Dwight Street from Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking west on Dwight Street from the corner of Main Street in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows a view similar to the one in an earlier post, but these photos were taken a little further back, showing the entire block of Dwight Street between Main and Race Streets. The first photo here, taken around the early 1910s, shows a busy Dwight Street, with a mix of trolleys, automobiles, and what appears to be a blurry horse-drawn carriage. On the right side of the photo is the Hotel Hamilton, which was built in 1850 and expanded and renovated in 1889-1890. Among its ground-floor tenants at the time was the Mechanics Savings Bank, which occupied the storefront on the far right side, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets. Another bank, the Hadley Falls National Bank, was located directly across the street, in the building on the far left side of the first photo.

Another important building in the first photo was Parsons Hall, the third building from the left side of the photo. Also known as the Chapin Block, it was apparently built around the early 1850s, about the same time as the hotel across the street. Its large third floor, which took up about half the building’s height, housed an auditorium that was used for a variety of events throughout the 19th century. Several local churches, including the Unitarian Church and the French Congregational Church, temporarily worshiped here before constructing buildings of their own, and high school graduations were also held here for many years. The actress Eva Tanguay, a French-Canadian immigrant to Holyoke, made her stage debut here as a young girl in the 1880s, before going on to have a successful career as one of the most famous vaudeville performers in the country.

Further up the street, the first photo shows several of Holyoke’s factory buildings. On the left, just beyond Parsons Hall on the other side of the Second Level Canal, was the mill of the Beebe & Holbrook Paper Company. It was built in the early 1870s as the Hampden Paper Company, but later became Beebe & Holbrook in 1878. Then, in 1899, it became a division of the American Writing Paper Company. This trust included many of Holyoke’s paper mills, and controlled a significant portion of the nation’s writing paper supply. However, other Holyoke mills remained independent, including the Whiting Paper Company, whose mill is visible on the other side of Dwight Street, just beyond the Hotel Hamilton. Further in the distance, hidden from view in the first photo, was the William Skinner & Sons silk mill, and at the top of the hill was Holyoke City Hall, with its tower rising above the factories.

Today, there are still some identifiable buildings from the first photo, but most have undergone significant changes. Some of the Beebe & Holbrook buildings are still standing, but the one that is most visible in the first photo is gone. Similarly, several of the former Whiting buildings are also still there, but not the one shown in the first photo. Closer to the foreground, the Hotel Hamilton building now stands vacant. It was dramatically altered after the hotel closed in the early 1940s, including the removal of most of the fourth floor. Most of the storefronts have also been altered, except for the former Mechanics Savings Bank on the far right side, which still retains its early 20th century appearance.

On the other side of the street, Parsons Hall similarly lost its upper floor during the mid-20th century, and much of its Dwight Street facade was also rebuilt. However, the rest of the building is still standing in its heavily-altered appearance. Its neighbors to the left are gone, though, including the former Hadley Falls National Bank building and the site is now an empty lot at the corner of Main Street. Overall, the only building that has survived from the first photo without any significant changes is city hall itself, which still stands in the distance at the corner of Dwight and High Streets, and remains in use as the seat of the municipal government.

Hotel Hamilton, Holyoke, Mass

The Hotel Hamilton, formerly known as the Holyoke House, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The building in 2017:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this hotel was built in 1850 as the Holyoke House, and was part of Holyoke’s early development into a major manufacturing center. It originally consisted of just the Dwight Street side of the building, and was only five window bays deep along the Main Street side to the right. However, it underwent a major expansion in 1889-1890, with a Queen Anne-style addition to the rear of the building, on the far right side of the 1891 photo. This section was the work of noted local architect James A. Clough, and it featured a design that contrasted with the less ornate style of the original building.

The renovations also involved a name change, and the Holyoke House became the Hotel Hamilton. The first photo was taken only about a year later, and shows the building as it appeared during the height of Holyoke’s prosperity as an industrial city. By this point, the hotel had become an important part of downtown Holyoke. Its ground floor storefronts housed a number of tenants, including the post office, and the upper floors had rooms for up to 150 hotel guests. The dining room could seat twice that number, and was used for a variety of functions in its heyday. Written a few years after the first photo was taken, the book Holyoke Past and Present 1745-1895 provides the following description:

The Hamilton has come to be quite a popular place for people giving dinner parties, receptions, etc., for care and attention are always insured, and the details of a social affair are carried out with exactness. The Connecticut Board of Water Works, Connecticut Valley Dental Society, Congregational Club of Connecticut, and many other organizations of like character, hold the Hamilton in high estimation as a meeting place. The number of so-called “swell” receptions held here increases each year, as the capabilities of the house and proprietor become better known. The Arlington Club, the leading and only representative organization of Holyoke’s four hundred, holds the assemblies and balls here. The house, for the time being, is given over to the bright array of society people who always come out to honor the Arlington management.

