Wesleyan Academy Baseball Game, Wilbraham Mass

A view of a baseball game in progress at Wesleyan Academy (today Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The field in 2015:

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The first photo is a rather remarkable scene showing an early baseball game.  Most 19th century baseball photos are staged studio portraits that loosely imitate in-game action (see this photo from the Library of Congress website, where the string holding the ball is clearly visible and it looks more like a magic levitating trick than anything one might encounter at a baseball game), so it is fairly rare to see real, in-game action from the 1800s.  This particular photo was taken no later than 1892, the year it was published, and no earlier than 1878, when the house on the far left was built.  Most likely though, it was probably taken shortly before publication.

By the time that the photo was taken, the game of baseball was well established as the most popular sport in the country, at both the professional and amateur levels.  For the most part, the game 125 years ago wasn’t all that different from baseball today – this scene is instantly recognizable as a baseball game.  However, there was one last major change in the rules that happened a few years after this photo was taken.  A close examination of the photo shows that the pitcher is standing on flat ground, and appears closer to home plate than in modern baseball.  Prior to 1893, the pitcher released the ball 55.5 feet from home plate, and stood on flat ground rather than a raised mound.  In 1893, the distance of 60.5 feet was established; this remains the same today, and was such a major change that many baseball historians consider 1893 to be the beginning of modern baseball.

I don’t know which team is the home team, but this was taken at what was once Wesleyan Academy, and is now Wilbraham & Monson Academy.  My great grandfather attended the academy in the late 1880s, and I don’t know whether he played baseball there, but depending on the exact date of the photo, he could easily be among the players or spectators – some of whom seem to be standing dangerously close to the batter.  Today, the campus has grown significantly since the first photo was taken, but the field is still there and is still used for sports, although baseball is now played on a different field on the other side of the campus.

Old High School, Springfield Mass

The old Springfield High School, on Court Street in Springfield, probably in the 1880s or early 1890s. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

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Springfield’s first public high school was established in 1828, and it was in several different location before this building on Court Street opened in 1848.  It served as the high school until 1874, when a new high school opened on the current location of Classical High School.  The old building was used as a primary school until at least the 1880s.  However, before the end of the century it was demolished and replaced by the Springfield Police Department headquarters, which can be seen in the first photo of this post.  However, the police station wasn’t there for too long, because the site is now occupied by the 1913 campanile tower between Symphony Hall and City Hall.

Memorial Chapel, Wilbraham Mass

The Methodist Church in Wilbraham, around 1903. Photo courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The building in 2015:

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The Memorial Chapel at the corner of Main Street and Mountain Road in Wilbraham is right next to the Wilbraham & Monson Academy campus, but it wasn’t always a part of the school.  It was completed in 1870, and was the third meeting house for Wilbraham’s Methodist Society.  The society was established in 1793, and their first meeting house was used until 1835, when it was converted into a private home.  It is still standing, directly across Mountain Road; I took this photo from right in front of it.  The church in this photo was used by the Methodists from 1870 until the 1920s, when they merged with the Congregational Church to form the Wilbraham United Church.  The Academy acquired the church in the 1930s, and now uses it as a library and as a venue for concerts and all-school gatherings.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (2)

Howard Street School in Springfield, seen from Union Street around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Another view of the Howard Street School, seen from the Union Street side (see this post for a view from Howard Street).  As mentioned in the other post, the school was built in 1905 and was severely damaged in the 2011 tornado.  It is scheduled to be demolished by MGM Springfield as soon as the Massachusetts Historical Commission gives them the green light, and the MGM parking garage will be built on the site.  It shouldn’t be too controversial, though; even if not for MGM, there would be no saving the building – the tornado left it damaged beyond repair, and it was never seen as a particularly historic structure to begin with.  The second photo was taken on March 24, 2015, the day of the official groundbreaking ceremony that took place on the other side of the school.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (1)

The Howard Street School, seen from Howard Street, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The Howard Street School was built in 1905, and was one of many school buildings built in Springfield around the turn of the 20th century, which included Forest Park School, Classical High School, Chestnut Junior High School, and the Technical High School. This school was used for over 100 years, and was most recently known as the Zanetti School.  The Zanetti School moved to a new location in 2009, and two years later the 2011 tornado caused substantial damage to the building.  It has been vacant ever since, and it is now slated to be demolished to make way for a parking garage for the planned MGM Springfield casino.  The 2015 photo was taken on March 24, the day of the ceremonial groundbreaking, and the old school building is to be the first building demolished, once the Massachusetts Historical Commission signs off on it.

North Main Street, Springfield, Mass

Main Street in Springfield, looking toward the North End near Congress Street, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated (1882).

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The scene in 2014:

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The only readily identifiable building in the first photo is on the right side of Main Street, the Hooker School, which was a grammar school that opened in 1865.  In the 1884 King’s Handbook of Springfield, it is described as “the finest of the grammar-school buildings in external appearance,. for which it is indebted to its imposing tower (containing a clock with illuminated dial), as well as to the beautiful network of vines which in summer relieve the bareness of its brick walls.”

The building was still being used as a school by the time the 1910 atlas was published, but by 1920 the school had moved to a different location a few blocks away.  The old building was apparently still there, though, and it was labeled as “Old School Building.” Obviously, the school building is no longer there, although it was likely gone long before the interchange between I-91 and I-291 was built here.  Today, Main Street itself is the only thing left over from the first photo, although instead of trees in the median, it now has concrete supports for the elevated highway.