The LaRiviere, Springfield, Mass

The building at 162-164 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This commercial block was one of several Indian Orchard properties that were owned by Octave A. LaRiviere, a French-Canadian merchant, politician, and contractor who was among the neighborhood’s leading citizens of the late 19th century. LaRiviere, who also went by the name of John Rivers earlier in his career, lived in the house directly to the right of this building, and he also owned a tenement building, which was located a block west of here on Main Street.

This four-story brick building was completed in 1908, and was known as The LaRiviere. It is perhaps the most architecturally significant of the several late 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings here on Main Street, and it features an ornate, polychromatic Classical Revival facade. There are two storefronts on the ground floor, with apartments in the upper floors, and the 1910 census shows at least four families in the building. Based on the census records, the residents were primarily skilled laborers and other middle-class workers at the nearby factories in Indian Orchard, and included a machinist, a foreman, an inspector, a pattern maker, a traveling salesman, a clerk, and a chief engineer.

By the time the first photo was taken, America was in the midst of the Great Depression, but there were still a good number of factory jobs here in Indian Orchard. As was the case in 1910, most of the residents worked as skilled laborers, with the 1940 census showing that most of them earned around $1,000 to $1,300 per year. The building had five different families at the time, with two each paying $40 per month in rent, one paying $36, one paying $20, and one whose rent was not included on the census.

Today, The LaRiviere is one of several historic commercial blocks in the center of Indian Orchard. It remains remarkably well-preserved, with even the storefronts looking the same as they did over 80 years ago. LaRiviere’s house, located on the right side of the scene, has since been altered, but it is still standing and still recognizable from the first photo. The only significant change in this scene is the building on the left, at 158-160 Main Street. It was still standing here as late as the 1980s, when it was included in the state’s MACRIS database of historic properties, but it has since been demolished, and the site is now a parking lot.

Indian Orchard Mills Company Tenements, Springfield, Mass

The tenement block at 114-124 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Indian Orchard is located along the Chicopee River, in the northeast corner of Springfield, and in the mid-19th century it was developed into a factory village. The first mill was built in 1854 by the Ward Manufacturing Company, a cotton company that also owned the dam on the river, the power canal, and much of the land in the village. The company also built a number of tenement blocks in the vicinity of the mill, and this building on Main Street was likely one of them. However, Ward Manufacturing went bankrupt only a few years later, and in 1859 the mill and tenements were acquired by the Indian Orchard Mills Company.

Many of the early mill workers were French-Canadian immigrants, and it was common for almost every family member to be employed in the mills, including young children. Long before child labor laws were enacted, one 1867 observer wrote: “I have admitted that there are great abuses in the employment of children,” and he went on to describe “a resident population composed mainly of English, Irish and French Canadians, requiring separate tenements and the whole family, save one or two, working in the mills. The adults are ignorant and illiterate, and force their children to work and when operatives are scarce, as they have been, the mill owner is obliged to allow the employment of the children or lose the whole family, thus causing his machinery to stay idle.”

The 1900 census shows 10 families living in this building, nearly all of whom were French-Canadian. Most worked for the mills in some capacity, including as a weaver, spooler, teamster, boiler tender, and watchman. The largest family was that of John and Rose Levesque, who lived here with nine of their 11 children. The children’s ages ranged from one to 26, with the four oldest employed in factories, although it is also possible that the younger children may have – at least unofficially – been working as well, since child labor was still a common practice here in Indian Orchard and throughout the country. However, perhaps the most tragic story seen through the census records is that of Owen and Mary Hammond, two Irish immigrants who were in their 50s at the time. They lived alone, but according to the census, Mary had six children, only one of whom was still alive by the time of the census.

The building was still standing when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, but, like all of the other Indian Orchard Mills tenements in the area, it has since beeen demolished. Some of the mill buildings are still standing, though, and the interior space is now rented to a variety of tenants, who use it for offices, manufacturing, and art studios. These buildings can be seen in the distance of the present-day photo, although closer in the foreground, the former site of the tenement house is now a parking lot that extends the entire length of the block from Main to Front Streets.

Octave A. LaRiviere Tenement Block, Springfield, Mass

The tenement houses at 136-142 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This Second Empire-style tenement building was built sometime around the 1870s, and was owned by Octave A. LaRiviere, a French-Canadian immigrant who lived a block away in a house on Main Street. A dry goods merchant, LaRiviere went by the anglicized name of John Rivers for many years, in order to avoid anti-immigrant discrimination. He served as a city councilor and alderman in the 1880s and 1890s, and later served as a Massachusetts delegate to the 1912 Republican National Convention. In his later years, he reverted to his original French name, and was a contractor in the firm of LaFrance & LaRiviere.

