Westfield Normal School, Westfield, Mass

The Westfield Normal School on Court Street in Westfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1891).

The building in 2018, which is now used as Westfield City Hall:

The mid-19th century saw the development of public normal schools, which were colleges that focused on training public school teachers. Here in Massachusetts, a system of normal schools was pioneered by education reformer Horace Mann, who opened ones in Lexington and Barre in 1839, and in Bridgewater a year later. The Bridgewater school has remained there ever since, and it is now Bridgewater State University, but the other two schools soon relocated. The Lexington Normal School moved to Newton in 1843 and later to Framingham, becoming the precursor to Framingham State University, and the Barre Normal School came to Westfield in 1844, eventually becoming Westfield State University.

Here in Westfield, the school’s first long-term home was a building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, which was completed in 1846. This building was used throughout much of the 19th century, but by the late 1880s it had become too small for the school’s growing programs. As a result, in 1889 the state purchased this lot on Court Street, and later that year construction began on a new, much larger building. It was originally expected to be completed in time for the fall of 1891, but construction delays postponed its opening until April 1892. The first photo was probably taken around this same time, as the small leaves on the trees seem to suggest that it is either late April or early May.

The building was designed by the noted Boston firm of Hartwell and Richardson, and it featured a Romanesque-style exterior of brick with brownstone trim. Its footprint was L-shaped, with the main section facing Court Street and a wing extending back in the direction of King Street, as seen on the right side of the photo. This wing originally housed the training school, with classrooms for the various grade levels that were taught by the student teachers here. These were accessed via the basement-level doors of the wing, while the main entrances for the normal school itself were at the front of the building.

The state Board of Education, in its annual report published several months before the building opened, provided the following description of the interior:

To the left of the south-west entrance are the zoölogical, botanical, mineralogical and geological laboratories, fitted with appropriate appliances; and to the right of this entrance is the reception room, and beyond a large room for the critic, while across the corridor, which traverses the centre of the L-shaped building, are the large cloak room for women, with toilet room and a teacher’s room.

There are three stairways which carry from the basement up through the building. Two of them are next the entrances for the normal school on the south side. The third is in the L, and leads directly from one of the basement entrances. There is a lift near this staircase.

On the second floor there are three rooms: toward the east there are recitation rooms, with a women’s retiring and toilet room, and a book store-room; toward the west a recitation room, the principal’s room, the reading-room and book alcove; and in the center part of the building the large school-room sixty feet square.

On the third floor is a completely fitted chemical laboratory, with a teachers’ room, weighing-room, and a supply room opening out of it; the apparatus room and physical laboratory, fully equipped; and between these two laboratories, so that it can be used from either, a lecture room with raised tiers of seats.

Over the large school-room is a series of studios, and at the western end of the building are a recitation room, a cast room and a drawing room. Above the two end portions there are unfinished attics.

In the basement are the janitor’s room, men’s coat-room and toilet; the gymnasium with the men’s dressing-room and baths on the one side, and on the other women’s bath-rooms, with a staircase leading up to the women’s toilet room above; space for coal and boilers, and toward the east, play and toilet rooms for girls and boys, and a large work room.

Overall, the building was designed with a capacity of 175 normal school students, plus 125 children in the training school. A subsequent Board of Education annual report, covering the 1892-1893 school year – this building’s first full year in use – indicates that it was not quite at capacity, but it was close. During that year, it had a total of 155 students, including 27 who graduated at the end of the year. At the time, the student body was still overwhelmingly female, with only six men enrolled in the school and just one in the graduating class.

The report also provides interesting demographic information about the students. Of the 155 students, 26 had prior teaching experience, and 78 were receiving some sort of financial aid from the state. The vast majority were from Massachusetts, mostly from the four western counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, but there were also some out-of-state students, including five from Vermont, four from Connecticut, two each from New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and one each from Washington D.C., Virginia, Tennessee, and Nebraska.

Another table in the report classified students based on their fathers’ occupations. The most common was farmer (26), followed by skilled workmen (15), factory officials (8), merchants (8), unskilled workmen (4), manufacturers (2), and professional men (2). However, perhaps the most surprising information, to modern audiences, might be the prior education of students here at the normal school. Of 112 students recorded on the table, only 32 had graduated from a high school or academy. Another 40 attended high school without graduating, and 17 had attended either district or grammar schools, evidently without any high school education at all.

