Francis Goodhue House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The Francis Goodhue House on Main Street in Brattleboro, probably around 1870-1885. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1815, and was originally the home of Francis Goodhue, a businessman who had previously lived in Swanzey, New Hampshire, and Weathersfield, Vermont. In 1811, when he was about 43 years old, Goodhue moved to Brattleboro, which at the time was still a small town of fewer than 2,000 residents. He built this house a few years later, and went on to become a prominent local figure. He had a wide variety of business ventures, and was also involved in a proposed canal that, if constructed, would have linked Brattleboro New Haven by way of Northampton, Massachusetts.

An 1880 biographical sketch in Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont describes how Goodhue “carried on a wool-carding, cloth-dressing, saw and grain mill, cotton spinning, distilling, and a large store of such goods as were sold from country stores at that time. He was also erecting a building of some kind every year, and largely, at the same time, engaged in farming, yet his note was never worth less than 100 cents on the dollar.”

Francis Goodhue lived here with his wife Mary and their three children: Joseph, Lucy, and Wells. In 1834, Francis gave this house to Joseph, and he and Mary moved to a house across the street, where they lived until Francis’s death in 1839 and Mary’s death a decade later. In the meantime, Joseph lived here in the old family home with his wife Sarah until his death in 1862. Sarah outlived Joseph by more than two decades, and was presumably still residing here until she died in 1883, at the age of 87.

The first photo was probably taken during Sarah’s lifetime or soon after her death, because around 1885 the house was demolished by businessman and philanthropist George Jones Brooks, in order to build a public library on the site. Brooks had grown up in the Brattleboro area, but made his fortune as a merchant in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Later returning to Brattleboro, he built the landmark Brooks House hotel in 1871, and in 1885 began work on a permanent home for the town’s public library. Brooks was the older brother of Mary E. Goodhue, whose husband was Francis J. Goodhue, the son of Joseph and Sarah, so Brooks likely acquired the property through this connection.

The George J. Brooks Library was dedicated in January 1887, only a few weeks after its benefactor’s sudden death, and it was used as the Brattleboro public library for about 80 years. However, by the 1960s the building was overcrowded, and the neighboring post office needed the room to expand. As a result, in 1967 the current library building was completed just to the north of here, and the old building was demolished in 1971. Today, there are no surviving traces of either the Goodhue House or the library that had replaced it, and the site is now a parking lot for the post office, which can be seen on the right side of the photo.

Jonathan Hunt House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The house near the northwest corner of Main and High Streets in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This house was the home to a number of notable Brattleboro residents throughout the 19th century, starting with Jonathan Hunt, Jr., a lawyer and politician who served several terms in Congress. Born in 1787 in the nearby town of Vernon, Hunt was the son of Jonathan Hunt, Sr., the first lieutenant governor of the state of Vermont. The elder Hunt was one of the early settlers of Vermont, arriving in the area in the mid-18th century, and he became the patriarch of a prominent family.

The younger Jonathan Hunt was an 1807 graduate of Dartmouth College, and subsequently became a lawyer here in Brattleboro. At some point in the early 19th century, he built this elegant house here on Main Street. It was reportedly the first brick house to be built in the area, and Hunt lived here with his wife, Jane Leavitt, who came from a prominent family in Suffield, Connecticut. The Hunts raised their five children here, and Jonathan went on to have a successful political career, serving in the state House of Representatives in 1811, 1816, 1817, and 1824, before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1826. He was re-elected two more times, and served in Congress until 1832, when he died from cholera while in Washington, D.C.

Jonathan Hunt’s death left Jane with five young children, all under the age of 10. Soon after his death, Jane and the children left this house, moving first to New Haven before going to New York and then to Boston. In the subsequent decades, three of her sons would go on to achieve fame as artists. The oldest, William Morris Hunt, was a prominent painter in Boston, while his brother, Richard Morris Hunt, was one of the most celebrated architects of the Gilded Age, designing mansions such as The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, along with the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The youngest child, Leavitt Hunt, was an attorney like his father, but he also became a noted photographer, and during an 1851-1852 tour he took some of the earliest photographs of the Middle East.

Later in the 19th century, this house was owned by George Howe. Like Jonathan Hunt, he was also a Vernon native who went on to become a lawyer and politician. He was an 1847 graduate of Harvard Law School, and later that year he was admitted to the bar and began his practice here in Brattleboro. From 1858 to 1860, he served as state’s attorney for Windham County, and from 1861 to 1864 he was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont. He also served in the Vermont state Senate from 1874 to 1875, and was a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention. He moved out of Brattleboro in 1880, after being appointed to a position in the Pension Department, and he died eight years later in Vernon.

