Woronoco House, Westfield, Mass

The Woronoco House on Elm Street in Westfield, around the 1860s. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

The Woronoco House was an important hotel here in Westfield throughout much of the 1800s. It was built at some point early in the century, and it stood on the west side of Park Square in downtown Westfield. It was brick, three stories in height, with a distinctive two-story porch here on the Elm Street side. The hotel could accommodate between 80 to 100 guests, and the building also included a tavern, in addition to a barber shop that was marked by a tall striped pole on the left side of the first photo.

The hotel was a stagecoach stop in the years before the railroad, and it also served as a gathering place for locals, ranging from the farmers who lived in the villages on the outskirts of town, to the wealthy cigar and whip manufacturers who dominated the local economy of the mid-19th century. During this time, the Woronoco House also saw a number of notable guests from out of town. These included author Bayard Taylor, Senator Charles Sumner, zoologist and anthropologist Paul Du Chaillu, abolitionist Wendell Phillips, New-York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Governor John A. Andrew, and politician Edward Everett, who served variously as governor, senator, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and secretary of state.

In 1871, the Woronoco House property was sold for $25,000, and the new owners soon made significant changes to the building. The original structure was evidently retained, but the exterior was completely reconstructed, including the removal of the porches. At some point, probably as part of this renovation, a fourth floor was added to the hotel, and the original gable roof was replaced by a flat roof. Upon completion, the hotel reopened as the Wilmarth House, but it was renamed again in 1886, becoming the Park Square Hotel.

The hotel remained in use well into the 20th century. It underwent another renovation in 1914, and was subsequently rebranded the New Park Square Hotel. However, the building was completely destroyed by an early-morning fire on December 7, 1942. It was one of several catastrophic fires in downtown Westfield during the mid-20th century, and it took firefighters some 13 hours to extinguish the blaze.

There were 35 guests in the hotel at the time of the fire, some of whom appear to have been long-term residents. Four of them were survivors of the fatal 1936 Van Deusen Inn fire, which had killed seven people, but everyone safely escaped from the New Park Square Hotel. One of the survivors of both fires was Minnie Hutchinson, who was carried out of the building by Deputy Chief Joseph Guinasso. Coincidentally, he was the same firefighter who had rescued her from the Van Deusen six years earlier.

The hotel proved to be a total loss, but firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading. Aside from minor smoke and water damage, the buildings on either side of the hotel survived largely unscathed. Today, the site of the hotel is now a parking lot, but these two neighboring buildings are still standing. On the left is the former Westfield Cooperative Bank, and on the right is the Snow and Hays Block. This building dates back to 1813, and was probably built around the same time as the Woronoco House, although it has been significantly altered over the years. As shown in the first photo, it was once four stories in height, but it was trimmed down to two stories in the 1940s. However, it survives as the only remnant from the first photo, and it is one of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown Westfield.

Raleigh Hotel, Washington, DC

The Raleigh Hotel, at the corner of 12th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The new Raleigh Hotel, around 1911-1925. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Second Empire-style building in the first photo was constructed in 1875-1876 as the Shepherd Centennial Building, an office building whose early tenants included the U.S. Pension Bureau and the Palais Royal department store. However, in 1893-1894 the building was renovated and converted into the Raleigh Hotel, which would become one of the finest hotels in Washington at the turn of the 20th century.

The original building was expanded in 1898 with a large addition to the rear, along 12th Street. As shown in the first photo, the 12-story addition dwarfed the older part of the hotel, and it featured a Beaux-Arts style exterior that was designed by noted architect Henry J. Hardenbergh. One of the leading hotel architects of the era, Hardenbergh’s other works included the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and the Plaza Hotel in New York, the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, and the nearby Willard Hotel here in Washington.

Sometime around 1910, the hotel owners acquired the small three-story commercial block on the right side of the hotel, which bore advertisements for a photo studio and cigar shop in the first photo. This allowed the hotel to further expand onto this lot, and by 1911 the original section of the hotel was demolished and replaced by a new 13-story building, as shown in the second photo. Also designed by Hardenbergh, its architecture matched the 1898 addition, although it stood several stories higher. Prior to 1910, buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue had been limited to 130 feet in height, but Congress raised the height limit to 160 feet, in order to accommodate the construction of the new Raleigh Hotel.

