Skinner Gymnasium, Northfield, Mass

The Skinner Gymnasium, on the former Northfield campus of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2017:

The present-day Northfield Mount Hermon School dates back to 1879, when it was established as the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies. Its founder was the noted evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody, who opened the school near his birthplace in the northern part of Northfield, just a little south of the New Hampshire border. Two years later, Moody established the Mount Hermon School for Boys on a separate campus in nearby Gill, Massachusetts, and the two schools would remain separate institutions for nearly a century.

By the early 1890s, the Northfield school was in need of a gymnasium, in order to promote health and physical fitness among the girls. The result was this building, which was completed in 1895 and named the Skinner Gymnasium in honor of its benefactor, Holyoke textile manufacturer William Skinner. The building had a variety of amenities, including a bowling alley, a swimming tank, and the gymnasium itself, which included an elevated running track. At the time, basketball was just beginning to gain popularity after having been invented a few years earlier, and by the turn of the century the girls were playing here in the gym on intramural teams.

The first photo was taken within about a decade of the building’s completion, and shows its Queen Anne-style architecture, which was common for public and institutional buildings of the era. It also shows some elements of the popular Romanesque Revival style, including the asymmetrical design, the rounded arch over the door, and the use of towers and turrets. However, over time the building would be expanded and altered with several 20th century additions, although this portion was not significantly changed. The first of these additions came in 1930, when a pool was added to the rear of the building. Then, after the completion of a new gymnasium in 1971, this building was converted into a student center, and in 1987 a large library wing was added to the left side, just out of view in the 2017 scene.

The Northfield School formally merged with Mount Hermon in 1972, but continued to use both campuses for many years. This building was used as the student center and, after 1987, the library for the Northfield campus up until 2005, when the school consolidated its operations at the Mount Hermon campus. The Northfield property was subsequently sold to Hobby Lobby, which, in turn, donated it to the National Christian Foundation. Then, in 2017, it was given to Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college that is based in California. The school is currently in the process of converting the property into a branch campus, and hopes to open by the fall of 2019.

The Northfield Hotel, Northfield Mass

The Northfield Hotel around 1904.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The site in 2014:

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Northfield Massachusetts was never a particularly prominent town for much of its history, but this changed after one of its residents, D.L. Moody, gained worldwide fame as a Christian evangelist.  In addition to work that he did in Chicago and overseas in England, Moody also had an impact on his hometown, opening the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in 1879.  This brought an increase in demand for services such as hotels, including The Northfield, which opened in 1887, just a short distance away from the Northfield Seminary.

Facing dwingling guests, the hotel closed in the 1970s and was demolished, although its well-landscaped grounds became home of the Northfield Golf Club.  A few reminders of the old hotel still exist, including the pond in the foreground, the stone wall, and the footbridge across the stream.

D.L. Moody Residence, Northfield Mass

The former residence of D.L. Moody, on the grounds of Northfield Seminary around 1904.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The house in 2014:

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D.L. Moody was an influential Christian evangelist throughout much of the late 19th century.  He was born in Northfield, Massachusetts in 1837, in a house just up the hill behind this building.  He later lived in Boston and Chicago, in addition to traveling around the country and to Europe as part of his evangelistic tours.  He returned to Northfield in 1875, and in 1879 he opened the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies, which later became the Northfield campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School.  This house, which he lived in after his return to Northfield, is part of the campus, which has been vacant since 2006, when the school consolidated to just the Mount Hermon campus in nearby Gill.

Dickinson Memorial Library, Northfield Mass

Northfield’s Dickinson Memorial Library, around 1900-1906.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The library in 2014:

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Northfield’s public library is the Dickinson Memorial Library, named after 19th century shoe manufacturer Elijah Dickinson, who had donated $20,000 to construct the granite building.  It was dedicated in 1898, with noted evangelist and Northfield resident D.L. Moody among the speakers at the event.  Today, the building looks much the same as it did in the first picture, which was taken only a few years after its dedication.