Forest Park Avenue, Springfield, Mass

Looking south on Forest Park Avenue from near the corner of Randolph Street in Springfield, sometime in the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The scene in 2017:


For most of the 19th century, the area that would become Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood was only sparsely settled. However, with the opening of a trolley line to the area in 1890, the southwestern corner of the city suddenly became within easy commuting distance of downtown Springfield. One of the first developers in the neighborhood was the Mutual Improvement Company, which purchased much of the land in the large triangle between Fort Pleasant, Belmont, and Sumner Avenues. A number of new streets were laid out, including Forest Park Avenue, which is seen here near the center of the development.

The Mutual Improvement Company was founded by John and William McKnight, the brothers who had been developing Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood since the 1870s. Like in McKnight, they sought to create an upscale residential neighborhood here in Forest Park that would appeal to Springfield’s leading citizens. Nearly all of the houses were unique, and were designed by some of the city’s leading architects. They also sold undeveloped lots, although these deeds came with restrictive covenants that required a specific setback from the road and a minimum construction cost.

Development in this section of Forest Park began in the early 1890s, primarily in the area between Garfield Street, Churchill Street, Sumner Avenue, and Forest Park Avenue. A few of these homes are visible in the distance, and they tend to have Queen Anne-style architecture, which was popular in the last decades of the 19th century. However, the large-scale development of this area did not begin until after 1900. At this point, architectural tastes had shifted toward Colonial Revival, as can be seen in the house on the far left, which was built in 1902. Other buildings that were completed during this second phase include the 1901 Park Memorial Baptist Church, which is visible in both photos.

About a century after the first photo was taken, the Forest Park Heights neighborhood remains remarkably well-preserved, and very little has changed in this scene on Forest Park Avenue. The only significant difference is the house on the right side of the first photo, at the corner of Garfield Street. It was built in the early 1890s, and was the home of candy manufacturer Franz Jensen. However, it was demolished in the 1930s, and was later replaced by a smaller Cape-style home in the 1940s. Overall, though, most of the historic homes in this neighborhood have survived with few major changes, and in 1982 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Forest Park Heights Historic District.

Park Memorial Baptist Church, Springfield, Mass

The Park Memorial Baptist Church at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Garfield Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The church in 2017:


This section of the Forest Park neighborhood is almost entirely residential, but there are also several historic church buildings, including the Park Memorial Baptist Church, seen here at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Garfield Street. The church was established in 1892, and this building was completed in 1901, just as the surrounding neighborhood was being developed, and it served the nearby residents who lived too far from the Baptist churches in downtown Springfield. The name refers to the fact that it served as a memorial to several local Baptist leaders: Dr. George B. Ide, pastor of First Baptist Church; Dr. A. K. Potter, pastor of State Street Baptist Church; and Jonathan Gould Chase, a deacon of First Baptist Church.

Since its completion, the only major change to the exterior of this building is the addition on the right, which was built around the 1920s. Essentially nothing has changed since the first photo was taken, though, and the building remains a prominent landmark in the Forest Park neighborhood. However, over the years there have been some changes to the church congregation itself. In the early 1900s, the First Baptist Church merged with Highland Baptist and State Street Baptist, and for many years was located at the corner of State and Stebbins Streets, but in 1982 they merged with the Park Memorial Baptist Church and moved into this building. Now named the First Park Memorial Baptist Church, the church continues to hold its services here, and the building itself is now is part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

South Congregational Church on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The church in 2017:


South Congregational Church was established in 1842 by members of Springfield’s First Congregational Church, and its first permanent home was on Bliss Street. This rather plain church had a very conservative architectural design that looked like any number of other churches in the area at the time, but in 1875 the congregation built a new, far larger and more elaborate church here, at the corner of Maple and High Streets.

This church was designed by William Appleton Potter, the half-brother of the equally notable architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It was one of his first major works, and it is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. The 1873-1874 city directory described it as being “a rather bold departure from ordinary models, being much like an amphitheater, and entirely unlike any other church building in Springfield.” This may have been somewhat of a hyperbole, since the Memorial Congregational Church in the North End, built a few years earlier, has many similar Gothic-style features, but South Congregational Church certainly stood out at a time when Springfield was building a number of fine churches.

Like many of the city’s other churches and public buildings of the era, it was built with locally-quarried stone, with a foundation of Monson granite and walls of Longmeadow brownstone. Along with this, terracotta, sandstone, and other materials were used to add a variety of colors to the exterior of the building. Also common in churches of the time period, the building is very asymmetrical, with a 120-foot tower located off-center in the southwest corner, and the main entrance at its base.