By the time the first photo was taken around the early 1890s, this house was owned by yet another prominent Brattleboro resident, Colonel George W. Hooker. A Civil War veteran, Hooker was 23 years old when he enlisted as a private at the start of the war. However, he quickly rose through the ranks, and by the end of the war he was a lieutenant colonel. During this time, he was noted for his heroism in combat, particularly at the Battle of Crampton’s Gap in 1862, when he single-handedly captured 116 Confederate soldiers at one time. He had been riding ahead of his men, and stumbled into the midst of the Confederate unit. Despite being alone, he demanded the colonel’s surrender, who complied and gave Hooker his sword, and Hooker was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Later in the war, Hooker was badly wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor, where he was shot five times. However, he recovered from his wounds, and after the war he resumed his peacetime occupation as a traveling salesman. Then, in 1876 he moved to Brattleboro, where he began a career in politics. He was Governor Redfield Proctor’s chief of staff in 1878, a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1880, and the Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1881 to 1883. He also served in the Vermont state House of Representatives, and he lived here in Brattleboro until his death in 1902.

Despite its connection to many important Brattleboro residents, this house was demolished sometime in the early 20th century, and the property was redeveloped for commercial use. The current buildings on this site date back to 1929, so the house was probably demolished shortly before then. However, there is one building that remains from the first photo. On the far right is the First Baptist Church, which was completed in 1870, just to the right of the Hunt-Howe-Hooker House. It is still standing today, although from this angle it is mostly hidden by buildings and trees.

Wales Public Library, Wales, Mass

The Wales Public Library, at the corner of Main and Church Streets, around 1922-1925. Image courtesy of the Nevins Memorial Library.

The scene in 2017:

The origins of the Wales Public Library date back to 1897, when it began as a collection of books in the corner of a general store. The town had a population of a little over 700 at the time, with woolen mills employing many of its residents. However, these companies began to leave around the turn of the 20th century, and by 1910 the population had dropped by more than half, to just 345 residents in that year’s census. Throughout this time, the small public library continued to operate out of the general store, but around the early 1920s this house was donated to the town, in order to provide a more permanent home for the library.

The early history of this house seems difficult to trace. The state’s MACRIS database of historic buildings gives 1841 as the date of construction, while the library itself gives a date of 1825. Either way, it was apparently built by a Stephen Fisk, although maps from the mid-19th century show it as belonging to the Shaw family. By the second half of the century, the house was right in the midst of the town’s manufacturing center, and was directly adjacent to the woolen mill of the Shaw Manufacturing Company. Around 1875, the Wales Baptist Church relocated to this area, constructing a large church just up the hill from this house, which can be seen in the distance on the right side of the first photo.

At some point in the early 20th century, this house was acquired by the church, which, in turn, gave it to the town for use as a library. It opened in 1922, following a conversion that included changing the window configuration on the first floor. This helped to balance the building’s appearance, as it previously had one window on the left and two on the right, although the second floor windows were unchanged, resulting in a slightly asymmetrical front facade.

The first photo was taken soon after the library opened, and very little has changed in its appearance since then. The church in the distance is long gone, but this building remains in use as the Wales Public Library, with only minor exterior alterations. However, both the town’s population and the library’s collections have grown substantially in almost a century since the building opened, and today the library faces both overcrowding of its shelves and the structural deterioration of the building itself. Because of this, the library is in need of a new building, although to date there have been no definitive plans for relocating.

William B. Howard Memorial Fountain, Wales, Mass

The fountain at the corner of Main Street and Haynes Hill Road in Wales, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This fountain has been located here on Main Street in Wales since 1887, when it was donated to the town by William B. Howard. Born in Wales in 1832, Howard later moved west to Chicago, where he became a successful contractor. He was responsible for the construction of a number of railroads and bridges, but he was also involved in several other major projects, including the construction of the Indiana State House and the New Croton Aqueduct. Howard often returned to Wales as a summer visitor, where he stayed at the home of Myles Needham, and in 1887 he gave this fountain to the town as a gift. It was made of granite quarried from nearby Monson, and the design of the fountain is essentially identical to one in Monson, which now stands in front of Memorial Hall.

The first photo shows the fountain as it appeared shortly after it was installed at this site. Just beyond it to the left is a house that once served as the parsonage for the Wales Methodist Church. According to the state’s MACRIS database of historic buildings, the house may have been built around 1850, and at the time it was owned by a William Thompson. However, in 1858 the house was sold to the church, which used it as its parsonage until around the turn of the 20th century. The house subsequently reverted to a private residence, but neither it nor the fountain has changed much in 125 years since the first photo was taken, and today this scene looks essentially the same as it did in the early 1890s.

