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.

Simeon E. Walton House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 80 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is known locally as the “Peter Proud House” for its role in the 1975 film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, but the house was already nearly a century old when it made its brief Hollywood appearance. It was built in 1888, and was originally the home of Simeon E. Walton, a carpenter and builder who, according to an 1892 advertisement in the city directory, specialized in hardwood mosaic floors. This likely explains the interior of the house, which is still covered in fine hardwood floors, as well as wood paneling on the walls. He and his wife Ella had previously lived in a different house in the McKnight neighborhood, at 77 Clarendon Street, but they moved here after this house was completed and lived here until around 1910, when they moved to Agawam.

During the 1910 census, the house was owned by William Patton, a real estate developer whose properties included the Patton Building, which still stands at 15-19 Hampden Street. He was 52 years old and unmarried, and he rented part of this large house to Frederick and Mary Simmons, who were in their late 60s at the time. They lived here with their son, Frederick Jr., but both Frederick and Mary died of pneumonia in January 1914, less than a week apart. Their son continued to live here for a few more years, but he died in 1918 at the age of 50.

After Frederick’s death, his sister Emma and her husband, George B. Church, moved into this house, along with their two teenaged daughters, Dorothea and Mary. William Patton continued to live here during this time, and George worked as a secretary for his real estate company. However, William died in 1925, and George and Emma subsequently moved to their own house on Morningside Park, in the Forest Park neighborhood.

This house stood vacant throughout the late 1920s, and was not occupied again until the early 1930s, when it was the home of Philip Decoteau, a French-Canadian immigrant who owned a shoe repair business on Oak Street in Indian Orchard. He and his wife Emily were in their 60s at the time, and they lived here with their sizable family, which included at least six of their adult children, plus a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. They were still living here into the late 1930s, but by 1939 the house was vacant and for sale, as indicated by the sign in the front yard of the first photo.

The house’s moment of fame came in 1975, when it was featured in the supernatural film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. The movie was an adaptation of the 1973 novel of the same name, which was written by Springfield native Max Ehrlich, and much it was filmed here in Springfield. In the movie, the title character (played by Michael Sarrazin) is a college professor in California who suffers from recurring nightmares that, as it turns out, are flashbacks from a previous life. Seeking answers, he travels to Springfield, where he discovers many of the landmarks from his dreams, including this house, which had been his home in his previous life.

Today, the house still stands on Cornell Street, and still retains much of its Victorian-era elegance, although it has undergone some significant changes over the years. Even before the first photo was taken, the original clapboard exterior was replaced with stucco, and during the 1940s the interior was divided into several different apartments. The original tin roof, visible in the first photo, is also gone, except for the top of the spire. However, it remains a prominent house in a neighborhood that is filled with fine Victorian homes, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

John McFethries House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 52 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This elegant home was built in 1888 for John McFethries, a Scottish-born mechanical engineer who was in his late 50s at the time. He had come to America as a young man, where he married his first wife, Juliette McLean, in 1864 in Ludlow, Massachusetts. However, they subsequently moved to Russia, where John worked for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railroad. Juliette died there in 1886, and three years later, while still in Russia, John remarried to Emily Pudan, who was originally from England.

By the early 1880s, John had moved back to the Springfield area along with Emily, and he became a prominent resident in the city. For several years they lived in a house nearby at 69 Clarendon Street, but around 1888 they moved into this house on Cornell Street, along the northwestern edge of the McKnight neighborhood. John was involved in several different local businesses, including serving as treasurer of the Waltham Watch Tool Company. He was also involved with the Highland Extension Company, which developed much of the land in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Springfield, and from 1890 to 1891 he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Emily died in 1900, and that year’s census shows John living here with his daughter Olga, her husband John E. Cowan, their infant daughter Martha, and Emily’s brother Frank. The Cowans subsequently moved to California, and John McFethries lived here in this house until his death in 1907 at the age of 76. His heirs owned the house for a few more years, and rented it to several different tenants, including Frank W. Watkins, who lived here from about 1910 to 1912. He lived here with his wife Mary and their daughter Lila, and he worked as a designer for the Taber-Prang Art Company, a Springfield-based firm that was a leading producer of fine art prints in the early 20th century.

