Edmund K. Baker House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 192 Maple Street, at the corner of Central Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This Tudor-style house was built around 1901, and was originally the home of Edmund K. Baker, the secretary and treasurer of the Hampden Paint and Chemical Company. He and his wife Marie were in their mid-40s at the time, and they lived here with their four children: Madeline, Rhea, Donald, and Lawrence. Edmund later became the president of the company, and he continued to live here in this house for the rest of his life. Marie died in 1927, and by the 1930 census Edmund was living here alone except for two servants. He died five years later, and the house remained vacant until the early 1940s.

The house was still vacant when the first photo was taken, but it was later sold and was again occupied by he mid-1940s. However, at some point the top floor of the house was removed, and it was converted into a commercial property. The front porch is also gone, but otherwise the remaining two floors still retain the building’s original Tudor-style architectural elements. Despite its altered condition, though, the house still stands as one of the many historic mansions along this section of Maple Street, and it is now part of the Ames Hill/Crescent Hill Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Safford-Carter House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 238 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

According to the state MACRIS database, this house was built in 1914 and was originally owned by the Carter family. However, part of the house appears to be older, dating back to around the 1890s, when the property was owned by James D. Safford, the president of the City National Bank. As seen in these two photographs, the house is highly asymmetrical, with a large wing on the left side that does not entirely match the right side of the house. The 1899 city atlas shows a house standing here, with a footprint that roughly matches the right side of the house, which suggests that the right side was built sometime around the 1890s, followed by the large addition on the left side around 1914.

Either way, by 1914 the house was owned by Edwin A. Carter, the vice president of the Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company in Indian Orchard. He and his wife Nina had previously lived on Pearl Street, before purchasing this property in the mid-1910s and evidently building a sizable addition to the house. The couple had two children who died young, and by the time they moved into this house they only had one surviving child, Charles, who was about ten years old at the time. The 1920 census shows the three of them living here along with two servants, and Charles continued to live here with his parents until the late 1920s, when he married his wife Louise.

Edwin Carter remained with the Chapman Valve Company for many years, eventually becoming chairman of the board by the early 1930s. He and Nina were still living here when the first photo was taken, and the 1940 census shows them here with a live-in cook and two maids. Edwin died a few years later in 1943, and Nina continued to live here in this house until her death in 1947. Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, without any noticeable changes from the first photo. However, the it is no longer a single-family home, and the interior is now divided into 12 apartments.

Nathan Bill House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 284 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

The late 19th century was a time of great prosperity for Springfield, and the city experienced rapid growth in population, industries, and commerce. Many elegant homes were constructed during this time, giving Springfield its nickname as “The City of Homes,” but some of the finest were built here on Maple Street, where wealthy residents enjoyed panoramic views from a bluff above the city.

This site here on Maple Street, near the top of the hill, was originally developed in the early 1870s by Jotham G. Chase, a lumber dealer whose business was particularly lucrative in the initial post-Civil War construction boom in the city. With his wealth he purchased this property and began construction of a brick, High Victorian Gothic-style house that was designed by the prominent New York architectural firm of Vaux & Withers. One of the partners Calvert Vaux, had previously worked with Frederick Law Olmsted to design Central Park, and Chase would also hire Olmsted to design the grounds for his house.

The 1873-74 city directory estimated the cost of the house at $50,000, but unfortunately for Chase he never actually moved into the house. The exterior was finished, but he was unable to finish the interior because of financially difficulties, probably caused by the Panic of 1873. This economic downturn resulted in a steep drop in new house construction, which would have, in turn, hurt Chase’s lumber business. The shell of the house stood here for the next decade, and was still in its half-finished condition when Chase died in 1884.

The property was subsequently purchased by Andrew L. Fennessy, a banker who was also the treasurer of the Springfield Bicycle Club. By Thisbe point, the High Victorian Gothic style of the 1879s has fallen out of fashion, which may have been one of the reasons why Fennessy wanted to build a new house on the site. He moved the unfinished house to nearby Maple Court, where it became a multi-family home, and he built a new Shingle-style house, which was completed in 1888.

