, but the house was already nearly a century old when it made its brief Hollywood appearance. It was built in 1888, and was originally the home of Simeon E. Walton, a carpenter and builder who, according to an 1892 advertisement in the city directory, specialized in hardwood mosaic floors. This likely explains the interior of the house, which is still covered in fine hardwood floors, as well as wood paneling on the walls. He and his wife Ella had previously lived in a different house in the McKnight neighborhood, at 77 Clarendon Street, but they moved here after this house was completed and lived here until around 1910, when they moved to Agawam.

During the 1910 census, the house was owned by William Patton, a real estate developer whose properties included the Patton Building, which still stands at 15-19 Hampden Street. He was 52 years old and unmarried, and he rented part of this large house to Frederick and Mary Simmons, who were in their late 60s at the time. They lived here with their son, Frederick Jr., but both Frederick and Mary died of pneumonia in January 1914, less than a week apart. Their son continued to live here for a few more years, but he died in 1918 at the age of 50.

After Frederick’s death, his sister Emma and her husband, George B. Church, moved into this house, along with their two teenaged daughters, Dorothea and Mary. William Patton continued to live here during this time, and George worked as a secretary for his real estate company. However, William died in 1925, and George and Emma subsequently moved to their own house on Morningside Park, in the Forest Park neighborhood.

This house stood vacant throughout the late 1920s, and was not occupied again until the early 1930s, when it was the home of Philip Decoteau, a French-Canadian immigrant who owned a shoe repair business on Oak Street in Indian Orchard. He and his wife Emily were in their 60s at the time, and they lived here with their sizable family, which included at least six of their adult children, plus a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. They were still living here into the late 1930s, but by 1939 the house was vacant and for sale, as indicated by the sign in the front yard of the first photo.

The house’s moment of fame came in 1975, when it was featured in the supernatural film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. The movie was an adaptation of the 1973 novel of the same name, which was written by Springfield native Max Ehrlich, and much it was filmed here in Springfield. In the movie, the title character (played by Michael Sarrazin) is a college professor in California who suffers from recurring nightmares that, as it turns out, are flashbacks from a previous life. Seeking answers, he travels to Springfield, where he discovers many of the landmarks from his dreams, including this house, which had been his home in his previous life.

Today, the house still stands on Cornell Street, and still retains much of its Victorian-era elegance, although it has undergone some significant changes over the years. Even before the first photo was taken, the original clapboard exterior was replaced with stucco, and during the 1940s the interior was divided into several different apartments. The original tin roof, visible in the first photo, is also gone, except for the top of the spire. However, it remains a prominent house in a neighborhood that is filled with fine Victorian homes, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

John McFethries House, Springfield, Mass

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

The house in 2017:

This elegant home was built in 1888 for John McFethries, a Scottish-born mechanical engineer who was in his late 50s at the time. He had come to America as a young man, where he married his first wife, Juliette McLean, in 1864 in Ludlow, Massachusetts. However, they subsequently moved to Russia, where John worked for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railroad. Juliette died there in 1886, and three years later, while still in Russia, John remarried to Emily Pudan, who was originally from England.

By the early 1880s, John had moved back to the Springfield area along with Emily, and he became a prominent resident in the city. For several years they lived in a house nearby at 69 Clarendon Street, but around 1888 they moved into this house on Cornell Street, along the northwestern edge of the McKnight neighborhood. John was involved in several different local businesses, including serving as treasurer of the Waltham Watch Tool Company. He was also involved with the Highland Extension Company, which developed much of the land in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Springfield, and from 1890 to 1891 he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Emily died in 1900, and that year’s census shows John living here with his daughter Olga, her husband John E. Cowan, their infant daughter Martha, and Emily’s brother Frank. The Cowans subsequently moved to California, and John McFethries lived here in this house until his death in 1907 at the age of 76. His heirs owned the house for a few more years, and rented it to several different tenants, including Frank W. Watkins, who lived here from about 1910 to 1912. He lived here with his wife Mary and their daughter Lila, and he worked as a designer for the Taber-Prang Art Company, a Springfield-based firm that was a leading producer of fine art prints in the early 20th century.

