Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Main Street from near the corner of Dwight Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows a row of late 19th century buildings along the east side of Main Street, looking north from near Dwight Street, toward Mosher Street. The buildings represent a mix of architectural styles, but the one that stands out the most is the large, highly ornate Romanesque-style Whiting Street Building in the center of the photo. It was built in 1885 at 32 Main Street, and was owned by the estate of Whiting Street, a prominent Northampton philanthropist who had died a few years earlier in 1878. Around the same time, he also became the namesake of the Whiting Street Reservoir, which opened at the base of Mount Tom in 1888, on land that Street had once owned.

One of the early tenants of the Whiting Street Building was the American Pad and Paper Company, which had been established here in Holyoke in 1888 by Thomas W. Holley. The company, which later came to be known as Ampad, built its business around purchasing scraps from the city’s many paper mills, which were then bound into notebooks and sold at competitive prices. In the process, Holley is said to have invented the first legal pad, a development that, if true, likely would have occurred here in this building.

Early on, American Pad and Paper occupied three rooms here at 32 Main Street, and eventually expanded to eight rooms. The company was here when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, but around 1895 it moved into a building of its own, at the corner of Appleton and Winter Streets. Over the years, Ampad would go on to become a major producer of pads and other office supplies, and it ultimately outlived nearly all of Holyoke’s other paper mills. The company is still in business today, although not in Holyoke. It is now headquartered in Texas, and it closed its last Holyoke facility in 2005.

In the meantime, this building here on Main Street was subsequently occupied by another writing pad company, the Whiting Street Ruling and Stationery Company. Around 1901, it was renamed the Affleck Ruling and Stationery Company, and was described in a 1905 advertisement in the city directory as “Manufacturers Paper, Pads and Tablets, Paper Rulers and Printers. Mourning Cards and Fine Cards for Engravers.” The company remained here until around 1907, but by the following year it had moved to a new location at 18 North Bridge Street.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, none of the buildings from that scene are still standing. The one on the far right was likely the first to go, and was replaced by the present-day building at some point during the early or mid-20th century. Most of the other buildings survived until at least the 1970s, although the Whiting Street Building was destroyed in a fire in 1977. The ones further in the distance were still standing a year later, when they were inventoried as part of the state’s MACRIS database of historic resources, but they have since been demolished, leaving only vacant lots where they once stood.

Connecticut River Railroad Station, Holyoke, Mass

The Connecticut River Railroad station, seen from the corner of Bowers and Mosher Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Railroads came to Holyoke in 1845, when the Connecticut River Railroad opened from Springfield to Northampton. This coincided with the area’s development into a major industrial center, and within a few years the canal system was completed and the first few mills were operational. The first passenger station was a small wood-frame building at the corner of Main and Dwight Streets, near where the modern Amtrak station is located, and it remained in use for about 40 years. However, Holyoke’s population grew exponentially during this time, from around 3,200 in the 1850 census, to over 21,000 by 1880, and the original station had become inadequate for the needs of the city.

In 1885, the Connecticut River Railroad opened a new passenger station here on the east side of the tracks, bounded by Mosher, Bowers, and Lyman Streets. It was designed by Henry H. Richardson, who was one of the most important American architects of the 19th century, and it was one of the many railroad stations that he designed across the state during the early 1880s. Richardson was a pioneer of Romanesque Revival style architecture, and his station incorporated many common elements, including the rough-faced granite exterior, the brownstone trim, a complex roofline, and arched windows.

On the interior, the central part of the station included the main waiting room, which occupied about half of the ground floor. There was also a separate ladies’ waiting room, and a room that, on the original floor plans, was labeled “Emigrant’s Room.” The latter was evidently used to screen and administer smallpox vaccinations to incoming immigrants, who comprised a large portion of Holyoke’s population during this time. Other facilities inside the building included a baggage room, a ticket office, and a telegraph office, along with several restrooms.

The first photo was taken around 1892, only a few years after the station was completed, and it shows the view from the southeast, from the corner of Bowers and Mosher Streets. About a year later, in 1893, the Connecticut River Railroad was acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad, and the station became part of an extensive rail network that spread across northern New England. During this time, the station continued to play an important role as the point of arrival for many immigrants to Holyoke, including large numbers of French-Canadians who traveled south along the railroad from Quebec, in search of jobs in the factories here.

The station remained in use throughout the first half of the 20th century. However, Holyoke’s economy began to decline by the middle of the century, with many of the factories closing or relocating. Passenger rail travel suffered as well, both here in Holyoke and in the country as a whole. Cars and airplanes began replacing trains, and ridership continued to decline. The station closed in 1965, and passenger service on the line ended just a year later.

Following its closure, the former station was converted into an auto parts store, and at some point the platforms were enclosed on the southern side of the building. Passenger service would not return to Holyoke until 2015, after Amtrak’s Vermonter was rerouted through the city, but the plans did not involve restoration of the old station. Instead, a new one, consisting of just a single covered platform, opened a little to the south of here, near where the original 1845 station had stood. In the meantime, the old station has been vacant since at least the early 2000s. It is currently owned by Holyoke Gas and Electric, and has been the subject of various redevelopment proposals, although none of these have begun yet.