At the time, the school had nine faculty members, in addition to four elementary teachers in the training school, and many of them taught a rather eclectic mix of courses. For example, Elvira Carter taught geography, English literature, and algebra; Frances C. Gaylord taught geometry, grammar, history, and composition; and Laura C. Harding was evidently a sort of Renaissance woman, teaching geometry, astronomy, bookkeeping, reading, vocal music, French, and composition. The principal, James C. Greenough, was also a classroom teacher, and his courses consisted of psychology, didactics, civil polity, and rhetoric.

Over the next decade, the school would continue to grow with several new buildings. In 1900, the training school was relocated to a newly-completed building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, on the site of the original 1846 normal school building. With about 650 elementary-aged students, this meant a substantial increase in the size of the training school, and it also opened up space here in the main building on Court Street. Then, in 1903, the school opened a new dormitory, Dickinson Hall. It was located in the rear of the Court Street property, along King Street, and it could house up to 75 students.

The enrollment at the normal school continued to grow in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s it had about 200 students. By this point, a high school diploma was required for admission, and applicants also had to be in good physical condition, at least 16 years of age, and of good moral character. Starting in 1912, only women were admitted to the school, and it would not become coeducational again until 1938. At the time, tuition and textbooks were free for Massachusetts residents, but out-of-state students had to pay $25 per semester, equivalent to about $380 today. Students who lived on campus in Dickinson Hall had to pay $250 per year for room and board, or about $3,800 today.

For most of its early history, the school offered a two-year program for future teachers, but in 1928 it was expanded to three years, and then in 1931 to four years for those who would teach in junior high schools. In 1932, the school was renamed the Westfield State Teachers College, and two years later it began conferring bachelor of science degrees in education. By the early 1940s, though, the school was no longer free for in-state students. Tuition for Massachusetts residents was $75 for the 1941-1942 school year, and $300 for out-of-state students. Textbooks were $35 per year, and a dormitory room was $60 per year, plus about $4.50 per week for meals. In total, an in-state student who lived on campus paid about $300 per year, or nearly $5,300 today.

This building here on Court Street remained in use until 1956, when the growing college moved to its present-day campus on Western Avenue, about two miles to the west of here. It subsequently expanded its programs beyond just training teachers, and it has since gone through several more name changes, becoming the State College at Westfield, Westfield State College, and finally Westfield State University in 2010. Its enrollment has also grown significantly during this time, with nearly 4,900 undergraduate students in 31 different programs.

In the meantime, the old building here on Court Street was sold to the city of Westfield, and it was converted into a new city hall. It replaced an older building on Broad Street, which had been in use by the municipal government since 1837. This project included major renovations to the interior of the old school, but the exterior remained largely unaltered. From this angle, the only visible change to the building was the addition of a brick vault on the right side. It is three stories in height and measures about 16 feet by 17 feet, but it is mostly hidden from view behind the trees in the present-day photo.

The building was renovated at a cost of $150,000, and the work was completed by 1959. Along with housing the city government, the building was also occupied by the Westfield District Court, which was located on the left side. The court later moved into its own facilities, but this building continues to be used as city hall, with hardly any difference in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken more than 125 years ago. In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2013 it also became a contributing property in the Westfield Center Historic District.

Union Station, Springfield, Mass (2)

The old Union Station in Springfield, seen from near the corner of Lyman and Chestnut Streets around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows Union Station as it appeared about 10 to 20 years after its completion, as seen looking west from near Chestnut Street. The photo in a previous post shows the south side of the station from Lyman Street, but this view provides a more elevated look at the station, showing both the north and south sides, along with the platforms in between. Further in the distance, beyond the station on Main Street, are two of the city’s leading hotels: the Massasoit House on the far left at the end of Lyman Street, and Cooley’s Hotel, which can be seen in the center of the photo.

This area has been the site of Springfield’s primary railroad station since 1839, when the Western Railroad arrived, linking Springfield with Worcester and Boston. The original station, which was located on the west side of Main Street, burned in 1851, and the following year it was replaced by a brick and iron, shed-like station on the same spot. This station served for most of the second half of the 19th century, but it began to cause problems as the city grew in population and as rail traffic increased. Because the station was located at street level, trains had to cross directly over Main Street, leading to significant delays for traffic on the street. The station itself was also becoming insufficient for the number of trains that passed through here, and by the late 1860s there were already calls for a new station and elevated tracks through downtown Springfield.