Around 1913, the house was sold to Augustus C. Lamb, who lived here with his wife Effie and their three sons. He was a salesman for the American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, and in 1917 he was promoted to sales manager. However, he resigned two years later to become factory manager of the Russ Gelatin Company, although he only stayed there for a few years before returning to American Writing Paper in 1922. Around the same time, he and his family also moved out of this house, and into an apartment in Forest Park at 143 Belmont Avenue.

This house then became the home of George S. Lewis, a firearms manufacturer who had previously worked for J. Stevens Arms of Chicopee. By the time he and his wife Fannie moved into this house around 1922, George had left Stevens and was in business for himself, starting the Page-Lewis Arms Company. He was vice president, general manager, and designer for this company, and he was also the general manager of the affiliated Page Needle Company, both of which were located in the same factory in Chicopee. However, in 1926, Page-Lewis was purchased by J. Stevens Arms, and George later began working for Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, Connecticut.

George and Fannie appear in city directories here as late as 1934, but by the end of the decade the house had been divided into several different apartments. During the 1940 census, which was done shortly after the first photo was taken, the house was owned by Robert W. Leduc, an accountant who lived here and rented out two other units in the home. One was rented by Edward J. Sawyer, a supervisor at Westinghouse who lived here with his wife Jean and their son, Edward Jr., and the other unit was rented by Nellie M. Allen, a widow who was 74 years old at the time.

In subsequent years, the city directories show a number of different residents living in this house, and it appears to have frequently changed owners in the mid-20th century. However, it is now a single-family home again, and it is one of the hundreds of historic 19th century homes in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Clifford B. Potter House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 267-269 Longhill Street at the corner of Cherryvale Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Springfield’s Forest Park Heights neighborhood includes a number of elegant late 19th and early 20th century homes, but some of the finest of these can be found here on Longhill Street, where some of the city’s leading residents lived. This large house was built in 1898 for Clifford B. Potter, a manager for the Springfield Knitting Company. He lived here with his wife Caroline and their two young daughters, Gladys and Anna, and the family also employed a governess and a servant, both of whom lived here.

Potter remained with the Springfield Knitting Company for 16 years, but in 1906 he started his own company, the Potter Knitting Company. The firm specialized in “fancy knit goods,” and by the early 1910s they had become, of all things, the nation’s leading producer of infants’ underwear. Potter built a new factory on Main Street, just north of Mill Street, and he served as the company’s president and treasurer for many years. By 1920, the company was still growing, and was listed as manufacturing “infants’, children’s and ladies’ ribbed underwear and union suits.”

The Potter family continued living in this house during this time, but Caroline died in 1925. Clifford remarried to his second wife, Martha, and lived here until his death in 1935. Martha was still living here a few years later, when the first photo was taken, but she sold the property in 1947, to attorney Samuel Goodman and his wife Ruth. At some point over the years, the house was converted into a two-family home, but on the exterior it is essentially unchanged. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the property is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

C. C. Abbey House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 170-172 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


Most of the 19th century homes in the McKnight neighborhood were built as single-family homes, but many were later converted into multiple units. Some, however, were built as duplexes, such as this Queen Anne-style home on Buckingham Street. Both the 1899 and 1910 city atlases show that the property was owned by a C. C. Abbey, who does not appear to have personally lived here. Instead, both units were rented to a variety of tenants, most of whom were employed at local industries.

During the 1890s, the unit on the left, number 170, was rented by James A. Turnbull, who worked nearby at the Armory. By the turn of the 20th century, it was being rented by another firearms employee, this time James Gilbreth, who worked as a watchman at Smith & Wesson. In the meantime, unit 172 on the right had tenants such as William J. Cooper, the paymaster for Deane Steam Pump Company in Holyoke, as well as traveling salesman Francis W. Cole.

