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.

Windsor Hotel, Holyoke, Mass

The Windsor Hotel, at the corner of Dwight and Front Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

The Windsor Hotel was built in 1877, and was located just across the street and down the hill from city hall, which had been built a few years earlier. Both buildings had Gothic Revival-style architecture, and featured prominent towers that rose above the other buildings in downtown Holyoke. The owner of the Windsor Hotel, paper manufacturer William Whiting, also had a connection to city hall, serving as city treasurer from 1876 to 1877, and as mayor from 1878 to 1879. He would later go on to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1883 to 1889, while also enjoying a successful business career as president of the Whiting Paper Company.

The first photo shows the hotel as it appeared around 1891. A year later, the book Picturesque Hampden provided a short description of the hotel, remarking that it “will compare more than favorably with many houses in the large cities,” and that “[t]he house has all the conveniences of the times, sample rooms, etc., and patrons will find a free carriage at the depot.” Aside from the hotel itself, this building also housed Besse, Mills & Co., a men’s clothing store that occupied the corner storefront, as seen in the first photo. Directly adjacent to the hotel building, and partially visible on the far right side of the scene, was the Holyoke Opera House, which had also been built in 1877 by William Whiting.

The Windsor Hotel remained a prominent landmark in downtown Holyoke until 1899, when it was destroyed in a fire on the night of February 28. The conflagration completely destroyed the building, leaving only the charred remains of the exterior walls, and it caused around $325,000 in damages, or about $10 million today. Fire chief John T. Lynch, who had been the hero of the deadly Precious Blood Church fire nearly 25 years earlier, was on scene for this fire as well. According to one account, he “was badly hurt by a fall downstairs; but, after he had been taken home, he rallied and returned to the fire.” It was described as the largest fire in the city’s history up to that point, but the fire did not spread to the neighboring buildings, preventing what could have been a far worse disaster.

This site at the corner of Dwight and Front Streets was redeveloped after the fire. but the neighboring Holyoke Opera House survived and stood here for many years. It gradually declined over the years, devolving from opera to vaudeville and burlesque, to movies, and then to second-run films, before finally closing in 1955. It was ultimately destroyed in another fire in 1967, and today there are hardly any remnants from the first photo. Today, only a single brick commercial block survives from the 1891 scene, near the top of the hill on the left side of the present-day photo. Otherwise, the site of the other buildings, including both the Windsor Hotel and the Holyoke Opera House, is now a parking garage. This garage is a far cry from an elegant 19th century hotel, but it does feature a small tower at the corner, which seems to echo the much larger hotel tower that once stood on the same spot.

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 Windsor Hotel 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.