Charles A. Bowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 81 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This massive house is one of Springfield’s finest examples of Colonial Revival architecture, and was designed by Guy Kirkham, one of the city’s leading architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Completed in 1894, it was among his earliest works, and was designed for Charles A. Bowles, a paper manufacturer whose father, Samuel Bowles, had been the prominent editor of the Springfield Republican from 1851-1878. Charles’s older brother Samuel succeeded their father as editor after his death in 1878, but Charles went into the manufacturing business instead. He attended Sheffield Scientific School at Yale for a year, but did not graduate. Instead, he worked briefly for the Pennsylvania Railroad before entering the papermaking industry in 1884.

In 1885, at the age of 24, he married Nellie S. Harris of Rutland, Vermont, and early in their marriage they lived in a house nearby at 34 Avon Place. By the time they moved into this house on Mulberry Street in 1894 they had two children, Charles and Dorothy, and they would have one more son, Chester, who was born in 1901. During this time, Charles went into business for himself, becoming a partner in the firm of Dexter & Bowles, which sold paper pulp and other supplies for paper manufacturers.

Charles Bowles lived here until his death in 1933, but Nellie was still living here with her daughter Dorothy when the first photo was taken at the end of the 1930s. Dorothy was in her early 40s at the time, and she worked as a dressmaker, with a shop on Vernon Street. She lived here in this house until her mother’s death in 1943, and she subsequently moved to a house on Maple Court. In the meantime, Charles and Nellie’s older son, Charles, Jr., lived here with his parents until his marriage in 1917, and he and his wife Helen lived in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood until his death in 1946.

It was Charles and Nellie’s youngest child, Chester, who would go on to have the most prominent career, becoming a successful politician, diplomat, and advertising executive. He grew up here in this house and lived here until the mid-1920s, around the time that he married his first wife, Julia Fisk. He briefly worked as a reporter for the Springfield Republican from 1924 to 1926, but he saw limited opportunities for himself in a newspaper that was crowded with other family members. So, he moved to New York City and, in 1929, established the advertising agency of Benton & Bowles, which would go on to become highly successful in the early years of radio advertising. The firm introduced soap operas to radio programming, largely in an effort to advertise to housewives who listened to the radio at home, and during the 1930s the company’s clients included General Foods, Bristol-Myers, Colgate, Dr. Pepper, Prudential Life Insurance, Columbia Records, and Procter & Gamble.

However, Bowles left the advertising industry in 1941, and he went on to become a member of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration during World War II. From 1943 to 1946 he served as the administrator of the Office of Price Administration, and then served one term as governor of Connecticut from 1949 to 1951. Later in 1951, he was appointed as ambassador to India, and served until the end of Harry Truman’s administration in 1953. He served one term in Congress, from 1959 to 1961, and after being defeated for re-election he was appointed Under Secretary of State by John F. Kennedy. In 1963, Kennedy appointed him as ambassador to India again, and Bowles went on to serve in this capacity until the end of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1969.

By the time Bowles was in the midst of his political and diplomatic career, his childhood home here on Mulberry Street had been converted into apartments. It would remain a multi-family home until 1991, when it was severely damaged by a fire that gutted the back of the house and destroyed much of the roof. For the next decade, the house stood vacant and exposed to the elements, and was nearly demolished by the city several times. However, it was sold in 2000 and restored the following year, earning an award from the Springfield Preservation Trust in the process. Today it hardly looks any different from when the Bowles family lived here 80 years ago, and it still stands as one of the finest homes in the Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Hannah E. Griffin House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 175 Mill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1890, and was originally the home of Hannah E. Griffin, an elderly widow whose son, Solomon B. Griffin, was the managing editor of the Springfield Republican. According to the 1899 city atlas, Solomon owned the house, although he and his wife Ida were living on Round Hill at the time, with Ida’s mother. During the 1900 census, Hannah was 80 years old, and was living in this house with her unmarried daughter Mary, as well as a servant. Hannah lived here until her death in 1903, and the following year Solomon built his own house on an adjacent lot, which is visible in the distance on the left of both photos.