The Raleigh Hotel would continue to be one of Washington’s finest hotels throughout the first half of the 20th century. It was starting to show its age by the 1930s, when newer establishments such as the Mayflower Hotel began to eclipse it, but the Raleigh underwent a major renovation in the middle of the decade. It would remain competitive into the postwar era, but it entered a decline in the 1950s. During this time, aging downtown hotels across the country were struggling, and the Raleigh was no exception here in Washington. It finally closed in 1963, its furnishings were sold off, and it was demolished a year later. Its replacement, a 14-story office building at 1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, was completed in 1968, and it still stands on the site today.

Hotel Kimball, Springfield, Mass

The Hotel Kimball, seen from the Apremont Triangle at the corner of Pearl and Bridge Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

The Hotel Kimball is one of the most historically-significant early 20th century buildings in Springfield. It was opened in 1911, at a time when the city was at its peak of prosperity as a major commercial and manufacturing center, and it was regarded as the finest hotel in the city. It was constructed at a cost of $1 million – about $27 million today – and featured a Renaissance Revival exterior that was the work of architect Albert Winslow Cobb. On the interior, it originally included 309 guest rooms, a dining room that could seat 450 people, and the largest ballroom in the area.

An advertisement in the 1912 city directory declared the Hotel Kimball to be “A Modern Metropolitan Hotel Unexcelled in New England. Affording 500 Guests Every Comfort, Convenience and Safety.” The ad also provided the room rates, which started at $1.50 ($40 today) for “Rooms with use of Bath.” This presumably meant a communal bathroom, because “Rooms with Shower Bath” started at $2 ($53 today), while “Rooms with Bath” would cost a traveler $2.50 and up ($66 today). However, the most expensive option was “Suites of Parlor, Chamber and Bath,” which started at $5.50, or $144 today.

Aside from its importance as the city’s finest early 20th century hotel, the Hotel Kimball was also significant as the home of one of the country’s first commercial radio stations. Radio broadcasting was still in its infancy in 1921, when WBZ was licensed to Westinghouse. It transmitted from the Westinghouse facility on Page Boulevard, but in 1922 the station opened its studios here in the Hotel Kimball. The station remained here until 1931, when it relocated to Boston, but this building continued to be used by its affiliate station, WBZA, which served the Springfield market during the mid-20th century.

In the meantime, the Hotel Kimball was significantly expanded in 1923, with a large addition that is visible in the distance on the left side of both photos. It would remain an important hotel for many years, and attracted a number of prominent guests during this time, including presidents Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy. Other celebrity visitors included Babe Ruth, who stayed here in the 1920s and 1930s along with the rest of his Yankees teammates, prior to their exhibition games against the minor league Springfield Ponies.

In addition to its popularity with visitors to Springfield, the Hotel Kimball also housed a number of long-term residents. The 1930 census, for example, lists 52 residents of the hotel. These included at least eight hotel maids and housekeepers, plus the hotel manager and his family. There were also a few other middle class residents, such as an accountant, an engineer, and several salesmen, but most were members of Springfield’s upper class, with professions that included a physician, several attorneys, a banker, and a number of business executives. The monthly rents ranged from about $50 to $475 (about $760 to $7,200 today), but one resident was also listed as having a rent of $10,000 – an implausibly-high number that must have been an error.

Of these residents who lived here in 1930, the most prominent was Frederick H. Gillett, a politician who was then serving in the U.S. Senate. Born in Westfield in 1851, Gillett began practicing law in Springfield in 1877, and in 1892 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served in the House for 32 years, from 1893 to 1925, and he was also the Speaker of the House from 1919 until 1925, when he was elected to the Senate. He went on to serve one term in the Senate, from 1925 to 1931, and then retired from politics. Throughout much of his political career, Gillett lived here at the Hotel Kimball. He was here as early as 1912, just a year after it opened, and he would remain here until at least the early 1930s, although he may have lived here until his death in 1935.

