Nathan Nirenstein House, Springfield, Mass

The house at the corner of Washington Road and Sumner Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is one of the newest in the Forest Park Heights neighborhood, dating back to 1931, only a few years before the first photo was taken. It was built in a Tudor Revival style that was popular for upscale homes of the era, and was originally the home of real estate dealer Nathan Nirenstein. A native of Russia, Nirenstein immigrated to the United States as a boy and subsequently entered the real estate business. In 1925 he established the Nirenstein National Realty Map Company, which published high-quality real estate maps of locations throughout the United States, and he was also involved in several other companies, including the Kellogg Buildings Realty Trust Company, the Harrison Realty Corporation, and the Bowles Lunch Company.

Nirenstein built this house around the same time as his marriage to his wife Tessie, and the couple had two children, David and Judy, who were born a few years later. They would continue to live here for many years, until around the early 1970s. Since then, the house has been well-preserved, with no noticeable differences between the two photos. It still stands as one of the many fine early 20th century homes in the area, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Solomon B. Griffin House, Springfield, Mass

The house are 185 Mill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This large Tudor Revival-style home was built in 1904 for Solomon B. Griffin, the managing editor of the Springfield Republican. Born in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1852, he attended Williams College, where his father was a professor and librarian. However, because of poor health he did not graduate, and after leaving college he came to Springfield, where he was hired by Republican editor Samuel Bowles as a member of the newspaper staff. Although he started out as a reporter, he soon earned greater responsibilities, first becoming the local editor and then, in 1878, the managing editor.

Solomon Griffin was a bachelor for much of his adult life, but in 1892 he married Ida M. Southworth, the 34-year-old daughter of the wealthy paper manufacturer John H. Southworth, who had died the year before. After their marriage, Solomon and Ida lived with her mother Elizabeth in the Southworth mansion on Round Hill in the North End, where they raised their two sons, Bulkley and Courtlandt. However, Elizabeth died in 1901, and within a few years the family had this house built on Mill Street, directly adjacent to 175 Mill Street, which Griffin had owned since the 1800s.

The house was situated on a large lot, extending along the south side of Mill Street from Pine Street to Maple Street, and all the way back to the Mill River. A century earlier, the property had been the home of David Ames, Sr., an early Springfield industrialist who served as first superintendent of the armory, and the lot was later sold to Horace Smith, the co-founder of Smith & Wesson. The old Ames house was demolished around 1890, and by the time Griffin purchased the property the lot was vacant. He built this house on the northwestern corner of the property, along with a carriage house on the opposite side of the lot, set back from the road.

Solomon Griffin remained the managing of the Springfield Republican for more than 40 years, before finally retiring in 1919, and he lived here in this house until his death in 1925. In the meantime, though, his son Bulkley was also involved in the newspaper business, starting out as a reporter for the Republican before establishing the Griffin News Bureau in 1922. He was a veteran of World War I, and he would also go on to serve as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II.

After her husband’s death, Ida continued to live in this house for the rest of her life. During the 1930 census, the property was valued at $100,000, or about $1.5 million today, and Ida was living here alone except for a servant and a cook. She was still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, but she died soon after, in 1940. The property was subsequently acquired by Amity Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, who continue to hold their meetings here more than 75 years later. Along with the rest of the surrounding neighborhood, the house is now part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

George W. Kyburg House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 6 Ames Hill Drive in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Ames Hill Drive is a short cul-de-sac street that was developed in the 1920s, at the top of the hill on Maple Street. It is located on the lot that had once belonged to David Ames Jr., and the street runs behind his former mansion, which still stands on Maple Street. There are only a few houses on Ames Hill Drive, but they were home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents. This particular one was built in 1927 for George W. Kyburg, a businessman who was the treasurer of the Package Machine Company. Like many of the other mansions of early 20th century Springfield, it has a Tudor Revival style, and it was designed by Max Westhoff, who was one of the city’s leading architects of the era.

During the 1930 census, George was living here with his wife Ellen and two servants, but he died just a year later, after living in this house for only about four years. By the following year, Ellen had sold the house to Harry H. Caswell, the general manager of W.F. Young, Inc. He served in this role from 1919 to 1956, during which time the company specialized in the horse linament Absorbine, as well as Absorbine Jr., which was made for human use. Caswell moved into this house with his wife Estelle and their daughter Patricia, although Estelle died only a few years later in 1934. He and Patricia were still living in the house when the first photo was taken, and he remained here until his death in 1964 at the age of 81.

Like many of the other mansions along this part of Maple Street, the house was eventually acquired by the MacDuffie School, as part of its campus. In 1974, it also became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has survived as an excellent example of Tudor Revival architecture. However, the MacDuffie School moved out of Springfield after the 2010-2011 school year, and on June 1, 2011 the entire campus was heavily damaged by a tornado, including this house. The damage to this house has since been repaired, though, and today it is part of Commonwealth Academy, which now owns the former MacDuffie campus.

