Sacred Heart Church and Rectory, Holyoke, Mass

The Sacred Heart Church (right) and rectory (left), seen from Maple Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, the Sacred Heart Parish was established in 1878 as an offshoot of St. Jerome’s Parish, which had been the first Catholic church in Holyoke. Sacred Heart served the Catholics in the southern section of downtown Holyoke, and in 1876 construction began on the church building here at the corner of Maple and Sargeant Streets. The Second Empire-style rectory, on the left side of the scene, was built around the same time, but the church would not be completed until 1883.

The first pastor of the church was Father James T. Sheehan, although he died of tuberculosis two years later in 1880, at the age of 32. He was succeeded by Father P. B. Phelan, a Newfoundland native who had previously served as pastor of the church in West Springfield. Upon his arrival here in Holyoke, Phelan inherited the incomplete church building, along with a sizable debt of $40,000. However, he oversaw the completion of the church, paid off the debt, and went on to serve the parish for the next 39 years, until his death in 1919.

The church was built at a cost of $90,000 (almost $2.5 million today), and featured ornate Gothic-style architecture on both the exterior and interior. By the time the first photo was taken around 1891, the church and rectory had also been joined by a school and a convent, both of which stood just out of view on the left side of the scene. Together, these four buildings occupied an entire city block, surrounded by Maple, Sargeant, Chestnut, and Franklin Streets.

The spire was not added to the church until 1897, but otherwise this scene has not seen many changes since the first photo was taken. It is hard to tell because of the tree in front of it, but the exterior of the church has remained well-preserved, and it is still in use as an active parish. To the left, the rectory is also still standing, and still has its Victorian-era details, such as the corner tower, the ornate front entryway, and the curved front steps. However, both the 19th century school and the convent are gone, and the southern half of this lot is now vacant except for a parking lot.

Sacred Heart Convent and School, Holyoke, Mass

The Sacred Heart Convent (left) and School (right), seen from Maple Street near the corner of Franklin Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke’s first Catholic church was St. Jerome’s, which was established in 1856 and was located at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets. This was followed in 1869 by the Parish of the Precious Blood, which served French-Canadian immigrants in the Flats of Holyoke. However, as the city’s population continued to grow, particularly as Irish immigrants moved to the city for manufacturing jobs, there was an increased need for another Catholic parish. So, in 1878 the Sacred Heart Parish was established as an offshoot of St. Jerome’s, encompassing the southern part of downtown Holyoke.

The church owned an entire city block here, bounded by Maple, Franklin, Chestnut, and Sargeant Streets, and over the next few years this site was developed with the construction of several different buildings. The first was the rectory, which was built around 1876 and is partially visible on the extreme right side of both photos. That same year, construction began on the church itself. It was located to the right of the rectory, on the northern end of the lot along Sargeant Street, although it would not be completed until 1883. The school was completed in 1890, at the corner of Franklin and Chestnut Streets, and is seen on the right side of the first photo. Around the same time, the convent was completed on the left side of the photo, at the corner of Maple and Franklin Streets.

By 1895, only a few years after the first photo was taken, the school had about 500 students who were taught by 12 nuns. The building was described in an 1895 edition of the Sacred Heart Review, which paid particular attention to the assembly hall in the school:

The school hall, seating nine hundred people, has a splendid stage, fine scenery, and opera chairs, and is most peculiarly though ingeniously constructed, the ceiling being finished in wood, which, with the many windows, the acoustically-arranged studding, and the crossing, so to speak, of two gable roofs, makes the hall a marvel of convenience to sight and hearing. The schoolrooms are very generously lighted, and are furnished with wood ceilings.

Today, Sacred Heart is still an active parish, and both the church and the rectory are still standing. However, aside from the small section of the rectory that is visible on the right side, there is nothing remaining in this scene from the first photo. The school and convent are long gone, and the site is now empty except for a small parking lot. Further in the distance, the block on the other side of Franklin Street had been undeveloped when the first photo was taken, but it now includes an ornate five-story brick apartment building, which is partially visible beyond the trees in the 2017 view.

First Congregational Church, Holyoke, Mass

The old First Congregational Church on the west side of Northampton Street, just north of the corner of Dwight Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The first church building in present-day Holyoke was built in the 1790s, and was located a little over a mile south of here on Northampton Street, near the site of the current First Baptist Church building. At the time, Holyoke was the northern part of the town of West Springfield, and was variously known as the Third Parish or Ireland Parish. Unusual for a New England settlement of the period, the majority of these early residents were Baptists. However, the parish did have some Congregational families, and in 1799 the First Congregational Church was formally organized with just 11 members. Four years later, the more numerous Baptists established their own church, and called Thomas Rand to be their first pastor.