Solomon’s sister Mary continued to live here until the late 1910s, and by 1920 the house was the home of Solomon’s son Courtlandt and his newlywed wife, Alice. Courtlandt was a salesman for the Carew Manufacturing Company, a paper manufacturer in Holyoke, and he and Alice lived here for several years, before moving to Sumner Avenue around 1924. The house was subsequently rented to Charles C. Ramsdell, the vice president of the  Gilbert & Barker Manufacturing Company, a West Springfield-based company that made gasoline pumps, oil burners, and similar equipment. He and his wife Marguerite lived here until around 1927, but by the end of the decade they had moved to an apartment at the Hotel Kimball on Chestnut Street.

This house sat vacant for several years, but by the early 1930s it was being rented by Dr. Arthur Edgelow, an English-born physician who lived here with his mother Caroline, his wife Cybel, and their four young daughters: Carol, Catherine, Honour, and Margaret. They were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and the 1940 census shows them paying $80 per month in rent, while also employing two maids. However, the family only lived here for a few more years before moving to a house on Oxford Street in the Forest Park neighborhood.

Over the years, the house declined to the point where, by the early 2000s, it was tax-foreclosed and vacant. The house remained abandoned and boarded-up until 2015, when it was purchased from the city and restored. At some point over the years the porches had been enclosed, so part of the restoration included rebuilding these to match their original appearance, and today the house does not look much different from how it looked when the first photo was taken nearly 80 years ago.

Solomon B. Griffin House, Springfield, Mass

The house are 185 Mill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This large Tudor Revival-style home was built in 1904 for Solomon B. Griffin, the managing editor of the Springfield Republican. Born in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1852, he attended Williams College, where his father was a professor and librarian. However, because of poor health he did not graduate, and after leaving college he came to Springfield, where he was hired by Republican editor Samuel Bowles as a member of the newspaper staff. Although he started out as a reporter, he soon earned greater responsibilities, first becoming the local editor and then, in 1878, the managing editor.

Solomon Griffin was a bachelor for much of his adult life, but in 1892 he married Ida M. Southworth, the 34-year-old daughter of the wealthy paper manufacturer John H. Southworth, who had died the year before. After their marriage, Solomon and Ida lived with her mother Elizabeth in the Southworth mansion on Round Hill in the North End, where they raised their two sons, Bulkley and Courtlandt. However, Elizabeth died in 1901, and within a few years the family had this house built on Mill Street, directly adjacent to 175 Mill Street, which Griffin had owned since the 1800s.

The house was situated on a large lot, extending along the south side of Mill Street from Pine Street to Maple Street, and all the way back to the Mill River. A century earlier, the property had been the home of David Ames, Sr., an early Springfield industrialist who served as first superintendent of the armory, and the lot was later sold to Horace Smith, the co-founder of Smith & Wesson. The old Ames house was demolished around 1890, and by the time Griffin purchased the property the lot was vacant. He built this house on the northwestern corner of the property, along with a carriage house on the opposite side of the lot, set back from the road.

Solomon Griffin remained the managing of the Springfield Republican for more than 40 years, before finally retiring in 1919, and he lived here in this house until his death in 1925. In the meantime, though, his son Bulkley was also involved in the newspaper business, starting out as a reporter for the Republican before establishing the Griffin News Bureau in 1922. He was a veteran of World War I, and he would also go on to serve as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II.