Lewis E. Tifft House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 225 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This Tudor Revival-style home was built in 1927 for Lewis E. Tifft, an investment banker who lived here with his wife Frances and their daughter Evelyn. A graduate of Williams College, Lewis had established the Tifft Brothers firm with his brother Charles in the early 20th century. He left the firm to serve in France during World War I, but after the war he returned to Springfield and continued working as a banker. During this time, he and Florence lived on Ridgewood Terrace, but they subsequently purchased this property near the top of the hill on Maple Street, and hired Boston-based architect John Barnard to design this house.

The Tiffts were still living here a decade later when the first photo was taken, and they would remain here for many years, until Frances’s death in 1961 and Lewis’s death in 1968. The property was then given to the adjacent MacDuffie School, a private school whose campus encompassed many historic mansions on the upper part of Maple Street. In 1974, the house became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and it continued to be used by the MacDuffie School until 2011, when the school relocated to Granby. That same year, the school buildings were heavily damaged by the June 1 tornado, but the Tifft House has since been restored, and it is now part of Commonwealth Academy, which is located on the former MacDuffie campus.

Dwight W. Ellis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 133 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


Dwight W. Ellis was born in Monson, Massachusetts in 1885, and was the son of textile manufacturer Arthur D. Ellis. Arthur’s father, also named Dwight W. Ellis, had established a textile mill in Monson in 1871, and Arthur took control of it after his father’s death in 1899, adding a second factory in 1908. After Arthur’s death in 1916, the younger Dwight acquired the firm, which became A. D. Ellis Mills Incorporated in 1923. Over the years it made a wide variety of textiles, including uniform fabric for Annapolis, West Point, the Marine Corps, and the New York Police Department, as well as cloth for such diverse uses as billiards tables, caskets, and automobile upholstery. The mills produced upholstery for the White House cars, and also for the car used by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1952.

Although he spent much of his life in Monson, Dwight W. Ellis moved to Springfield in the late 1920s, along with his wife Marion and their three children. Here, he purchased property on Springfield’s exclusive Longhill Street, and built this Tudor Revival-style home, which was described in a 1980s city library pamphlet as “the most extravagant mansion ever built in the Forest Park neighborhood.” It was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Chapman & Frazer, which specialized in Medieval-inspired designs such as this, and cost some $60,000 to build by the time it was completed in 1928.

The Ellis family was still living here when the first photo was taken a decade later, and Dwight’s mills were still prosperous. During the 1940 census, his income was listed as “over $5,000,” which was the highest income bracket on the census, and despite the Great Depression, the family could still afford to hire two live-in servants. However, by the middle of the century the New England textile industry was struggling, and the Ellis mills were no exception. In 1958, Dwight’s son, Dwight Jr., testified before a U.S. Senate hearing, explaining the company’s plight, which he blamed on stiff foreign competition and low tariffs. He told the senators about the conpany’s long history, their high-quality fabrics, and their state-of-the-art production methods, before explaining how they recently had to lay off half their workers and close one of the mills.

In the midst of the company’s financial problems, the older Dwight sold his house to the Melha Shriners in the mid-1950s. They expanded the house to use it as the organization’s headquarters, and the renovated building was dedicated in 1959. This included a large addition to the back, but the front of the house remained essentially unchanged, as the two photos show. Unfortunately, things did not end so well for Ellis or his mills. With both his company and his health failing, 75-year-old Dwight committed suicide in 1961, leaving Dwight Jr. to take over as president until the following year, when the nearly century-old firm finally closed.

Today, the house is one of the many early 20th century mansions that still stand on Longhill Street, and it is a contributing property in the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It has remained as the headquarters of the Melha Shriners ever since Ellis sold the house in the 1950s, but earlier this year the organization announced plans to sell the property. Amid declining membership and high upkeep costs, the Shriners are looking to downsize in order to focus on their primary mission of supporting Springfield’s Shriner’s Hospital, so as of right now the fate of this building seems uncertain.

Harold G. Duckworth House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 368 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


In the first half of the 20th century, the southern section of Longhill Street was one of the most desirable parts of Springfield, and was the home of many of the city’s wealthiest residents. Located just south of downtown Springfield, on a ridgeline above the Connecticut River, many of these homes enjoyed spectacular views, and were situated right next to Forest Park, the largest park in the city. In keeping with architectural tastes of the era, a number of the homes, including this one, had Tudor Revival-style designs, evoking the appearance of an aristocratic English country estate.

Nearly all of the mansions here on Longhill Street were built before the start of the Great Depression, and this house, completed in 1931, was among the last to be built. It was designed by the architectural firm of B. H. Seabury for Harold G. Duckworth, a chain manufacturer who had previously lived in a more modest home on Forest Park Avenue. He and his wife Alma had two children, James and Susan, and they were all living here when the first photo was taken later in the decade.

Harold died in 1961, and Alma lived in this house until 1983, when she sold the property. She was in her 70s at the time, but she would go on to outlive both of her children, and she died in 2003, just a few weeks shy of her 104th birthday. In the meantime, her former house has remained well-preserved, with no noticeable changes between the two photos. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.