As it turned out, Fennessy only lived in this house for a few years, because he moved to Boston around 1891. By the time the first photo was taken a year later, the house was owned by Nathan D. Bill, a wealthy businessman who was involved in a number of paper manufacturing companies. He was a Springfield native, the son of Gurdon and Emily Bill, and as a teenager he worked a series of different jobs before becoming an apprentice at a wholesale paper and stationery business, at the age of 18. Two years later, he went into business for himself, as owner of the Union Envelope and Paper Company. This company subsequently became part of the National Papeterie Company, with Bill as one of its partners.

Nathan Bill made a considerable fortune in the paper industry in just a short time, and retired from active business in the late 1880s, when he was just 33 years old. He was one of the wealthiest men in Springfield at this point, enabling him to purchase Fennessy’s mansion here on Maple Street, and he lived here with his wife Ruth and their only child, Beatrice, who was about five years old when they moved into the house.

Although retired from active business, Nathan Bill remained involved in various paper manufacturing companies, but he also took on an active role in the community as a civic leader and philanthropist. He was a library trustee for 60 years, including many years as the library president, and a park commissioner for 28 years, during which time he was a strong advocate for creating new parks and playgrounds.

During this time, the city also benefitted from his philanthropy, including five parks that he donated, all of which still bear the names of members of his family: Emerson Wight Playground, Gurdon Bill Park, Emily Bill Playground, Ruth Elizabeth Playground, and Nathan Bill Playground. He also donated some of the land for the city-owned Franconia Golf Course, which helped prevent part of Forest Park from being converted into a golf course.

The 1900 census shows Nathan and Ruth living here with 14-year-old Beatrice and four servants, whose occupations were listed as “servant,” “seamstress,” “domestic,” and “coachman.” Of these, the coachman, George LaBroad, would go on to have a remarkably long career with the Bill family. He was listed here in city directories as early as 1894, and he would continue to work for the family, first as a coachman and then as a chauffeur, until his death in 1941, several years after the second photo was taken.

The second photo shows few changes in the nearly 50 years since the first photo was taken. Both Nathan and Ruth Bill were still living in the house, and the only significant change was an addition on the left side, where the one-story porch stood in the first photo. However, another interesting difference is the contrast between the horse-drawn carriage in the driveway of the first photo, and the automobile parked in the same spot in the second photo, reflecting the dramatic changes in transportation in the intervening years.

Nathan Bill died in 1947, at the age of 91, and Ruth died three years later. The house was subsequently converted into a nursing home, but by the 1960s it was vacant. The owner had plans to convert both the house and its carriage house into professional offices, but the carriage house was destroyed by a suspicious fire in 1967. A year later, the house itself was destroyed in another fire, and the site was never rebuilt. Today, the property is vacant except for the concrete driveway, which marks the site of the old house. However, the neighboring Frederick Harris House, visible on the right side of all three photos, is  still standing as one of the many historic mansions on this section of Maple Street.

For a view of this house from a different angle, see this earlier post.

Crescent Hill, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Crescent Hill, from near the corner of Pine Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Crescent Hill is, as its name suggests, a curved ridgeline just to the southeast of downtown Springfield, near the corner of Maple and Pine Streets. Today, the area consists of several historic houses on two discontinuous streets named Crescent Hill, but it was originally developed in the second half of the 19th century as one of the city’s most desirable residential areas. The first house here was the Mills-Stebbins Villa, which was completed in 1851, and by the time the first photo was taken Crescent Hill consisted of seven large houses, all of which were connected by a network of paths such as this one.