During the 1940 census, which was done only a year or two after the first photo was taken, there were a total of 38 residents living here. There appears to have been more middle class workers than in 1930, with occupations such as an accountant, a mechanic, a clerk, a nurse, an electrician, and a few salesmen, in addition to five hotel employees who lived here. However, there were still a number of wealthy residents living at the hotel, including three attorneys and a few business owners.

The 1940 census enumerator not include their monthly rent, but their salaries are listed, which provides valuable insight. Most of the hotel maids earned $703 per year ($12,700 today), and the middle class workers such as the electrician, mechanic, and nurse all made a little over $1,000 ($18,000 today). The wealthier residents earned between $3,000 and $5,000 ($54,000-$90,000 today), and any incomes over $5,000 were recorded as “$5,000+” on the census. This was the case for two Kimball Hotel residents, who each earned the modern equivalent of over $90,000: John Haggerty, whose occupation was listed as “electrotypes” for a publishing company, and Chester McGown, the president of American International College.

Around the early 1950s, the hotel was acquired by Sheraton, which had been founded in 1937 in Springfield. This property became the Sheraton-Kimball Hotel, and it was declared to be “The Leading Hotel in Western Mass.” in a 1955 directory. The advertisement went on to list its “Town Room – Coffee Shop (Excellent food, Superb Service) Pickwick Cocktail Lounge (Entertainment Nightly),” and it also mentioned how the hotel specialized in wedding receptions and private parties.

However, despite this glowing description of the hotel, the mid-20th century was a difficult time for grand downtown hotels across the country, as interstate highways and suburban motels began changing the way Americans traveled. The Sheraton-Kimball closed by the early 1960s, but the building avoided demolition. Instead, it was converted into apartments, and it was renamed the Kimball Towers. Then, in 1985 it was converted into condominiums, with a total of 132 units. Today, it is still in use as a condominium building, with few exterior changes since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago. It remains an important downtown landmark, and it forms the centerpiece of the Apremont Triangle Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Tontine Hotel, New Haven, Connecticut

The Tontine Hotel, at the corner of Church and Court Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows the Tontine Hotel, which had been a New Haven landmark for nearly a century before the photo was taken. It was built sometime in the mid-1820s – sources differ on the exact date – and its design was the work of noted local architect David Hoadley. The Tontine was a prominent hotel in its early years, and its notable visitors during this time included Indian chief and orator Red Jacket, who gave a speech here in 1829, and Daniel Webster, who came here in 1832.

However, perhaps the most significant group of guests came a year later, when President Andrew Jackson came to New Haven in June 1833, accompanied by then-Vice President Martin Van Buren, Secretary of War Lewis Cass, Secretary of the Navy Levi Woodbury, and Governor William L. Marcy of New York. The party arrived in New Haven by steamboat at around 1 p.m. on the afternoon of June 15 and went to the State House, where the president was addressed by the governor and the mayor. Jackson was then escorted through the streets in a procession that took a circuitous route through the city, eventually ending here at the Tontine. Jackson spent the night at the hotel, and in the morning he attended Sunday services at Trinity Church before departing for Hartford.

The Tontine Hotel was still in business when the first photo was taken some 70 years later. At the time, it was known as White’s New Tontine, as its proprietor was George T. White. An advertisement in the 1902 city directory declared it to be “Under New Management. All the Modern Improvements. Refurnished Throughout,” and rooms ranged from $1.00 to $2.00 per night. The first photo also shows a restaurant in the basement of the hotel. The signs indicate that it was a buffet that offered “White’s steaks, chops and game in season,” and the directory described it as a “cafe, restaurant, and rathskeller” that was open from 6 a.m. until midnight. In addition to this restaurant, there are several other amenities visible in the first photo, including a barber shop and a “boot blacking emporium” that were both located on the left side of the building.

Despite its historic significance, though, the site of the Tontine Hotel was eyed for redevelopment soon after this photo was taken. It was demolished by around 1913, in order to make way for a new federal courthouse and post office. Unlike the fairly modest brick hotel, the new courthouse was an imposing marble structure. It had a Classical Revival design, including a large front portico with ten Corinthian columns, and it was the work of noted architect James Gamble Rogers. The cornerstone was laid in 1914, in a ceremony that featured a speech by former president and future chief justice William Howard Taft, but the building was not completed until 1919, a year after the second photo was taken.

