Skinner Gymnasium, Northfield, Mass

The Skinner Gymnasium, on the former Northfield campus of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2017:

The present-day Northfield Mount Hermon School dates back to 1879, when it was established as the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies. Its founder was the noted evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody, who opened the school near his birthplace in the northern part of Northfield, just a little south of the New Hampshire border. Two years later, Moody established the Mount Hermon School for Boys on a separate campus in nearby Gill, Massachusetts, and the two schools would remain separate institutions for nearly a century.

By the early 1890s, the Northfield school was in need of a gymnasium, in order to promote health and physical fitness among the girls. The result was this building, which was completed in 1895 and named the Skinner Gymnasium in honor of its benefactor, Holyoke textile manufacturer William Skinner. The building had a variety of amenities, including a bowling alley, a swimming tank, and the gymnasium itself, which included an elevated running track. At the time, basketball was just beginning to gain popularity after having been invented a few years earlier, and by the turn of the century the girls were playing here in the gym on intramural teams.

The first photo was taken within about a decade of the building’s completion, and shows its Queen Anne-style architecture, which was common for public and institutional buildings of the era. It also shows some elements of the popular Romanesque Revival style, including the asymmetrical design, the rounded arch over the door, and the use of towers and turrets. However, over time the building would be expanded and altered with several 20th century additions, although this portion was not significantly changed. The first of these additions came in 1930, when a pool was added to the rear of the building. Then, after the completion of a new gymnasium in 1971, this building was converted into a student center, and in 1987 a large library wing was added to the left side, just out of view in the 2017 scene.

The Northfield School formally merged with Mount Hermon in 1972, but continued to use both campuses for many years. This building was used as the student center and, after 1987, the library for the Northfield campus up until 2005, when the school consolidated its operations at the Mount Hermon campus. The Northfield property was subsequently sold to Hobby Lobby, which, in turn, donated it to the National Christian Foundation. Then, in 2017, it was given to Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college that is based in California. The school is currently in the process of converting the property into a branch campus, and hopes to open by the fall of 2019.

Chapin Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on Chapin Street, from the corner of Oak Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

Chapin Street was developed in the mid-1880s, less than a decade before the first photo was taken. The street, which runs one block from Oak Street to Linden Street, was built through land that had once belonged to Dr. Charles Chapin, who lived in a house at the end of the road on Linden Street. Chapin was a Harvard-educated physician, but he was also a businessman who served as a state legislator, a U.S. Marshal, and a director of the Vermont Mutual Insurance Company and the Vermont Valley Railroad. He lived here until his death in 1875, and his wife Sophia died five years later.

Soon after Sophia’s death, the property was sold and subdivided. The old house survived, and still stands today, but the rest of the land became building lots for new houses. The new street was named in honor of Chapin, and was developed around the same time as Williston Street, which runs parallel to Chapin Street on land once owned by merchant Nathan B. Williston. Both streets featured ornate, Queen Anne-style homes, most of which were completed by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. A streetcar line was also built on the street in the 1890s, although this apparently happened after the first photo was taken.

The first photo shows a few people walking along an otherwise quiet residential street. In the foreground, three women walk arm-in-arm along the sidewalk, while a man walks further in the distance. On the left side of the street, a boy appears to be sitting on some sort of a bicycle, and far in the distance a pair of horses are harnessed to a wagon. In the distance, beyond the newly-built homes, is the northern slope of Mount Wantastiquet, which forms a scenic backdrop for much of downtown Brattleboro.

Today, most of the houses are hidden by trees from this view, but all of the ones from the first photo appear to still be standing. Chapin Street remains a well-preserved example of a late 19th century middle class neighborhood, and the houses still retain their decorative exterior designs with multi-colored paint schemes. The street itself has changed somewhat over the years, though. The trolley tracks have come and gone, the street has been widened and paved, and the sidewalk on the left is gone, but overall the scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo.

