Calvin Coolidge House, Northampton, Mass

The house at 19-21 Massasoit Street in Northampton, around 1915-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection.

The scene in 2018:

Throughout American history, there have been plenty of presidents who have come from humble beginnings, but few of them lived quite as modestly, both before and after their presidencies, as Calvin Coolidge. He was president throughout most of the Roaring Twenties, yet he had far more in common with his Puritan ancestors than with any characters in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. In many ways, he was the archetypal frugal Yankee, and one of the most visible examples of this was his choice of a residence here in Northampton. Rather than owning a home, he spent nearly 25 years renting the left side of this duplex, and it was here that he rose in the political ranks from a state legislator to president of the United States.

This two-family home was built around 1901, in a residential development about a mile to the northwest of downtown Northampton. Most of the other nearby houses were built around the same time, and they were generally single-family homes occupied by middle class residents. Calvin and Grace Coolidge moved in several years later, in August 1906, less than a year after they were married and only a few weeks before the birth of their first child, John. They occupied the left side of the house, at 21 Massasoit Street, for which they paid $27 per month for seven rooms and 2,100 square feet of living space.

Although he spent most of his life in Northampton, Calvin Coolidge was a native of Vermont, where he grew up in the family home in Plymouth. However, he came to Massachusetts for college, attending Amherst College and graduating in 1895. From there, he moved to nearby Northampton, the county seat, and began studying law as an apprentice in the firm of Hammond & Field. He was admitted to the bar in 1897, and soon began practicing law while also getting involved in local politics. He served on the city council, was subsequently appointed city solicitor, and then became Clerk of Courts of Hampshire County, where he worked in the old county courthouse.

Coolidge married his wife Grace in October 1905, when he was 33 and she was 26. Two months later, he suffered the only electoral defeat of his career, when he lost a race for school committee. However, the following year he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, only a few months after moving here to Massasoit Street. He was reelected to the legislature in 1907, but he declined to run for a third term in 1908. This was motivated in part by the birth of his second son, Calvin Coolidge, Jr., in April of that year. Returning to Northampton meant that he could devote his full attention to his law practice, in order to pay for the added expenses of a second child.

However, Coolidge did not stay out of politics for long. In the fall of 1909, he ran for mayor of Northampton, winning by a margin of just 107 votes. He went on to serve two one-year terms in city hall from 1910 to 1911, where he applied his own personal frugality to the city budget. He reduced the city’s debt while also lowering taxes, yet he also managed to increase teachers’ salaries, improve the roads, and make the police and fire departments more efficient. Coolidge’s cost-saving measures included blocking a proposed new city hall, which would have replaced the old building that had stood since 1850. As it turned out, this proved to be a sensible move, because the old building remains in use as city hall more than a century later.

In 1912, Coolidge returned to the State House, this time as a state senator. This began his meteoric rise in state politics, from mayor of a small city to governor of Massachusetts in just seven years. He served four years in the state senate, including the last two years as senate president, and in the fall of 1915 he became the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. His running mate, Samuel W. McCall, had narrowly lost the gubernatorial race to David I. Walsh a year earlier, but McCall and Coolidge won in 1915. In an early sign of Coolidge’s popularity, he won the lieutenant governor’s race by over 52,000 votes, while McCall was elected governor by just 6,313 votes.

McCall and Coolidge were successfully reelected in 1916 and 1917. In 1918, McCall announced that he would not run for a fourth term, so Coolidge became the Republican nominee for governor. He defeated his Democratic challenger, businessman Richard H. Long, by over 17,000 votes, and he was inaugurated as governor on January 2, 1919. He would go on to win reelection in the fall of 1919, this time defeating Long by a commanding margin of 125,000 votes.

As was the case here in Northampton, Coolidge’s time as governor was marked by fiscal conservativism. The best example of this came in September 1919, when the Boston Police Department threatened to strike. At the time, the city’s police department was directly controlled by the governor, not the mayor, and Coolidge threatened to fire any striking officers. About three-quarters of the police force went on strike anyway, and Coolidge followed through with his threat, famously declaring, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.” The strike caused a temporary increase in crime and violence in Boston, but the National Guard soon restored order while the city hired and trained new officers.

The police strike earned Coolidge national attention. In the days before the strike, many feared that, if the Boston police offers were successful in their strike, it would inspire similar actions across the country, leading to local governments being essentially extorted by their own police. By taking a hard stance against the strikers, and by emphasizing the need for law and order, Coolidge became a hero to many, and he was seen as a rising star within the Republican Party. The strike also contributed to Coolidge’s overwhelming victory in the 1919 election, earning him more than 60% of the statewide vote.

