Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Government

The scene in 2014:

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The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.

Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2014 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.

Hampden County Courthouse, Springfield

The Hampden County Courthouse, as seen around 1908 from in front of Old First Church. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same building, sometime around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

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This historic courthouse building was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1874.  However, the three photos show some striking changes to its appearance.  Although the first and second photos were only taken a few years apart, they illustrate the changes that were made very shortly after the 1908 photo was taken.  The building was renovated and expanded, and part of the remodeling included removing the top floor and its distinct dormers.  The result is a much more toned-down version of Richardson’s original design.  Today, the building’s appearance is very similar to what it looked like a century ago, although it now serves as the courthouse for the Hampden County Housing and Juvenile courts; the new county courthouse is barely visible behind and to the right of the 1874 building.

Court Square, Springfield (4)

Taken from the same spot as the previous photo, this 1909 photo shows the old Hampden County Courthouse, the Springfield Institute for Savings building, located where the present courthouse is today. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Panoramic Photographs Collection.

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Compare it with this 2012 photo, taken from approximately the same location:

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The old 1874 courthouse (now the juvenile and housing court) survives largely intact, although the third floor with its Gothic dormers has since been removed, and the Hall of Records in the center of the 1909 photo has been demolished.  The Springfield Institute for Savings building, on the right-hand side of the photo, has also been demolished, and Elm Street has been truncated, in order to build the modern Hampden County Hall of Justice.  One other interesting addition is the statue in the 2012 photo; it is a statue honoring William McKinley, and at the time of the 1909 photo it was residing in Forest Park across the city.  I do not know when it was moved to its present location.

Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield

Taken between 1905 and 1915, this photo shows Christ Church Cathedral as it appeared a century ago. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view as of December 2012:

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Not much has changed in these two views; even the art building of the Springfield Museums is still there, and the building barely visible to the far left also appears to be the same in both photos. The one major difference, of course, is the tower of the church. Originally built in 1876 with a tower (although I have yet to find an image of the original tower), the tower cracked within a year and was taken down for safety reasons. It would not be rebuilt until 1927.