Like the architecturally-similar New Haven County Courthouse, which stands nearby at the northeastern corner of the Green, the federal courthouse was threatened with demolition in the mid-20th century. However, like the county courthouse, it was ultimately preserved, and it underwent a major renovation in the 1980s. The post office moved out in 1979, but otherwise the building remains in use, as one of thee federal courthouses in the District of Connecticut. In 1998, it was renamed the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse, in honor of the longtime mayor of New Haven who helped to preserve the building, and in 2015 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Ira Atwater House, New Haven, Connecticut

The building at 218-224 College Street, at the corner of Crown Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The building in 2018:

This large Federal-style house was built around 1817 as the home of Ira Atwater, a local architect, builder, and carpenter. He evidently built the house himself, and its completion coincided with his marriage to Roanna Buckingham. The couple would go on to have ten children, and Ira had a successful career as a builder, which included constructing the historic First Congregational Church in nearby Guilford. However, he died in 1849 from injuries he sustained after falling from the roof of his house. Historical records do not specify whether he was living at this same house at the time, although it seems likely that he was.

At some point around the early 20th century, the house was converted into commercial use, and the ground floor was altered with the addition of two storefronts. By the time the first photo was taken, the building was occupied by Phillips Restaurant on the left and Star Shoe Repair on the right, and a sign above the front door advertises for “Rooms,” suggesting that the upper floors were used as a boarding house. Many of these rooms were likely occupied by Yale students, as the campus lies just a block north of here.

Today, not much has changed in this scene since the first photo was taken. Despite the ground floor alterations, the Federal-style architecture of the house is still easily recognizable, and it is one of the oldest surviving homes in this part of downtown New Haven. It stands adjacent to another historic home, the Thomas Merwin House, which was built around 1840 on the right side of the scene. Its ground floor has likewise been altered over the years, but the two upper floors have survived intact. Both of these houses are now contributing properties in the Chapel Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Hotel Monat, Holyoke, Mass

The Hotel Monat, at the corner of Main and Mosher Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This hotel was originally built in the mid-1880s as the Norris House. It was much smaller at the time, with only eight rooms, but the building was either significantly expanded or completely rebuilt around the turn of the 20th century, and by the time the first photo was taken it had 46 rooms. In 1906, the hotel was purchased by Henry Monat, a French-Canadian immigrant who renamed it the Hotel Monat.

It occupied a convenient location directly across the tracks from the railroad station, which is seen in the present-day view. The hotel was evidently used by both short-term guests and long-term residents, with the 1910 census showing 21 boarders living in the hotel along with Henry Monat himself. Nearly all of them were either single or widowed, and all but three were men. At least three of the residents worked in the nearby paper mills, three more worked in a livery stable, and other occupations included a waiter, a baker, and a policeman.

The first photo was taken sometime around 1910-1915, and was published in the book Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke, Massachusetts, which provides the following description of the hotel:

In a city like Holyoke, visitors look for the highest degree of comfort in their hotel accommodations and there is no place in the city where the traveller is made to feel more at home than at the Hotel Monat, of which Henry N. Monat is the genial proprietor. It is a house of moderate size and is equipped with a large proportion of the modern conveniences. there are forty-six rooms all open to daylight and sunshine, the hotel being nicely located on a corner. These rooms are all well heated and ventilated and furnished in a comfortable and homelike manner. The house is conducted on both the European and American plan and at popular rates. There is also a cafe connected with the hotel where the finest brands of liquid refreshments are served at all times. With its fine location and its modern equipment, the service is up-to-date and efficient in every respect.

The Hotel Monat building stood here throughout much of the 20th century, but it was ultimately destroyed by a fire in 1978. Today, its site is one of many empty building lots along this section of Main Street, and the property is used only as parking for the adjacent Holyoke Gas & Electric building. In the background, the Henry H. Richardson-designed railroad station is still standing, although it has been vacant for many years and its future is uncertain.