As a result, Coolidge was viewed as a presidential contender in 1920. Warren Harding was ultimately chosen as the party’s nominee at the Republican National Convention in June, but Coolidge was selected as the vice presidential candidate. It was the first election after the passage of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, and both Harding and Coolidge had been supporters of women’s suffrage. Women voted overwhelmingly for the Republican ticket, resulting in a landslide victory for Harding and Coolidge, who carried 37 states and won over 60% of the popular vote.

Upon becoming vice president, Coolidge and his family moved to Washington, where they lived at the Willard Hotel. However, they would maintain this house as their Northampton residence, throughout Coolidge’s time in Washington. His vice presidency was relatively uneventful for nearly two and a half years, but this all changed when Warren Harding died suddenly on August 2, 1923. Coolidge was visiting his father in Vermont at the time, and he was awakened early in the morning and informed that he had become president. The elder Coolidge, who was a justice of the peace, administered the oath of office to his son in the parlor of his house, and then Calvin Coolidge’s first act as president was to go back to bed.

Coolidge easily won reelection in 1924, winning 35 states and 382 electoral votes in a three-way race between Democrat John W. Davis and Progressive Robert M. La Follette. As was the case in Northampton and in Boston, Coolidge sought to cut taxes and lower spending while also reducing the national debt. He held a laissez-faire attitude toward the economy, and his presidency saw widespread growth and prosperity during what came to be known as the Roaring Twenties. However, his economic policies are sometimes criticized for the role that they may have played in the stock market crash of 1929, which occurred less than eight months after he left office.

Coolidge did not run for reelection in 1928, instead endorsing the candidacy of his commerce secretary, Herbert Hoover. He and Grace left the White House in March 1929, and they returned here to their home on Massasoit Street. The 1930 census listed Coolidge’s occupation simply as “retired,” and at the time they were paying $40 per month in rent, equivalent to about $620 today. They lived alone except for one servant, Alice Reckahn, who had been with the family since 1916 and had cared for the house while the Coolidges were in Washington.

It was certainly a modest home for an ex-president, but this did not seem to bother him. In his autobiography, published in 1929, Coolidge explained why he had lived here for so long, writing:

We liked the house where our children came to us and the neighbors who were so kind. When we could have had a more pretentious home we still clung to it. So long as I lived there, I could be independent and serve the public without ever thinking that I could not maintain my position if I lost my office. I always made my living practicing law up to the time I became Governor, without being dependent on any official salary. This left me free to make my own decisions in accordance with what I thought was the public good. We lived where we
did that I might better serve the people.

However, the location of the house proved to be a problem during Coolidge’s retirement. By this point, he was a prominent public figure, and his house offered little privacy from the many curious people who came down Massasoit Street to see the house. Author Claude M. Fuess, in his 1940 biography Calvin Coolidge, The Man From Vermont, provided the following description of the situation:

But Massasoit Street was sought by a continuous procession of sightseers; indeed Dr. Plummer [Frederic W. Plummer, principal of Northampton High School, who had lived in the unit on the right since about 1918], who still occupied the other side of the house, estimated that, in May, an automobile passed on the average every six seconds, and later in the summer the street was sometimes blocked with cars. The Coolidges did their best to lead a normal life. Mrs. Reckahn continued to act as housekeeper, and the flower garden was turned into a runway for the dogs brought from Washington. The ex-President tried to sit on the porch in the evening as he used to do. But whenever he appeared in public a crowd was sure to gather, and the unceasing demonstrations of popularity wore on his nerves. The house was altogether too near the street, and he soon found his conspicuous position highly distasteful.

As a result, in 1930 the Coolidges purchased a house at 16 Hampton Terrace, located just to the south of downtown Northampton. It was known as The Beeches, and it was situated on a large lot, at the end of a long driveway. From the street, the house was almost entirely hidden by trees, offering a much greater degree of privacy than they had been able to enjoy here on Massasoit Street. Calvin Coolidge lived there for the rest of his life, and he died there in 1933 at the age of 60. Grace remained at The Beeches for several more years, but by the late 1930s she had moved to a house at 11 Ward Avenue, which stands less than a half mile away from their former home here on Massasoit Street.