After her husband’s death, Ida continued to live in this house for the rest of her life. During the 1930 census, the property was valued at $100,000, or about $1.5 million today, and Ida was living here alone except for a servant and a cook. She was still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, but she died soon after, in 1940. The property was subsequently acquired by Amity Lodge of the International Order of Odd Fellows, who continue to hold their meetings here more than 75 years later. Along with the rest of the surrounding neighborhood, the house is now part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

George D. Robinson House, Chicopee, Mass

The house at 104 Springfield Street, at the corner of Howard Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house in 2017:

This elegant Second Empire-style House was built around 1869, and was originally the home of businessman D. Frank Hale. Variously listed in censuses and city directories as a real estate broker, a merchant, and a landlord, he was evidently prosperous, because the 1870 census lists his real estate as being worth $88,500, plus $5,500 in his personal estate, for a total net worth equal to over $1.8 million today. However, despite this wealth his personal life was marred by tragedy. He and his wife Lucy had six children, but only one of them, their son William, survived to adulthood. Their other five children died of various diseases when they were six years old or younger, including 3-month-old twin boys Arthur and Luther, who died of “brain fever” ten days apart from each other in March 1872.

The Hale family lived here until about 1878, when they moved to Springfield. They sold the house to George D. Robinson, a lawyer and politician who was, at the time, serving his first term in Congress. Born in Lexington in 1834, Robinson moved to Chicopee in 1856 after his graduation from Harvard. Here, he worked as principal of Chicopee High School from 1856 to 1865, and subsequently became a lawyer and entered politics. He represented Chicopee in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, and in 1876 he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1877 to 1884.

In 1883, Robinson ran as the Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, defeating incumbent governor Benjamin Butler in a hotly contested general election. Butler, himself a former Congressman, had been a notoriously inept general during the Civil War, but he had presidential ambitions and hoped that his re-election as governor would help earn him the Democratic nomination in 1884. However, Butler’s loss to Robinson, after just a single one-year term as governor, significantly hurt his chances, and the 1884 Democratic nomination – and ultimately the presidency – went to another northeastern governor, Grover Cleveland of New York.

Robinson served three one-year terms from 1884 to 1887, and was involved in the passage of several key reforms, including free textbooks for public school students, as well as a law mandating employers to pay their workers on a weekly basis. However, he declined to seek a fourth term in the 1886 election, and retired from politics. He returned to his private law practice, and his work included several high-profile cases. Most notably, he was one of the defense attorneys for Lizzie Borden, the Fall River who was tried, and ultimately acquitted, for the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother.

George Robinson’s first wife, Hannah Stevens, died in 1864. Three years later, he remarried to Susan Simonds, and by the time they moved into this house in they late 1870s they had one child, Annie, plus George’s son from his first marriage, Walter. George and Susan were still living here when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, and he would remain here until his death in 1896. Susan was still living here during the 1900 census, along with her sister Caroline, but she later moved to Springfield, where she died in 1909.

In 1917, this house was sold to the Roman Catholic Church, becoming the rectory for the Assumption Church, a predominantly French-Canadian parish that served some of the many factory workers who had immigrated to Chicopee from Quebec. About five years later, a new church building was completed just to the north of the house, on the right side of the photo, and both it and the rectory remain in use today.

Nearly 150 years after it was built, Governor Robinson’s former house remains as one of the finest 19th century homes in Chicopee, and has been well-preserved over the years. There have been a few minor changes since the first photo was taken, such as the small one-story addition on the left side, but overall it remains in excellent condition, all the way down to fine details such as the iron balustrades on the roof. Today, both the house and the Assumption Church form part of the Springfield Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Chicopee, Mass

The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, seen from the corner of South and Springfield Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Chicopee began to develop into a major industrial center, with factories located along the Chicopee River at Chicopee Falls and further downstream here in the center of town. With the factories came immigrant workers, starting with the Irish and followed in later years by French-Canadians and Poles. Primarily Roman Catholic, these immigrants brought significant cultural changes to the Connecticut River Valley, which had been predominantly Congregationalist and almost exclusively Protestant until this point.