Both denominations worshiped in the old meeting house, with the Baptists owning three-fourths of the building and the Congregationalists the remaining fourth. As a result, the Baptists held services here for three weeks of each month, and the Congregationalists for the remaining week. However, the latter group did not have their own pastor for many years, and on their designated weeks the pulpit was often supplied by pastors from neighboring towns. Not until the 1820s did they grow large enough to be self-sustaining, and in 1826 they acquired the full use of the old meeting house after the Baptists built a new church building nearby.

A few years later, the Congregationalists also constructed a new building of their own, which is seen in the first photo. It was built at a cost of $1,600, and was dedicated on December 11, 1834, on the same day that Hervey Smith was installed as the first pastor of the church. It was located just north of Crafts Tavern on Northampton Street, roughly opposite present-day Beacon Avenue, and was in a small village that also included a school and several stores. This was the de facto center of Ireland Parish at the time, and the area would remain a part of West Springfield until 1850, when Holyoke was finally incorporated as a separate municipality.

The First Congregational Church enjoyed steady growth after relocating to this building, and Reverend Smith served as pastor until his retirement in 1841. His successor, Gideon Dana, was here for three years before a church council dismissed him, or, as Story of Holyoke Churches (1890) diplomatically phrases it, “after a full hearing voted to advise the dissolution of the pastoral relation.” It would be another two years before the next pastor, Simeon Miller, was installed, but he would remain with the church for nearly 25 years, from 1846 until 1870.

It was during Reverend Miller’s long pastorate that Holyoke underwent the dramatic transition from a rural farming community to a major industrial center. Just a few years after he became pastor, work began on the dam and the canal system, located about a mile and a half east of here on the Connecticut River. By the early 1850s, the riverfront area had already eclipsed the old village as the center of the newly-established town, and in 1849 a Second Congregational Church was established near the new factories. This church drew many members from the First Congregational Church, thanks to its proximity to the new commercial and industrial developments, and in 1853 Second Congregational built a large church building at the corner of High and Dwight Streets, which provided a sharp contrast to the much smaller First Congregational building here on Northampton Street.

Despite the rapid growth in Holyoke’s population over the next few decades, the membership of the First Congregational Church actually declined. By Reverend Miller’s retirement 1870 it had dropped by about 20 percent compared to when he had been ordained, and for more than a decade the church went through a revolving door of pastors, with none staying for more than a couple years. Finally, in 1887, the congregation decided to relocate to a new site that was closer to downtown Holyoke, and the church purchased a lot about a half mile from here at the corner of Pleasant and Hampden Streets. Later that same year, a chapel was completed there, and the church moved into it after having spent 53 years here in the old church building here on Northampton Street. Then, in 1894, the church completed a larger building that is still standing today on Pleasant Street.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the First Congregational Church left this building. It does not seem clear as to exactly how long the old building remained here, but it appears to have still been standing in the 1911 city atlas. However, like the neighboring Crafts Tavern, it has since been demolished, and today there are no surviving traces of the old Ireland Parish village that was once located here. Northampton Street is now US Route 5, and it is lined with modern commercial development. The site of the church is now a garage in the center of the 2017 photo, and further in the distance a motel now stands where the houses in the first photo were located. On the far left side of the photo is the former John J. Lynch Middle School, which is going to be demolished soon and replaced by retail stores.

Front Steps, First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

A group of children sitting on the front steps of the First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

As discussed in the previous post, the First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, and moved into this newly-completed Romanesque Revival-style building two years later. It was built of contrasting granite and brownstone blocks, and had two front entrances on the Chestnut Street side. This particular scene shows the northwestern entrance, which is on the right side of the building when facing it from the street, and it provides good detail of the rough-faced blocks that make up the exterior of the building.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the church was completed, and shows a group of five young children sitting on the front steps. Although the children are unidentified, their parents likely worked in some of the many factories in Holyoke, and they themselves probably ended up working in the factories too. Some may have even attended this church for the rest of their lives, since the building was owned by the First Presbyterian Church for more than a century after the photo was taken.

Today, around 125 years later, not much has changed in this scene. The church is still standing, and this entrance has seen only minor changes, such as a new door and the addition of railings on the steps. The building is a good example of Romanesque Revival architecture, and it is one of many historic 19th century churches in Holyoke. Although the original congregation sold it in 2002, is still in use as a church, and is now the home of the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

The First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

The First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, with an initial membership of 77 people. James M. Craig was ordained as the first pastor, and the congregation worshipped in several different locations over the next two years. However, the church soon outgrew its temporary quarters, and in 1887 it acquired this property, at the corner of Chestnut and Cabot Streets. Construction of the church building began in September, and the first services were held here less than a year later, in August 1888. It was formally dedicated on March 5, 1889, in a ceremony that included a sermon by the Reverend John Hall, the prominent pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Contemporary descriptions of the church do not mention an architect, but it features a Romanesque Revival-style design, which was popular for churches of this period. The exterior was built primarily of granite, but it also included contrasting brownstone trim that gave it a polychromatic appearance. The Chestnut Street facade, which is seen here in this view, was almost symmetrical, except for the different-sized turrets on the corners. Like most other Romanesque churches, it also incorporates rounded arches, stained glass, and tall, narrow windows into its design.