The first photo shows the Massasoit Street house at some point during the late 1910s, probably when Coolidge was either lieutenant governor or governor. A century later, there have been a few changes, including the removal of the shutters and the balustrade over the porch on the right side, and the addition of a downspout on the front of the house. Overall, though, the exterior remains essentially the same as it did when Calvin Coolidge moved in here as a small-town attorney in 1906, and today it remains in use as a private residence. In 1976, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but the only visible sign of its historical significance is a small plaque on the front porch, which identifies it as having been the home of Calvin Coolidge.

Normal Hall, Westfield, Mass

Normal Hall, the boarding house at the Westfield Normal School, at the corner of Washington and King Streets in Westfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, the Westfield Normal School was established in 1838 as a teacher training school in Barre, Massachusetts, where it operated for several years before relocating to Westfield in 1844. Starting in 1846, the school occupied a building a block away from here, at the northeast corner of Washington and School Streets, but for many years it lacked a residential building for students who did not live locally. This problem was not resolved until 1874, when the state constructed the dormitory building in the first photo, which was located here at the northwest corner of Washington and King Streets.

This Second Empire-style building was the work of noted architect Alexander Rice Esty, and it was constructed at a cost of $10,600. It could accommodate up to 130 students, with two per room, and each student paid $3.75 per week, equivalent to about $86 today. The school furnished the rooms, including providing a mattress, pillows, and coverlet, but students were required to bring their own bedding, towels, napkins, napkin rings, and clothes bags. The recommended bedding, according to the school’s 1874 catalog, was four pillow cases, three sheets, and two blankets. These items all had to be marked with their owner’s name, lest they get lost in the laundry.

Aside from students, some of the school’s faculty also lived here, as did John W. Dickinson, who was the principal when the building was completed. He had served as the head of the school since 1856, and he remained in this position until 1877, when he left to become secretary of the state board of education. He later became the namesake of Dickinson Hall, a new residential building that opened in 1903, and the name lives on today with a second Dickinson Hall, located on the present-day campus of Westfield State University.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, the normal school was undergoing significant changes, with the construction of a new academic building on Court Street. Later in the 1890s, the old school building was demolished, and replaced with a new training school. During this time, though, Normal Hall remained in use as the school’s boarding house. Room rates had remained largely the same in the intervening years, with female students paying $75 for a 20-week term, or just under $2,200 today. They did have an option to live here without a roommate, although it cost an additional 50 cents per week. Male students were also permitted to live here, at the rate of $80 per term, but at this point the school was still overwhelmingly female, with only 6 men enrolled during the 1892-1893 school year, out of 155 total students.

The 1900 census lists all of the students and faculty who lived here in this building at the time. There were 60 students, all of them female, along with nine female teachers. One teacher had an older woman, presumably her mother, who lived here with her, and there were also seven servants who lived here. The building was supervised by 35-year-old Belle Wilson, who resided here with her husband Charles and their teenaged son Carroll. Charles was a noted marine biologist, and he taught at the normal school for many years, including heading the science department from 1897 until 1932. He is remembered today as the namesake of Wilson Hall, the main science building at Westfield State University.

Normal Hall remained in use until 1903, when Dickinson Hall opened nearby on King Street, in the rear of the new Court Street school building. The old boarding house was subsequently sold to a private owner and converted into an apartment building. It was ultimately demolished at some point in the 20th century, no later than the early 1970s, when construction began on Washington House, a 112-unit apartment building for elderly housing. Although begun by a private developer, it was sold to the Westfield Housing Authority in 1974, shortly before its completion. This building is still standing here today, as shown in the 2018 photo, and it continues to be used as public housing for elderly residents.

Main and Elm Streets, Westfield, Mass

The corner of Main and Elm Streets in Westfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

These two photos show the scene at the northwest corner of Park Square, in the center of downtown Westfield. For the most part, these buildings were constructed in the mid-19th century, when Westfield was in the midst of a long, steady growth in its population. The town had a population of 4,180 in 1850, and it would continue to increase throughout the rest of the century, reaching nearly 10,000 by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. By this point, Westfield was a prosperous manufacturing center, and it was particularly well-known for buggy whips, with the town’s firms ultimately controlling about 99% of the world’s production by the early 20th century.

