Frederick Harris House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 270 Maple 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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Frederick Harris and Emily Osborne were married in 1879, and shortly afterward they moved into this new house near the crest of the hill on Maple Street. Frederick was the son of Frederick H. Harris, a banker who came to Springfield in 1838 at the age of 15 and found work as a bank clerk. After a few years, he began working in the lumber industry, but later returned to banking as the cashier of Pynchon Bank. In 1864, he joined Springfield’s Third National Bank as cashier, and became the company president in 1886.

Emily, however, came from an even more prominent family. Originally from Auburn, New York, her father David was a prominent businessman and mayor, but her family was even better know for social activism. Her grandmother, Martha Coffin Wright, and her great aunt, Lucretia Coffin Mott, were both leaders of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, and her brother, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the warden of Sing Sing and an influential prison reform advocate. Her sister, Helen Osborne Storrow, was a wealthy philanthropist, and Helen’s husband was James Jackson Storrow II, a Boston businessman who briefly served as president of General Motors in the company’s early years.

The younger Frederick Harris followed his father’s footsteps as a banker, starting out as a messenger for Third National in 1871. He steadily advanced in the bank, though, and eventually became vice president and then president, succeeding his father after his death in 1911. In addition, he was also active politically, and served as an alderman and as a member of the school committee. When the house was completed, it was considerably smaller than its current appearance. The first major expansion came in 1886, followed by the addition of a ballroom in 1900, bringing the house to over 10,000 square feet of living space.

Frederick and Emily had two children, Florence and Helen, but they were hardly the only residents of this house. Like other wealthy families of the era, they regularly employed multiple servants who lived here. In the 1900 census, they had three, and by 1910 they had four: a housekeeper, waitress, cook, and laundress. Florence moved out after her marriage in 1907 to Frederic Jones, and the couple later moved into a nearby house on Maple Street. Like his father-in-law, Frederic Jones would later go on to serve as president of Third National Bank.

By 1920, Frederick and Emily were living here alone, aside from their army of servants. Frederick died in 1926, and two years later he was memorialized in the naming of the Frederick Harris School, an elementary school on Hartford Terrace in the East Forest Park neighborhood. Emily was still living here when the first photo was taken, and she died in 1940, some 60 years after she first moved in. Since then, the house has remained well-preserved on both the exterior and interior. It was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but was restored and remains as an important part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Henry H. Skinner House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 303 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2016:

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This shingle-style mansion at the corner of Maple Street and Maple Court was built sometime in the 1880s or early 1890s, and was the home of Henry H. Skinner, a prominent banker and businessman. His lengthy resume included serving as a director for a number of manufacturing companies and railroads, and starting in 1920 he was also the president of the Hendee Manufacturing Company, the makers of Indian motorcycles.

Henry married Gertrude Parsons in 1886, and the couple probably moved into this house soon after. They never had any children, but they were certainly not alone in the house, regularly employing multiple servants. In the 1900 census, three Irish servants lived here, and confusingly enough, all were named Mary. Gertrude died in 1907 at the age of 42, and was buried in a large plot in Springfield Cemetery, with Henry hiring the famous Olmsted Brothers, the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, to design the landscaping. Following her death, Henry continued here on Maple Street until his own death in 1923, and was buried alongside her in their cemetery plot.

Henry’s sister Jennie inherited the house, and she lived here with her husband William A. Baldwin, an educator who had served as principal of the Hyannis State Normal School on Cape Cod. He died in 1936, and Jennie owned the property until 1951, a few years before her death in 1954. However, she does not appear to have lived in the house since the 1930s, and it seems to have been vacant by the 1940 census. It was demolished sometime before 1971, when the current apartments were built on the site. Today, the only remnant left from the first photo is the rusty fence on the right side of the property.

Maple Street Homes, Springfield Mass

Several homes on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Around the turn of the last century, Maple Street was one of the best places in Springfield to live. This side of the street was particularly desirable, because of the view looking toward downtown Springfield and across the Connecticut River. Today, that isn’t the case. Although the view is still there, it is no longer one of the city’s premier residential areas, and the two mansions in the first photo no longer exist.

Located directly across the street from the former MacDuffie School campus, this area was right in the path of the June 1, 2011 tornado that tore across western Massachusetts. These houses, however, were gone long before then.  The one on the right was at the time the home of businessman and city library president Nathan D. Bill, and was built in the 1880s as the Andrew Fennessy House. It was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1969, after having been vacant for several years. Today, only the concrete driveway is still there, and can be seen better on Google Maps. The house just beyond it was built in 1882 and belonged to Walter H. Wesson, the son of Daniel Wesson, co-founder of Smith & Wesson. In 1982, this historic house was also heavily damaged in a fire, and was subsequently demolished.