The hotel would remain in business for more than 50 years after the first photo was taken, but it finally closed in 1943. By then, some of Holyoke’s industries had already begun to close or relocate, and many more would follow in the subsequent decades. A few years later, the building was heavily altered with the removal of most of the fourth floor, except for the section in the distance along Race Street. The large pediment above the main entrance is also gone, most of the windows have been replaced with glass blocks, and most of the storefronts have been rebuilt. The former hotel was most recently used as the Massachusetts Career Development Institute, and was known as the Silvio O. Conte Center. However, it closed in 2003, and the building has apparently remained vacant ever since, with very little resemblance to its appearance in the first photo.

Holyoke House, Holyoke, Mass

The Holyoke House hotel, at the corner of Main and Dwight Streets in Holyoke, around 1867. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The building in 2017:

Until the mid-19th century, most of the present-day city of Holyoke was the sparsely-settled northern part of West Springfield, and was known as Ireland Parish. At the time, much of the population lived on or near Northampton Street, while this area along the Connecticut River – later known as the Flats – had only a few scattered homes. However, this began to change by the 1840s, as the Industrial Revolution made the waterfall on the Connecticut River an ideal site for large-scale manufacturing. A number of factories were built here starting in the late 1840s, and were powered by an extensive canal system that was built through here.

Holyoke was incorporated as a separate town in 1850, and the Holyoke House hotel was built that same year, at a cost of $100,000. It was located at the eastern end of Dwight Street, just below the Second Level Canal, and it spanned the entire block between Race and Main Streets. At the time, there were still few buildings in the vicinity, but it was located diagonally across from the old railroad station, and within easy walking distance from the Lyman Mills and other early industries. Otherwise, though, Holyoke’s street grid was still largely empty, with an 1855 county map showing almost no development to the south or east of the hotel. However, these blocks would soon fill with factories and residential neighborhoods, and by the time the first photo was taken around 1867, the hotel was in the midst of a thriving manufacturing center.

The hotel building has been heavily altered over the years, but the first photo shows its original appearance. It featured a symmetrical facade on the Dwight Street side, highlighted by a large two-story Greek Revival pediment over the main entrance. There were several storefronts on either side of this entrance, including the post office, which was once located here in this building. Originally, the building was only five window bays deep on the Main Street side, and it was topped by a low hip roof with a square cupola in the center.

The Holyoke House operated throughout much of the 1850s, but faced financial trouble in the latter part of the decade. It closed in 1858, but by 1864 the building had been purchased by the Parsons Paper Company for $32,500, which was less than a third of its original construction costs. Then, in 1889, the hotel underwent a major expansion, with a large addition on the rear of the building. This wing was designed by noted local architect James A. Clough, and featured Queen Anne-style architecture that contrasted with the more plain design of the older section. The work was completed in 1890, and five years later it was described in the book Holyoke Past and Present 1745-1895:

In 1889, extensive repairs and enlargements were made, giving forty extra rooms, an elegant dance hall and entrance, besides enlarging the post office, which is under the hotel proper, and with which direct communication is had by means of a chute from the hotel office in the main entrance hall, to the main room in the post office. This is the only hotel in the world thus equipped. It was convenient before, for the office was in the same building, but to write a letter and slide it direct to the mailing room is like a fairy tale. The hotel is equally convenient in other ways, having telegraph, telephone, barber shop and news room all under one roof. The finishings of the house are of the newest and best. Steel ceilings extend the length of the main corridor and ladies’ entrance and over the grand staircase, which is lighted by a light-hued clouded glass window. The side walls have been treated with a stippling brush and made artistic in finish. There are accommodations for 150 guests daily, the dining room having a seating capacity of 300 at one time. Six experienced chefs preside over the delicacies prepared for the table, and those who have enjoyed the hospitality of the house know their ability.

