66 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 66 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

According to city records, this house was built in 1851, and its Italianate-style architecture seems to suggest that this date is accurate. However, the house does not appear on the 1851, 1870, or 1882 city maps, suggesting that it may have been moved to this site during the late 19th century. If it was in fact moved, this most likely occurred in 1888, when the 66 School Street address first appears in city directories. The ornate turret was probably added to the right side around this same time, creating an unusual blend of Italianate and Queen Anne architectural styles.

The 1888 directory shows that this house was the home of Sarah Hurd, a high school teacher who lived here for about two years. By 1893, it was owned by Atkins E. Blair, a pork dealer in the firm of A. C. Hunt & Co. The 1900 census shows him living here with his wife Harriet, their daughter Rachel, Harriet’s father Charles Simons, and two servants.

The Blair family would continue to live here for many years. Rachel married her husband, Charles D. Bowers, in 1924, in a ceremony that was held here at the house. The couple moved into his house, which was up the hill from here on Union Street. However, by the 1930 census, Rachel was again living here on School Street, while Bowers was listed as living at the YMCA on Chestnut Street. They were still married at the time, but they would subsequently divorce.

In the meantime, Atkins Blair died in 1927, leaving an estate that was valued at around $180,000, or nearly $2.7 million today. However, Harriet was still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and the 1940 census shows her and Rachel as the only two residents of the house. Harriet lived here until her death in 1951, at the age of 90, and Rachel moved out and remarried soon afterward.

Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, with few changes since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago. The neighboring house at 62 School Street was demolished sometime around the 1960s or 1970s, but otherwise many of the surrounding buildings are still standing from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These properties, along with this house, are now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District.

Samuel Bowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 62 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows a modest Greek Revival-style house that once stood here on the west side of School Street, just north of the corner of Union Street. It had been here at 62 School Street since the early 1870s, but its architectural style, along with circumstantial evidence, suggests that it is actually much older than this. It appears to have been the house that Samuel Bowles II – founder of the Springfield Republican newspaper – built around the early 1820s, across the street from here at the northeast corner of Union and School Streets. He would have likely been residing in this house when he established the Republican in 1824, and he remained here until his death in 1851, at the age of 54.

His son, Benjamin F. Bowles, subsequently inherited the house, which was still on Union Street at the time, but in 1873 he hired prominent architect Henry H. Richardson to design a new house for him on the same lot. The old house was moved to School Street around this same time, although historical records do not seem to indicate where on School Street it was moved. However, Bowles was listed as living here at 62 School Street in 1874, before moving into his newly-completed house later that year, so this evidence strongly suggests that he moved his old house here, lived in it during the construction, and then moved out when his new house was finished.

By the fall of 1874, Bowles had listed this house for sale or rent, with a classified ad in the Springfield Republican that included the following description:

The dwelling-house, No. 62 School Street, near the corner of Union Street, lately occupied by me. The lot os 50 feet front by 128 deep. On the first floor are a wide hall, parlor, library, dining-room, kitchen, front and back stairs, large pantries, etc. Second floor — four chambers in the main part and two in the L. A laundry in the basement, and dry cellar under the whole. The walls of the house are brick-lined, it is provided with double windows, and it is economically heated. The house will be shown on application to me.

Benjamin Bowles was the younger brother of Samuel Bowles III, who had taken over as editor of the Republican after their father’s death. Benjamin also worked for the newspaper, but, like their father, they both died relatively young. Benjamin was only 43 when he died in 1876 in Paris, only two years after his new house was completed, and Samuel died two years later at the age of 51, after having been in poor health for many years.

Despite his efforts to sell this School Street property, Benjamin still owned the house at the time of his death, and it would remain in his family until at least the early 1880s. However, it was used as a rental property during this time. Starting around 1876, it was the home of Henry C. Bixby, a clerk for the Boston & Albany Railroad. The 1880 census shows him living here with his wife Selena, their two young sons, and a servant, and they would remain here for several more years before moving down the street to 25 School Street by the mid-1880s.

The house was subsequently occupied by Theodore C. Beebe, a wool waste dealer. He was living here as early as 1886, and by the 1900 census he was 63 years old, and his household included his wife Amanda and three of their children: Jane, Philip, and Alexander. Theodore died in 1910, but the rest of the family continued to live here. By this point, Philip was working as an assistant cashier for the Springfield National Bank, and Alexander was vice president of the Rogers Sporting Goods Company. Philip moves out at some point in the early 1910s, and Amanda died in 1914, but Alexander lived here until 1922, at which point he was secretary and treasurer of the Sterling Textile Company.

