Richard S. Johnson House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 174 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 Richard S. Johnson, although he did not live here for very long, and there seems to be very little information about who he was. By 1887, the house was the home of Dexter P. Lillie, his wife Alice, and their three children. At the time, Dexter worked as a clerk for the Springfield-based Olmsted and Tuttle Company, which manufactured cotton waste. However, like his predecessor in the house, he only lived here for a few years, and had moved out by 1893. The following year, he opened his own company, the Dexter P. Lillie Company, which produced cotton waste and railroad supplies from its facility in Indian Orchard.

Around 1893, the house was purchased by James H. Rice, a retired army officer who had served as a captain and brevet lieutenant colonel in the Civil War. The 1893 city directory lists his profession as “special pension agent,” while the 1900 census indicates only that he was a “capitalist.” During this census, he was 60 years old, and he lived here with his wife Margaret, who was 40 at the time. She had a son from a previous marriage, 20-year-old Franklin G. Brown, and the family also rented a room to a boarder and hired a live-in servant.

After James’s death in 1907, the house was put up for sale. It seems to have stayed on the market for several years, because by 910 Margaret still owned the house, but by 1912 it was owned by Dr. Eoline C. Dubois. A graduate of Vassar College and Tufts Medical College, she opened up her own practice here in Springfield in the early 1900s. In 1917, at the start of World War I, she formed a Military Drill Corps for girls here in Springfield, where, according to that year’s municipal register, they “received military drill once a week, and were instructed by different lieutenants from the Armory, furnished by the courtesy of the Commandant.”

Dr. Dubois’s drill corps eventually included 77 girls, but later in the year she left Springfield for France, to take part in the war effort with the Medical Corps. Working with the Secretariat of the Bureau of Liberated French Villages, she provided medical care near the front lines, and remained there until the end of the war a year later, when she returned to her home here in Springfield and resumed her private practice.

The first photo was taken about 20 years later, and Dr. Dubois was still living in this house, along with a servant, Helen Dorman, and Helen’s son Frederick. She sold the house a few years later, in 1943, and since then it has only had two different owners. The house was restored to its original appearance in the early 1970s, shortly before this part of the neighborhood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, as the McKnight Historic District. Today, there is hardly any difference between the two photos, and even the large trees on either side of the house appear to be the same ones that were there in the late 1930s.

Samuel L. Merrell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 144 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This large Stick-Style home was built in 1882 for Samuel L. Merrell, a Congregational minister who was originally from New York. Born in Utica in 1822, he graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1848 and served a number of different churches in upstate New York. He also served two years in the Civil War, as chaplain for the 35th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, before returning to civilian ministry.

Reverend Merrell, along with his wife Cornelia and their son Samuel, came to Springfield in 1882 and moved into this house around the same time. When the School for Christian Workers was established three years later, Merrell joined the faculty, and also served as the organization’s secretary and a trustee. During this time, the younger Samuel also lived here, working as a traveling salesman for Cutler and Porter, a Springfield-based wholesale firm that sold boots, shoes, and rubber goods.

After Reverend Merrell’s death in 1900, the house remained in his family for several more years, but by 1906 it was purchased by Marcus M. Goodell, who worked as vice president of the Springfield Lumber Company. He and his wife Emma lived here with two of their children, Alfred and Edward, and both were also employed with the lumber company, working as a foreman and a bookkeeper, respectively.

During the 1910 census, 39 year old Alfred was still single, but his younger brother was recently married and living here with his wife Carrie. That same year, this house was the scene of a rather bizarre religious event that made newspaper headlines across the state. Marcus was the leader of a Pentecostal sect that believed, given recent calamities around the globe, that the end of the world was imminent. With this in mind, about 30 or 40 of his followers, including his family, barricaded themselves in the house, believing it to be their “ark” through which they would survive the end of the world.

The end of the world turned out to be slow in coming, and in the meantime the directors of the lumber company became concerned about the fact that Marcus, Alfred, and Edward had stopped coming to work. Finally, several weeks into the seclusion, they threatened to fire Marcus as vice president if he did not come to the next board meeting. The impending apocalypse notwithstanding, Marcus and Edward decided to temporarily leave the house in order to attend the meeting, but they returned a few hours later.

Newspapers across the state had a field day with this story, comparing the large barricaded house to Noah’s ark, and Marcus and his three sons to Noah, Ham, Shem, and Japheth. After the board meeting, the Boston Globe subtly pointed to the absurdity in it all, remarking that “although Mr. Goodell may place the utmost credence in the prediction that the end of the world is near at hand, it is evident that he does not believe it good policy to neglect his business affairs when there is danger of their becoming seriously involved.”

Aside from the board meeting, the Goodells and their followers remained here for most of the summer of 1910, although most of the newspapers seemed to have lost interest by the time they finally emerged from their seclusion. Following this event, they carried on life as usual, until Edward’s death in 1918 and Marcus’s two years later. Their widows, though, would both outlive them by many years, and when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s Emma, at this point in her late 80s, was still living here, along with Alfred and her other son, Irving.

Alfred Goodell evidently inherited his mother’s longevity, because he continued living here in this house for about 60 years, until his death in 1966 at the age of 93. Since then, the house has remained mostly the same, although it is now a two-family home. The exterior retains its decorative Stick-style design, and the house is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

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.