Dr. Paul H. Larose House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 200 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Indian Orchard’s growth in the late 19th century was largely independent from the rest of Springfield, and it became largely a working-class factory village, with large numbers of immigrant laborers. This contrasted with the rest of the city, which had an economy that was based primarily on insurance, banking, and skilled manufacturing, and as a result, Indian Orchard never had significant numbers of large, elegant houses like the ones in McKnight, Forest Park, and other upscale neighborhoods. Instead, Indian Orchard’s housing stock consisted mainly of factory tenements and small, single-family homes. However, this house on Main Street was one of the exceptions, and was built in 1898 with a Queen Anne style that reflected the design of contemporary houses in McKnight and elsewhere in the city.

The house was originally owned by Dr. Paul H. Larose, a physician who, like many other Indian Orchard residents of the era, was a French-Canadian immigrant. Dr. Larose was an 1892 graduate of Laval University in Quebec, and he moved to the United States soon after, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1898. He moved into this house around the same time and, like many other physicians of the era, he practiced medicine out of an office here in his home. Around 1899, he married his wife Alexina, who was also a French-Canadian immigrant. However, the couple only lived here for a few years before Larose’s sudden death from heart disease in 1901, at the age of 31.

The house was subsequently owned by Napoleon Bengle, who was another French-Canadian immigrant. He also went by the name Paul, perhaps in an effort to avoid anti-immigrant discrimination, and he worked as a clerk in the nearby clothing store of his brother, Charles Bengle. During the 1910 census, Napoleon was 42 years old and unmarried, and lived here with his widowed mother Louise. The household also included his sister Mary, her husband Louis Roy, their 21-year-old son Louis, and a lodger. The elder Louis Roy was a physician and, like the previous owner of the house, also had his office here in the house.

By about 1915, this house had changed hands again and was owned by Joseph Ratell, a barber who was, of all things, also an undertaker. According to he 1915 directory, he had a barber shop here in this house, and worked as an undertaker at 119 Main Street. However, by the end of the decade, Ratell was evidently performing both of these jobs here in this house, where he lived with his son Ernest, plus Ernest’s wife Lena and their daughter Loretta. Ernest worked for his father as an embalmer and, after Joseph’s death in 1929, he continued to operate the funeral home here in this house.

Ernest and Lena were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, along with Loretta and their younger daughter Rita, and Ernest continued to run the funeral home until his death in 1947. Very little has changed since then, and the Ratell Funeral Home is still located here in this house. Now over 100 years old, it is perhaps one of the oldest businesses in the city that is still housed in the same building. As the two photos show, the house itself has not changed too much over time, aside from the one-story addition on the right and the wheelchair ramp on the front, and it still stands as one of the finest 19th century homes in Indian Orchard.

Indian Orchard Mills Company Tenements, Springfield, Mass

The tenement block at 114-124 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Indian Orchard is located along the Chicopee River, in the northeast corner of Springfield, and in the mid-19th century it was developed into a factory village. The first mill was built in 1854 by the Ward Manufacturing Company, a cotton company that also owned the dam on the river, the power canal, and much of the land in the village. The company also built a number of tenement blocks in the vicinity of the mill, and this building on Main Street was likely one of them. However, Ward Manufacturing went bankrupt only a few years later, and in 1859 the mill and tenements were acquired by the Indian Orchard Mills Company.

Many of the early mill workers were French-Canadian immigrants, and it was common for almost every family member to be employed in the mills, including young children. Long before child labor laws were enacted, one 1867 observer wrote: “I have admitted that there are great abuses in the employment of children,” and he went on to describe “a resident population composed mainly of English, Irish and French Canadians, requiring separate tenements and the whole family, save one or two, working in the mills. The adults are ignorant and illiterate, and force their children to work and when operatives are scarce, as they have been, the mill owner is obliged to allow the employment of the children or lose the whole family, thus causing his machinery to stay idle.”

The 1900 census shows 10 families living in this building, nearly all of whom were French-Canadian. Most worked for the mills in some capacity, including as a weaver, spooler, teamster, boiler tender, and watchman. The largest family was that of John and Rose Levesque, who lived here with nine of their 11 children. The children’s ages ranged from one to 26, with the four oldest employed in factories, although it is also possible that the younger children may have – at least unofficially – been working as well, since child labor was still a common practice here in Indian Orchard and throughout the country. However, perhaps the most tragic story seen through the census records is that of Owen and Mary Hammond, two Irish immigrants who were in their 50s at the time. They lived alone, but according to the census, Mary had six children, only one of whom was still alive by the time of the census.

The building was still standing when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, but, like all of the other Indian Orchard Mills tenements in the area, it has since beeen demolished. Some of the mill buildings are still standing, though, and the interior space is now rented to a variety of tenants, who use it for offices, manufacturing, and art studios. These buildings can be seen in the distance of the present-day photo, although closer in the foreground, the former site of the tenement house is now a parking lot that extends the entire length of the block from Main to Front Streets.