St. Mary’s Church, Northampton, Mass

The St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church on Elm Street in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The church in 2017:

Like most other New England communities, Northampton was predominantly Protestant throughout its first few centuries, but this began to change after the Industrial Revolution, when the region saw large-scale immigration from Catholic countries. Here in Northampton, most of the early Catholics were French-Canadian, and began arriving by the mid-19th century. Within a few decades there were several Catholic parishes in Northampton, including Saint Mary of the Assumption, whose church building was built here on Elm Street in 1881.

The church was designed by Patrick W. Ford, an Irish-born architect who was responsible for a number of Catholic churches in New England. Its polychromatic brick and brownstone exterior reflects the High Victorian Gothic style of the era, and it matches the design of College Hall at Smith College, which is located directly across the street from here. The front of the church is nearly symmetrical, although the left tower is slightly taller and wider than the one on the right. As the first photo shows, the towers did not initially have spires, although they were added a few years later in 1895 and were also designed by Ford.

Aside from the spires, the exterior of the church has not significantly changed in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. However, it is no longer in use as a church, after having been closed in 2010 along with a number of other Catholic churches in the Diocese of Springfield. Some of the parishioners appealed the closing, but the Vatican upheld the decision in 2015. The building has since been offered for sale, although it currently remains vacant, more than eight years after it closed.

Third Congregational Church, Chicopee, Mass

The Third Congregational Church, on Springfield Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

Chicopee’s Third Congregational Church was established in 1834, and originally met in the nearby Stearns House. After meeting in several other temporary locations, the church built its first permanent building in 1837, here at the corner of Springfield and Pearl Streets. The congregation worshipped here for three decades, but in 1868 the old building was demolished and replaced with the present brick church, which was completed in 1870. It features High Victorian Gothic-style architecture, which was common in churches of the era, and it was designed by Charles Edward Parker, a Boston-based architect who would go on to design Chicopee City Hall several years later.

In 1925, Third Congregational Church merged with the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, forming the Federated Church. Central Methodist subsequently sold their building on Center Street, and the merged church continued to worship here in the Third Congregational building. The church has since been renamed Christ’s Community Church, but it remains here in this building, which has seen few changes in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. The house next door, which is now owned by the church, is also still standing, and today both buildings are part of the Springfield Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Universalist Church, Chicopee, Mass

The Universalist Church at the corner of Center and Springfield Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This Greek Revival-style building was constructed in 1836, and was originally owned by the Mechanics’ Association. However, within a few years it was sold to a Universalist society, which had been founded in 1835 and formally established as a church in 1840. At the time, Chicopee was still part of Springfield, and this neighborhood was known as Cabotville, but in 1848 Chicopee was incorporated as a separate town. The church building occupied a prominent location in the new town center, at the southern end of Market Square, and the Universalists continued to meet here until the society was disbanded in 1883.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, the building had become the United Presbyterian Church. However, because of its valuable location in the center of Chicopee, the ground floor was rented to commercial tenants, including Carter & Spaulding’s grocery store, which can be seen on the left side of the first photo. Subsequent early 20th century tenants included the Gaylord-Kendall Company bankers and the Association Co-Operative meats and groceries, and the Presbyterian church remained here until 1925, when the congregation moved to a new church building on Newbury Street.

After this move, the old church building was converted entirely to commercial use. By the mid-20th century the ground floor was home to Paul’s Shoes on the left side and the Peter Pan Café on the right, and the church sanctuary had been converted into the Peter Pan Ballroom. Around this time the exterior was also significantly altered, including the removal of the cupola and the installation of aluminum siding, which hid most of the building’s original architectural features.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, the old church building is still standing, although it is hardly recognizable. The exterior is now covered in brick, and only the window arrangement gives any clue that it is still the same building from the first photo. Formerly Bernardino’s Restaurant, the building is now home to the Munich Haus, a German restaurant that opened here in 2004. At the time, the three-story brick Temple Block, seen on the right side side of the first photo, was still standing. It was built in 1876 but was destroyed in a fire in 2011, and the site of the building is now a biergarten for the Munich Haus.

St. Jerome’s Church, Holyoke, Mass

St. Jerome’s Church and Rectory on Hampden Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Holyoke was developed into a major industrial center. Many factories were built along the city’s network of canals, and were powered by water from the Connecticut River, which drops 58 feet at the falls between Holyoke and South Hadley. The factories led to a dramatic population growth, particularly with immigrant groups such as the Irish and the French Canadians, who came to Holyoke in search of work, and this led to an abundance of Catholic churches to serve these two predominantly Roman Catholic communities.