Around the same time that this addition was completed, the Holyoke House was renamed the Hotel Hamilton. It would remain in operation for more than 50 years, during the height of Holyoke’s prosperity as an industrial city. However, the hotel finally closed in 1943, and several years later the building was heavily altered again, this time by removing most of the fourth floor. Only the Race Street side of the building retained its original height, and at some point the windows in the shortened section were replaced with glass blocks. The first floor has also seen considerable changes, including alterations to the storefronts and the removal of the pedimented entryway, and today the building hardly resembles its appearance from the first photo.

Aside from the hotel, other 20th century tenants in this building included the Mechanics Savings Bank, which was located in the storefront on the right side for many years. The bank is long gone, but its name is still partially visible above the windows, and the old vault alarm still hangs on the Main Street side. Most recently, the building housed the Massachusetts Career Development Institute, and was known as the Silvio O. Conte Center, in honor of the congressman who represented Holyoke for many years. However, the MCDI moved out of the building in 2003, and it appears to have been vacant ever since.

Dwight Street from Race Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking west up Dwight Street from near the corner of Race Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This photo comparison captures some of the effects of the economic decline that Holyoke has experienced in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. The first one shows the city at the height of its prosperity as a major manufacturing center, and several of these factories are seen here, including the Beebe & Holbrook Paper Company just to the left of the middle of the photo, and the Whiting Paper Company across the street on the right side. Both mills were located along the Second Level Canal, which runs parallel to Race Street near the foreground of this scene.

Two of the city’s leading hotels were also located along this section of Dwight Street. In the foreground on the far right side is the corner of the Hotel Hamilton, which was built in the early 1850s as the Holyoke House, but was later expanded over the years. Further in the distance, with its tower visible just beyond the Whiting Paper Company mill on the right side of the street, is the Windsor Hotel. It was built in 1877 at the corner of Front Street, and it was owned by industrialist William Whiting, who also ran the nearby paper mill. Other important buildings in this scene include Parsons Hall on the far left, and Holyoke City Hall in the distance at the top of the hill.

Holyoke would continue to grow and prosper for several more decades after the first photo was taken, with the population peaking at just over 60,000 in 1920. However, this number would steadily decline throughout the 20th century, as factories closed or relocated and residents moved to the surrounding suburbs. Today, Holyoke’s population stands at about 40,000, and most of its industries are gone, along with many of the factory buildings that once lined the city’s canals.

Both Beebe & Holbrook and the Whiting Paper Company have long since gone out of business, and the Whiting mill in the first photo has been demolished. Part of the Beebe & Holbrook building is still standing on the left side, although the five-story section closest to Dwight Street has also been demolished. Closer to the foreground, both Parsons Hall and the Hotel Hamilton are still here, although both have been heavily altered. Each building has lost most of its upper floor, and the Hotel Hamilton is now abandoned.

Further up the hill, the Hotel Windsor was gone soon after the first photo was taken, when it was destroyed in a fire in 1899. It was replaced by a smaller commercial building that has also since been demolished, and today a parking garage stands on the site. Across the street, though, city hall is still there, and its tower is still a prominent landmark in the city skyline. Of all the buildings from the first photo, it is the only one that survives without any significant changes, and it remains in use by the municipal government more than 140 years after it was completed in 1875.

Pickman-Derby Mansion, Salem, Mass

The mansion at the corner of Washington and Lynde Streets in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

The house in the first photo was built in 1764, although it was extensively modified over the years. It was one of Salem’s finest 18th century mansions, and was home to some of the city’s most prominent residents, starting with merchant Benjamin Pickman (1707/8-1773). Originally from Boston, Pickman later came to Salem as a young man, where he became a prosperous merchant, with ships that were involved in trade with the West Indies. He also served as a colonel in the militia, a member of the colonial legislature and governor’s council, and as a judge.

Pickman was about 56 years old when he built this house on Washington Street. He apparently lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1773, although historical records do not seem to specify. According to these sources, the house was “left by him to his son, Clarke Gayton Pickman,” leaving some ambiguity as to whether he personally lived in this house upon its completion, or simply had it built and then gave it to his son, a practice that was not uncommon among wealthy families of this period.

Either way, his son Clarke (1746-1781) ultimately acquired the house, where he lived with his wife Sarah and their four children. However, he died young, at the age of 35, and his four children had even shorter lives. Both of his sons, Clark and Carteret, died in childhood, and his two daughters, Sally and Rebecca, only lived to be 20 and 28, respectively. Sarah only lived in this house for about a year after Clarke’s death, and sold the property in 1782.

