View from the Arsenal Tower, Springfield, Mass (3)

Looking north from the Arsenal tower at the Springfield Armory, around 1882. Image from Springfield Illustrated (1882).

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The view in 2015, photographed with permission from the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

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This view from the top of the Main Arsenal tower shows the northwest corner of the Springfield Armory and the Liberty Heights neighborhood in the distance. Both areas have undergone some significant changes, with the most obvious being the large building to the right. Built for Springfield Technical Community College after the Armory closed in 1968, it occupies the ground where several officers’ houses once stood, as seen in the first photo. However, two other historic buildings in this scene survive today. The Long Storehouse, built between 1846 and 1863, is now partially hidden by newer construction, but it still stands along the northern edge of the campus. Just in front of it, in the center of the photo, is the much smaller Master Armorer’s House, a Greek Revival style home that was originally located next to the Main Arsenal before being moved to its current site shortly before the first photo was taken.

It is somewhat hard to tell, but the Liberty Heights neighborhood in the distance has undergone far more drastic changes than the Armory grounds. When the first photo was taken, this area to the northeast of downtown was sparsely populated, with large estates that were owned by wealthy citizens. However, as the city grew, these properties were subdivided and developed with multi-family homes by the early 1900s. The neighborhood changed even further in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Interstate 291 was built through the area, but today at least one of the historic mid-19th century homes has survived. Built in 1853, the Joshua Bliss Vinton House is barely visible on the extreme left of the 1882 photo, and it is still standing at the end of Underwood Street, where it serves as the rectory for Our Lady of the Rosary Church on Franklin Street. Both the church and the house are mostly hidden by trees in the 2015 scene, but the steeple of the church can be seen on the far left, and just beyond it is the cupola of the house.

For other then and now views from the Arsenal tower, see the other posts showing the view facing southwest, west, south, and north.

View from the Arsenal Tower, Springfield, Mass (2)

The view looking west from the top of the Arsenal tower at the Springfield Armory, around 1882. Image from Springfield Illustrated (1882)

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The view in 2015, photographed with permission from the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

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At first, this view looking toward the North End of Springfield does not appear to have seen many dramatic changes. In contrast to the downtown view in the previous post, the scale of this scene remains largely the same, with mostly low-rise commercial and industrial buildings. However, most of the buildings from the first photo have since been demolished. There is a group of surviving Victorian-era buildings on the far left in the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District, which includes the North Congregational Church and the nearby townhouses on Mattoon Street. The rest of the buildings in the scene, though, are mostly gone. Probably the most significant change happened in the 1960s, when most of the buildings on the right side of the photo were demolished as part of the North End urban renewal project. Much of this area now includes the interchange between Interstates 91 and 291.

Although little survives from the 19th century in this scene, this section of Springfield still includes a number of historic buildings. Just to the left of the center is the Apremont Triangle Historic District, which includes historic early 20th century buildings such as the 1910 Hotel Kimball building, which is visible just beyond the steeple of the North Congregational Church. To the left of it is the 1916 YMCA Building, and to the right is the 1924 Tarbell-Waters Building. Another historic building in this scene is the 1916 Willys-Overland Block, which is the boarded-up building just to the left of the center, and just beyond it on Dwight Street is the old 1932 post office.

For other then and now views from the Arsenal tower, see the other posts showing the view facing southwest, northwest, south, and north.

View from the Arsenal Tower, Springfield, Mass (1)

Looking southwest toward downtown Springfield from the Arsenal tower, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated (1882).

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The view in 2015, photographed with permission from the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

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When the first photo was taken around the early 1880s, Springfield was in the midst of a period of rapid growth. In the previous 20 years, the city’s population had more than doubled to 33,340 people by 1880, thanks in no small part to the presence of the Armory where the photo was taken. The Main Street corridor in the distance had become a major commercial center for the entire region, and the slope in the the foreground at the base of the Armory hill had developed into an affluent residential area. Most of the buildings in the first photo were built in the 1860s or 1870s, including most of the houses seen here. Other major landmarks visible here include St. Michael’s Cathedral, which is easily visible on the left side, and St. Michael’s Hall, in the center. Just to the left of St. Michael’s Cathedral is the tower of the old library building, and to the left of it is the steeple of the Church of the Unity. Further in the distance, beyond St. Michael’s, is the Hampden County Courthouse, with the steeple of Old First Church barely visible to the right of it, along with the tower of the old City Hall building in approximately the upper center of the photo.