The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus was one of the first Roman Catholic churches in the area, and was built between 1857 and 1859, just to the south of the center of Chicopee. Its Gothic-style design was the work of Patrick Keely, an Irish-born architect who designed nearly 600 Catholic churches across the United States and Canada, including St. Michael’s Cathedral in nearby Springfield. Along with the church itself, the property also included the rectory, which was built around the same time and can be seen in the left center of the photo. This was followed in the late 1860s by a school for girls and a convent, and in 1881 by a school for boys, all of which were located on the opposite side of the church.

By the time the first photo was taken, around the early 1890s, both the Irish and French-Canadian immigrant groups were well-established in the area, and Polish immigrants had just started to arrive in large numbers. Primarily Catholic, many of them joined this church, and the parish records showed that Polish families accounted for nearly 30 percent of the baptisms and more than half of the marriages here at the church between 1888 and 1890. However, the Polish community soon formed a church of their own, establishing the St. Stanislaus parish in 1890 and dedicating its first building in 1895.

Around 125 years after the first photo was taken, the church is still standing, along with the rectory. although they are mostly hidden by trees in this view. The only significant change to the church over the years has been the steeple, which was struck by lightning and was replaced by the current copper spire in 1910. However, the church has been closed and boarded-up since 2011, when a renovation project uncovered deteriorating masonry and significant termite damage. The following year, the Holy Name School was closed amid declining enrollment, and in 2015 the school buildings and the convent were demolished. The church itself was not part of the demolition plan, although it remains vacant and its future seems uncertain.

Veranus Casino, Chicopee, Mass

The Veranus Casino, at the southwest corner of Springfield Street and Casino Avenue in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This section of Chicopee was developed in the late 19th century by Frank E. Tuttle and James L. Humphrey, who had purchased 50 acres of land between Springfield and Hampden Streets, just to the south of the center of Chicopee. The development was named Veranus, in honor of Veranus Chapin, who had once owned a farm here, and the centerpiece of this new neighborhood was the Veranus Casino, which was located here at the corner of Springfield Street and Casino Avenue.

The Queen Anne-style casino building was completed in the early 1890s, right around the time that the first photo was taken. It was operated by the Veranus Casino Company, with Frank E. Tuttle as vice president and his father-in-law, George M. Stearns, as president. Unlike the modern sense of the word, a late 19th century “casino” did not generally involve gambling, and the term was instead used for places that offered a variety of recreational activities. As described in the Boston Daily Globe after the company was established in 1890, the casino would be used for “social, literary, artistic, and educational purposes,” and upon completion the building would include a 400-seat auditorium.

The book Picturesque Hampden, published in 1892, includes a lengthy account of the Veranus neighborhood, and describes the casino as “a combination of theater and clubhouse, pleasantly located on Springfield street. It is tastefully and substantially built, in the modern style of architecture, from original designs by F. E. Tuttle, which were perfected by architect F. R. Richmond of Springfield.” The book then describes the interior of the building:

The clubrooms are located in the front portion of the building. They consist of handsome and roomy parlors, one each on the two first floors, both being connected with the kitchen in the basement by a dumb-waiter; a ladies’ dressing-room on the second floor; a gentlemen’s smoking-room and a billiard-room on the third. All of these rooms are attractively finished and adorned with rich and tasteful furniture, in which comfort is the evident consideration, instead of magnificence and costliness. The clubrooms are open to members every day in the year, from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m., and are in charge of a gentleman and lady who reside in the building. On Wednesday evening of each week, special receptions are held here by the club families and their children, and on Sunday evenings they all gather here to sing sacred songs, a piano and psalm books being provided. Harmless amusements are also to be found in the rooms at all times, and light refreshments are served therein to all members and their immediate friends who may desire.

Despite such fanfare, though, the Veranus Casino lasted for barely two decades. In 1913, the same year that Frank Tuttle died, the casino was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, and the property appears to have subsequently become part of Elms College, which is located across the street from here. The fate of the building seems unclear, although according to the city assessor’s office the current house on the site was built in 1926. If accurate, this would suggest that the casino was probably demolished around this time.