The congregation continued to grow over the next few decades, and by the early 20th century it had over 700 members. They would worship here throughout the rest of the century, although during this time the exterior of building was altered, including the removal of the upper part of the roof, and the shortening of the turret on the right side. Overall, though, the building survives as a good example of Romanesque Revival-style architecture, and it is one of many historic late 19th century church buildings that still stand in Holyoke. However, it no longer houses its original Presbyterian congregation. The property was sold in 2002, and it is now occupied by the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

South Church, Salem, Mass

South Church, at the corner of Chestnut and Cambridge Streets in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The South Church was established in 1774, following a split within the Third Congregational Church, which later came to be known as the Tabernacle Congregational Church. For the first 30 years of its existence, the South Church met in a different building on Cambridge Street, but in 1804 construction began on a new church building here at the corner of Cambridge and Chestnut Streets. It was the work of prominent local architect Samuel McIntire, with an elegant Federal-style design that included elements such as pilasters on the front of the building, a Palladian window, a pediment above the front entrance, and an ornate, multi-stage steeple that rose from the top of the pediment.

The steeple in the first photo was actually the second one on the building. The first was destroyed in an apparent hurricane on September 11, 1804, in an event that was described by diarist William Bentley in his entry for that day:

The high wind brought down the unfinished Steeple of the new Meeting House lately raised in Cambridge Street, about five o’clock this afternoon. The whole work of the Steeple is distroyed. The spindle struck on the opposite side of the street, after falling 170 feet, about 30 feet from the building. The mortices had no pins through the long braces which went from the frame of the dome to the standard post & this occasioned the loss of the Steeple. The spindle broke, the vane and ball were much bruised & the whole a complete wreck.

However, the steeple was soon rebuilt to the height of 166 feet, and the building was dedicated on January 1, 1805, in a ceremony that was also described in Bentley’s diary:

This day was appropriated for the dedication of the New South Meeting House at Salem. A large Band of music was provided & Mr. [Samuel] Holyoke took the direction. A double bass, 5 bass viols, 5 violins, 2 Clarionets, 2 Bassoons & 5 german flutes composed the Instrumental music. About 80 singers, the greater part males, composed the vocal music. It could not have the refinement of taste as few of the singers were ever together before & most were instructed by different masters. But in these circumstances it was good. The House was crowded & not half that went were accomodated. Mr. Hopkins, the Pastor, performed the religious service of prayer & preaching, & a Mr. Emerson of Beverly made the last prayer. The music had an excellent dinner provided for them at the Ship [tavern] & the 16 ministers present dined in elegant taste at Hon. Jno. Norris Esqr. the principal character in the list of the Proprietors of the new Meeting House.

Later in the entry, Bentley also commented on the building’s architecture, writing:

The Steeple is the noblest in Town. Upon a lofty tower it rises upon reduced Octagons & hexagons, till it terminates in a slender cone. It is decorated handsomely. The roof is supported above, the arch is lofty, the pulpit rich, but nothing singular in the disposition of the House. It is the best structure for Public Worship ever raised in Salem.

The pastor at the time was Daniel Hopkins (1734-1814), a native of Waterbury, Connecticut who had graduated from Yale in 1758. He served as a delegate to the Third Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1775, shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolution, and he later served on the Governor’s Council from 1776 to 1778. He was ordained as the pastor of the South Church in 1778, and remained with the church until his death in 1814. However, he was suffering from poor health by the time this church building was completed, and in April 1805 he was joined by a second pastor, Brown Emerson (1778-1872), who had graduated from Dartmouth three years earlier.

In 1806, Brown Emerson married Reverend Hopkins’s daughter Mary, and went on to serve the church for many years after Hopkins’s death. Like Hopkins, he was also assisted by a younger pastor in his later years, but he remained with the church for a total of nearly 70 years, until his death in 1872 at the age of 94. Although the first photo is undated, it was probably taken sometime around the late 1860s or early 1870s, so it likely shows the church as it appeared around the time that Reverend Emerson died.

The historic church building stood here for nearly a century, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1903. It was a significant loss to the neighborhood, and was replaced by a stone, Gothic-style church that bore no resemblance to the old church, and it stood out as an anomaly among the otherwise Federal-style buildings on Chestnut Street. The new building was only used by the South Church for 20 years, until a 1924 merger with the Tabernacle Congregational Church. The building was subsequently used by a different church, but it was ultimately demolished in 1950, and the site was converted into a park.

Today, the former site of the church is still a park, as seen in the 2017 photo. However, aside from the loss of the church, the rest of the neighborhood has not undergone any significant changes since the area was first developed in the early 19th century. Just across the street from here is Hamilton Hall, which was built only a couple years after the original church building, and the homes in the first photo are also still standing, including the c.1808 Robinson-Little House on the left side of the scene. All of these buildings are now part of the Chestnut Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.