The first of these Catholic churches was St. Jerome’s Church, which was established in 1856. The church building, seen here in the center of both photos, was constructed two years later, diagonally opposite Hampden Park at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets. It features a brick, Gothic Revival-style design and, like many other Catholic churches of the era, was designed by prominent Irish-born architect Patrick Keely.

As the Catholic population of Holyoke continued to grow, a number of additional buildings were added around St. Jerome’s Church. The St. Jerome Institute was established as a school for boys in 1872, and was located in a building just to the left of the church, on the far left side of the first photo. Then, in 1879, a Second Empire-style church rectory was built to the right of the church, on the opposite side of Chestnut Street, and is visible on the right side of both photos. Other buildings constructed during this time included the Sisters of Notre Dame Convent (1870), the Convent of the Sisters of Providence  (1886), and the School of the Immaculate Conception (1883), all of which were located across Hampden Street opposite the church, just out of view to the left.

St. Jerome’s Church was significantly damaged by a fire in 1934 that left only the exterior brick walls still standing. However, the building was reconstructed a year later, and it remains in use today as an active Roman Catholic parish. Most of the other 19th century buildings nearby are still standing, aside from the St. Jerome Institute, which was demolished in the late 20th century. Today, these remaining buildings, including St. Jerome’s Church, now form part of the Hampden Park Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Northampton, Mass

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Elm Street in Northampton, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2017:

St. John’s Episcopal Church was established in 1826, initially meeting in the town hall until their own church building was completed on Bridge Street in 1829. The congregation worshipped there for more than 60 years, but by the early 1890s they had outgrown that building and were in need of a new one. The funding for such a church was provided by George Bliss, a wealthy New York banker who had grown up in Northampton and had attended St. John’s back when services were held at the town hall.

George Bliss purchased this lot on Elm Street, adjacent to Smith College, and he paid for the construction of the church, which was designed by noted New York architect Robert W. Gibson. Like many other churches of the era, it features Romanesque  Revival architecture, with features such as a tall tower in the corner, rounded arches, and a rough-faced stone exterior. The church was completed in 1893, and Bliss attended the consecration service along with his business partner, Levi P. Morton, who had served as Vice President of the United States under Benjamin Harrison from 1889 to 1893.

More than 110 years after the first photo was taken, the church has not significantly changed. Although surrounded on all sides by the Smith College campus, it remains in use as an Episcopal church, with close ties to the college. The church appears to be missing the weathervane that was atop the tower in the first photo, but otherwise all of the other architectural details have been preserved, even down to the gargoyles that extend from the corners of the tower.

Main Street from Masonic Street, Northampton, Mass

Looking west on Main Street from near the corner of Masonic Street in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This scene, on the western end of Main street, was at the outer edges of downtown Northampton for most of the 19th century, and it was not fully developed into its present-day form until the 1870s and 1880s. The oldest building in the first photo is the Edwards Church, located directly in the center of the photo. This congregation was established in 1833 as an offshoot of the First Church, and was named in honor of Jonathan Edwards, the prominent theologian who had served as the pastor of the First Church from 1729 to 1750. The first permanent home of the new congregation was a church at the corner of Main and Old South Streets, but this building was destroyed in a fire in 1870 and, a few years later, the church completed a new building a few blocks to the west, as seen in the first photo.

Around the same time that the new church was built here, Smith College was established on a site just beyond the church, where Main Street divides into West and Elm Streets. The school’s first building, College Hall, was completed in 1875, and can be seen in the distance on the left side of both photos. Like many of the other 19th century buildings on the campus, College Hall was the work of the Boston-based architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, and was designed in the High Victorian Gothic style that was popular at the time, particularly for schools and other institutional buildings.

The newest buildings in the first photo were the five brick commercial blocks in the foreground on the right side. Known as the Daley Blocks, these buildings were completed around 1886-1887 and were originally owned by Patrick J. Daley, an Irish native who owned a dry goods store in Florence. As the first photo shows, the three buildings in the middle were built with the same architectural style – red brick, with light-colored lintels and sills – but paint and other alterations have obscured these details on the buildings to the left and the right.

Today, aside from these minor changes to the Daley Blocks, the only significant difference in this scene is the Edwards Church. The old church building from the first photo stood here for over 80 years, and during this time it was the home church of Calvin Coolidge and his family, as well as the site of his funeral in 1933. However, by the 1950s it was in in need of serious repairs, and the congregation voted to build a new church rather than renovate the old one. As a result, it was demolished and replaced with the current church building, which was completed in 1958 on the same site as the old church.