Dr. Paul H. Larose House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 200 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Indian Orchard’s growth in the late 19th century was largely independent from the rest of Springfield, and it became largely a working-class factory village, with large numbers of immigrant laborers. This contrasted with the rest of the city, which had an economy that was based primarily on insurance, banking, and skilled manufacturing, and as a result, Indian Orchard never had significant numbers of large, elegant houses like the ones in McKnight, Forest Park, and other upscale neighborhoods. Instead, Indian Orchard’s housing stock consisted mainly of factory tenements and small, single-family homes. However, this house on Main Street was one of the exceptions, and was built in 1898 with a Queen Anne style that reflected the design of contemporary houses in McKnight and elsewhere in the city.

The house was originally owned by Dr. Paul H. Larose, a physician who, like many other Indian Orchard residents of the era, was a French-Canadian immigrant. Dr. Larose was an 1892 graduate of Laval University in Quebec, and he moved to the United States soon after, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1898. He moved into this house around the same time and, like many other physicians of the era, he practiced medicine out of an office here in his home. Around 1899, he married his wife Alexina, who was also a French-Canadian immigrant. However, the couple only lived here for a few years before Larose’s sudden death from heart disease in 1901, at the age of 31.

The house was subsequently owned by Napoleon Bengle, who was another French-Canadian immigrant. He also went by the name Paul, perhaps in an effort to avoid anti-immigrant discrimination, and he worked as a clerk in the nearby clothing store of his brother, Charles Bengle. During the 1910 census, Napoleon was 42 years old and unmarried, and lived here with his widowed mother Louise. The household also included his sister Mary, her husband Louis Roy, their 21-year-old son Louis, and a lodger. The elder Louis Roy was a physician and, like the previous owner of the house, also had his office here in the house.

By about 1915, this house had changed hands again and was owned by Joseph Ratell, a barber who was, of all things, also an undertaker. According to he 1915 directory, he had a barber shop here in this house, and worked as an undertaker at 119 Main Street. However, by the end of the decade, Ratell was evidently performing both of these jobs here in this house, where he lived with his son Ernest, plus Ernest’s wife Lena and their daughter Loretta. Ernest worked for his father as an embalmer and, after Joseph’s death in 1929, he continued to operate the funeral home here in this house.

Ernest and Lena were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, along with Loretta and their younger daughter Rita, and Ernest continued to run the funeral home until his death in 1947. Very little has changed since then, and the Ratell Funeral Home is still located here in this house. Now over 100 years old, it is perhaps one of the oldest businesses in the city that is still housed in the same building. As the two photos show, the house itself has not changed too much over time, aside from the one-story addition on the right and the wheelchair ramp on the front, and it still stands as one of the finest 19th century homes in Indian Orchard.

Edmund J. Gendreau Block, Springfield, Mass

The commercial block at 176 Main Street in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This three-story, mixed-use building was built around 1894, and was originally owned by Edmund J. Gendreau, whose name still appears at the top of the photo. Born in Quebec, Gendreau came to the United States in 1873 when he was about 20 years old, and he subsequently settled here in Indian Orchard, which had a large French-Canadian population at the time. The 1880 city directory shows him working as a store clerk, but by the end of the decade he had gone into business for himself and was running a grocery store on Main Street.

Gendreau moved his store to the ground floor of this building once it was completed, and the 1895 directory shows that he sold dry goods, groceries, boots, and shoes here. The upper two floors had a total of four apartments, and Gendreau lived in one of them with his wife Alida and several of their children. During the 1910 census, for example, they were living here with their son Joseph and two daughters, Anna and Corrine, plus Joseph’s wife Albina and Corrine’s husband, Louis Jacques. At the time, Joseph was working as a clerk in a grocery store and Louis was a painter, while Edmund appears to have changed careers and opened a real estate office here in the building.

Edmund lived here in this building until his death in 1930, and the property was still owned by his family when the first photo was taken nearly a decade later. The 1940 census shows Joseph and Albina still living here, with their daughter Alice, her husband, Donald Viens, and their four children. Joseph’s brother Wilfred also lived in an apartment here in this building, along with his wife Louise, their daughter and son-in-law, and three grandchildren. Since then, the building has not significantly changed, aside from the loss of the porches on the right side, and it remains a well-preserved example of a late 19th century commercial block. Many of the surrounding buildings are also still standing, except for the one to the left of it, which was evidently either demolished or trimmed down to one story.

