Henry J. Perkins House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 36 Spruceland Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


Built in 1896, this house incorporates elements of Dutch Colonial and Shingle-style architecture, both of which were popular in late 19th century residential designs. Although there are many similar homes in the Forest Park neighborhood, nearly all of them have a unique design, which gives the area its distinctive, eclectic mix of styles. The original owner of this house was Henry J. Perkins, who was in his late 30s when he moved in here, along with his wife Della and their three children.

Perkins was a wholesale fruit and produce merchant whose company, as proclaimed in advertisements, was “The best appointed Fruit and Produce Commission House in New England.” However, despite the success of his business, his most long-lasting contribution to the area came in 1911, when he purchased the Riverside Grove in Agawam. Located along the banks of the Connecticut River, the Grove had long been a popular destination for picnics and other outings, but Perkins turned it into the Riverside Amusement Park. During his time as the park’s president, he added several roller coasters and a number of other rides, and the park still exists today as Six Flags New England.

The Perkins family lived here in this house for 25 years, before selling it in 1921 to George L. Schadt, a physician who lived here with his wife Ella and their two daughters. They were still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain until finally selling the house in 1960. Since then, the house has remained essentially unchanged on the exterior, and it still stands as one of the many well-preserved turn-of-the-century homes in the Forest Park Heights Historic District.

William H. Chapin House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 127 School Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:


This lot at the corner of School and Mulberry Streets had been the site of a house since at least 1850, when Congressman George Ashmun moved into a house that once stood here. He lived here until his death in 1870, and the property was sold to William W. Colburn, who lived here for almost 30 years, until his death in 1899. In 1906, Colburn’s widow sold it to patent attorney William H. Chapin, who appears to have demolished the old house and built the one seen in the first photo. Its Colonial Revival-style architecture is consistent with early 20th century mansions, and city atlases also indicate that it was built during this time, because the footprint of the house on this spot in the 1910 atlas looks very different from the one in the 1899 atlas.

William Chapin lived here with his wife Charlotte and their three sons, Maurice, Henry, and Stuart, and they also employed two live-in servants. The children had all moved out by the 1930 census, but William and Charlotte lived here for the rest of their lives. Charlotte died in 1935, and William in 1941, only a few years after the first photo was taken. After his death, his former mansion became a rooming house before finally being demolished in 1960 to build an apartment complex. This building, in turn, was eventually abandoned by its owners, taken by the city for nonpayment of taxes, and demolished in the 1990s to make additional parking for the nearby Milton Bradley School.

Guy Kirkham House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 145 Clarendon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood features many fine examples of late 19th century architecture, although virtually none were designed by architects of national significance. Instead, many of the homes were designed by local architects, including Guy Kirkham, who designed this house in 1892 and lived here for 17 years. He was born in 1864, and was the son of William Kirkham, a jeweler, and Harriet Merriam, who was the daughter of the famous Webster’s dictionary publisher Charles Merriam. William died when Guy was young, and Harriet remarried in 1877 to Charles Hosley.

Kirkham studied architecture at MIT, and after graduating in 1887 he apprenticed in Minneapolis and New York City, and then spent several years studying in Europe. In 1892, he returned to Springfield, married his wife Grace Dwight, and started his own architectural firm. That same year, he built this house, just around the corner from where his mother lived. This house would have been among his earliest works, and incorporates elements of Shingle-style architecture. He undoubtedly would have learned about this style while at MIT, since it was widely popular in the 1880s, especially in wealthy New England coastal resort communities.

This house was one of about ten that Kirkham designed in the McKnight neighborhood, but he also designed a number of other important buildings in Springfield, including the Hotel Worthy, the Howard Street School, the High School of Commerce, the Forest Park branch library, the old YMCA building at 122 Chestnut Street, and the current MassMutual headquarters on State Street. Most of his works were in Springfield, but he did design a few buildings in nearby towns, including libraries in Chicopee and Hadley, the Unitarian church in Northampton, and the gymnasium at Wilbraham-Monson Academy.

The Kirkhams lived at this house until 1909, when they moved into a new house nearby at 120 Clarendon Street, which he also designed. Their old house here was sold to Guy’s half brother, Walter Hosley, a physician who lived here for about a decade. By 1920, the house was owned by Raymond Wight, a paper company executive, and a decade later it was owned by Leiceser Warren, who was also involved in the paper business. Since then, there have been a few changes to the exterior, including the enclosed porch and a single, large gable over the dormer on the third floor. Otherwise, though, it is a well-preserved example of Shingle-style architecture, and it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Law House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 171 Dartmouth Terrace in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This distinctive Shingle-style home was built in 1895, and in many ways it is a larger version of the house at 53 Dartmouth Street, which was built a year earlier. It was the home of John Law, a retired tin manufacturer who had previously lived in Enfield, Connecticut. He and his wife Margaret were Scottish immigrants, and were in their 60s by the time they moved into this house. However, they did not live here long; John died in 1900, and Margaret died two years later.

