76-78 Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

The townhouses at 76-78 Maple Street, at the corner of Park Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This double townhouse was built in 1879 at the corner of Maple and Park Streets, directly adjacent to a block of three townhouses to the left, which were built almost a decade earlier. Architecturally, the two groups of townhouses have similar Second Empire-style architecture, although the 1879 homes show the beginnings of the more elaborate Stick and Queen Anne styles, which would become dominant in the 1880s. These two homes were originally owned by Seth Hunt, who lived in the more desirable house on the right at the corner, and his son David, who lived in the house on the left.

Born in Northampton in 1814, Seth Hunt was a longtime employee of the Connecticut River Railroad, and served as the company’s treasurer from 1858 until his death in 1893. Aside from his work on an actual railroad, though, Hunt was also an abolitionist who was active in the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. He lived in Northampton at the time, and used his house to help shelter runaway slaves. During this time, he had friendships with some of the country’s leading abolitionists, including Henry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Sojourner Truth.

Seth and his wife Juliet moved from Northampton to Springfield after this house was completed, and they lived here until their deaths in the summer of 1893, only six weeks apart from each other. In the meantime, in the early 1880s their son David and his wife Grace lived in the house next door on the right side, and he worked with his father as assistant treasurer of the Connecticut Valley Railroad. However, later in the 1880s the city directories show David living with his parents on the right side.

By the late 1880s, the house on the left was the home of Maria Browne, a writer and retired teacher who was about 70 at the time. Born in Northampton, she grew up in Templeton, Massachusetts, and graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1840. She subsequently moved to New York City, where she worked as a teacher while also writing magazine and newspaper articles as well as short books. Her writings included moral stories for children, and in 1866 the book The Female Prose Writers of America described her, with regards to her writing, as being “playful, pathetic, serious, earnest, full of life and intensity, never prosaic, never tedious, never common-place, deeply imbued with the religious, largely read in that school of sensibility which enables her to sympathize with all forms of human sorrow and suffering; her writings, consequently, find their way directly to the heart and bosom of the reader.”

Browne never married, and she lived here in this house from around the late 1880s until her death in 1908 at the age of 89. Two years later, the house was still owned by her heirs, who rented it to real estate broker Henry F. Waters, his wife Frances, and their young daughter, who was also named Frances. During that same time, the house on the right was owned by physician Ralph B. Ober, who lived here with his newlywed wife Eleanor. Dr. Ober was a 1901 graduate of Harvard Medical School, and he began practicing medicine here in Springfield in 1904. By the early 1910s, he was a assistant medical director for Massachusetts Mutual, an assitant surgeon at Springfield Hospital, and president of the Springfield Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis.

The Obers had two children, Frederick and Mary, and they were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. In the meantime, though, most of the nearby townhouses, including the house on left, had become lodging houses in the first half of the 20th century. During the 1930 census, the lodging house was run by Harry A. Engel, who rented it for $85 a month and, in turn, rented rooms to six different families with a total of 19 people. A decade later, shortly after the first photo was taken, it was still a lodging house, although by this point it was being run by Orelina Menard, who had only seven lodgers here.

Ralph Ober died in 1945, but Eleanor continued to live here until her death in 1972, at the age of 86. Just four years later, the house became part of the Maple-Union Corners Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and very little has changed in this scene since then. The only major difference between the two photos is the house in the distance on the far right. Completed in 1899 as the home of firearms manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, it was later used as the clubhouse of the Colony Club, until it burned down in 1966. A medical office building, visible on the right side, now stands on the site.

80-82 Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

The townhouses at 80-82 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The houses in 2017:

These three Second Empire-style townhouses were built in 1870, at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. They were constructed by local builder Abel Howe, and they originally had a fairly uniform appearance, although two of the three have since been significantly altered. As mentioned in the previous post, the house on the left was the home of Edmund D. Chapin, the longtime cashier and eventual president of the John Hancock National Bank. During the 19th century, the other two houses had similar upper middle class residents, including Dr. David F. Atwater, who lived in the house in the middle, and insurance clerk and real estate agent Frank H. Fuller, who lived in the house on the right.

David F. Atwater was born in 1817 in North Branford, Connecticut, and was the younger brother of George M. Atwater, who established Springfield’s streetcar system. David attended Yale, earning his undergraduate degree in 1839 and his medical degree in 1842, and he practiced medicine in Brooklyn and in Bridgeport before moving to Springfield. He and his wife Sarah were living here at 82 Maple Street by about 1883, and they lived here for the rest of their lives. Sarah died in 1910, and David in 1916, at the age of 98. Prior to his death, David was the oldest living Yale graduate, and he was also the last living Yale graduate from the 1830s. His name still lives on today in Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, a summer camp that was named in his honor after his daughter Mary donated $25,000 in 1926.

