Hotel Kimball, Springfield, Mass

The Hotel Kimball, seen from the Apremont Triangle at the corner of Pearl and Bridge Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

The Hotel Kimball is one of the most historically-significant early 20th century buildings in Springfield. It was opened in 1911, at a time when the city was at its peak of prosperity as a major commercial and manufacturing center, and it was regarded as the finest hotel in the city. It was constructed at a cost of $1 million – about $27 million today – and featured a Renaissance Revival exterior that was the work of architect Albert Winslow Cobb. On the interior, it originally included 309 guest rooms, a dining room that could seat 450 people, and the largest ballroom in the area.

An advertisement in the 1912 city directory declared the Hotel Kimball to be “A Modern Metropolitan Hotel Unexcelled in New England. Affording 500 Guests Every Comfort, Convenience and Safety.” The ad also provided the room rates, which started at $1.50 ($40 today) for “Rooms with use of Bath.” This presumably meant a communal bathroom, because “Rooms with Shower Bath” started at $2 ($53 today), while “Rooms with Bath” would cost a traveler $2.50 and up ($66 today). However, the most expensive option was “Suites of Parlor, Chamber and Bath,” which started at $5.50, or $144 today.

Aside from its importance as the city’s finest early 20th century hotel, the Hotel Kimball was also significant as the home of one of the country’s first commercial radio stations. Radio broadcasting was still in its infancy in 1921, when WBZ was licensed to Westinghouse. It transmitted from the Westinghouse facility on Page Boulevard, but in 1922 the station opened its studios here in the Hotel Kimball. The station remained here until 1931, when it relocated to Boston, but this building continued to be used by its affiliate station, WBZA, which served the Springfield market during the mid-20th century.

In the meantime, the Hotel Kimball was significantly expanded in 1923, with a large addition that is visible in the distance on the left side of both photos. It would remain an important hotel for many years, and attracted a number of prominent guests during this time, including presidents Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy. Other celebrity visitors included Babe Ruth, who stayed here in the 1920s and 1930s along with the rest of his Yankees teammates, prior to their exhibition games against the minor league Springfield Ponies.

In addition to its popularity with visitors to Springfield, the Hotel Kimball also housed a number of long-term residents. The 1930 census, for example, lists 52 residents of the hotel. These included at least eight hotel maids and housekeepers, plus the hotel manager and his family. There were also a few other middle class residents, such as an accountant, an engineer, and several salesmen, but most were members of Springfield’s upper class, with professions that included a physician, several attorneys, a banker, and a number of business executives. The monthly rents ranged from about $50 to $475 (about $760 to $7,200 today), but one resident was also listed as having a rent of $10,000 – an implausibly-high number that must have been an error.

Of these residents who lived here in 1930, the most prominent was Frederick H. Gillett, a politician who was then serving in the U.S. Senate. Born in Westfield in 1851, Gillett began practicing law in Springfield in 1877, and in 1892 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served in the House for 32 years, from 1893 to 1925, and he was also the Speaker of the House from 1919 until 1925, when he was elected to the Senate. He went on to serve one term in the Senate, from 1925 to 1931, and then retired from politics. Throughout much of his political career, Gillett lived here at the Hotel Kimball. He was here as early as 1912, just a year after it opened, and he would remain here until at least the early 1930s, although he may have lived here until his death in 1935.

During the 1940 census, which was done only a year or two after the first photo was taken, there were a total of 38 residents living here. There appears to have been more middle class workers than in 1930, with occupations such as an accountant, a mechanic, a clerk, a nurse, an electrician, and a few salesmen, in addition to five hotel employees who lived here. However, there were still a number of wealthy residents living at the hotel, including three attorneys and a few business owners.

The 1940 census enumerator not include their monthly rent, but their salaries are listed, which provides valuable insight. Most of the hotel maids earned $703 per year ($12,700 today), and the middle class workers such as the electrician, mechanic, and nurse all made a little over $1,000 ($18,000 today). The wealthier residents earned between $3,000 and $5,000 ($54,000-$90,000 today), and any incomes over $5,000 were recorded as “$5,000+” on the census. This was the case for two Kimball Hotel residents, who each earned the modern equivalent of over $90,000: John Haggerty, whose occupation was listed as “electrotypes” for a publishing company, and Chester McGown, the president of American International College.

Around the early 1950s, the hotel was acquired by Sheraton, which had been founded in 1937 in Springfield. This property became the Sheraton-Kimball Hotel, and it was declared to be “The Leading Hotel in Western Mass.” in a 1955 directory. The advertisement went on to list its “Town Room – Coffee Shop (Excellent food, Superb Service) Pickwick Cocktail Lounge (Entertainment Nightly),” and it also mentioned how the hotel specialized in wedding receptions and private parties.

However, despite this glowing description of the hotel, the mid-20th century was a difficult time for grand downtown hotels across the country, as interstate highways and suburban motels began changing the way Americans traveled. The Sheraton-Kimball closed by the early 1960s, but the building avoided demolition. Instead, it was converted into apartments, and it was renamed the Kimball Towers. Then, in 1985 it was converted into condominiums, with a total of 132 units. Today, it is still in use as a condominium building, with few exterior changes since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago. It remains an important downtown landmark, and it forms the centerpiece of the Apremont Triangle Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Hendrie Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Hendrie Hall, on Elm Street between Temple and College Streets in New Haven, around 1910-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2018:

Built in 1894 and expanded in 1900, Hendrie Hall was originally the home of Yale Law School. The school had previously been located a few blocks away, on the third floor of the New Haven County Courthouse, but by the early 1890s the school was looking to build a permanent facility on the Yale campus. This became a reality in large part thanks to contributions from John William Hendrie, a Yale graduate and wealthy California real estate magnate who gave a total of $65,000 toward the construction of the building. As a result, the building was named in his honor.

