John Avery House, Springfield, Mass

The John Avery House at the corner of Main and Union Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This brick commercial building at the corner of Main and Union Streets does not look particularly noteworthy, but it is actually one of the oldest buildings still standing on Main Street, although it hides its age very well. It was built around 1825 as the home of John Avery, a blacksmith who lived here for almost 50 years until his death in 1874.In 1898, as this section of Main Street became more commercial, the building was expanded all the way to the edge of Main Street, with storefronts on the first floor.

When the first photo was taken, the original house was still largely intact and clearly visible. However, the rear section was demolished by around the 1970s, and in 2011 much of the house, including the original roof, was destroyed by the tornado that passed through the South End. Today, the only visible remnant of the old house from this angle is the wall on the Union Street side of the building, which includes a single window and a doorway.

Julius H. Appleton House, Springfield, Mass

The Julius H. Appleton House on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2015:

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The late 1800s saw a number of mansions built along this section of Maple Street, where many of the city’s most prominent residents lived. Sadly, many of these homes are gone now, but one of the survivors is this mansion at 313 Maple Street, built in 1886 for Julius H. Appleton. It was designed by Eugene C. Gardner, a local architect who also built the recently-demolished YWCA Building on Howard Street. The architecture of the house reflects both Stick style and the related Queen Anne style, both of which were common at the end of the Victorian era in the late 1880s. It is wood-frame, with wood exteriors on the second and third floors, but the first floor exterior is made of brownstone quarried in nearby Longmeadow.

The original owner, Julius H. Appleton, had previously lived in this house on Union Street, and he was a businessman who was involved in a number of different companies. He ran a steam heating company for several years and later became involved in the paper industry, serving as president of the Riverside Paper Company. He was also president of the Hartford & Connecticut Western Railroad, and he served as a director for many area businesses, including Mass Mutual, the Springfield Street Railway Company, Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company, and many others. In addition to his business involvements, he also held several political offices, including serving for two years on the City Council and two years on the state Governor’s Council. Appleton died in 1904 at the age of 64, and his funeral, which was held here at his house, was attended by many distinguished guests, including Governor John L. Bates and former Governor Winthrop M. Crane.

The first photo shows the house over 30 years after Appleton’s death, but the exterior appearance was essentially the same. Even today, the house retains all of its original elements in this scene, including the tower, the two-story porch, the shorter turret to the left, and the semi-circular porch around it. The only major change to the property has been the carriage house, which is partially visible to the right beyond the house. The original one burned down around 1980, but the owners later built a replica on the same spot.

David Ames, Jr. House, Springfield, Mass

The David Ames, Jr. House, on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house in 2015:

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This historic house was built in 1826-1827, for David Ames. Jr., a local paper manufacturer. It was one of the first of many 19th century mansions to be built along this section of Maple Street, on a hill overlooking downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River. The house bears a strong resemblance to the smaller, older Alexander House, and it was designed by Chauncey Shepard, a young local architect who later built homes for many other notable residents, including Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson, whose pistol factory he also designed.

David Ames, Jr. came from a prominent industrial family. His father, David Ames, Sr., was the son of an iron mill owner, and David, Sr. began manufacturing shovels and guns during the American Revolution. In 1794, he was appointed by George Washington to serve as the first superintendent of the Springfield Armory, and after leaving his position in 1802 he began manufacturing paper. David, Jr. and his brother John followed in their father’s footsteps in the paper industry, and their company eventually operated mills in Springfield, Chicopee Falls, South Hadley Falls, Northampton, and Suffield.

In 1867, David, Jr. sold the house to his son-in-law, Solomon J. Gordon. Over 40 years after he first built it, Chauncey Shepard was then hired to extensively renovate the house, and the first photo here shows its appearance sometime after these significant alterations. David, Jr. continued to live here until his death in 1883 at the age of 91, and Solomon died just eight years later. The house remained in his family for some time after that, but it later became part of the MacDuffie School. In 2011, the school moved to a new location in Granby, but just before the move happened at the end of the school year, the Springfield campus was heavily damaged by the June 1 tornado. The tornado caused significant damage to the Ames House, including the loss of the front portico and much of the roof.