In the meantime, the house on the right at 80 Maple Street was the home of Frank H. Fuller, who was living here with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Grace by the mid-1870s. He worked for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, first as a clerk and later as a real estate agent, and he was responsible for the development of the Fuller Block, which still stands at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets.

By the early 20th century, many of the upscale townhouses in Springfield had been converted into lodging houses, including the homes on the right and the left here. During the 1920 census, for example, 80 Maple was rented by a family of four, who in turn rented rooms to nine lodgers, mostly single factory workers. A decade later, during the 1930 census, the house had a similar number of tenants, although most of them were married couples.

Of the three houses, the one in the middle at 82 Maple remained a single-family home for the longest. Daniel Atwater’s daughter Mary continued living here until her death in 1927, and by the end of the decade the house was being rented by John E. Hummel, who lived here with his wife Agnes, their two children, and Agnes’s sister Delia. They also rented rooms to several lodgers, and the 1930 census shows John’s occupation as being a lodging house keeper. However, John was also a retired Major League Baseball player who played second base and outfield for the Brooklyn Superbas and Robins from 1905 to 1915, and the Yankees in 1918. He also played minor league baseball for several years, including here in Springfield in 1922, but he had retired from baseball by the time he and his family moved into this house.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, John Hummel and his family were still living in the house in the middle. The 1940 census shows them paying $50 per month in rent, with John working as a foreman for a match factory, earning $1,440 per year. Their daughter Joan, 22 years old at the time, was also employed, working as a clerk in a department store. A few years later, though, the family left this house and moved to Oswego Street and then to Sumner Avenue, where they lived until John’s death in 1959.

In the 80 years since the first photo was taken, both of the houses on the left have been dramatically altered. The third floor of 84 Maple was removed in the mid-1940s, and at some point the entire facade of 82 Maple was replaced, including a new front door in the basement level. Only 80 Maple on the right has remained relatively unchanged, and today it continues to be used as a private residence. Despite the changes, though, all three houses are still historically significant, and they are now part of the Maple-Union Corners Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Edmund D. Chapin House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 84 Maple Street, at the corner of Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is one of three adjacent brick townhouses that were built in 1870, at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. When completed, all three had mostly identical Second Empire-style designs, and they were constructed by local builder Abel Howe. This house, at 84 Maple Street, was originally the home of Edmund D. Chapin, a banker who had worked as cashier of Springfield’s John Hancock National Bank since its establishment in 1850. He and his wife were in their mid-50s when the house was built, and they lived here for the rest of their lives. In 1890, after working as the cashier of the bank for 40 years, he became the president, and he held this position into the 20th century, when he was in his early 90s.

Chapin died in 1907, at the age of 93, and the house appears to have been vacant for several years. Like many of the city’s other elegant 19th century townhouses, it became a lodging house in the mid-1910s, with city directories of the period showing a number of different residents living here, typically for no more than a year or two. By the early 1920s, though, it had become a single-family home again, and was owned by John J. Kennedy, a dentist who had his office here in the house. He was living here as early as 1922, and he was still here during the 1930 census, along with his wife Loretta and their daughters, Catherine and Mary.

However, around the time that the first photo was taken, the house again reverted to being a lodging house. During the 1940 census, it was being rented by Adolph and Ida Samson for $50 a month. They, in turn, rented rooms to lodgers, with the census showing 14 lodgers living here. Most of the lodgers were young, single people who worked in local factories, although there was one married couple here, although with a young widowed mother with her two young children. According to the incomes that were listed on the census, nearly all of the lodgers earned under $1,000 a year (under $18,000 today), with the one exception being 27-year-old John Minney, who earned $1,092 as an assembler at a toy factory, presumably the nearby Milton Bradley factory.

Nearly 80 years later, all three of these townhouses are still standing, although both 82 and 84 Maple have both been heavily altered. In the mid-1940s, only a few years after the first photo was taken, the third floor of 84 Maple was removed, along with the original front entrance. The bay window on the left side has also been removed, although the house retains its original brick exterior, unlike the house to the right at 82 Maple. Despite these changes, though, all three of these townhouses are contributing properties in the Maple-Union Corners Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

William Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking east on William Street from the corner of Main Street in Springfield, sometime around 1902-1915. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society.