All of the buildings in this scene were constructed as commercial blocks, with the exception of the three-story, wood-frame building on the far left. Located at the corner of Elm and School Streets, this was built in 1843 as the First Methodist Church. The congregation worshiped here in this building for the next 33 years, and during this time the church had several notable pastors. These included Mark Trafton, who served several stints here in the 1840s and early 1850s before being elected to Congress in 1854, and John Hanson Twombly, who served as pastor here from 1851 to 1853. He later went on to become president of the University of Wisconsin from 1871 to 1874, before returning here to this church in 1874. It was also in this building, in 1862, that Russell H. Conwell gave his first lecture. Although he never served as pastor here, he would go on to become a prominent Baptist minister, and the founder and first president of Temple University.

In 1876, during Reverend Twombly’s second pastorate, the church moved into a new, much larger building nearby on Court Street. The old church was then converted exclusively into commercial use. It had been constructed with storefronts on the ground floor, and its tenants included several different grocery stores. However, after the church relocated, the post office moved into this building, and it remained here until 1912, when a purpose-built post office was constructed on the other side of Park Square.

At some point, the original tower and belfry were removed from the building, but otherwise it still retained much of its Greek Revival exterior by the time the first photo was taken. It would remain largely the same until the 1940s, when it was dramatically altered by the removal of the third floor and gable roof. Now down to two stories, the old church is still standing here today on the left side of the photo, although it is barely recognizable from its historical appearance.

To the right of the church in the first photo is a row of three brick commercial buildings. Furthest to the left was the home of the First National Bank of Westfield. This is the only building from the first photo that no longer exists in any form, as it was demolished around 1930 to build the present-day bank on the lot. To the right of it is another two-story building at 32-34 Elm Street, which was built around 1860. For more than a century, it was occupied by Conner’s, a book, stationery, and gift shop that had been founded in 1867. It moved to this location by the mid-1890s, and it would remain here until it finally closed in 2007. Although Conner’s is gone, the building itself still stands, relatively unaltered from its appearance in the first photo.

Further to the right, at the corner of Elm and Church Streets, is Whitman’s Hall, also known as the Music Hall and the Opera House. It was built in 1855, but it was subsequently expanded in 1870 and renovated again in 1888 and 1904. As the names suggest, the three-story building originally included a public hall. This was used for many different kinds of events over the years, including balls, lectures, concerts, operas, and even prize fights. The building is still standing today, but like the old church it has been heavily altered. The third floor was removed around 1940, and the remaining portion of the building is completely unrecognizable from its original appearance.

On the far right side of both photos is the oldest building in the scene, and possibly the best-preserved of all these historic buildings. It was built in 1842 as the Westfield House Hotel, a boarding house that occupied the upper floors until 1894. The ground floor was used for shops and offices, throughout this time, and during the early 20th century the second floor housed the Westfield District Court. Today, the building stands relatively unaltered on the exterior, and it remains an important landmark on the north side of Park Square.

Overall, despite some significant alterations, most of the buildings from the first photo have survived to the present day in some form. Elsewhere in downtown Westfield, there are a number of other historic commercial buildings that are still standing, and the area is now part of the Westfield Center Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and expanded in 2013. Because of how heavily they were altered, neither the old church nor Whitman’s Hall are considered to be contributing properties, but both the Conner’s building and the Westfield House Hotel are listed as such, as is the 1930 First National Bank of Westfield building.

James A. Lakin House, Westfield, Mass

The house at 91 Court Street in Westfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows a large Queen Anne-style house that once stood here on the north side of Court Street, near the corner of Chestnut Street. It was constructed at some point in the late 1880s or early 1890s, and it was originally owned by James A. Lakin, a prominent local businessman and politician. Lakin was born in Boston, but came to Westfield after the Civil War and lived here for the rest of his life. He had previously lived in a house at 9 Pearl Street, but he had moved into this new, much larger house by the time the first photo was taken.

Lakin was a jeweler for many years, before becoming involved in a number of other businesses here in Westfield. He was a freemason, and he was involved in several Masonic organizations, including serving as the secretary of the Masonic Fraternal Accident Association of America, and president of the National Masonic Aid Association. In addition, he was the president of both the Woronoco Street Railway Company and the American Casket Hardware Company, and vice president of the Woronoco Savings Bank. Aside from his business interests, Lakin was also involved in state and local politics. He was elected to two terms in the state legislature in 1890 and 1891, and in the mid 1890s he served on the staff of Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge, holding the rank of colonel as an assistant adjutant general.