In total, it cost some $100,000 to construct, which was substantially more than most of the other new churches that were built around this time. However, the costs were offset by contributions from some of Springfield’s most prominent residents, including dictionary publishers George and Charles Merriam, railroad engineer Daniel L. Harris, and gun manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, who later moved into a massive mansion directly across the street from the church.

At the time that this building was completed, the pastor of the church was Samuel G. Buckingham, who had served in that position since 1847. He was also an author, and he wrote a biography of his brother, William A. Buckingham, a former Connecticut governor and U.S. Senator. Reverend Buckingham remained here at the church for 47 years, until his retirement in 1894. His successor was Philip Moxom, who, aside from his work here at the church, was also the president of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

More than 140 years after its completion, South Congregational Church is still an active congregation, and the building survives as one of Springfield’s finest architectural works. The only major change over the years was the addition of a parish house on the back of the church in the late 1940s. Not visible from this angle, it matches the design of the original building and it was even constructed with brownstone that had been salvaged from the demolished First Baptist Church. The church is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District, and in 1976 it was also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.

Second Baptist Church, Suffield, Connecticut (1)

The Second Baptist Church, on North Main Street in Suffield, around the early 1900s. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

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The church in 2017:

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In the colonial era, nearly all of the churches in New England were Congregational. At the time, Baptists were a very small minority, but they gained a foothold here in Suffield. The first Baptist church in Hartford County was established in the town in 1769, and its congregation met in a small church about three miles west of the town center. Despite the remote location, the church remained there in the Hastings Hill neighborhood, and the current church building was built in 1846.

Because of how far removed it was from the town center, though, the Second Baptist Church was formed in 1805, and in 1840 they built this building on North Main Street, right in the center of Suffield. It was designed by Suffield native Henry A. Sykes, who was the architect for a number of buildings throughout the Connecticut River Valley in the mid-19th century. The Greek Revival architecture is fairly typical for New England churches of the era, with a symmetrical front facade, a columned portico, and a multi-stage steeple above it.

The church building was completed a year after Dwight Ives became the pastor. He served here for many years, and had close ties to the Connecticut Literary Institute, located across the street. Known today as Suffield Academy, it had been founded as a Baptist school, and many of the students attended church here. During Ives’s 35 year long pastorate here, the church experienced several revivals, with a significant growth in the size of the congregation.

About a century after the first photo was taken, the Second Baptist Church is still an active congregation. There have been some changes, most notably the demolition of the parsonage to the right of the church and the construction of several additions in the 1950s. The church itself is still standing, though, along with the Ebenezer Gay Manse, barely visible in the distance on the far left of the photos. Both buildings are important landmarks in downtown Suffield, and they are part of the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

East Granby Congregational Church, East Granby, Connecticut

The East Granby Congregational Church, at the corner of North Main Street and Rainbow Road, around 1930. Image from Sketch of the Congregational Society and Church of East Granby, Conn. (1930).

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The church in 2017:

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Early 19th century stone churches are rare in the Connecticut River Valley, where most meetinghouses were built of either wood or brick. As a result, this granite church in East Granby stands out in contrast to the archetypal white, wood-frame churches of small-town New England. It was completed in 1831, and was one of many churches designed by Northampton, Massachusetts architect Isaac Damon, whose most prominent existing work is probably Springfield’s Old First Church. However, the East Granby church is very different from most of his other churches, which were almost invariably wood, with a columned portico in the front and a tall spire above it.

At the time of its completion, the church was actually located in Granby. The present-day towns of Granby and East Granby had been part of Simsbury in the colonial era, but in 1786 the two northern parishes were formed into the town of Granby. The eastern parish, originally known as Turkey Hills, subsequently split off from Granby in 1858 to form East Granby, with this area here as the town center.

The first photograph was taken around the time of the building’s 100th anniversary. At the time, East Granby’s population was just about 1,000 people, not much higher than when the town had been incorporated over 70 years earlier. However, in the nearly 90 years since then, the town has undergone significant growth as a suburb of Hartford, and now has over 5,000 residents. Part of Bradley International Airport is also located in the town, just over a mile east of the church.

Despite all of these changes, though, the church is still standing, and remains in active use. There have been several large additions over the years, which are partially visible behind and to the left of it, but Isaac Damon’s original section is largely unaltered. It is a prominent landmark in the center of town, and is part of the East Granby Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.