William Street in 2017:


William Street, located in the South End of Springfield, was developed around the middle of the 19th century, as development of Springfield’s downtown area steadily moved southward. The area around this site had once belonged to Alexander Bliss, who operated a tannery on the site. His son, Elijah, inherited his father’s large estate after his death in 1843, and began subdividing the property. The 1851 city map shows a number of buildings here, all owned by Elijah, although the ones in the first photo were probably not built until around the 1860s or early 1870s.

The houses in the first photo were primarily rowhouses, with a larger wooden apartment block further in the distance and a few single-family homes interspersed among the larger buildings. The rowhouses feature Second Empire-style architecture, with the distinctive mansard roofs on the third floor, but their designs also incorporate elements of the earlier Italianate style, such as the curved window lintels and the decorative brackets under the eaves.

The South End has long been home to a variety of immigrant groups, many of whom were living here when the first photo was taken in the early 20th century. The 1910 census shows many different working-class residents living here in apartments and lodging houses, including French-Canadian and Irish immigrants along with native-born Americans. The house on the right side, for example, was a lodging house that was owned and operated by Abbie E. Neale, a 49-year-old widow who also owned the smaller house behind it. She rented the property to 14 lodgers, which included a mix of single people and married couples who were mostly in their 20s and 30s. They held a variety of working-class jobs, including several painters, a hotel bellman, a cotton mill spinner, and a machine shop laborer.

Around the corner on William Street, the three brick rowhouses on the left side of the photo were rented by three French-Canadian families during the 1910 census. The house closest to the camera, at 169 William Street, was rented by Ovide and Elmina Bouley, immigrants from Quebec who lived here with their infant daughter and Elmina’s father. The middle house was rented by Onesime Grise, a 65-year-old French-Canadian widow who lived here with her brother-in-law, three of her sons, her widowed daughter-in-law, and her young grandson. Furthest from the camera, the last of the three rowhouses was rented by another French-Canadian widow, 58-year-old  Alphonsie Archambeau. According to the 1910 census, she had 12 children, only one of whom was still alive. This child, 17-year-old Eva Tatro, was living here at the time, as were three lodgers who rented rooms from Alphonsie.

In the years after the first photo was taken, the South End shifted from predominantly French-Canadian to Italian, a legacy that remains in the neighborhood today, with many Italian restaurants, shops, and bakeries. However, none of the buildings from the first photo are still standing here. The brick ones in the foreground appear to have been demolished prior to the late 1930s, because they were not among the buildings photographed as part of the 1938-1939 WPA project. The wooden apartment building in the distance was still standing at the time, but it has also since been demolished, and today this side of William Street is now primarily vacant lots, with a parking lot here at the corner.

Central Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking east on Central Street from the corner of Main Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

Central Street in 2017:

In the 1880s, Springfield acquired the sobriquet of the “City of Homes,” thanks to the city’s abundance of fine single-family homes. Because such homes were the predominant residential construction of the 19th century, rowhouses were comparatively scarce, and were only built in a few parts of the city. Aside from a few small groups of homes on Temple and Maple Streets, only Mattoon and Central Streets have rowhouses in significant numbers, and this block of Central Street has, by far, the longest unbroken row of these homes.

In general, these rowhouses are less ornate than the ones on Mattoon Street, but they were built around the same time, over the span of about 10 years in the 1870s and early 1880s. They have similar Second Empire-style architecture, with two lower floors and a mansard roof on the third floor, and the western half of the block was built by B. F. Farrar, the same mason who was responsible for some of the homes on Mattoon Street.

The earliest of these houses are the five in the foreground, which were built in 1873 by Farrar. That same year, a financial panic hit the country, leading to a significant drop in demand for new houses, but despite the recession Farrar built nine more identical rowhouses in 1875, directly adjacent to his original five. The eastern half of the block, further in the distance, was built in 1882, and generally matches the design of Farrar’s original homes. However, many of the newer homes have bay windows, which contrast with the flat front facade of the earlier homes.

Although the entire south side of Central Street became a continuous set of rowhouses, the north side was never developed in a similar way. When the first photo was taken, the left side was lined with single-family homes, many of which would later be demolished to build a factory for the Springfield Knitting Company. This factory has, in turn, since been demolished, and today only one 19th century home still stands on the left side of the street.

