John McFethries House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 52 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This elegant home was built in 1888 for John McFethries, a Scottish-born mechanical engineer who was in his late 50s at the time. He had come to America as a young man, where he married his first wife, Juliette McLean, in 1864 in Ludlow, Massachusetts. However, they subsequently moved to Russia, where John worked for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railroad. Juliette died there in 1886, and three years later, while still in Russia, John remarried to Emily Pudan, who was originally from England.

By the early 1880s, John had moved back to the Springfield area along with Emily, and he became a prominent resident in the city. For several years they lived in a house nearby at 69 Clarendon Street, but around 1888 they moved into this house on Cornell Street, along the northwestern edge of the McKnight neighborhood. John was involved in several different local businesses, including serving as treasurer of the Waltham Watch Tool Company. He was also involved with the Highland Extension Company, which developed much of the land in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Springfield, and from 1890 to 1891 he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Emily died in 1900, and that year’s census shows John living here with his daughter Olga, her husband John E. Cowan, their infant daughter Martha, and Emily’s brother Frank. The Cowans subsequently moved to California, and John McFethries lived here in this house until his death in 1907 at the age of 76. His heirs owned the house for a few more years, and rented it to several different tenants, including Frank W. Watkins, who lived here from about 1910 to 1912. He lived here with his wife Mary and their daughter Lila, and he worked as a designer for the Taber-Prang Art Company, a Springfield-based firm that was a leading producer of fine art prints in the early 20th century.

Around 1913, the house was sold to Augustus C. Lamb, who lived here with his wife Effie and their three sons. He was a salesman for the American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, and in 1917 he was promoted to sales manager. However, he resigned two years later to become factory manager of the Russ Gelatin Company, although he only stayed there for a few years before returning to American Writing Paper in 1922. Around the same time, he and his family also moved out of this house, and into an apartment in Forest Park at 143 Belmont Avenue.

This house then became the home of George S. Lewis, a firearms manufacturer who had previously worked for J. Stevens Arms of Chicopee. By the time he and his wife Fannie moved into this house around 1922, George had left Stevens and was in business for himself, starting the Page-Lewis Arms Company. He was vice president, general manager, and designer for this company, and he was also the general manager of the affiliated Page Needle Company, both of which were located in the same factory in Chicopee. However, in 1926, Page-Lewis was purchased by J. Stevens Arms, and George later began working for Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, Connecticut.

George and Fannie appear in city directories here as late as 1934, but by the end of the decade the house had been divided into several different apartments. During the 1940 census, which was done shortly after the first photo was taken, the house was owned by Robert W. Leduc, an accountant who lived here and rented out two other units in the home. One was rented by Edward J. Sawyer, a supervisor at Westinghouse who lived here with his wife Jean and their son, Edward Jr., and the other unit was rented by Nellie M. Allen, a widow who was 74 years old at the time.

In subsequent years, the city directories show a number of different residents living in this house, and it appears to have frequently changed owners in the mid-20th century. However, it is now a single-family home again, and it is one of the hundreds of historic 19th century homes in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Frederick A. North House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 28 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1895, and was originally the home of Frederick A. North. He only lived here for a few years, though, because by 1898 he had moved to New York, and by the following year the house was owned by James M. Van Deusen. He was a graduate of Rutgers and the Hartford Theological Seminary, but never entered the ministry, and instead worked in the four and grain business, with the firm of Van Deusen & Foley. He and his wife Isabel lived here with their five children for about a decade, but in 1908 they sold the house and moved to Pasadena, California, where James died in 1921.

The house subsequently became the home of Henry L. Thomas, a Canadian-born mason who is also listed in city directories as being a building supervisor. He and his wife Eleanor had seven children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 26 at the time of the 1910 census. The oldest, William, was listed in the census as working as a stage electrician for an opera company, although city directories from the same period list his occupation as an actor. Either way, he later married and moved to a house on Winthrop Street in the South End, where he was living in 1917 while working for Poli’s Palace Theatre. Several of William’s younger siblings also moved out of this house during the 1910s, and around 1920 Henry and Eleanor moved to an apartment at 663 State Street, where they lived with their three youngest daughters.

