Grape Street School, Chicopee, Mass

The Grape Street School at the corner of Grape and Elm Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Chicopee developed into an industrial center, with factories in the villages of Chicopee Center and Chicopee Falls. Although situated less than two miles apart along the Chicopee River, these two villages were largely independent of one another, and for many years each had its own high school. The first high school was built in 1825 on Church Street in Chicopee Falls, and was replaced by a new building 20 years later. In the meantime, though, a second high school was opened in Chicopee Center in 1843, in this school building on Grape Street.

The Grape Street School had been completed a year earlier, and housed a primary school in the basement and the high school on the second floor. At the time, there were just two teachers in the high school, including a principal and an assistant. Thaddeus M. Szetela, in his 1948 History of Chicopee book, describes the layout of the high school: “There was one large assembly hall, equipped with desks for pupils, with a raised platform in front for the principal’s desk. There were blackboards and tables in the rear on which were a few reference books and magazines. There were openings off this platform to the north, three recitation rooms, one a library.”

This building continued to be used for Center High School throughout most of the 19th century. During this time, by far the longest-tenured and most prominent of its principals was George D. Robinson, who took the position in the fall of 1856. A native of Lexington, Massachusetts, Robinson was a 22-year-old Harvard graduate when he began working as principal, and remained here at the school until 1865, when he left to study law. He subsequently became a prominent lawyer and politician, serving as a Congressman from 1877 to 1884, and as governor of Massachusetts from 1884 to 1887.

Chicopee continued to have two high schools up until the fall of 1890, when Falls High and Center High were combined here at the school on Grape Street. A year later, a new high school building was built on Front Street, midway between the two villages, but the old Grape Street School continued to be used as a public school. It was subsequently renamed the Robinson School, in honor of its famous principal, and in 1899 a second school building was completed just to the right of it, known as the Valentine School.

The Robinson School remained in use well into the 20th century, but it was ultimately demolished in 1959 and an apartment complex was later built on the site. However, the neighboring Valentine School was used as a school into the 1980s, and it has since been preserved and converted into apartments. It stands just beyond and to the right of the apartment buildings in the 2017 photo, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Morris House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Morris House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Morris House in 2018:

As mentioned in the previous post, the identical Lawrence House and Morris House were both completed in 1892, filling a need for student housing at the rapidly-growing Smith College. Although the school had opened less than 20 years earlier, in the fall of 1875, with an enrollment of just 14 students, this had grown to 636 by 1892. Morris House, seen here in these two photos, was named after one of these early students, Kate Morris, who was one of eleven women in the school’s first graduating class in 1879. Three years later she became the first to earn a Ph.D. from Smith, and she would subsequently become the first alumna to serve on the school’s Board of Trustees.

Like Lawrence House, Morris House was designed by Hartford-based architect William C. Brocklesby, and in more than 125 years there have been few changes to the building’s exterior. The small dormer windows on the long side of the building have been replaced by larger ones, and the decorative bargeboards under the gables are gone, but otherwise it looks essentially the same as it did when the first photo was taken. It remains in use as one of the 35 residential buildings at Smith College, and currently houses 68 students on its four floors.

Lawrence House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Lawrence House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Lawrence House in 2018:

When Smith College opened in the fall of 1875, there were just 14 students enrolled in the school. However, over the next few decades the school saw dramatic growth, resulting in a number of new buildings on campus in the 1880s and 1890s. In the six year period from 1886 to 1892, for example, enrollment grew from 247 to 636, and in 1892 two new dormitories were added to accommodate this influx. The two identical buildings, Lawrence House and Morris House, were both designed by William C. Brocklesby, a Hartford architect who was responsible for many of the campus buildings during this period, and they were named in honor of two Smith College alumnae: Elizabeth Crocker Lawrence, class of 1883; and Kate Morris, class of 1879.

Lawrence House, seen here in these two photos, became a cooperative house in 1912, with students receiving discounted tuition in exchange for doing one hour of chores each day. The 62 spots here were highly competitive, requiring high academic standing as well as an interview with the dean, and former resident Constance Jackson, writing for The Smith Alumnae Quarterly in 1922, noted that “it is considered a stroke of luck by most of the college to achieve Lawrence House.” At the beginning of the school year, students were assigned temporary jobs, but they later submitted their preferences for permanent jobs. As Jackson described in her article:

Later, when academic schedules are definitely settled, each student gives the head of the house a card bearing her first, second, and third choice for a permanent task, as well as her “pet aversion.” Needless to say these are never assigned! The freshmen are but little concerned for they have already been informed by upper classmen who have achieved the dignity of sweeping and setting up tables, that the dinner dishes constitute their particular destiny.

Jackson went on to explain how:

The work is never a burden in any sense, for the hour each day spent at one’s particular task is a wholesome change from the academic atmosphere. The interest which everyone takes in the well-being of the house as a whole is truly remarkable and far different from the attitude commonly seen in the houses where the duties of keeping up appearances fall to maids. A scrap of paper in the hallway, a bit of dust on the stairs, is noticed and immediately removed by whomever sees it first – not because it is a duty but because it reflects on the common home which we have all come to love.

Lawrence House remained a cooperative house for many years, and during this time its most famous resident was Sylvia Plath, who lived here from the fall of 1952 until her graduation in the spring of 1955. Although best known for her 1963 novel The Bell Jar, Plath has already written many short stories by the time she moved into Lawrence House, and several of these had been published in magazines. While at Smith College she also served on the editorial board of the school’s literary magazine, the Smith Review, and in 1953 she was selected as a guest editor for Mademoiselle. However, her college years were also marked by increased depression, and her time at Lawrence House was interrupted in 1953, when she spent six months in a psychiatric hospital after her first suicide attempt.

