Daniel L. Harris House, Springfield, Mass

The Daniel L. Harris House at the corner of Chestnut and Pearl Streets, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2016:

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In the mid-19th century, Chestnut Street was Springfield’s most prestigious residential street. Running parallel to Main Street on a bluff overlooking downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River, it was lined with mansions of many prominent residents. Many of these homes were originally owned by members of the Dwight family, and this particular house, located at what would later become the corner of Pearl Street, was built in 1835 by William Dwight (1805-1880). He and his wife Eliza lived here with their seven sons, four of whom would go on to serve in the Civil War. Two, Wilder and Howard, died during the war, and another, General William Dwight, was badly wounded and left for dead after the Battle of Williamsburg. He survived, but was captured and spent time in a Confederate prison.

At some point before 1851, the house was moved slightly to the left of its original location in order to open Pearl Street through the property. At this point, the house was owned by Daniel L. Harris (1818-1879), a civil engineer who built railroads and bridges. He served as the president of the Connecticut River Railroad, and in 1859 he traveled to Russia as a consultant for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railway. The following year, he served a term as mayor of Springfield, and at this point he was one of the wealthiest men in the rapidly-growing city. In 1866, the Springfield Republican published a list of the taxable income of residents from the previous year, and Harris had the ninth highest income, earning $24,117, or about $377,000 in 2016.

Harris lived here until his death in 1879, and the house remained in his family for nearly 50 more years. By the early 1920s, though, Chestnut Street was no longer the city’s preeminent neighborhood. Springfield’s commercial center had spread up the hill from Main Street, and one by one the 19th century mansions were replaced by 20th century development. Most of these homes disappeared during the 1920s, including the Harris house.

The land became the Apremont Triangle, a small park bounded by Chestnut, Pearl, and Bridge Streets, but the house itself was not completely lost to history. In 1923, it was dismantled and moved to Westerly, Rhode Island, where it was rebuilt to its original design. Today, it is still standing, although it is essentially unrecognizable in its current appearance because of a dramatic 1970 renovation that removed most of the second floor. This article on the Westerly Sun website provides photographs as well as more details about the building’s highly varied history.

Wadsworth House, Cambridge, Mass

The Wadsworth House on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The house in 2016:

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The Wadsworth House is the second-oldest building at Harvard, after the nearby Massachusetts Hall. It was built in 1726 for college president Benjamin Wadsworth, who lived here until his death in 1737. For over a century, eight additional Harvard presidents lived here, with the last being Edward Everett, who was president here from 1846 to 1849, in the midst of a lengthy political career that included serving as a Congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, Ambassador to the United Kingdom, US Senator, and US Secretary of State. However, the most prominent resident of this house was George Washington. It served as his first headquarters when he arrived in Cambridge to take command of the Continental Army in July 1775, and he stayed here for two weeks before moving into the John Vassall House on Brattle Street.

Although no longer the home of the Harvard president, the Wadsworth House is still part of the campus and is used for offices. Over the years there have been some additions to the side and back, but overall the nearly 300 year old building remains an excellent example of early 18th century Georgian architecture.

Converse Street, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking east on Converse Street from the corner of Longmeadow Street, on May 13, 1913. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The view in 2016:

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The two photos on the left are the same ones seen in the previous post, and this view shows some of the development along the western end of Converse Street that was happening in the 1910s. Part of the South Park Terrace development, most of the houses along Converse Street had just been built when the first photo was taken, and more would be added in this area as Longmeadow became a major suburb of Springfield. In the century since the first photo was taken, Converse Street has been paved, and the end was angled a bit to share a traffic light with Englewood Road on the other side of Longmeadow Street, but otherwise not much has changed in this scene, and most of the historic early 20th century homes here are still standing.

Graves House, Longmeadow, Mass

The Bernard Graves House at the corner of Longmeadow and Converse Streets, on November 22, 1913. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This view provides an interesting side-by-side comparison of two different architectural styles from around the turn of the century. Although built only a few years apart, these two houses represent a shift in style that was happening during this time. The house on the left was built around 1900, and it is an example of Queen Anne architecture, which was popular in the last few decades of the Victorian era. This particular house is actually a fairly subdued version of it; a typical Queen Anne house is usually highly decorative, with plenty of ornamentation and a complex combination of design features. A good example of this can be seen in this Springfield mansion from a previous post. This Longmeadow house was built towards the end of the style’s popularity, but it still has some of the common features, especially with its bay windows, wraparound porch, and asymmetrical design.

The house on the right, on the other hand, represents the Craftsman style of architecture that was gaining popularity just as Queen Anne was falling out of fashion. It was largely a response to the perceived excess of the Victorian era and, by extension, its often gaudy architecture. Rather than decorating houses with excessive amounts of ornamentation, the idea behind the Craftsman style was to simplify, and emphasize quality of workmanship. The house here, which was originally the home of insurance agent Bernard E. Graves and his wife Mary, was built around 1906, near the beginning of this style’s popularity. Over a century later, both it and the Queen Anne house remain well-preserved examples of their respective architectural styles, and aside from the shutters on the house and shed in the backyard, it is hard to notice any differences in these two photographs.

Longmeadow Street, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking south on Longmeadow Street from the corner of Bliss Road, on March 27, 1908. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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Longmeadow Street in 2016:

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Most of the views along Longmeadow Street have not changed much over the past century, but here there are some noticeable differences. To the left is St. Mary’s Church, which was built in the early 1930s along with the house next to it. They replaced the two houses on the left side of the first photo, but the third house in the distance is still standing. It is now part of Bay Path University, whose main campus is located on the right side of the street, just out of view in this scene.

Another change from the first photo is the trolley tracks, which were built in the 1890s. Part of the Springfield Street Railway, they helped to spur development in Longmeadow by making it easy for people to live here and commute to Springfield. This led to new housing developments such as the scenes in earlier posts on Bliss Road and Belleclaire Avenue, both of which are just around the corner from here.

Belleclaire Avenue, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking east on Belleclaire Avenue from the corner of Lognmeadow Street, on August 23, 1918. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The street in 2016:

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This street is a block north of Bliss Road, which is seen in the previous post. Like Bliss Road, Belleclaire Avenue was part of the rapid suburban development that was occurring in Longmeadow in the first two decades of the 20th century. Most of the homes here were built around 1915, with a variety of designs that reflect the popular Craftsman-style architecture of the era. Since the first photo was taken, little has changed here. A few houses, like the one on the far right, were added soon after, and the trees have grown up, but otherwise the street looks much the same as it did almost a century ago.