When Alexander moved out, this left only Jane still living here in the family home on School Street. She apparently did not work, but she took in lodgers you help supplement her income. The 1930 census shows here living here with three lodgers, and a decade later – around the time that the first photo was taken – she had two lodgers and a housekeeper. Jane continued to live here until the early 1950s, nearly 70 years after she first moved into the house as a child, and she subsequently lived in Longmeadow and Holyoke before her death in 1964 at the age of 87.

The house was still here until at least the mid-1960s, but it was demolished at some point within the next decade or two. The site is now a small parking lot, with a garage in the rear of the property, as shown in the 2018 photo. However, most of the surrounding buildings are still standing, including the Gothic-style house to the right at 60 School Street, and the apartment building in the distance on High Street.

60 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 60 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house is one of the few Carpenter Gothic-style homes in Springfield. The style was most often seen in rural settings, most famously in Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, but there were several here in Springfield, including one that still stands at 357 Maple Street. This one here on School Street is somewhat more modest in size, but it features many classic Gothic-style details, including board-and-batten siding on the exterior walls and decorative bargeboards under the eaves.

The history of this house does not appear to be well-documented, but it was probably constructed sometime around the 1860s. By the early 1870s it was owned by Robert O. Morris, a prominent local figure who served for many years as clerk of courts. He owned the property until at least the early 1880s, but he likely did not live here much, if at all. The 1873 city directory lists this house as his address, but by the following year he was living nearby on Temple Street. He listed the house for sale in 1875, with a classified ad in the Springfield Republican that described it as “centrally located, nicely fitted up with the modern improvements. Good water and sewerage.” However, it evidently did not sell, because by the following year he was placing classified ads looking to rent the house.

Morris had several different tenants who lived here over the next few years. In 1876 it was the home of Henry M. Burt, a publisher whose company, H. M. Burt & Co., produced the New England Homestead and the Sunday Telegram. Burt would also go on to write several local history and genealogy books, including The First Century of the History of Springfield, which was published in two volumes in 1898. However, he was only in this house for about a year, because by 1877 he was listed at 15 Oak Street. By 1880, the house was rented by electrotyper Charles Van Vlack, who lived here with his wife Mary, plus a son, three nieces, and a servant. He too had a short stay, though, and within a year or two he was living elsewhere.

By the late 1880s, the house was the home of three sisters: Harriet, Flora, and Mary White. Together, they ran a school here in the house, which was listed as the Misses White’s School. However, this school evidently did not last very long, because both it and the White sisters left here by the early 1890s. Starting around 1893, it was occupied by Wallace M. Burt, a lawyer and real estate agent. He was still living here during the 1900 census, along with his wife Bertha, their two daughters, his parents, and a servant. Wallace had his law offices here, while Bertha ran a dance school here in the house as well. They probably lived here longer than any of the other late 19th century residents, remaining until around 1908, when they moved to Woburn.

The house was subsequently owned by Jeremiah J. Haggerty, a violinist who lived here with his wife Susan. For many years he was the leader of the Court Square Orchestra here in Springfield, and he also taught violin lessons. However, he died of pneumonia in 1919, at the age of 45. Susan remained here at this house, though, and the 1920 census shows here living here with her sister, Mary O’Grady. Like her husband, Susan was also an accomplished musician, and she similarly worked as a music teacher.

Susan was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Mary had died in 1935, but another sister, Eleanor O’Grady, was here during the 1940 census. At the time, the home was valued at $10,000 (equivalent to just under $200,000 today), and Susan had evidently retired, although Eleanor was listed as working as a public school teacher. Susan would go on to live here until her death in 1947, and Eleanor was here until at least the early 1950s.

Today, about 80 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the house is not dramatically different, aside from the loss of the chimneys. It is now used as the management office for a group of nearby apartment buildings, but it has been well-preserved, and it stands as a good example of residential Gothic architecture. Like the other surrounding buildings in this neighborhood, it is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District.

Albert T. Folsom House, Springfield, Mass

The building at 60-62 High Street, near the corner of School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

This wooden Second Empire-style two-family home was constructed around 1869, and it was originally owned by Albert T. Folsom, who lived in the unit on the right at 62 High Street. Folsom was a prominent Springfield resident who served as city clerk and treasurer from 1862 until 1887, and as a state representative from 1897 to 1899. In addition, he was a director of the Second National Bank for 20 years, including six years as president. He lived here from about 1869 until his death in 1909, and he and his wife Mary raised their four children in this house.

The left side of the house, at 60 High Street, had several different residents during Folsom’s time here. The longest of these appears to have been George I. Hodskins, a clerk who ran the linen department in the dry goods firm of Smith & Murray. The 1880 census shows him living here with his wife Nancy, their daughter Georgia, and two boarders, and he continued to live here throughout the rest of his life, until his death in 1903 at the age of 70.