The Yale Law School remained here for nearly 40 years, and during this time its faculty included William Howard Taft. He became a law professor here at the end of his presidency in 1913, and he held the position until 1921, when he was appointed chief justice of the United States. Notable graduates who attended law school here in this building included U. S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. (1927), Senators Raymond E. Baldwin (1921), Estes Kefauver (1927), Augustine Lonergan (1902),and Brien McMahon (1927), Supreme Court justice Sherman Minton (1916), Philippines president Jose P. Laurel (1920), and a number of other prominent politicians, judges, and attorneys.

In 1931, the school left this building and moved to its current location in the Sterling Law Building. However, Yale has put Hendrie Hall to other uses over the years, and it is currently used by the Yale School of Music. Not much has changed in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken a century ago, but it recently underwent major interior renovations, which were completed in 2017.

United Illuminating Company Building, New Haven, Connecticut

The United Illuminating Company Building, at the northwest corner of Temple and Crown Streets in New Haven, around 1910-1916. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Randall Photographic Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The building in 2018:

The history of the United Illuminating Company dates back to 1881, when the New Haven Electric Lighting Company was established, in the early years of electricity in America. Two years later, it was reorganized as as the New Haven Electric Company, and then in 1899 it became the United Illuminating Company, with a name that reflected the increasingly regional scope of the company. Around 1910, the company moved into this new headquarters, which was designed by the New Haven architectural firm of Foote & Townsend. The exterior features a distinctive Renaissance Revival-style design, and makes extensive use of marble and terra cotta.

The building was originally only two stories in height, as shown in the first photo. However, it was expanded around 1916, with the addition of a third floor and a wing on the right side. These additions maintained the same architectural style, although the third floor gave it a somewhat unusual appearance, since the old cornice above the second floor is significantly larger than the 1916 cornice at the top of the building. The United Illuminating Company would remain here for several more decades, but in 1940 it relocated its offices to a much larger, newly-completed building just a block south of here at 80 Temple Street. This building was subsequently converted into a bank, and was the home of several different banks throughout much of the second half of the 20th century.

Today, much of the surrounding area has changed in the century since the first photo was taken, but this building has remained well-preserved. The only significant difference in its appearance is the 1916 addition, and this was added only a few years after the first photo was taken. As a result, it stands as an important architectural landmark in downtown New Haven, where its highly ornate exterior provides a sharp contrast to the modernist buildings and parking garages that now surround it. In addition, it is a contributing property in the Chapel Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Hagyard Store, Lenox, Mass

The Hagyard Store at the corner of Main and Housatonic Streets in Lenox, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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Built in 1910, this building at the center of Lenox was the home of Frank C. Hagyard’s drugstore. When the first photo was taken, Lenox was a popular resort destination for the wealthy, and the drugstore would have catered to many of these summer visitors. Like some of Lenox’s other prominent buildings of the era, it was designed by Pittsfield architect George C. Harding, and it reflects the Renaissance Revival style that was popular at the time.

More than a century later, the former drugstore building is still standing. With modern air conditioning, large awnings are no longer needed over the windows to keep the upper floors cool, but otherwise the exterior does not look much different from its appearance in the 1910s. There is no longer a drugstore on the first floor, but the building now houses, among other things, the Lenox Chamber of Commerce.

Berkshire County Savings Bank, Pittsfield, Mass

The Berkshire County Savings Bank building, at the northeast corner of North and East Streets in Pittsfield, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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It is rare for the same building to house the same company in both the “then” and “now” photos, but Berkshire Bank has been located in this building since its completion in 1896. The bank itself is actually much older, having been established in Pittsfield in 1846 as the Berkshire County Savings Bank. Fifty years later, the bank moved into this building at Park Square, in a prominent location at the corner of North and East Streets. The six-story Renaissance Revival building was designed by Boston architect Francis R. Allen, and overlooks the center of the city, directly adjacent to the First Church on the right.

More than 170 years after it was founded, the bank’s name has since been simplified to Berkshire Bank. After a series of mergers, it is now the largest bank based in Western Massachusetts, but it is still based out of this building. The building itself still retains its original appearance, although it has grown over the years. At some point it was expanded to the left along the North Street side, replacing the smaller building in the first photo and making the building roughly square. The addition is barely noticeable at first glance, though, and seamlessly blends in with the original section.

There have been even fewer changes to the First Church on the right. This Gothic church was completed in 1853, and was designed by prominent architect Leopold Eidlitz. Both the church and the bank building are among the many historic 19the century buildings around Park Square, and they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Park Square Historic District.

Berkshire County Courthouse, Pittsfield, Mass

The Berkshire County Courthouse at Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The courthouse in 2016:

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For many years, the town of Lenox was the county seat of Berkshire County. However, by the middle of the 19th century, Pittsfield’s population growth had dramatically outpaced its small neighbor to the south, and in 1868 the county government shifted to Pittsfield. The old courthouse eventually became the Lenox Library, and still stands today, and a new courthouse was built here on East Street in Pittsfield, facing Park Square.

The courthouse was completed in 1871, and was designed by Boston-based architect Louis Weissbein. Its exterior was constructed of marble quarried from nearby Sheffield, and it originally had a mansard roof, giving it a distinctive Second Empire appearance. However, the courthouse was later renovated and a new roof was added, and an annex was built in the rear of the building. Otherwise, though, the building’s exterior looks much the same as it did over a century ago, and it is still in use as a county courthouse. In 1975, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Park Square Historic District.