As dramatic as the population increase had been by the time the first photo was taken, the growth would continue at an even more dramatic pace over the next 50 years, with the population reaching almost 150,000 by 1930, almost 4.5 times the 1880 population. Much of this growth was in the suburban parts of the city, but the downtown area also saw significant development. However, unlike many other comparably-sized cities in the northeast, Springfield’s skyline did not see many dramatic changes until later in the 20th century. From 1908 to 1970, a state law prohibited any buildings taller than the 125-foot steeple of Old First Church, with the exception of the Springfield Municipal Group Campanile tower. Since 1970, though, downtown Springfield has grown upward, starting with the 29-story Baystate West, now named Tower Square, which is visible on the far right of the photo. Other skyscrapers soon followed, including the Chestnut Park apartment building on the left side of the photo, and Monarch Place, just to the right of the center.

Many of the historic structures from the first photo are now gone, including the old library, the Church of the Unity, and St. Michael’s Hall. Many of the Victorian single-family homes and duplexes are also gone, having been replaced by apartment blocks as the city grew in the first half of the 20th century. Some, however, are still standing, including the two brick houses on Byers Street in the foreground that have towers on their roofs. A few blocks further down the hill, mostly hidden by the trees, is the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District, which includes many buildings that were standing when the first photograph was taken. The Armory itself, including the Arsenal tower where these photos were taken, is also a historic site. It closed in 1968, and is now the home of Springfield Technical Community College as well as the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.

For other then and now views from the Arsenal tower, see the other posts showing the view facing west, northwestsouth, and north.

Northampton from Mount Holyoke, Hadley Mass

Looking west from the summit of Mount Holyoke toward Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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Not a whole lot has changed in this scene in the past 115 years. From this distance, there aren’t too many noticeable changes in the city of Northampton, which has grown in population by more than 50% since 1900. The area near the river has hardly changed at all; this floodplain continues to be used as farmland.  Even Interstate 91, which passes through between the farms and the city, isn’t noticeable in the present-day scene.  In fact, the only really obvious difference here is something that is entirely natural – the island that has formed in the middle of the Connecticut River.

Connecticut River from Mount Holyoke, Hadley Mass

Looking north toward the Connecticut River from the summit of Mount Holyoke around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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One of the things that amazes me about then and now landscapes of New England is the difference in trees.  It seems counterintutitive, but in most cases the present-day scenes are substantially more forested than they were in the past.  In part, this is because of agricultural changes over the past century.  This section of the Connecticut River Valley has some of the best farmland in New England, and there are still plenty of active farms today, but New England’s short growing season and limited land has prevented the area from being used for large-scale farming.  Today, some of the former farms have been developed into residential neighborhoods, but much of the land, especially in the floodplains along the river, has reverted to forest over the course of the past century.

The Oxbow from Mount Holyoke, Hadley Mass

The view looking southwest from the Mount Holyoke Summit House around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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This scene from the summit of Mount Holyoke was made famous in 1836 when artist Thomas Cole painted “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm,” a work also known as “The Oxbow” because of the prominent meander in the river.  Cole’s depiction of the scene is below:

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The top of Mount Holyoke has long been a sightseeing destination, starting even before Cole’s 1830s visit.  In 1821, a small cabin was built at the summit, which was replaced in 1851 by a much larger hotel, which still stands today.  The 2015 photo, and presumably the 1900 photo, were both taken from the porch that surrounds the building, and they reveal some of the changes that have occurred in the landscape over the past 115 years.  However, probably the most obvious change here occurred long before the first photo was taken, and not long after Thomas Cole painted his famous work.  In 1840, a flood broke through the narrow neck, giving the Connecticut River a more direct route downstream and turning the former riverbed into a lake.  It also made travel easier; traffic no longer had to follow the meandering river, and the 1900 scene shows the railroad tracks that had been built across what was once the river.  Today, Route 5 parallels the railroad tracks, and Interstate 91 crosses the Oxbow just a little further to the west.

When the 1900 photo was taken, the Oxbow played an important role in river commerce as a holding place for logs that were floated downstream.  Each spring in the late 1800s and early 1900s, logs from upstream in Vermont and New Hampshire would be floated down the river to the paper mills in Holyoke.  Since it is just a short distance upstream of Holyoke, the Oxbow made for a convenient holding place away from the main channel of the river.  The last such log drive occurred in 1915, and since then it has been used primarily for pleasure boats, with the Oxbow Marina located on the inside of the curve.  There are no dams between Holyoke to the south and Turners Falls to the north, so this section is one of the busiest on the Connecticut River for recreational boating.