The house was then purchased by Luman S. Brown, a manufacturer and businessman who was the founder and president of the Springfield Facing Company, which made facing material for foundries. Along with this, he was also the president and treasurer of a charcoal company, and he served as a director of the Chapin National Bank. He and his wife Clara lived here for about a decade or so, and by around 1914 they were living in a nearby home on Florida Street. They later retired to Florida itself, where they died several months apart in 1937.

The next owner of the house was Robert C. Cooley, a lawyer who lived here with his wife Harriet and their two children. They remained here for more than 30 years, until Robert’s death in 1946 and Harriet’s in 1951. Since then, the house has been well-maintained, and provides a striking example of Shingle-style architecture on what is probably the finest street in the neighborhood. Along with the other historic homes in the area, it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

William G. Wheat House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 65 Dartmouth Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Although the majority of houses in the McKnight neighborhood are Queen Anne-style, many other homes had yet to be built by the mid-1890s, as preferences began to shift toward Colonial Revival architecture. This particular house was built in 1895, right around the time that this shift was happening, so it still retains some of the earlier Queen Anne features, such as the bay window and the multi-story front porch. However, it is clearly a Colonial Revival home, with elements such as a symmetrical front facade and a cross-gambrel roof, along with an exterior covered in shingles.

This house was originally owned by William G. Wheat, a dry goods merchant who was a partner in the Springfield firm of Meekins, Packard & Wheat. He and his wife Clara lived here with their two children, Harold and Isabelle, until around 1910, when they moved to State Street. The family apparently owned the house for some time afterwards, although by 1920 it was owned by Charles and Edith Van Norman. Charles was a Canadian immigrant who, along with his brother Fred, had founded the Van Norman Machine Tool Company here in Springfield.

By the time Charles Van Norman moved into this house, the company had prospered, specializing in milling and grinding machines. He served as president and general manager of the company, and both he and Edith were still living here when the first photo was taken. Despite living in a comparatively modest house, he was far wealthier than most of his other neighbors, and the 1940 census listed his annual income as $5,000+, the highest bracket used on the census.

Charles lived here until his death in 1946, and Edith died two years later. Since then, the house has not changed significantly, and it still retains its original Colonial Revival appearance. Along with the other houses in the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Hervey K. Hawes House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 53 Dartmouth Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This house was built in 1894 as the home of lawyer Hervey K. Hawes, and it is a good example of Shingle-style architecture in a neighborhood that is largely dominated by earlier Queen Anne homes. Unlike these older homes, which usually featured a complex roof, highly ornamented exteriors, and a variety of building materials, this house reflects a shift toward simpler architecture. It features a single, large gable that gives the house a more horizontal focus, and the exterior is almost entirely covered in shingles, with minimal decoration.

Hawes evidently did not live in this house for very long, because by 1898 it was owned by Kirk Washburn. He was a longtime employee of publishers G. & C. Merriam, eventually becoming the company’s secretary and later the treasurer. Kirk and his wife Minnie had one child, Kirk, Jr., who also went on to work for G. & C. Merriam. However, he died in December 1918 from pneumonia caused by influenza that, based on the timing, was probably contracted during that year’s infamous flu pandemic. The elder Kirk lived here until his death in 1929, and Minnie died six years later.

By the time the first photo was take, the house was used as a rental property. It was the home of Richard and Elizabeth Whittey and their two children, and at the 1940 census they were paying $50 a month to rent the house. Richard’s occupation was listed as an investigator for a credit bureau, while his son Richard, Jr. was a sales manager and his daughter Evelyn was a secretary. The same census also provides their annual salaries, which were $2,300, $2,000, and $780, respectively. By way of comparison, a $2,000 salary at the time would be equal to about $35,000 today, when adjusted for inflation.

In 1976, the McKnight Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and his house was included as one of the contributing properties. Since then, it has been restored and remains in excellent condition, with hardly any noticeable differences from the 1930s photo. This past year, the Springfield Preservation Trust awarded the current owner with the Edward Sims Award for Stewardship, in recognition of the home’s level of preservation.