Unlike the left side of the street, the right side of this photo has remained remarkably unchanged, 125 years after the first photo was taken. All of the historic rowhouses are still standing, after having been restored in the mid-1970s. The only significant change to this side of the street is the building on the far right, at the corner of Main Street. Known as The Central, this five-story Classical Revival building was built in 1908, with four stores on the first floor and 27 apartments on the upper floors. Like the neighboring rowhouses, the apartment building was restored in the 1970s, and it is still standing, with few changes from its original exterior appearance.

Orick H. Greenleaf House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 275 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The site in 2017:

Orick H. Greenleaf was originally from the western part of New York state, but he moved to Springfield as a young man in the mid-1840s. A tanner by trade, he soon entered the paper business, forming a partnership with L. H. Taylor to create Greenleaf & Taylor. Originally only involved in buying and selling paper, the firm later switched to manufacturing paper, and opened a mill in Huntington, Massachusetts. Greenleaf was involved with the firm until the 1860s, and in 1865 he purchased a controlling interest in the recently-established Holyoke Paper Company, which was only the second paper mill in Holyoke. At the time, Holyoke was a small but rapidly developing industrial city, and by the end of the century Greenleaf and other manufacturers had turned the city of Holyoke into the world’s leading producer of paper.

Under Greenleaf’s leadership, the factory expanded and was, by 1867, producing five tons of paper each day. He became a wealthy man, and in the 1870s he and his wife Mary moved to the top of the hill on Maple Street, where many of the city’s most affluent families were building mansions. Greenleaf hired New York architect George Hathorne, who designed this elaborate High Victorian Gothic-style house. At the time, the house looked very different from its appearance when the first photo was taken, with a brick exterior that resembled one of Hathorne’s other Springfield works, the old library building. Situated on a hill directly east of downtown Springfield, the home offered dramatic views of the city and the surrounding landscape, and it was appropriately named “River View.”

Greenleaf was a man of considerable wealth, but he was best remembered for his philanthropy. A devout Baptist, he had made it a habit to give away a portion of his incone, ever since he was a young man. As his wealth grew, so did his giving, and upon his death in 1896 the Boston Watchman cited Greenleaf’s own estimate that he had earned about a million dollars in his lifetime (nearly $30 million today), and had given half of it away. He donated to a wide range of charitable organizations, and he also served as a trustee of both the Mt. Hermon School and Shaw University.

However, Greenleaf’s most lasting legacy came in 1884, while he was serving on the city’s parks commission. At the time, Springfield lacked a large public park, but several ideas had been put forward, including one along the riverfront in the downtown area and another in the vicinity of the Watershops Ponds. Greenleaf settled the issue, though, when he offered to give the city 65 acres that he owned in the southern part of the city. He had originally planned to subdivide the land and build upscale homes, but the economic recession after the Panic of 1873 had delayed these plans. So, instead the property became Forest Park, which grew extensively as more benefactors, including ice skate manufacturer Everett H. Barney, later followed Greenleaf’s lead.

Greenleaf lived long enough to see his park become widely popular with the residents of Springfield, and he died in 1896 at the age of 72. His wife Mary died five years later, and they had no children, so the house was subsequently sold to bank executive James W. Kirkham. An 1872 graduate of Yale, Kirkham had worked for the First National Bank of Springfield for many years, eventually becoming president in 1905. A year later, the bank merged with the Union Trust Company, and Kirkham became its vice president. Along with this, he was also the president of the Agawam Woolen Company, and he served on the city’s board of fire commissioners.

James and his wife Fannie had one child, William, who was also a Yale graduate. He earned his doctorate in biology in 1907, and subsequently taught at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School from 1908 to 1916 before returning to Springfield as a biology professor at Springfield College.  He would also go on to become president of the Springfield Library and Museum Association, serving from 1941 to 1959. After James’s death in 1927, he inherited the Maple Street property, and by the 1930 census he and his wife Irma were living in this house along with their 18-year-old daughter Marguerite, plus three Irish-born servants who were, confusingly enough, all named Margaret.

At some point during the Kirkham family’s ownership, the exterior of the house was dramatically modified. By the early 20th century, Victorian-style architecture had fallen out of fashion, and the Kirkhams remodeled the highly ornate brick walls, covering them in stucco instead. The carriage house in the distance on the left also matched the redesigned house, as did the fence along Main Street in the foreground.

The Kirkhams later moved out of this house, and by the 1950s it was the Springfield Chapter House of the American Red Cross. However, the house burned down in 1956, and it was replaced with a nondescript one-story building that now stands on the site. This property was later part of the adjacent MacDuffie School campus, and following their 2011 move to Granby the property was sold to Commonwealth Academy. Not all is gone from the first photo, though; both the fence and the carriage house are still standing today.