Today, Lawrence House is no longer a cooperative house, but it remains in use as one of 35 residential buildings on the Smith College campus, housing 68 students. The exterior has seen few changes, although at some point in the mid-20th century the dormer windows on the long sides of the building (not visible from this angle) were significantly altered. Otherwise, both Lawrence House and its twin, Morris House, remain very much the same as they did when they were completed over 125 years ago.

Washburn House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Washburn House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Washburn House in 2017:

Washburn House was built in 1878, and is among the oldest buildings on the Smith College campus. It was opened as a dormitory just three years after the school opened, and was named for former Massachusetts governor and senator William B. Washburn, who was serving as one of the school’s trustees at the time. Like many of the other 19th century buildings on the campus, it was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, with a High Victorian Gothic style that matched the rest of the campus.

Today, more than 120 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of Washburn House has not seen any significant changes. In the mid-20th century it was the Spanish House, and the interior had Spanish-themed decorations, along with Spanish names for the rooms. Initially conceived during the Spanish Civil War, when students were unable to study abroad in Spain, the Spanish House continued until 1955, when it reverted to a regular dormitory. It has remained in use ever since, as one of 35 residential buildings at Smith College, and it currently has a capacity of 43 students.

Lilly Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Lilly Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Lilly Hall in 2018:

When Smith College first opened in the fall of 1875, all of the classrooms, laboratories, offices, and other school facilities were located in College Hall. However, as the school’s enrollment grew there was a significant need for more space, particularly for the sciences. The result was the Lilly Hall of Science, which was completed in 1886 thanks to a $32,500 gift from Alfred T. Lilly, a silk manufacturer from Florence. It was designed by architect William C. Brocklesby and featured a High Victorian Gothic style that was similar to College Hall, but without the polychromatic walls and ornate details.

The original layout of the building had the chemistry and physics departments in the basement and on the first floor, with biology and geology on the second floor and a museum on the third floor. There was a scientific library, a botanical laboratory, a spectrum analysis room, and a photography room, among other modern scientific facilities, and in his dedication speech college president Laurenus C. Seelye called it “the first time in the history of the world when a building like this has been devoted to the study of science in a female college.” In his speech, Seelye went on to explain Lilly’s motives for giving the money, stating that “The donor believes in the education of women. If this was a college for gentlemen, the donor said he would never give a cent. He believes in science, and believes that truth is as valuable for women as for men.”

However, it did not take long for the college to outgrow this building. By 1892, just six years after the building was dedicated, the student body had grown from 247 to 636, and the science departments needed more space. In 1899, several years after the first photo was taken, the school added a separate chemistry building, and by 1914 the geology, botany, and biology departments had all moved into other buildings, leaving only the physics department here in Lilly Hall. Physics would remain here for many years, and in 1940 a Van de Graaff electrostatic generator was installed here in the building. Known as an “atom-smasher,” it was useful in the field of nuclear physics, and it was the first such machine at a women’s college.

In 1967, the physics department left Lilly Hall, and the School of Social Work moved into the upper floors, while the basement and first floor became the Afro-American Cultural Center. Later renamed the Mwangi Cultural Center, it remained in the building until 2005 before moving elsewhere on campus, but Lilly Hall is still used by the School of Social Work. The building itself was renovated from 2002 to 2003, but the exterior has remained well-preserved over the years, with hardly any noticeable changes between the two photos.

College Hall at Smith College, Northampton, Mass

College Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

College Hall in 2018:

Smith College was established in 1871, as part of the will of Sophia Smith (1796-1870), who left a large bequest to establish a women’s college in Northampton. This building, College Hall, was the first building on the campus, and it was completed in 1875, the same year that the school opened. It was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston-based architectural firm, and its design reflected the High Victorian Gothic style that was fashionable at the time. Smith College has just 14 students and six faculty members when it opened in the fall of 1875, and this building was used for almost everything except dormitory space. When completed, it included classrooms, a laboratory, a social hall, an art gallery, and administrative offices, although this soon began to change as the college grew.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the college’s enrollment had increased significantly. The campus had grown accordingly, and included new residential buildings, a gymnasium, a music hall, an art gallery building, a science building, a chemistry building, and a new academic building. College Hall itself had also been expanded, with an 1890 addition that increased the capacity of the social hall – renamed Assembly Hall – from 500 to 900. In 1901, Assembly Hall was expanded again, by opening up the second floor above the hall and adding another 500 seats. However, this ended up being a temporary change. John M. Greene Hall, with its 2,225-seat auditorium, was completed in 1910, eliminating the need for such a large auditorium here in College Hall, and the second floor above Assembly Hall was subsequently reconstructed.

By the 1909-1910 school year, Smith College employed 104 faculty members and had 1,635 students, with an annual tuition that had just been increased from $100 to $150. At this point, College Hall was only used for the auditorium, some classrooms, and administrative offices, but over time this would continue to change as more buildings were added to the campus. College Hall would ultimately come to be used only for offices, resulting in significant changes to the interior in he process. However, the exterior appearance has remained well-preserved over 140 years after the building first opened, and today the only noticeable difference between these two photos is the lack of ivy on the brick walls of the building.