Lakin died in 1898 at the age of 57, leaving his wife Addie and their four children. The rest of the family evidently moved out of this house shortly after his death, because by the 1900 census they were again living in the house at 9 Pearl Street. In the meantime, this house on Court Street was sold to Thomas M. Hazelton, who lived here until hos own death in 1905. Hazelton’s wife continued to live here for several more years, but around 1909 she sold the property to Frederick L. Parker, an employee of the United States Whip Company.

Parker purchased this house around the same time as his marriage to his wife Mary. They were both about 35 years old at the time, and they spent their honeymoon in Enterprise, Florida and in Cuba, before returning to Westfield and moving into this house during the spring of 1909. Parker subsequently became president of the United States Whip Company in 1912, taking control of what was, at the time, the world’s largest whip manufacturer. By this point, the whip industry – which had formed such a large part of Westfield’s economy – was in decline, with the rise of automobiles eliminating the need for buggy whips. However, the company outlasted most of Westfield’s other whip manufacturers, and Parker remained its president until his death in 1951.

At some point, Frederick and Mary Parker either demolished and rebuilt the house, or had its exterior dramatically altered. This likely occurred around the 1920s, and the result was a French Eclectic-style house, as shown in the present-day photo. By the 1930 census, they were living here alone except for a servant, and the property was valued at $50,000, equivalent to nearly $800,000 today. A decade later, in the aftermath of the Great Depression, its value had dropped to just $20,000, but by this point the Parkers employed two live-in servants, whom they paid $572 and $780 in yearly salaries. This was fairly typical income for domestic servants of the period, equivalent to about $10,600 and $14,500 today, respectively.

Frederick Parker lived here until his death in 1951, at the age of 77. He left an estate that was valued at more than $1.3 million, or about $13 million today, and in his will he made a number of bequests to local charities. In addition, he left $250 to every employee who had worked at the United States Whip Company within the past two years. He left the bulk of his estate to his widow Mary, but she evidently had a sizable amount of property in her own name. She died a year later in 1952, and her estate was valued at over $7.2 million, more than $70 million today, which was described in the Springfield Union as one of the largest estates ever filed with the county’s registry of probate.

In 1953, the house here on Court Street – which had been valued at $24,000 after Mary’s death – was sold to Frederick’s cousin, Lewis C. Parker, Jr. He had recently become the vice president and treasurer of White Industries, a Westfield-based greeting card and stationery company, and he had previously served as city council president, the same position that his cousin Frederick had once held. He went on to live here until around the early 1970s, and the property has changed hands several more times since then.

Today, this house is still standing here. Although not as old as the original house from the first photo, it has become historic in its own right, and it is a relatively unusual example of French Eclectic architecture here in Westfield. Almost nothing remains from the first photo, but perhaps the only exception is the low granite retaining wall along the sidewalk, and the short posts on either side of the driveway. These were evidently added when James A. Lakin built the first house, and they are still here more than 125 years later.

Westfield Normal School, Westfield, Mass

The Westfield Normal School on Court Street in Westfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1891).

The building in 2018, which is now used as Westfield City Hall:

The mid-19th century saw the development of public normal schools, which were colleges that focused on training public school teachers. Here in Massachusetts, a system of normal schools was pioneered by education reformer Horace Mann, who opened ones in Lexington and Barre in 1839, and in Bridgewater a year later. The Bridgewater school has remained there ever since, and it is now Bridgewater State University, but the other two schools soon relocated. The Lexington Normal School moved to Newton in 1843 and later to Framingham, becoming the precursor to Framingham State University, and the Barre Normal School came to Westfield in 1844, eventually becoming Westfield State University.

Here in Westfield, the school’s first long-term home was a building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, which was completed in 1846. This building was used throughout much of the 19th century, but by the late 1880s it had become too small for the school’s growing programs. As a result, in 1889 the state purchased this lot on Court Street, and later that year construction began on a new, much larger building. It was originally expected to be completed in time for the fall of 1891, but construction delays postponed its opening until April 1892. The first photo was probably taken around this same time, as the small leaves on the trees seem to suggest that it is either late April or early May.

The building was designed by the noted Boston firm of Hartwell and Richardson, and it featured a Romanesque-style exterior of brick with brownstone trim. Its footprint was L-shaped, with the main section facing Court Street and a wing extending back in the direction of King Street, as seen on the right side of the photo. This wing originally housed the training school, with classrooms for the various grade levels that were taught by the student teachers here. These were accessed via the basement-level doors of the wing, while the main entrances for the normal school itself were at the front of the building.

