Samuel J. Filer House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 92 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This house was built around 1880, only about a year after its neighbor to the left, but it represents a significant shift in architectural taste. By the early 1880s, the related Stick and Queen Anne styles of architecture had become fashionable, and many of the homes here on Buckingham Street are modest examples of these trends. Most of the people who moved into these homes were middle class professionals such as Samuel J. Filer, who was living in this house by around 1888. A veteran of the Civil War, Filer later worked as a clerk for James D. Gill, a prominent publisher and art dealer in late 19th century Springfield.

Samuel Filer lived here until around 1891, when the house was purchased by Caroline M. Sherman, a widow who had previously lived nearby at 212 Bay Street. Like many of the other residents of the McKnight neighborhood, she supplemented her income by renting rooms to boarders, one of whom was James Naismith, a Canadian student and instructor at the nearby YMCA Training School. He had originally lived with Caroline and her two daughters, Maude and Florence, in the house on Bay Street, but he joined them when they moved to this house on Buckingham Street, and lived here from 1892 to 1894.

Naismith, of course, is best known for having invented the game of basketball during his time at the YMCA Training School. He invented the game in December 1891, so he was probably still living on Bay Street at the time, but his move to Buckingham Street coincided with the meteoric rise in basketball’s popularity, from an improvised physical education game to a widely popular team sport. The game was popular at the YMCA Training School, but it did not take long for outsiders to take notice. Among the first were the young women who taught at the nearby Buckingham School, at the corner of Wilbraham Road and Eastern Avenue. They soon began playing basketball too, becoming in the process the sport’s first female players.

One of the teachers who played regularly was Caroline’s daughter Maude, who was 21 years old at the time. It was around this time that she and Naismith, who nearly 10 years older than her, began their courtship, and they were married two years later in 1894. After their marriage, the couple moved out of Caroline’s house and into their own home at 30 Wilbraham Avenue, where they lived for about a year before moving to Denver. The Naismiths would later move to Kansas, where James worked as a teacher, basketball coach, and ultimately the school’s athletic director. He would never again live in Springfield, but his legacy is still here, in the name of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In the meantime, by 1895 Caroline had sold this house on Buckingham Street. Several different people lived here in the following years, including George H. Phelps in 1895 and pharmacy owner Fred N. Wheeler in 1897. Not until the end of the decade, though, did the house have a long term resident, when George and Alice Lyman purchased it. They were living here by 1899, along with their daughter Blanche, and like previous owners they also housed several boarders. George worked as a carpenter and builder, and he likely found plenty of work to do here in Springfield, with the city in the midst of a massive building boom that has given it he nickname of “The City of Homes.”

The Lymans lived here until around 1916, when they moved to a house on Wilbraham Road. In subsequent years, their old house here had a variety of residents, including physician Robert E. Seibels in 1917, and Christian Science practitioner William C. Loar in the late 1910s and early 1920s. By 1932, it was the home of Weaver H. Stanton, who was living here with his wife Florence and their daughter Marjorie when the first photo was taken. Although they lived here for many years, the Stantons were actually renting the house, paying $50 per month. However, this expense was reduced even further by the fact that they, in turn, rented rooms to boarders, with the 1940 census showing four mostly elderly people living here with them.

The Stantons were still living in this house as late as the early 1950s, but they appear to have moved out around 1951 when the house was sold. Since then, the house has remained relatively unchanged, although the exterior has deteriorated somewhat, especially the collapsing front porch. Otherwise, though, the house is still standing, and has historical significance both for its architecture and, more importantly, for having been the residence of James Naismith. The actual building where he invented the sport is long gone, and the site is now a McDonalds, but this house remains as perhaps Springfield’s most important existing connection to the invention of basketball.

Benjamin L. Bragg House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 80 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This house was built around 1880 for Benjamin L. Bragg, a native of Royalston, Massachusetts who moved into the house with his newlywed wife, Frances M. Sessions. He worked in the agricultural business, with the 1882 city directory listing him as the superintendent for Parker and Gannett’s agricultural warehouse. Within a few years he went into business for himself, and by the end of the decade he was the owner of B.L. Bragg & Co., an agricultural warehouse and seed store that was located on Main Street.

The Bragg family lived here until about 1899, and by the 1900 census the house was being rented by insurance agent Arthur L. Fisk and his wife Carrie. By 1910, though, the house had been sold to Henry F. Rich, a furniture store clerk who lived here with his wife Minnie and their four children. They later moved to Park Street in the South End, and by 1914 the house was owned by Ellen S. Danforth. An elderly widow, she lived here with her two daughters, Alice and Anna, both of whom worked at the High School of Commerce, with Alice as a secretary and Anna as a teacher.

