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:

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.

25-27 Madison Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The duplex at 25-27 Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2016:

This Stick-style duplex on Madison Avenue was probably built in the 1880s, around the same time as the single-family home just to the right of here. The census records in the first half of the 20th century show a variety of residents over the years, starting with the 1900 census. The unit on the right, house number 25, was the home of Homer P. Crossett, who lived here with his wife Laura and their 19 year old son Edward. Homer’s occupation was listed as a messenger for the American Express Company, and Edward was “at school.”

By 1910, it was owned by Edward Taylor, a bookkeeper whose occupation is later listed as a bank teller. In 1910 and 1920, he was a bachelor, and lived here with several boarders. He got married shortly after the 1920 census, and by 1930 he was living here with his wife Mary, along with an Irish servant, also named Mary.

The unit on the left, number 27, was he home of Elmira T. Daboll, a 77 year old widow who lived here with her daughter Mary, who was a schoolteacher, and her grandson, 18 year old Walter Pepper. By 1910, Walter and Mary were still living here, along with two of Walter’s brothers, Cyris and Robert. Mary was still working as a teacher, while Walter was a telephone employee, Cyris worked for a lumber company, and Robert was a bookkeeper.

A new family was living here in 1920. Robert Marsh, who is listed as the superintendent of the city streets, lived here with his wife Louise until at least 1940, the last year for which census records are available. They had two sons, Robert, Jr., and George, both of whom grew up in this house.

As was the case throughout this neighborhood, the early 20th century residents of this house were typically upper middle class, white collar workers, and this affluence was reflected in the houses that they built. Today, the exterior of the house has been well restored to its original appearance, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

William H. Gray House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 19 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

Madison Avenue is a short, dead-end road, tucked away between Ames Hill and the Springfield Cemetery, and consist of 19th century homes such as this one, which was built around the late 1880s or early 1890s. It was the home of William H. Gray, a druggist who was a longtime partner in Springfield’s prominent H. & J. Brewer drugstore. The company, which had been established in 1819, remained in business into the 20th century, and Gray had worked for them since 1858, when he was a teenager.

William Gray lived in this house until his death in 1920, and his widow Sarah later moved to Rochester, New York. By 1930, it was the home of Theodore and Edith Winter, and their two sons. Theodore was the assistant treasurer of the Springfield Five Cent Savings Bank, and this house reflected his wealth, even in the midst of the Great Depression. The family was still living here when the first photograph was taken, and on the 1940 census his income was listed as being over $5,000, which was the highest income bracket that the census used.

Today, the house’s exterior has been well-restored, with hardly any discernible differences from the 1930s photograph. Along with the rest of Madison Avenue, it is not part of the Ames and Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is along the edge of Springfield’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.