The state Board of Education, in its annual report published several months before the building opened, provided the following description of the interior:

To the left of the south-west entrance are the zoölogical, botanical, mineralogical and geological laboratories, fitted with appropriate appliances; and to the right of this entrance is the reception room, and beyond a large room for the critic, while across the corridor, which traverses the centre of the L-shaped building, are the large cloak room for women, with toilet room and a teacher’s room.

There are three stairways which carry from the basement up through the building. Two of them are next the entrances for the normal school on the south side. The third is in the L, and leads directly from one of the basement entrances. There is a lift near this staircase.

On the second floor there are three rooms: toward the east there are recitation rooms, with a women’s retiring and toilet room, and a book store-room; toward the west a recitation room, the principal’s room, the reading-room and book alcove; and in the center part of the building the large school-room sixty feet square.

On the third floor is a completely fitted chemical laboratory, with a teachers’ room, weighing-room, and a supply room opening out of it; the apparatus room and physical laboratory, fully equipped; and between these two laboratories, so that it can be used from either, a lecture room with raised tiers of seats.

Over the large school-room is a series of studios, and at the western end of the building are a recitation room, a cast room and a drawing room. Above the two end portions there are unfinished attics.

In the basement are the janitor’s room, men’s coat-room and toilet; the gymnasium with the men’s dressing-room and baths on the one side, and on the other women’s bath-rooms, with a staircase leading up to the women’s toilet room above; space for coal and boilers, and toward the east, play and toilet rooms for girls and boys, and a large work room.

Overall, the building was designed with a capacity of 175 normal school students, plus 125 children in the training school. A subsequent Board of Education annual report, covering the 1892-1893 school year – this building’s first full year in use – indicates that it was not quite at capacity, but it was close. During that year, it had a total of 155 students, including 27 who graduated at the end of the year. At the time, the student body was still overwhelmingly female, with only six men enrolled in the school and just one in the graduating class.

The report also provides interesting demographic information about the students. Of the 155 students, 26 had prior teaching experience, and 78 were receiving some sort of financial aid from the state. The vast majority were from Massachusetts, mostly from the four western counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, but there were also some out-of-state students, including five from Vermont, four from Connecticut, two each from New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and one each from Washington D.C., Virginia, Tennessee, and Nebraska.

Another table in the report classified students based on their fathers’ occupations. The most common was farmer (26), followed by skilled workmen (15), factory officials (8), merchants (8), unskilled workmen (4), manufacturers (2), and professional men (2). However, perhaps the most surprising information, to modern audiences, might be the prior education of students here at the normal school. Of 112 students recorded on the table, only 32 had graduated from a high school or academy. Another 40 attended high school without graduating, and 17 had attended either district or grammar schools, evidently without any high school education at all.

At the time, the school had nine faculty members, in addition to four elementary teachers in the training school, and many of them taught a rather eclectic mix of courses. For example, Elvira Carter taught geography, English literature, and algebra; Frances C. Gaylord taught geometry, grammar, history, and composition; and Laura C. Harding was evidently a sort of Renaissance woman, teaching geometry, astronomy, bookkeeping, reading, vocal music, French, and composition. The principal, James C. Greenough, was also a classroom teacher, and his courses consisted of psychology, didactics, civil polity, and rhetoric.

Over the next decade, the school would continue to grow with several new buildings. In 1900, the training school was relocated to a newly-completed building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, on the site of the original 1846 normal school building. With about 650 elementary-aged students, this meant a substantial increase in the size of the training school, and it also opened up space here in the main building on Court Street. Then, in 1903, the school opened a new dormitory, Dickinson Hall. It was located in the rear of the Court Street property, along King Street, and it could house up to 75 students.

The enrollment at the normal school continued to grow in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s it had about 200 students. By this point, a high school diploma was required for admission, and applicants also had to be in good physical condition, at least 16 years of age, and of good moral character. Starting in 1912, only women were admitted to the school, and it would not become coeducational again until 1938. At the time, tuition and textbooks were free for Massachusetts residents, but out-of-state students had to pay $25 per semester, equivalent to about $380 today. Students who lived on campus in Dickinson Hall had to pay $250 per year for room and board, or about $3,800 today.