Ellen died in the 1920s, but her daughters continued to live here for many years. Neither of them ever married, and they were both still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. During this time, they also housed a lodger, fellow teacher Georgia S. Marks, who was living here in both the 1930 and 1940 censuses. After Anna’s death in 1951, Alice inherited sole possession of the property, and in 1956 she donated it to the Wesley Society of the Methodist Church, with a clause in the deed allowing her to continue living here for the rest of her life.

Nearly 50 years after she had moved into this house with her mother and sister, Alice died in 1963 at the age of 80, and a few months later the Wesley Society sold the property. At some point, probably within a few years before or after Alice’s death, the house was altered, removing many of the original Queen Anne-style details in the process. The front porch was replaced with simple concrete front steps and a bay window, a new chimney was built, and the entire house was covered in asbestos siding. Despite these changes, though, the house still stands as one of many historic late 19th century homes in the neighborhood, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Henry J. Davison House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 76 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This house was built in 1883 for Henry J. Davison, a jeweler who owned a shop on Elm Street at Court Square. He and his wife Julia lived here with their three children, Henry, Ralph, and Jennie. The two boys were both teenagers when they moved into this house, but Jennie was significantly younger than her brothers, and was only about five at the time. By the 1888 directory, the younger Henry and Ralph were in business for themselves, selling fruit and groceries out of a store on State Street.

Henry was 25 when he married his wife, Clara Casey, in 1890. They had two sons, Howard and George, but Clara died in 1898. Less than a year later, Henry remarried to Carrie Mills, and that same year his mother Julia died. By the 1900 census, the older Henry was living here alone except for his daughter.. In the meantime, the younger Henry and his family were living on Walnut Street, and he had apparently abandoned the grocery business by then, because he was listed as being a jeweler.

After his father’s death in 1904, Henry moved back into this house, but tragedy struck again a year later when Carrie died from pneumonia. Widowed twice by the age of 40, Henry remarried again a year later, to Marian Morgan. They were still living here as late as the mid-1910s, but they moved by the end of the decade. The 1920 census shows the house divided into two units, with two different families renting part of the house. In one unit was clothing store owner Archibald Ruggles and his wife Minnie, and in the other was Irish-born chauffeur Dennis J. Carney, his wife Bridget, and their two daughters.

By the 1930 census, the house was owned by Joseph B. Elvin, a teacher at the Springfield Trade School. He was 39 at the time, and lived here with his wife Ruth and his mother, Caroline. They also rented a portion of the house to road contractor Thornton Moulton, who lived here with his wife and three children. A decade later, shortly after the first photo was taken, the Elvins were still living here, and they were still renting part of the house, this time to Bruce and Viola Trumble, for $40 per month. Joseph’s sister, who was also named Ruth, was also living here at the time, with the census indicating that she was an arts and crafts teacher for a WPA program.

The Elvins were living here until the late 1950s, and since then the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, with few changes from the first photo. Like many of the other homes on this block of Buckingham Street, it is a good example of early Queen Anne style architecture, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Charles D. Rood House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 93 Bowdoin 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 1883, around the same time as the neighboring house at 103 Bowdoin Street, and has a very similar Queen Anne-style design. It was the longtime home of businessman Charles D. Rood and his wife Caroline, who were living here by the late 1880s if not earlier. Charles Rood was born in Ludlow in 1840, and got his start in business as a teenager, working as a clerk at the Indian Orchard Mills. He subsequently worked for a New York City jewelry company, eventually becoming a partner in the firm. This, in turn, led to Rood entering the watchmaking industry, and in 1877 he was one of the founders of the Hampden Watch Company. He later purchased the Aurora Watch Company in Illinois and the Lancaster Watch Company in Pennsylvania, and consolidated them into the Hamilton Watch Company.

In the midst of his watch business, Rood made a brief foray into the burgeoning bicycle industry in the 1890s, becoming the president and treasurer of the Keating Wheel Company. This Holyoke-based company was run by inventor and onetime major league baseball player Robert Keating, whose inventions included baseball’s first rubber home plate. His bicycle company had been floundering, until Rood bailed it out with a sizable investment in 1894. It proved to be a poor decision for Rood, though,with the company later suffering yet another financial crisis.

After losing money in the bicycle industry, Rood returned to the Hamilton Watch Company, and also invested in commercial real estate, building up a significant fortune in the process. However, he made another financial blunder in 1911, when he sold his interest in the company and entered the communications business. He invested in the American Telegraphone Company, becoming its president and general manager. The telegraphone, which was patented in 1898, was an audio recording device that used magnetic wire to record sound, and was intended to compete with the older phonograph, which used etched grooves to play back sound. In the long run, magnetic data storage would prove successful, such as in modern computer hard drives, but in the short run the company failed, and Rood faced serious accusations from disgruntled shareholders over his management of the company. Ultimately, Rood returned to watchmaking and real estate, and in 1924, at the age of 83, he again became president of the Hampden Watch Company.