Nearly five years after the tornado, the house has still not been restored, and the two photos above show the contrast between what it looked like before and after 2011. It is one of the most historically significant homes still standing in Springfield, though, and this year the Springfield Preservation Trust included the house on their annual Most Endangered Historic Resources list.

Elliot Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking down Elliot Street from Edwards Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The view in 2015:

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Most of the views of Springfield featured in Picturesque Hampden almost 125 years ago are now drastically changed, but thankfully very little is different about this view of Elliot Street. Aside from the one on the far left, all of the other buildings in this scene are still standing. The most prominent is the North Congregational Church, which was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1873. It was one of his earlier works, and is one of two of his buildings, along with the Hampden County Courthouse, that is still standing in Springfield. To the left is the William Mattoon House, which was built around 1870 and is the oldest building in the scene. It was owned by William Mattoon, who also owned the land behind it that was later developed as Mattoon Street. To the right in both photos is the duplex at 95-99 Elliot Street, which was built in 1887, only a few years before the first photo was taken. Today, all of these buildings have been restored and are part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

50-52 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The twin houses at 50-52 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The houses in 2015:

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These two houses are among the earlier ones built on Mattoon Street, and their architecture is among the finest on the street. The one on the right, number 52, was built first, around 1872, for furniture dealer Julius A. Eldredge and his wife Catherine. A year later, the matching house on the left was completed, giving the front of the building its symmetrical design. By the 1900 census, the house on the left was owned by Thomas and Margaret Keating, two Irish immigrants who lived here with their three children. The one on the right was rented by Horace and Martha Eddy, their son Arthur, his wife Florence, and their infant son Lawrence.

By the 1940 census, just after the first photo was taken, the situation here was very different. I could not find any available data on the house on the left, but the one on the right was, like many other on the street at the time, used as a rooming house. It was rented for $65 a month by Alice LeBlanc, a French-Canadian immigrant who sublet the house to 11 lodgers, as the census described them. The census also lists their occupations, which included a baker, machinist, waitress, janitor, and a department store clerk. Their salaries are also listed, which reflected an economy that was still recovering from the Great Depression; they ranged from the waitress’s $440 annual income to the baker’s comparatively princely $1540 earnings (in 2016 dollars these equate to about $7,500 and $26,000, respectively).

When the Massachusetts Historical Commission filed reports on the historic Mattoon Street houses in the early 1970s, most were in a state of disrepair, except for the house on the right here. In their report on it, they remarked that “It is the only existing structure on the street to be rehabilitated and stands as an example of excellence for other owners to strive for.” Thankfully, in the years since, the other owners have followed suit, and today the entire street has been restored to its former elegance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

42-44 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The twin houses at 42-44 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2015:

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These two houses are architecturally very similar to the neighboring house to the left, and all were built in 1888 and owned by Lebbeus C. Smith. Together, they were among the last houses to be built on Mattoon Street in the 19th century, and they are the only examples of Queen Anne architecture on the street. The 1900 census shows that, like many of the other homes on Mattoon Street at the time, they were used as rooming houses. The one on the left, number 42, was rented by 68 year old dressmaker Mary W. Chamberlain, who in turn sublet the house to nine roomers, whose occupations included several shoe factory workers, clothing salesmen, a dry goods salesman, a telephone inspector, a barber, and a student. The house on the right was similarly crowded; in 1900 it was rented by Canadian immigrants John and Elizabeth Ashton and their daughter Dorothy, along with six roomers, which included two milliners, a dressmaker, a bookkeeper, and a dentist.

When the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, many of the homes on the street were still being used as rooming houses, and by the 1960s many were in disrepair. As mentioned in an earlier post, some of the townhouses on this side of the street were demolished in the early 1970s because of their poor condition. However, the remaining houses, including these ones, have since been restored. and are now part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.