For most of its early history, the school offered a two-year program for future teachers, but in 1928 it was expanded to three years, and then in 1931 to four years for those who would teach in junior high schools. In 1932, the school was renamed the Westfield State Teachers College, and two years later it began conferring bachelor of science degrees in education. By the early 1940s, though, the school was no longer free for in-state students. Tuition for Massachusetts residents was $75 for the 1941-1942 school year, and $300 for out-of-state students. Textbooks were $35 per year, and a dormitory room was $60 per year, plus about $4.50 per week for meals. In total, an in-state student who lived on campus paid about $300 per year, or nearly $5,300 today.

This building here on Court Street remained in use until 1956, when the growing college moved to its present-day campus on Western Avenue, about two miles to the west of here. It subsequently expanded its programs beyond just training teachers, and it has since gone through several more name changes, becoming the State College at Westfield, Westfield State College, and finally Westfield State University in 2010. Its enrollment has also grown significantly during this time, with nearly 4,900 undergraduate students in 31 different programs.

In the meantime, the old building here on Court Street was sold to the city of Westfield, and it was converted into a new city hall. It replaced an older building on Broad Street, which had been in use by the municipal government since 1837. This project included major renovations to the interior of the old school, but the exterior remained largely unaltered. From this angle, the only visible change to the building was the addition of a brick vault on the right side. It is three stories in height and measures about 16 feet by 17 feet, but it is mostly hidden from view behind the trees in the present-day photo.

The building was renovated at a cost of $150,000, and the work was completed by 1959. Along with housing the city government, the building was also occupied by the Westfield District Court, which was located on the left side. The court later moved into its own facilities, but this building continues to be used as city hall, with hardly any difference in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken more than 125 years ago. In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2013 it also became a contributing property in the Westfield Center Historic District.

Woronoco House, Westfield, Mass

The Woronoco House on Elm Street in Westfield, around the 1860s. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

The Woronoco House was an important hotel here in Westfield throughout much of the 1800s. It was built at some point early in the century, and it stood on the west side of Park Square in downtown Westfield. It was brick, three stories in height, with a distinctive two-story porch here on the Elm Street side. The hotel could accommodate between 80 to 100 guests, and the building also included a tavern, in addition to a barber shop that was marked by a tall striped pole on the left side of the first photo.

The hotel was a stagecoach stop in the years before the railroad, and it also served as a gathering place for locals, ranging from the farmers who lived in the villages on the outskirts of town, to the wealthy cigar and whip manufacturers who dominated the local economy of the mid-19th century. During this time, the Woronoco House also saw a number of notable guests from out of town. These included author Bayard Taylor, Senator Charles Sumner, zoologist and anthropologist Paul Du Chaillu, abolitionist Wendell Phillips, New-York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Governor John A. Andrew, and politician Edward Everett, who served variously as governor, senator, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and secretary of state.

In 1871, the Woronoco House property was sold for $25,000, and the new owners soon made significant changes to the building. The original structure was evidently retained, but the exterior was completely reconstructed, including the removal of the porches. At some point, probably as part of this renovation, a fourth floor was added to the hotel, and the original gable roof was replaced by a flat roof. Upon completion, the hotel reopened as the Wilmarth House, but it was renamed again in 1886, becoming the Park Square Hotel.

The hotel remained in use well into the 20th century. It underwent another renovation in 1914, and was subsequently rebranded the New Park Square Hotel. However, the building was completely destroyed by an early-morning fire on December 7, 1942. It was one of several catastrophic fires in downtown Westfield during the mid-20th century, and it took firefighters some 13 hours to extinguish the blaze.

There were 35 guests in the hotel at the time of the fire, some of whom appear to have been long-term residents. Four of them were survivors of the fatal 1936 Van Deusen Inn fire, which had killed seven people, but everyone safely escaped from the New Park Square Hotel. One of the survivors of both fires was Minnie Hutchinson, who was carried out of the building by Deputy Chief Joseph Guinasso. Coincidentally, he was the same firefighter who had rescued her from the Van Deusen six years earlier.

The hotel proved to be a total loss, but firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading. Aside from minor smoke and water damage, the buildings on either side of the hotel survived largely unscathed. Today, the site of the hotel is now a parking lot, but these two neighboring buildings are still standing. On the left is the former Westfield Cooperative Bank, and on the right is the Snow and Hays Block. This building dates back to 1813, and was probably built around the same time as the Woronoco House, although it has been significantly altered over the years. As shown in the first photo, it was once four stories in height, but it was trimmed down to two stories in the 1940s. However, it survives as the only remnant from the first photo, and it is one of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown Westfield.