Front Steps, First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

A group of children sitting on the front steps of the First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

As discussed in the previous post, the First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, and moved into this newly-completed Romanesque Revival-style building two years later. It was built of contrasting granite and brownstone blocks, and had two front entrances on the Chestnut Street side. This particular scene shows the northwestern entrance, which is on the right side of the building when facing it from the street, and it provides good detail of the rough-faced blocks that make up the exterior of the building.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the church was completed, and shows a group of five young children sitting on the front steps. Although the children are unidentified, their parents likely worked in some of the many factories in Holyoke, and they themselves probably ended up working in the factories too. Some may have even attended this church for the rest of their lives, since the building was owned by the First Presbyterian Church for more than a century after the photo was taken.

Today, around 125 years later, not much has changed in this scene. The church is still standing, and this entrance has seen only minor changes, such as a new door and the addition of railings on the steps. The building is a good example of Romanesque Revival architecture, and it is one of many historic 19th century churches in Holyoke. Although the original congregation sold it in 2002, is still in use as a church, and is now the home of the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

The First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

The First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, with an initial membership of 77 people. James M. Craig was ordained as the first pastor, and the congregation worshipped in several different locations over the next two years. However, the church soon outgrew its temporary quarters, and in 1887 it acquired this property, at the corner of Chestnut and Cabot Streets. Construction of the church building began in September, and the first services were held here less than a year later, in August 1888. It was formally dedicated on March 5, 1889, in a ceremony that included a sermon by the Reverend John Hall, the prominent pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Contemporary descriptions of the church do not mention an architect, but it features a Romanesque Revival-style design, which was popular for churches of this period. The exterior was built primarily of granite, but it also included contrasting brownstone trim that gave it a polychromatic appearance. The Chestnut Street facade, which is seen here in this view, was almost symmetrical, except for the different-sized turrets on the corners. Like most other Romanesque churches, it also incorporates rounded arches, stained glass, and tall, narrow windows into its design.

The congregation continued to grow over the next few decades, and by the early 20th century it had over 700 members. They would worship here throughout the rest of the century, although during this time the exterior of building was altered, including the removal of the upper part of the roof, and the shortening of the turret on the right side. Overall, though, the building survives as a good example of Romanesque Revival-style architecture, and it is one of many historic late 19th century church buildings that still stand in Holyoke. However, it no longer houses its original Presbyterian congregation. The property was sold in 2002, and it is now occupied by the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

Essex County Courthouses, Salem, Mass

The courthouses on Federal Street in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

This block of Federal Street features four generations of Essex County courthouses, all lined up next to each other on the north side of the street. They represent a wide variety of architectural styles, and the two oldest are seen here in this view. The older of these is the granite, Greek Revival-style courthouse on the right side, which was completed in 1841. It was designed by noted architect Richard Bond, who was responsible for several other important buildings in Salem, including City Hall and the nearby Tabernacle Congregational Church. As built, the interior had a courtroom on the upper floor, with county offices on the lower floor, although this later changed as more courthouses were built here.

The second courthouse was built just 20 years later, but with architecture that sharply contrasts with that of its neighbor. Completed in 1862, it featured a brick exterior with an Italianate design, and was the work of architect Enoch Fuller. However, the exterior was heavily modified from 1887 to 1889, including a new wing on the rear of the building, a tower on the right side of this addition, and a new three-story entryway on the front of the building. Although similar to the original design of the courthouse, these additions had more of a Romanesque appearance, which gave the building an unusual blend of architectural styles.

The third courthouse is barely visible on the far left side of both photos. It was completed in 1909, shortly before the first photo was taken, and it has since been joined by a fourth courthouse on the other side of it, which opened in 2012. All four of the buildings are still standing, although the two oldest have been vacant since the new courthouse was completed. Neither have seen any significant exterior changes since the first photo was taken more than a century ago, and both are part of the Federal Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. However, there are still no definite redevelopment plans for the buildings, and the 1841 courthouse was damaged by a fire in May 2018, less than a year after the second photo was taken.

Brewer Building, Springfield, Mass

The Brewer Building at 119-125 State Street, near the corner of Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This four-story commercial block was built in 1893, and featured a distinct Romanesque architectural style, with features such as rounded arches, sandstone trim, and a castle-like turret on the left side. It was owned by businessman and state legislator Edward S. Brewer, and it housed a variety of commercial tenants over the years, with shops on the ground floor and professional offices on the upper floors. During the early 20th century, these included an optician, watchmaker, barber, tailor, jeweler, dentist, and an insurance company.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, tenants included the Surprise Barber Shop on the left side of the ground floor, Dean’s Music House in the storefront just to the left of the arch, and A. I. Blitz Furrier on the second floor. However, just a few years later the building was badly damaged by a fire in 1945. It was not a total loss, but the two upper floors were removed, resulting in its current appearance. The facade was later covered in panels to match mid-20th century architectural trends, although these were removed in 1981 and the exterior was restored. Today, despite the loss of its upper floors, the building still has some resemblance to its 19th century appearance, and even its original outline is still visible on the walls of the neighboring Masonic Building.