Phelps-Hatheway House, Suffield Connecticut

The Phelps-Hatheway House on South Main Street in Suffield, around 1920. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

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The house in 2015:

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The present-day view of this historic house is dominated by a massive sycamore tree that is even older than the house itself. The tree is estimated to be about 300 years old, while the house was built sometime in the mid 1700s. Sources seem to indicate either 1736 or 1761, but either way the house predates the American Revolution. It was originally owned by Abraham Burbank, and subsequently by his son, Shem, who was a wealthy Tory businessman during the American Revolution. Following the war, his loyalty to the British cost him a lot of his business, so his subsequent financial issues forced him to sell the house to Oliver Phelps. The new owner did not hold the property for too long, though, before he had his own monetary problems; Phelps sold the house around 1800 after losing money in a failed land investment.

The new owner was Asahel Hatheway, whose family owned the house for the rest of the century.  During this time, an addition was made to the north (right) side, to go along with the previous addition that Phelps had built in 1794. The house has been well-preserved over the years, even down to the rare 1794 French wallpaper that is still on the walls. Today it is owned by Connecticut Landmarks and open to the public as a museum, providing a glimpse into the 18th and 19th century life of the upper class in the Connecticut River Valley.

Samuel Warner House, Wilbraham Mass

The Samuel Warner House on Stony Hill Road in Wilbraham, on September 3, 1923. Image from Register of the Ancestors of Samuel Warner and his Descendants (1924).

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Stony Hill Road was probably built in the late 1700s, and for many years it was home to some of my ancestors, starting with Samuel Warner Jr., my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.  He was a veteran of two wars, having served with his father in the French and Indian War, where they fought at Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Crown Point in New York.  He returned to Ticonderoga several decades later, when he was stationed at Fort Ticonderoga in 1776-1777 during the American Revolution.  His son, Samuel Warner III, later took over the farm, and lived here his entire life.  He died in 1824 and his son, Samuel Warner IV, my great-great-great grandfather, acquired the property following his marriage in 1827.  He was a fairly prominent citizen of Wilbraham, serving as a town selectman in 1857 and as a member of the Wesleyan Academy Board of Trustees from 1848 until 1858.  He died in 1859, and the house was later owned by two more generations until 1893, when it was sold to someone outside the family for the first time in probably over a century.

The first photo was taken during a family reunion for the Samuel Warner Association, which consists of descendants of the third Samuel Warner, who lived from 1763 to 1824.  Several of my family members are visible in the photo, including my great grandmother, who is standing 6th from the right, in the white outfit.  Her three daughters are seated together in the front row on the right, and my grandmother is the one furthest to the left, just to the right of the tear in the paper.

Today, the house is still there, but with significant modifications.  It now serves as offices for the Country Club of Wilbraham, which is located on the former Warner property.  There have been some significant additions behind and to the right of the house for dining and banquet facilities, but overall the historic house itself is still relatively intact on the exterior.

Wales Road, Monson Mass

Looking up Wales Road from Main Street in Monson, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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Wales Road in 2015:

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Most of the houses at the western end of Wales Road date to the second half of the 19th century, including the two on the left, which were built around 1850.  At the time that the first photo was taken, Monson was becoming a significant factory town, and many of those factories were situated in the southern part of the town center, within easy walking distance of the houses seen here.  Not long after the first photo was taken, a trolley line was built along Main Street in Monson, and it ended here at Wales Road.  Today, the trolleys are long gone, and the house on the right has since been replaced, but otherwise most of the houses in this area from the 1892 scene are still there.

Main Street, Wilbraham Mass

Looking south on Main Street from the corner of Springfield Street in 1903. Image courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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Main Street in 2015:

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In the past 112 years, Wilbraham has seen significant population growth, but overall its downtown area has retained the small-town feel that it had when the first photo was taken. At the turn of the 20th century, the town’s population was actually in decline, having lost about 25% of its population between 1850 and 1900.  Like many other New England towns, its soil wasn’t particularly well-suited for large-scale farming, and while other cities and towns were industrializing in the 19th century, Wilbraham lacked suitable rivers for any significant industrial development.

It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century the population started to grow dramatically, with former farmland being developed into residential neighborhoods.  Today, Wilbraham is an affluent suburb of Springfield, and its town center doesn’t look much different from 100 or even 200 years ago, with most of the buildings along Main Street dating to the 18th or 19th centuries.  One such house is the Isaac Brewer House, visible on the right-hand side of both photos.  It was built around 1748, and is one of the oldest houses in the town.  Across the street, however, the old First Congregational Church is gone; it burned in 1911, and today Gazebo Park occupies the spot where the church once stood.

Captain Charles Leonard House, Agawam Mass

The Captain Charles Leonard House on Main Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Main Street in Agawam hasn’t changed much in the past 120 years, nor had it changed much between its construction in 1805 and the 1890s photo.  It is a very well-preserved example of early 19th century Federal architecture, designed by noted architect Asher Benjamin for Captain Charles Leonard, a local militia officer who operated a tavern out of the building.  At the time that the first photo was taken, it was owned by George Fowler, and in the 1930s it was purchased by Minerva Davis and restored to its early 19th century appearance.  Since then, it has been owned by the nonprofit Captain Charles Leonard House Corporation, and has been rented for weddings, banquets, receptions, and a variety of other gatherings.

The Maples, Rutland Vermont

The Maples, the home of author Julia Caroline Dorr, on Dorr Drive in Rutland, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Dorr Road in Rutland was once the home of Julia Caroline Dorr, a 19th century American author known for both prose and poetry. She was born in South Carolina, but grew up in Vermont. Her husband was Seneca M. Dorr, a lawyer and politician originally from Vermont. The couple moved to Rutland in 1857, which was probably around the time this house, knwon as “The Maples,” was built. The Dorrs lived here for the rest of their lives; Seneca would practice law in Rutland and go on to serve as the President of the Vermont Senate, and Julia continued to publish her work. Seneca died in 1884, and Julia in 1913, so the first photo was almost certainly taken while she was still living there. Today, the house is still there, and although it no longer has the porch, it still retains much of its architectural detail.  However, there is a substantial addition on the right-hand side of the house, which is now used as a church.