Around 1913, the house was sold to Augustus C. Lamb, who lived here with his wife Effie and their three sons. He was a salesman for the American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, and in 1917 he was promoted to sales manager. However, he resigned two years later to become factory manager of the Russ Gelatin Company, although he only stayed there for a few years before returning to American Writing Paper in 1922. Around the same time, he and his family also moved out of this house, and into an apartment in Forest Park at 143 Belmont Avenue.

This house then became the home of George S. Lewis, a firearms manufacturer who had previously worked for J. Stevens Arms of Chicopee. By the time he and his wife Fannie moved into this house around 1922, George had left Stevens and was in business for himself, starting the Page-Lewis Arms Company. He was vice president, general manager, and designer for this company, and he was also the general manager of the affiliated Page Needle Company, both of which were located in the same factory in Chicopee. However, in 1926, Page-Lewis was purchased by J. Stevens Arms, and George later began working for Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, Connecticut.

George and Fannie appear in city directories here as late as 1934, but by the end of the decade the house had been divided into several different apartments. During the 1940 census, which was done shortly after the first photo was taken, the house was owned by Robert W. Leduc, an accountant who lived here and rented out two other units in the home. One was rented by Edward J. Sawyer, a supervisor at Westinghouse who lived here with his wife Jean and their son, Edward Jr., and the other unit was rented by Nellie M. Allen, a widow who was 74 years old at the time.

In subsequent years, the city directories show a number of different residents living in this house, and it appears to have frequently changed owners in the mid-20th century. However, it is now a single-family home again, and it is one of the hundreds of historic 19th century homes in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Frederick A. North House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 28 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1895, and was originally the home of Frederick A. North. He only lived here for a few years, though, because by 1898 he had moved to New York, and by the following year the house was owned by James M. Van Deusen. He was a graduate of Rutgers and the Hartford Theological Seminary, but never entered the ministry, and instead worked in the four and grain business, with the firm of Van Deusen & Foley. He and his wife Isabel lived here with their five children for about a decade, but in 1908 they sold the house and moved to Pasadena, California, where James died in 1921.

The house subsequently became the home of Henry L. Thomas, a Canadian-born mason who is also listed in city directories as being a building supervisor. He and his wife Eleanor had seven children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 26 at the time of the 1910 census. The oldest, William, was listed in the census as working as a stage electrician for an opera company, although city directories from the same period list his occupation as an actor. Either way, he later married and moved to a house on Winthrop Street in the South End, where he was living in 1917 while working for Poli’s Palace Theatre. Several of William’s younger siblings also moved out of this house during the 1910s, and around 1920 Henry and Eleanor moved to an apartment at 663 State Street, where they lived with their three youngest daughters.

This house would remain in Henry’s family, though, because during the 1920 census his daughter Mary was living here with her husband, John E. Keefe, and her daughter Patricia. John was a dentist and oral surgeon who was originally from Fall River, and in the aftermath of World War I he traveled to Romania with the American Red Cross. He was featured in several photographs taken by the Red Cross in 1919, including the one below, which shows him at work in his clinic in Bucharest.

The caption of this photo explains that he performs around 400 major dental operations each month, while one of the other captions explains how “The war has wrought many changes in the life of the people of southwestern Europe and has brought them in contact with many people they had never seen before. Here is Capt. John Keefe of N.Y. who has charge of the A.R.C. dental hut at Bucharest which is the mecca for native dental experts anxious to learn the mysteries of modern dental surgery.”

Dr. Keefe returned to Springfield after his time overseas, and for many years he worked out of an office at 1490 Main Street, where Tower Square now stands. He and Mary were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here until Mary sold the house in 1953, a few years before John’s death in 1957.

In the second half of the 20th century, the McKnight neighborhood entered a decline, and many properties were abandoned or taken by the city for tax delinquency. This particular house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but several years later the city took the property, and it stood empty for many years until it was finally destroyed in a fire in 1999.