This house would remain in Henry’s family, though, because during the 1920 census his daughter Mary was living here with her husband, John E. Keefe, and her daughter Patricia. John was a dentist and oral surgeon who was originally from Fall River, and in the aftermath of World War I he traveled to Romania with the American Red Cross. He was featured in several photographs taken by the Red Cross in 1919, including the one below, which shows him at work in his clinic in Bucharest.

The caption of this photo explains that he performs around 400 major dental operations each month, while one of the other captions explains how “The war has wrought many changes in the life of the people of southwestern Europe and has brought them in contact with many people they had never seen before. Here is Capt. John Keefe of N.Y. who has charge of the A.R.C. dental hut at Bucharest which is the mecca for native dental experts anxious to learn the mysteries of modern dental surgery.”

Dr. Keefe returned to Springfield after his time overseas, and for many years he worked out of an office at 1490 Main Street, where Tower Square now stands. He and Mary were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here until Mary sold the house in 1953, a few years before John’s death in 1957.

In the second half of the 20th century, the McKnight neighborhood entered a decline, and many properties were abandoned or taken by the city for tax delinquency. This particular house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but several years later the city took the property, and it stood empty for many years until it was finally destroyed in a fire in 1999.

James R. Wells House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 62 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The site in 2017:

Most of the homes in Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood were built in the last decades of the 19th century, with only a few homes built after the turn of the 20th century. This house was among the last to be built, and was completed in 1910 for James R. Wells, the Register of Deeds for Hampden County. He was about 50 at the time, and had recently married his second wife, Eliza. They had previously lived in a house a few blocks away on Clarendon Street, but they moved here around 1910 along with several of James’s children from his first marriage.

James lived here until his death in 1923, and the house was subsequently sold to Frederick J. Hillman, an accountant who was the president of the New England Audit Company and a member of the Springfield-based accounting firm of Hillman, Peters & Leary. Along with this, he was also the vice president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and secretary of the Bozart Rug Company. He and his wife Maude were in their late 40s when they moved into this house, and during the 1930 census they were living here with their daughter Muriel and their son, Frederick Jr.

Later in the 1930s, the family moved to a house on Federal Street, and by the 1940 census this house was being rented by Irene MacDonald, a nurse who lived here with her elderly father, William, along with a cook and three lodgers. At the time, she was paying $75 a month in rent, but she would later purchase the property, and she lived here until she sold it in 1951.

The house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but it was destroyed in a fire in 2011. The gutted, boarded-up remains of the house were deemed structurally unsound, but the house stood here for the next five years, until it was finally demolished by the city in 2016. However, the tree from the first photo survived the fire, and it still stands on the vacant lot nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken.

Florence G. Collins House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 359 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1901, as part of the development of the Ridgewood area, which had previously been the estate of Colonel James M. Thompson. The property was desirable both for its proximity to downtown Springfield and for the views that it offered from atop the hill, and a number of fashionable homes were built here at the turn of the 20th century. The house was probably designed by G. Wood Taylor, a Springfield architect who designed most of the Ridgewood homes. It is similar to several of his other works, including houses on Sumner Avenue and Maplewood Terrace, and it blends Colonial Revival architecture with the earlier Shingle Style that had been popular in New England resort communities in the late 19th century.

The first owner of this house was Florence G. Collins, a widow whose husband, Walter Stowe Collins, had died in 1893. She was in her mid-40s when she moved into this house with her two children, Marjorie and Kenneth, and she lived here for the next decade. By 1912, though, she was no longer living at this house, which was instead the home of John W. Reed. He was listed as still living here in the 1919 city directory, but by the following year’s census the house was being rented by Carl L. Stebbins. He and his wife Grace had a 10-year-old daughter, who was also named Grace, and they also lived here with Grace’s sister Rebecca Birnie and two servants.

According to the 1920 census, Stebbins was an insurance broker, but city directories from the same time period indicate that he was the president of the Eastern States Willys Light Corporation. In later directories, his occupation was variously listed as “electric appliances” and “radiator enclosures,” and the 1930 census lists him as a distributor of oil burners. In any case, at some point in the 1920s he purchased the house, and he and his family were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Around 1940, they moved to a house on Crescent Hill, but their house here on Union Street is still standing, with few changes except for the removal of the front porch. Along with the rest of the area, the house is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

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.