In 1869, the state legislature authorized such a project, but it would take another 20 years before it was actually finished, thanks to an impasse between the city government and the Boston & Albany Railroad, which was the successor to the old Western Railroad. This dispute centered around which side was responsible for paying to raise the tracks and lower the grade of Main Street, and it ultimately did not get resolved until 1888, when the railroad agreed to spend around $200,000 to raise the tracks, while the city would spend about $84,000 to lower Main Street by four feet.

This compromise enabled the station project to move forward, and the old station was demolished in the spring of 1889. The new one was completed in July, and it was located on the east side of Main Street, which provided more room for the station. It featured a Romanesque Revival-style design, and the original plans had been the work of noted architect Henry H. Richardson, who designed many of the stations along the Boston & Albany Railroad. He died in 1886, though, and his successor firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge subsequently modified the plans for the Springfield station.

One of these changes proved to be a serious design flaw. Richardson had intended for a single station building, located on the south side, with a large train shed over the tracks. However, the Connecticut River Railroad, which would share the union station with the Boston & Albany and the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroads, objected to this plan, wanting a separate building on the north side. As a result, the finished station consisted of two buildings, each with its own ticket offices and waiting rooms, and four tracks in between them. The smaller northern building, on the right side of this scene, served northbound and westbound travelers, while the larger building on the south side was for those heading southbound and eastbound.

Within less than 20 years, this design was already causing problems as Springfield continued to grow. Having two different station buildings was an inefficient use of space, since it meant redundant facilities such as the waiting rooms. This was also a source of confusion for passengers, who would sometimes find themselves at the wrong ticket office or platform. In addition, the two buildings prevented the railroads from adding new tracks, since the space in between was already filled with four tracks and three platforms.

Aside from practical considerations, the architecture of the building was also obsolete by the early 20th century. Romanesque Revival had been widely popular during the last two decades of the 19th century, particularly for public buildings, and railroad stations were seen as important architectural showcases. They were usually the first thing that a traveler saw in a particular city, so any self-respecting city need a monumental station, in order to give a good first impression to visitors. This may have been the case for Union Station in the 1890s, but Romanesque Revival had fallen out of favor by the next decade, and the new generation of iconic railroad stations – such as Grand Central and Penn Station – began to feature classically-inspired Beaux-Arts designs.

As early as 1906, it was evident that the station was inadequate. That year, the Springfield Republican published an article on the city’s numerous railroad-related problems, observing that “[t]he most important problem as far as the safety and convenience of the public is concerned is the rebuilding of the union station.” In 1921, the newspaper was even more explicit, remarking on how “there seems to be, in fact, a nearly unanimous demand that the structure be cast to the scrapheap,” and four years later it declared that the station was “long execrated for its combination of discomfort, dinginess and danger.”

The station’s demise was hastened by a November 1922 fire that caused about $25,000 in damage to the north building. The fire was considered to be suspicious, but its origins were unclear, with the railroad superintendent simply telling the Republican, “your guess is as good as mine.” The city’s fire chief declared that he found no evidence of arson, although he did not actually inspect the cellar beneath the waiting room, where the fire had apparently started. There were no injuries, and most of the valuables, including mail, packages, and cash, were safely removed by railroad employees and by an off-duty police officer.

Within less than a month of the fire, the railroad had approved the plans for a new station. This replacement would be in approximately the same location, but the entire station would be located on the north side of the tracks. It would be connected to Lyman Street on the south side by way of a tunnel beneath the tracks, and this tunnel would also provide access to the platforms, avoiding the dangers of passengers crossing directly over the busy tracks. Perhaps most significantly, the number of tracks would be increased from four to 11, reducing congestion and delays on the railroad.

Demolition on the old station began in 1925, just 36 years after it was built, and the new Union Station opened the following year. It would remain in use for the next few decades, but passenger rail began to experience a significant decline throughout the country during the post-World War II era. With passenger trains becoming unprofitable for railroads to operate, Amtrak ultimately took control of the country’s passenger rail services in 1971. Two years later, most of Union Station was closed except for the Lyman Street entrance, and a small Amtrak station was built on the south side of the tracks.