The first view shows one of these houses, which is visible in the distance at the end of the road. Both it and the carriage house, which is seen on the left side of the photo, were completed in 1865, and were designed by the prominent New York architect Calvert Vaux. It was one of the finest homes ever built in Springfield, and enjoyed views overlooking the city and surrounding countryside from the top of the hill. Shortly after its completion, the house was mentioned in the 1866-1867 city directory, which gave the following description:

It stands on a sight which commands one of the finest outlooks on the Connecticut Valley, and the genius of its architect has let it every exterior grace and interior comfort to correspond with the beauty and quiet of of its location. The house is of brick, red mortar being used, with wooden cornices painted and sanded in the same color as Nova Scotia stone. The outside trimmings are elegantly moulded in graceful designs. The porch is inlaid with bay, butternut, and pine, unpainted. There is no paint in the interior of the house, but each compartment is finished with an ingenious arrangement of contrasted woods; as, for instance, mahogany is the prevailing wood in the library, black walnut and red cedar in the parlor and dining-room, butternut in the hall, kitchen and pantries. All the upper chambers are finished in black walnut and butternut. There are some exquisite frescoes to add to the charm of the interior, done in taste by Mohr of New York. The plans were designed by Vaux of New York. C. S. Ferry of this city did the wood-work, and R. Harrington the masonry. The building was commenced in the summer of 1864, and completed in September, 1865.

The original owner of this house was George E. Howard, an industrialist who was a partner in Howard & Bros., a firm that, according to the 1872 city directory, sold railroad and car builders’ supplies. However, the company later specialized in cotton waste, and by the late 19th century Howard was the president and treasurer of the Springfield Waste Company, which also dealt in cotton waste.

George Howard moved into this house with his wife Elizabeth, but she died of tuberculosis in 1869, at the age of 39. By the following year, George was living here alone in this house except for two servants, and the census listed his real estate value at $50,000, plus a personal estate valued at $100,000, for a total net worth of nearly $3 million in today’s dollars. He remarried in 1877, to Alice S. Graves. At 24 years old, she was less than half the age of the 52-year-old George Howard, and they had two children, George and Anna.

The Howard family lived here until the late 1880s, when they moved to a house nearby at 165 Mill Street. Their house here on Crescent Hill was later purchased by H. Curtis Rowley, the treasurer of the dictionary publishing company G. & C. Merriam. Rowley’s wife, Thirza J. Merriam, was the daughter of company president Homer Merriam, and her uncles, George and Charles, had been the original founders of the company. The Rowleys moved into this house around 1893, and by the 1900 census they were living here with their two sons, Harold and Arthur, plus H. Curtis Rowley’s sister Harriet and two servants.

At some point, either before or during the Rowley’s ownership, the house was named Wyndhurst. They purchased the property about the same time that the first photo was taken, and several years later they hosted president William McKinley, who visited the house with his wife Ida in 1899. Although more than 30 years old at this point, the 23-room mansion was still among the finest in the city, and the Rowleys continued to live here until around 1917, when they moved to a comparatively modest house at 24 Oxford Street.

In 1917 the Rowleys sold Wyndhurst to Alfred H. Chapin, the president and treasurer of the Moore Drop Forge Company. Chapin subsequently demolished the house and built a new, even larger house on the property. However, this house did not last for very long, ultimately falling victim to the Great Depression. It was demolished around 1940, and the site was vacant for many years, until it was finally redeveloped in the late 1980s with a condominium building. Named the Wyndhurst Condominiums, it is barely visible in the distance of the present-day photo. Also visible in the photo is the original 1860s Wyndhurst carriage house, which still stands on the left side of the scene. The only remaining feature from the first photo, survived the demolition of both houses on the property, and it has since been converted into a single-family residence.

Harriet A. Southworth House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 7 Crescent Hill, at the corner of Pine Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is one of the finest surviving examples of Shingle-style architecture in Springfield, and was built in 1888. It was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Hartwell and Richardson, and was originally the home of Harriet Southworth, the widow of paper manufacturer Edward Southworth. Her son Mase lived next door in a similar house at 6 Crescent Hill, and Harriet lived here until about 1905, when, according to that year’s city directory, she moved south.

Harriet Southworth apparently did not return to Springfield, but she owned this house until her death in 1910. In that same year’s census, the house was being rented by Charles H. Hall, a merchant who was the president and treasurer of Charles Hall, Inc. This store, which sold china, glass, silverware, lamps, furniture, and other high-end household goods, was established in Springgield in 1873 by his father, who was also named Charles. The son of former Vermont congressman and governor Hiland Hall, the elder Charles had moved to Chicago in 1871 to run a boot and shoe company, but lost everything in the Great Chicago Fire later that year. He moved to Springfield two years later, where his son Charles was born in 1874.