The unit on the right appears to have been further subdivided in the 1910s, because by the 1920 census there were three different families living here, in addition to a fourth in the unit on the left. A decade later, though, only one family appears to be listed in the census, with Frederick G. Platt as the owner. He lived in number 170 on the left, along with his wife Ethel and their five children, and he worked for the Y.M.C.A. Ethel was also employed, working as a nurse, and their only son, 18-year-old Graydon, worked as a pressman for a printing company.

By the time the first photo was taken, the entire house was owned by Hamilton Torrey, a teacher who lived in 170 Buckingham with his wife Marjorie, who was also a teacher, and their daughter Barbara. The 1940 census lists their incomes and number of weeks worked, and it indicates that, while Hamilton earned $1,000 for 52 weeks of work, Marjorie earned $880 for just 28 weeks. They also supplemented this income by renting out the unit on the right for $35 per month, to William G. Edwards, a photographic manager at an optical store. His wife Alma was a secretary for Forbes and Wallace, and in the 1940 census their incomes were much higher than that of their landlords, earning $2080 and $1040, respectively.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, this building remains a two-family home. Although the surrounding neighborhood entered a decline in the second half of the 20th century, many of the historic homes in the area have since been restored to their original appearance, including this duplex. Like these other homes, 170-172 Buckingham now forms part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

George H. Clark House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 156 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This house was built around 1881 for George H. Clark, who moved from Palmer to Springfield along with his wife, Juliet. George worked in the textile industry, and during the 1880s he was a superintendent for the Tucker & Cook Manufacturing Company, which produced cotton yarn. Both he and Juliet were about 50 when they moved in, but she died only a few years later, in 1888. About two years later, George married his second wife Patience, and he apparently left the textile industry, because by the 1890s he is listed as a probation officer for the police court. He and Patience lived here until his death in 1921 at the age of 90, and the house was sold soon after.

After George’s death, the house was purchased by John A. Manley, who rented it in the early 1920s to Stanley F. Blomfield, the pastor of the North Congregational Church. By 1927, John and his wife Stella were living here themselves, but John died a year later, and by the 1930 census Stella was living here alone. She moved out sometime in the early 1930s, but rented the property to Justin W. Russell. A bond salesman, Russell lived here with his wife Madeline and their two children, Ann and Bennett, and by the time the first photo was taken they were paying Stella $40 per month in rent.

Stella finally sold the house in 1951, and the house has since been well-restored, with hardly any difference between the two photos aside from the shutters. Along with the other houses in the neighborhood, it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Robert Breck House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 134 Buckingham Street, at the corner of Bay Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This house, located at the corner of Buckingham and Bay Streets, was built 1881 for Robert Breck, a dry goods merchant who was originally from New Hampshire. He was about 60 years old at the time, though, and he only lived here for a few years until his death in 1885. His widow was still living here in 1887, but by the following year it was the home of James W. White, a bookkeeper for the Springfield Institute for Savings. However, he did not live here for very long either, nor did James McKeon, who was listed here in the 1895 city directory.

The first long-term owner of this house was Albert W. Lincoln, a real estate broker who was living here by 1898, along with his wife Jeannette, their daughter Florence, and Albert’s elderly mother Mary. He died in 1905, and a decade later Florence inherited the house after Jeannette’s death. At this point she was married and living elsewhere, so although she owned the house she did not live here, and apparently neither did anyone else. The city directories do not list any residents here after 1913, nor does the address appear in the Springfield Republican archives for decades.

The house evidently sat vacant for decades after Jeannette’s death, with the first photo showing boarded up windows on the first floor, shuttered windows on the second, and an apparent broken window on the third floor. Some 15 years later, after Florence’s death in 1953, the house was still vacant, with the Republican referring to the “mystery of the ‘abandoned’ boarded-up house” here.

Florence’s son Albert sold the property in 1953, ending more than 50 years of ownership by the family and, apparently, nearly 40 years of vacancy. However, the situation did not improve much for the house. It was abandoned again around 1976, sat vacant for another five years, before being purchased by the Springfield Preservation Trust. It was completely gutted and badly vandalized at this point, but it was successfully restored by the Preservation Trust. More than 30 years later, it remains in use as a two-family home, and it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.