Union Station sat empty for many years, and only one of the old station platforms was used for passenger service. However, the building underwent a major restoration in the 2010s, reopening in 2017. It now features a ticket office, waiting area, and retail space in the concourse, along with office space on the upper levels, including the offices of the Peter Pan Bus Lines. Union Station is also the terminus for most of the city’s PVTA bus lines, with 18 bus berths just to the west of the station. In addition to this, the rail traffic here at the station has also increased. Along with a number of daily Amtrak trains, Union Station is also served by the Hartford Line, which opened in 2018 with commuter trains running from Springfield south to New Haven.

The 2018 photo shows this scene about a year after the station reopened. An Amtrak train is visible in the distant center of the photo, consisting of two passenger cars pulled by a P42DC diesel engine. This is the typical setup for most of the Springfield to New Haven Amtrak trains, and the rear car is a converted Metroliner cab car, which allows the train to be operated in either direction without turning the locomotive. Just to the right of the train is Platform C, which was the last part of the station’s renovation project. It was still unfinished when the first photo was taken, but this project – which upgraded the platform to modern accessibility requirements – was finished in January 2020, marking the end of Union Station’s restoration.

Old Post Office, Washington, DC

The Old Post Office, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th Street NW in Washington, DC, around 1909-1923. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2018, now the Trump International Hotel:

This massive Romanesque-style building was constructed between 1892 and 1899, and it was built to house the Washington, D.C. post office. It was the work of architect Willoughby J. Edbrooke, and it consisted of a granite exterior with a steel frame supporting the interior. Its northern facade, seen here facing Pennsylvania Avenue, had a symmetrical design that included a 315-foot clock tower, which made it the second-tallest structure in the city after the Washington Monument.

Although Romanesque-style architecture had been popular for public buildings in the 1880s, it had begun to fall out of fashion in the 1890s. By the time the post office was completed in 1899, architectural trends had shifted away from these medieval castle-like buildings, and its design was essentially obsolete even before the last stone was laid. As a result, the building’s architecture drew heavy criticism, but this was not the only problem with the building. Despite the building’s size, the post office facilities quickly became overcrowded, and much of the workmanship proved to be of poor quality. This was highlighted by an early tragedy that occurred on September 30, 1899, when former postmaster James P. Willett was killed after falling 90 feet down an open elevator shaft that had been insufficiently secured.

As it turned out, the Post Office would only use this building for 15 years before relocating to a new facility near Union Station in 1914. The older building became offices for other government agencies, but by the late 1920s it was in danger of being demolished as part of the Federal Triangle redevelopment project. This plan called for the wholesale demolition of the buildings in the blocks bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, Constitution Avenue to the south, and 15th Street to the west. They were to be replaced by new federal office buildings, and the plan originally included the demolition of the Old Post Office, which stood in the midst of the site. However, the Old Post Office ultimately survived – perhaps because of the perceived folly of tearing down a comparatively new building – and it remained in use as newer federal buildings rose up around it in the 1930s.

The Old Post Office was again threatened by demolition in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but local preservation activists managed to save the building. It was subsequently leased to a private company, which completed a major renovation project in 1983. The former government office building became a mix of retail and office tenants, but the property was never particularly profitable, and it finally closed by the early 2000s.

The building has since undergone another renovation, though, in order to convert it into a hotel. In 2013, the General Services Administration leased the property to Donald Trump, and three years later it reopened as the Trump International Hotel Washington DC. Although he was not yet a presidential candidate when he signed the 60-year lease, Trump’s ownership of the hotel has become a source of controversy. These include conflict of interest concerns over a government official benefiting from a government lease, along with questions about whether it is a violation of the emoluments clause if foreign dignitaries stay at the hotel.

Overall, the Old Post Office has generated many different kinds of controversy in the 120 years since its completion. However, despite criticism of its architecture and workmanship, proposals for various redevelopment projects, and recent questions about presidential ethics, the building has remained a landmark here on Pennsylvania Avenue. The interior has seen many changes over the years, but the exterior has remained remarkably well-preserved since the first photo was taken. Along with the other surrounding buildings, it is now a contributing property in the Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site, which was designated in 1965, encompassing the section of Washington between the Capitol and the White House.

Trinity Methodist Church, Springfield, Mass

Trinity Methodist Church on Bridge Street in Springfield, probably sometime in the 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

Trinity Methodist Church was established in 1844 with about 40 members, many of whom had left the Union Street Methodist Church. The following year, the congregation moved into its first building, which was located on Pynchon Street, across the street from where City Hall is now located. However, as the city grew in the mid-19th century, so did the church membership, and within less than 25 years the Pynchon Street building had become too small for the church.