This building was one of many tenements that were built in this area in the late 19th century, in order to house workers at the nearby mills. Many were company-owned tenements, but this one was privately owned, with a mix of mill employees and other workers. The 1900 census showed at least three families in this building (although there were probably more than that), including two immigrant families from Quebec. One unit housed Louise Bengle, who lived here with her son Paul, who worked as a clothing salesman, and her grandson Donald, who worked as a machinist. A second unit was the home of Casimir Baillargeon, a carpenter who lived here with his wife Mary, along with his nephew, his niece, and a boarder. A third unit in the building was the home of Fred Pero, an iron molder who lived here with his wife Kate and their three children.

The first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and the 1940 census shows 12 families living in the buildings. They were a mix of native-born Americans, plus immigrants from Quebec and Poland, and most were employed by the nearby mills along the Chicopee River. Each family paid around $20 per month in rent, and their salaries ranged from a janitor who made $350 per year, to a tire maker who earned a salary of $1,560. The first photo shows two sets of wooden porches on the front, with two units apparently sharing each porch level. Today, not much has changed in this scene, and these porches are still standing. The rest of the building has also remained well-preserved, and continues to be used as a 12-unit apartment building.

Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from Union Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

Maple Street in 2017:


These two photos, taken 125 years apart, show he changes that Maple Street underwent in the early 20th century. For most of the 1800s, the lower part of Maple Street was an upscale residential area, primarily with large, single-family homes. Several of these can be seen in the first photo, including one in front of the church, and another one just beyond it. However, as the city grew, these homes were steadily replaced with large apartment buildings. The building just to the left of the church, at the corner of Maple and Temple Streets, was built in 1906, and was followed about 20 years later by the apartment building on the right side of the photo. The most recent building in this scene is Chestnut Towers, visible on the far left. This 240-unit, 34-story apartment building was completed in 1976 at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets, and it is the tallest residential building in the city.

Today, the only surviving building from the first photo is South Congregational Church. It was designed by prominent architect William Appleton Potter, and was completed in 1875, replacing an earlier South Congregational Church that had stood several blocks away on Bliss Street. Some of Springfield’s most prominent residents attended this church, including many of those who lived in the nearby mansions. Despite the many changes to the neighborhood over the years, though, the church has remained as an important landmark. It is one of the city’s finest architectural works, and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.

23-25 George Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 23-25 George Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2016:

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This apartment building was built around the 1880s or 1890s in Springfield’s Maple Hill neighborhood. At the time, the area mainly consisted of large, elegant single-family homes for some of the city’s most prominent residents. This building was an exception, though, and its early 20th century tenants were predominantly blue collar workers. From the 1910 through 1940 censuses, the building appears to have had four apartments, and housed a variety of families. Some were immigrants, including people from Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Turkey. Many worked as skilled laborers in the city’s factories, including some who worked at the Armory.

By the 1940 census, shortly after the first photo was taken, there were four families living here. There were two married couples who lived alone, another couple who lived here with the wife’s brother, and an older widow who lived here with her personal nurse. Three of these families paid $30 in monthly rent, while the fourth paid $65. The four occupations listed, aside from the nurse, were a toolmaker in a radio factory, a machinist in a factory, a president of a life insurance company, and a president of a lumber company.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, the building now consists of six apartment units. However, the exterior is remarkably unchanged. The front porch is probably not original to the building, although it looks basically the same as it did in the 1930s, aside from the addition of a satellite dish. The house, along with the rest of the east side of George Street, is just outside the boundary of the Ames and Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is located within the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

The Linden, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking south on Main Street from the corner of Sheldon Street, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The scene in 2016:

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This view shows some of the same buildings as an earlier post, just from a different angle a block away. The building in the foreground here is The Linden, a Romanesque-style apartment building that was completed in 1891. Most of the other buildings in the distance beyond it are still standing, including the Hotel Capitol, built in 1875 a block away, and the South Congregational Church, completed in 1827. The only building not still standing from the first photo is the South Baptist Church on the far right. It was built in 1854 and demolished to build the present Central Baptist Church. Today, most of the buildings in this scene are part of the Buckingham Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.