The younger Charles took over the company after his father’s death in 1907, and by the 1910 census he was living here in this house with his wife Grace and their three young children: Nichols, Hiland, and Elizabeth. Although they were renting at the time, Charles later purchased the house, and by the next census in 1920 they had a fourth child, Mary, along with three live-in servants. The family remained here until the early 1930s, but by 1933 they had moved to New York, where Charles and Grace lived until their deaths in 1959 and 1968, respectively.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was being rented by Arthur M. Rowley, a salesman who lived here with his wife Earla, their son Douglas, their daughter Earla, and her husband, Parker Carlson. Arthur had grown up here on Crescent Hill, in a nearby house that had been demolished around the 1920s. His grandfather, Homer Merriam, had been president of G. & C. Merriam, the prominent Springfield-based dictionary publishers, and his father, H. Curtis Rowley, was the company’s treasurer. Arthur also worked for the company, and he lived with his father in his Crescent Hill house until the family relocated to Forest Park in the mid-1910s. However, he returned to Crescent Hill by the late 1930s, and rented this house until around 1943, when he moved to Suffield, Connecticut.

By the early 1950s the house was the home of Leonard and Jeanette Brown. Leonard was an insurance agent, and Jeanette was a librarian, but they were both also noted art patrons. Their collection included works of Abstract Expressionism, Dada, and Surrealism, and they also amassed a significant archive of materials relating to these 20th century art movements, which Jeanette would later sell to the J. Paul Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in 1985. Their son, Jonathan Brown, also lived here in this house, and went on to become a noted art historian, specializing in Spanish art.

Jeanette and Leonard lived here in this house until Leonard’s death in 1970, and Jeanette subsequently moved to Tyringham, where she lived until her death in 1994. In the meantime, this house has remained well-preserved, with few exterior changes since the first photo was taken almost 80 years ago. Along with the other historic homes in the neighborhood, it is now part of the Ames Hill/Crescent Hill Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Mills-Stebbins Villa, Springfield, Mass

The house at 3 Crescent Hill in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This Italian villa-style house was completed in 1851 on Crescent Hill, atop a ridge near the corner of Maple and Pine Streets. It was the work of Henry A. Sykes, a notable local architect from Suffield, Connecticut. His career was cut short when he died in 1860 at the age of 50, but he was responsible for architecturally-significant houses, churches, and other buildings throughout the Connecticut River Valley. However, this house was perhaps his magnum opus. It reflected the Italian villa style that was just starting to become popular for upscale American homes, and it was later praised by architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock as “one of the finest nineteenth century houses in America.”

The original owner of this house was John Mills, a lawyer and politician who was born in 1787 in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. He never attended college, but he studied law in Granville under future county sheriff John Phelps, and was admitted to the bar in 1812. He subsequently lived in Southwick, and in addition to his law practice he also served in the state senate from 1823 to 1827, including as the senate president from 1826 to 1827. In 1826, he was also part of a six-man commission that established the current Massachusetts-Connecticut border, finally resolving a long-standing dispute that dated back to the 1640s.

One incident during Mills’s time in the state senate, which may be apocryphal, came in 1824, when the Marquis de Lafayette visited the Massachusetts State House. Lafayette shook hands with each member of the state legislature and, upon reaching Mills, supposedly clasped his hands and declared, “My dear friend, I recollect you in the Revolution.” Mills, of course, was born five years after the war ended, and was the youngest of the state senators. However, he was also prematurely bald, which evidently made him look much older than he really was.

In 1835, Mills was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, a position he held until 1841. During this time, in 1836, he moved to Springfield, where he lived in a house on Howard Street. He returned to the state senate in 1842, and then from 1843 to 1844 served as the state treasurer and receiver-general. In 1848, he was nominated for lieutenant governor by the newly-established and Free Soil Party, a third party that was mainly focused on preventing the spread of slavery. He and his running mate, Salem mayor Stephen C. Phillips, were roundly defeated in the general election by incumbent Whig governor George N. Briggs and lieutenant governor John Reed, Jr., but they managed to finish second in the three-way race, ahead of the pro-slavery Democratic candidate.