Casper Ranger House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 507 Appleton Street, at the corner of Sycamore Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house in 2017:

This elegant Queen Anne-style house was built around 1890, and was the home of Casper Ranger, a prominent local contractor. Born in 1850 in the French city of Mulhouse, Ranger came to the United States with his parents when he was six. He grew up in the Holyoke area, and apprenticed as a carpenter before becoming a workman and, later, a foreman for Holyoke builder Watson Ely. During this time, Ranger was involved in projects such as the construction of City Hall and the Opera House, but in 1877 he left Ely’s company and went into business for himself.

Ranger would later establish both the Casper Ranger Lumber Company and the Casper Ranger Construction Company, and he played an important role in Holyoke’s development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A 1917 biographical sketch estimated that his companies had built 70 percent of all the mill buildings in Holyoke, and he also built mills and commercial buildings in Springfield, many of the buildings on the campus of Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, and several mansions in Holyoke. These included his own house here on Appleton Street, which had a highly ornate, eclectic Queen Anne design and, as the first photo shows, enjoyed a prominent location overlooking the city.

Ranger and his first wife Katherine had nine children, six of whom lived to adulthood. However, Katherine died in 1886 at the age of 39, and the following year he remarried to Ellen E. McDonnell. They moved into this house several years after their marriage, and they had three more children of their own. The 1900 census shows a crowded house, with the Rangers living here with seven children plus a servant, although by the 1910 census there were just three children living here with them, along with two servants. Casper died in 1912, and Ellen remained here for about five more years, before moving to Brookline in 1917.

The house was subsequently sold to the Holy Cross Church, and served as the rectory until around 1940, when it became a parish hall. Today, it is no longer owned by the church, but its exterior has remained well-preserved over the years, with few noticeable changes aside from a shortened chimney. The surroundings have changed somewhat, though, and the Holyoke skyline is hidden by trees. However, probably the most notable change in the foreground is the small park, located in the triangle of land between Suffolk, Appleton, and Sycamore Streets. Once known as Ranger Park, it is now the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza, and includes a granite bust of Kennedy, which is visible on the left side of the photo.

George P. Dickinson House, Northampton, Mass

The house at 211 Elm Street in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The house in 2017:

This Queen Anne-style house was built around 1879-1880, and was designed by Eugene C. Gardner, a prominent local architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally from Ashfield, Massachusetts, he began his career as an architect here in Northampton in the 1860s, although he moved to Springfield in 1868. His subsequent works were predominantly in and around Springfield, although he continued to design homes, factories, and other buildings here in Northampton. Perhaps his most notable work was the Grove Hill Mansion in the neighborhood of Leeds, and this house here on Elm Street was, in some ways, a scaled-down version of the large, highly ornate Leeds house, which was built around the same time.

This Elm Street house was originally the home of George P. Dickinson, the treasurer of the Northampton Gas Light Company. He was living here when the first photo was taken around 1894, but he died in 1897, and the house was later owned by Charles A. Clark, a teller for the First National Bank. He and his wife Katherine were married in 1897, and by the 1900 census they were living here in this house with their two young children, Charles and Katherine, plus a 20-year-old, Irish-born nurse, Mariah Brennan. The Clarks would have two more children, Joseph and Virginia, by the next census, and they continued to live here for many years. However, Charles died around 1920, and the rest of the family moved out by about 1924.

In the ensuing years, the house had a variety of owners, including funeral director Oscar F. Ely in the 1920s, and physician Benjamin F. Janes in the 1930s. At some point, though, the house was converted into apartments. This probably happened in the 1940s, because city directories in the late 1940s show a number of people living at this address, all with different last names. Gardner’s original exterior design of the house has also since been altered, including the enclosed area on the right side of the front porch, the removal of the second-story balcony above the front porch, and alterations to the third-story windows. Overall, though, the house still stands as one of many upscale 19th century homes on Elm Street, and it is now part of the Elm Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.