Throughout these many ups and downs in his career, Rood remained here at his home on Bowdoin Street, where he and Caroline raised their three children, Madeline, Gladys, and Charles Dexter. Caroline died in 1930, and things only got worse after that. The Great Depression was hurting the value of his real estate holdings, and at the same time his son took him to court, trying to have him declared senile in order to take control of his business. The judge denied the request, though, and the elder Rood retaliated by contesting Caroline’s will, which had left most of her estate to the children. However, the original will was upheld, with Rood receiving only a fraction of his wife’s estate.

Charles D. Rood’s business career spanned from the beginning of the Gilded Age to the depths of the Great Depression, and he lived in this house for most of that time. Around a half century after he first moved in, died here at his home in 1934, at the age of 93, only a few years before the first photo was taken. The house remained in the family afterwards, and during the 1940 census his daughter Madeline was still living here. However, it was subsequently sold, and the house that had once been the mansion of a Gilded Age capitalist was covered in cheap asphalt siding and converted into a rooming house. It was heavily damaged by a fire in the early 1980s, and was nearly demolished. However, it was restored instead, and today it is virtually indistinguishable from its appearance when the Rood family lived here some 80 years earlier. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

William C. Newell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 103 Bowdoin 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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In a neighborhood with hundreds of excellent Queen Anne-style homes, this house on Bowdoin Street is probably one of the finest. It was built in the early 1880s as the home of William C. Newell, the son of button manufacturer Nelson C. Newell. Nelson and his brother Samuel had co-founded the Newell Brothers’ Manufacturing Company, where they made buttons from their Howard Street facility. Around 1873 the brothers built adjacent, nearly identical homes just a few lots south of here on Bowdoin Street, and about a decade later William built this house.

William and his wife Martha were married around 1879, and within a few years they were living in this elegant home. He became the secretary of his father’s company, which was eventually acquired by United Button Company in 1902. In the meantime, he and Martha lived here for many years, and they raised their five children here. They moved out of the house in the early 1910s, but they remained in the McKnight neighborhood until William’s death in 1936 and Martha’s in 1943.

The house was purchased by Dr. Susan P. Seymour, shortly after the death of her husband, Stephen E. Seymour. The couple had been married since 1884, with Stephen working as a lawyer while also serving as a city councilor and state representative. However, Susan also enjoyed a career of her own, becoming a physician shortly before their marriage, and practicing medicine for many years. They did not have any children, and Dr. Seymour lived in this house with her longtime servant, Elizabeth Burt, for nearly 20 years, until her death in 1930.

By the mid-20th century, many of the massive Victorian-era mansions of the McKnight neighborhood had been converted into group homes, nursing homes, or similar uses. In the case of this house, it became a nursing home, the Hilltop Rest Home. However, the property was eventually taken by the city in the early 2000s for nonpayment of taxes, and was subsequently sold to a private owners, who restored it to its original appearance. It is now a single-family home again, and is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Herbert Ashley House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 187 Bowdoin 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 1893 as part of the development of the McKnight neighborhood, and was originally the home of Herbert and Cornelia Ashley. Herbert appears to have had a variety of jobs, and even received a patent for an electric trolley wire support. According to his patent application, which was filed in 1895, his invention would ensure that broken wires fall to the ground, rather than “dangling as a menace to man and beast.” It does not seem clear whether or not his invention became widely adopted, but by 1910 he had sold this house, and he and Cornelia were living in his mother’s house on Spring Street.

By 1910, this house was owned by John Lundy, a grocer who was living here with his wife Anne and their three adult children, plus a boarder. Both John and Anne had been born in Ireland, but immigrated to the United States as teenagers and married a few years later. They had a total of six children, but only three were still living in 1910. John died in 1915, but the rest of the family remained here for many years. None of the three children, Mary, John, and Catherine, ever married, and they were still living here with Anne when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. After her death in 1943, the three children continued to live here together. Mary and Catherine died in the 1960s, and John finally sold the house in 1973, several years before his death in 1976 at the age of 94.

The same year that John died, his former house became part of the newly-established McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Like many of the other houses in the neighborhood, the house has been beautifully restored, complete with a paint scheme that emphasizes the Queen Anne details of the home. If anything, its exterior is probably more historically accurate now than it had been in the first photo, since the second-story porch had probably not originally been enclosed when the house was built.