Around 1849, Mills commisssioned Sykes to design this house, which was completed two years later. At the time, Crescent Hill and the neighboring Ames Hill were just starting to be developed, but by the end of the 19th century this area would become the city’s most prestigious neighborhood, with its proximity to downtown and its sweeping views of the river valley. John Mills was in his early 60s at the time, and was largely retired from public life by then. However, he did serve a single term in the state house of representatives in 1851, and in 1855 he became president of the Hampden Mutual Fire Insurance Company.

During the 1855 state census, Mills was living here in this house with his wife Emily and three of their children: John, Sarah, and Isaac. Isaac’s wife Ann and their daughter also lived here, and the family employed three Irish-born servants who lived here. However, John sold this house two years later, and he and Emily moved to Byers Street, where they lived with their daughter Sarah and her newlywed husband, Roswell G. Shurtleff. The Mills family did not entirely leave Crescent Hill, though, because in 1859 Isaac and Ann moved into a new house across the street from here, at the corner of Crescent Hill and Pine Street.

John Mills died in 1862 at the age of 74, by which point this house on Crescent Hill was owned by by John B. Stebbins, a wealthy merchant who was a business partner of hardware store owner Homer Foot. Stebbins was a native of Springfield, and was among the original students at Springfield High School when it opened in 1828, but after leaving school he moved to Hartford, where he worked as a clerk in a grocery store. However, he soon returned to Springfield, and found work as a clerk in Homer Foot’s hardware store. After a few years here he moved again, this time to New York City, and worked as a clerk in another hardware store, but in 1839 he returned to Springfield for good, returning to his position with Foot, with the promise that he would be be given an interest in the firm.

Homer Foot kept his promise, and in 1842 Stebbins became a partner in the company. A year later he married his wife Maria, and the couple first lived on Elm Street, and then at the corner of Main and Emery Streets, and finally on Byers Street before purchasing this house from John Mills in 1857. They had a total of seven children: John, Mary, Elizabeth, Annie, Fannie, Maria, and an unnamed child who died shortly after birth. Mary also died in infancy, but the five surviving children all lived here in this house with their parents.

Aside from Foot’s store, Stebbins was also involved in a number of other companies, serving as a director and, at various times, as president of the Springfield Institution for Savings, the Holyoke Water Power Company, the Ludlow Manufacturing Company, and the Hampshire Paper Company. In the process he became a wealthy man, with the 1870 census listing his real estate as being worth $73,000, plus a personal estate worth $30,000, for a total net worth of more than $2 million in today’s dollars. He was also involved in politics, serving as a city alderman in 1853, a member of the school committee from 1865 to 1869 and in 1873, and as a state legislator in 1883.

His wife Maria died in 1891, and John died in 1899, but this house remained in the Stebbins family for many years. Of the five children who survived to adulthood, neither Annie nor Maria ever married, and they lived here for the rest of their lives. The 1920 census shows them living here with their nephew, 48-year-old John, who was the son of their brother John. Maria died in 1928, and by 1930 Annie was living here alone, aside from two servants. She would remain here until her death in 1939, around the same time that the first photo was taken.

After Annie’s death, the house was inherited by her nephew Carl Stebbins, the oldest son of her brother John. He had grown up in this house with his parents and grandparents, but he later moved to Tacoma, Washington, before eventually returning to Springfield. By the 1940 census he was 70 years old, and was living here with his wife Grace, their daughter Grace, and his wife’s sister, Rebecca Birnie. He lived here until his death a decade later, and his wife remained here until her death in 1961, more than a century after the Stebbins family first moved into this house.

Their daughter Grace sold the property in 1962, and the house remained vacant for a number of years. During this time the interior was vandalized, but by the early 1970s it had new owners and was carefully restored. The house was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and the following year it became part of the Ames Hill/Crescent Hill Historic District, which encompasses the many historic 19th and early 20th century homes in the neighborhood. Today, the house shows some changes from its 1930s appearance, including different first-floor windows on the left side, but overall it still stands as one of the grandest and most architecturally-significant houses in the city.