By 1910, Mary Folsom was still living here at 62 High Street, along with her son Robert, a servant, and two roomers. She owned the entire building, and rented the other half to William E. Davis, a physician who lived here with his wife Louisa and a roomer. Mary continued to live here for several more years, but by 1915 she was living two buildings away, in an apartment block at 52 High Street. Her old house here at 60-62 High Street subsequently became a rooming house, with the 1920 census showing ten roomers living here, including a chauffeur, several machinists, and a foreman in an auto factory.

The first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and by this point the building was owned by Oscar Fine, a Russian immigrant who ran a grocery store on the ground floor of the building. He and his wife Ruth were living here with their children Shirley and Harold, and he also rented space here to three other families, two of whom sublet their units to roomers. The 1940 census shows a total of 18 residents living here, including the Fine family, and they generally held low-wage jobs, including a waitress, seamstress, maid, painter, and laborer.

Today, some 80 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the building is not significantly different, aside from some alterations to the storefront, and it is now part of the Lower Maple Local Historic District. Most of the windows had been boarded up in the recent past, but by the time the second photo was taken these had been removed, and the building received a new coat of paint. However, most of the building appears to still be vacant, with a number of “No Trespassing” signs posted on the property.

Underwood Building, Springfield, Mass

The Underwood Building at the corner of Main and Worthington Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

This two-story, Classical Revival-style commercial building was constructed in 1916, and over the years it has housed a variety of businesses. Its name comes from one of its early tenants, the Underwood Typewriter Company, which had its Springfield offices here. In its early years, the upper floor of the building was occupied by the Knights of Columbus, which met here until 1929, but perhaps the most noteworthy tenant here was the Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition, which had its offices in the building from 1917 until 1949. Later named the Eastern States Exposition, but better known as the Big E, this annual agricultural fair has become one of the largest in the country, and it is still held every September at the fairgrounds on the other side of the river, in West Springfield.

The Eastern States Exposition offices were still located here in the Underwood Building when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and the photo shows a variety of other commercial tenants on the ground floor, including Bill’s Liquor Store, which occupied the corner storefront. Since then, the exterior of the building has remained largely intact, although it has steadily declined over the years. In 2012, it was damaged by a nearby gas explosion, and, as the 2018 photo shows, it is now vacant and boarded up. It was recently threatened with demolition, prompting an attempt to have the city designate it as a one-building local historic district. This effort failed, and the mandated nine-month demolition delay expired in 2018, but as of January 2020 it is still standing.

Old Post Office, Springfield, Mass

The old post office building, at the corner of Dwight and Taylor Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

For most of the 19th century, Springfield did not have a dedicated post office building. Instead, it was often housed inside of a store that was run by the postmaster, so over the years the post office had ten different locations before the first purpose-built post office was completed in 1891, at the corner of Main and Worthington Streets. This imposing Romanesque-style brownstone building functioned as both a post office and a customs house, but it soon proved to be too small, as Springfield’s population continued its dramatic growth into the early 20th century. As a result, this post office lasted barely 30 years before it was closed in 1932 and demolished the following year.

Its replacement was constructed several blocks away, on a lot that is bounded by Lyman, Dwight, Taylor, and Kaynor Streets. The latter was added to the city’s street network when the new post office was built, in order to provide access to the rear of the building. It was named in honor of the late W. Kirk Kaynor, a congressman and former Springfield postmaster who was killed in a plane crash in 1929.

The new building opened in September 1932, and it is shown here in the first photo only a few years later. it was primarily a post office, but it also housed a variety of other federal offices. A May 8, 1932 article in the Springfield Republican, published several months before it opened, outlined the intended use of the building. The post office would occupy much of the basement, all of the first floor, and most of the second floor. The rest of the second floor would be used by the customs appraiser, and the third floor would house the federal courtroom, judge’s chambers, district attorney’s office, and other Department of Justice offices. The allocation of space in the fourth and fifth floors was still tentative at the time, but these floors were intended to house a variety of other federal offices.

Architecturally, the building is very different from the previous post office. By the 1930s, the Romanesque architecture of the late 19th century had long since fallen out of fashion, and this new building featured the simplicity of Art Moderne architecture, with a light-colored exterior of polished Indiana limestone. However, it was built with some decorative elements, including the colored terra cotta spandrels in between the windows. Like many Depression-era post offices, it also included interior murals in the main lobby. The ones here were painted by Umberto Romano, and they consist of six murals that are collectively titled “Three Centuries of New England History.”

This building was used as a post office until 1967, when the present post office building opened a few blocks to the north of here. The rest of the federal offices were relocated in 1980, upon the completion of a new federal building at Main Street, and this property was sold to the state three years later. Since then, it has served as the Springfield State Office Building, housing a variety of state agencies, along with the Western Massachusetts office of the governor. Its exterior has remained well-preserved since then, with few noticeable changes from the first photo, and it stands as an excellent example of 20th century architecture in Springfield.