The next owner of this house was Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799), who was probably the wealthiest of Salem’s many merchants. During the late 18th century, Salem was the seventh-largest city or town in the country, as well as the richest on a per capita basis, and Derby played a large role in this prosperity. The ships of his fleet were among the first American vessels to trade with China, and his shipping empire also included extensive trade with India, Mauritius, Sumatra, Europe, and the West Indies. Some 50 years after his death, he was even referred to as “King Derby” in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s introduction to The Scarlet Letter. In this lengthy polemic against his hometown, Hawthorne laments the decline of the once-prosperous city, equating Derby with the Salem’s golden age.

Upon purchasing this house in 1782, Derby soon set about renovating it. He hired noted local architect Samuel McIntire, who made alterations to the original design. This included the addition of the cupola, which provided Derby with a view of the waterfront and his incoming ships. However, Derby soon began planning for a new house, and in the 1790s he hired Charles Bulfinch to design a mansion a little south of here, on the present-day site of the old town hall. Derby moved into this new house upon its completion in 1799, but he did not get to enjoy it for long, because he died later in the year.

In the meantime, this house on Washington Street was acquired by Derby’s son, John Derby (1767-1831). Like his father, he was also a merchant, but he was involved in other business interests here in Salem, such as the Salem Marine Insurance Company and the Salem Bank. His first wife, Sally, died in 1798, leaving him with three young children. However, in 1801 he remarried to Eleanor Coffin, and the couple had eight children of their own.

Among their children was Sarah Ellen Derby, who married John Rogers and had nine children. Their oldest son, also named John Rogers (1829-1904), was born here in this house, and later went on to become a prominent sculptor. He specialized in small, mass-produced plaster statues, known as Rogers Groups, and these inexpensive pieces of artwork found their way into many homes across the country and overseas.

John Derby died in 1831, and the house was subsequently sold to Robert Brookhouse. It would remain a single-family home throughout the 19th century, although it steadily declined over the years. This reflected the declining prosperity of Salem as a whole, which had peaked in its prominence as a seaport around the turn of the 19th century. It slowly dropped off the list of the ten largest cities in the country, and by the time Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in 1850 it had become a shadow of its former glory.

In 1898, the mansion was sold and converted into a commercial property. It became the Colonial House hotel, as shown in the first photo a little over ten years later. The ground floor had two storefronts, with the Colonial House Cafe on the left and a bar on the right. Just to the left of the hotel is a nickelodeon, an early movie theater that, as the signs in front indicate, cost a nickel for admission. These were common during this period, in the early years of film, and the sign above the entrance advertises “Moving Pictures and Illustrated Songs.”

Only a few years after the first photo was taken, the property was sold to the Masonic lodge. The historic 150-year-old mansion was demolished in 1915, and the present-day Masonic Temple was built on the site. This large, Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1916, and featured stores and offices on the lower floors, while the upper floors were used by the Freemasons for office space and meeting rooms. The building was badly damaged by a fire in 1982, which caused over a million dollars in damage to the upper floors, but it was subsequently restored and is still standing. Along with the other nearby buildings, it is now part of the Downtown Salem Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

High Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on High Street, toward Main Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo portrays an idyllic small-town scene, with horse-drawn carriages traveling along a rutted dirt road that was lined with trees. Two elegant Queen Anne-style homes stand on the far right side of the photo, while the Brooks House, perhaps the town’s finest hotel of the era, is visible at the bottom of the hill, at the corner of Main Street. Further in the distance, on the other side of the Connecticut River, is Mount Wantastiquet, which rises to an elevation of 1,388 feet and forms a dramatic backdrop to downtown Brattleboro.

Today, nearly 125 years later, this scene has not significantly changed, although it has lost some of its picturesque charm from the first photo. High Street is now a major road, carring Vermont Route 9 through downtown Brattleboro, and the bottom of the hill has been developed with early 20th century commercial and apartment blocks, including the 1918 Manley Apartment Building on the left side. However, the Brooks House is still there, as are the two homes on the right, although their sloping front lawns have been replaced by a large concrete retaining wall. Across the street on the left side, the sidewalk is narrower and closer to the street than it was in the 1890s, but the granite blocks and steps are still there on the left side of the sidewalk.