In 1869, Trinity Methodist relocated to this building here on Bridge Street, as shown in the first photo. Its exterior featured a Romanesque-style design, which was the work of local architectural firm Perkins and Gardner, and it measured 122 feet long and 74 feet wide, with a steeple that rose 185 feet above the street. The entire cost, including the land, was $73,000, which is equivalent to about $1.4 million today. By 1883, the membership had grown to 447 people, and the church also had a Sunday school that was staffed by 38 teachers, and had 377 students.

However, for such a large, elegant church, this site was a rather unusual location, tucked away on a side street with commercial buildings on one side and modest houses on the other. As downtown Springfield continued to grow, the church would become increasingly out of place here on Bridge Street. By the turn of the 20th century, it was the only church on or near Main Street in the mile between Court Square to the south and Memorial Square to the north, with the rest of this corridor becoming almost exclusively commercial.

Around the same time, residents were beginning to move away from the city center. Trolleys, and later automobiles, made it easy for people to live on the outskirts of the city and commute into downtown, and by the mid 20th century many of the downtown churches had followed their parishioners into the suburbs. Among these was Trinity Methodist, which moved out of this building on Bridge Street in the early 1920s, and into a new Neo-Gothic church that still stands on Sumner Avenue, in the city’s Forest Park neighborhood.

The Bridge Street church was demolished in 1922, barely 50 years after its completion, and it was replaced by a three-story commercial block. Named the Trinity Block in recognition of its predecessor, it still stands today, and it is visible on the right side of the 2018 photo. The only other historic building in the present-day scene is the Fuller Block, on the left side of the photo. It was completed in 1887, and both it and the Trinity Block are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Third Congregational Church, New Haven, Connecticut

Third Congregational Church, on Church Street in New Haven, around 1863-1869. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

New Haven’s Third Congregational Church was established in 1826, and was originally comprised of 29 members from the city’s two other congregational churches. They worshiped in temporary quarters on Orange Street for several years, before moving into a new church building in 1829, at the corner of Church and Union Streets. However, less than a decade the congregation lost this building due to financial difficulties, but subsequently built a new one on Court Street in 1841.

Third Congregational moved again in 1856, to this prominent site on Church Street, where it faced the other two congregational churches from across the New Haven Green. It stood directly adjacent to the Exchange Building, a brick, four-story commercial block that is partially visible on the right side of the photo. The Romanesque-style design of the church was the work of noted local architect Sidney Mason Stone, and it was constructed at a total cost of $53,000, which included $16,000 for the land.

This building was used by the church until 1884, when the congregation merged with the United Church on the other side of the Green. Then, in 1890, the former Third Congregational building was converted into the first long-term home of the New Haven Free Public Library, which had previously been housed in the second floor of a building on Chapel Street. Here, the library became an early example of an open stacks layout, where patrons could freely browse through the books. However, this was not necessarily done for philosophical reasons, but rather out of practicality, as the building proved inadequate as a library.

It did not take long for the library to outgrow this building, and in 1906 the city received a gift of $300,000 from Mary E. Ives to build a new library. Construction began in 1908, and it was completed in 1911, at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets. The old church-turned-library was demolished soon after, in order to build the eight-story Second National Bank of New Haven. This building was completed in 1913, and it is still standing today, in the center of the 2018 photo. However, the only building that has survived from the first photo is the Exchange Building, which has remained relatively unchanged on the right side of the scene, at the corner of Church and Chapel Streets.

The Cloister, New Haven, Connecticut

The Cloister, the residence hall of the Book and Snake society, at the corner of Hillhouse Avenue and Grove Street in New Haven, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Book and Snake is one of the many secret societies at Yale, and it was established in 1863 for students at the Yale-affiliated Sheffield Scientific School. In addition to having a meeting hall, the Book and Snake was one of several societies that also built its own residence hall, which was named the Cloister. This highly-ornate brownstone building was the work of architect H. Edwards Ficken, and it was completed in 1888. It was subsequently expanded in 1915, shortly after the first photo was taken, with a matching addition to the rear.

With the advent of Yale’s residential college system in the first half of the 20th century, privately-run dormitories such as the Cloister and the nearby Colony of the Berzelius society, were phased out, and the property was eventually sold to the college. The Colony was later demolished, but the Cloister is still standing, with few exterior changes aside from the 1915 addition. Today, the building is known as Warner House, and it is used for administrative offices, including the Yale College Dean’s Office.