Old High School, Springfield Mass

The old Springfield High School, on Court Street in Springfield, probably in the 1880s or early 1890s. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

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Springfield’s first public high school was established in 1828, and it was in several different location before this building on Court Street opened in 1848.  It served as the high school until 1874, when a new high school opened on the current location of Classical High School.  The old building was used as a primary school until at least the 1880s.  However, before the end of the century it was demolished and replaced by the Springfield Police Department headquarters, which can be seen in the first photo of this post.  However, the police station wasn’t there for too long, because the site is now occupied by the 1913 campanile tower between Symphony Hall and City Hall.

French Protestant Church, Springfield Mass

The former French Protestant Church on Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The church in 2015:

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This church on Bliss Street was built in 1887 as the French Protestant Church, thanks in part to the efforts of Daniel B. Wesson, whose Smith & Wesson factory was just on the other side of Main Street from here.  Many of his workers were French-Canadian Protestants, and he wanted them to have a French alternative to the Roman Catholic church.  However, the congregation disbanded in 1909, and several other churches used the building until 1919, when it was purchased by the First Spiritualist Society, who remained at the Bliss Street location until 2013.  The property was purchased by MGM Springfield, and while several historic buildings will be demolished to build the casino, the church will be moved to a new location on the MGM property and renovated as a restaurant.

East Court Street, Springfield Mass

Looking east on East Court Street in Springfield, probably in the early 1890s. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The street, now called Falcons Way, in 2015:

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The land that the MassMutual Center now sits on was once the site of dozens of assorted buildings.  Along the busy and prominent Main and State Streets, one could find banks, publishers such as G & C Merriam (of Merriam-Webster Dictionary fame), and the elegant YMCA building.  However, along Dwight and East Court Streets sat less glamorous, more utilitarian buildings, including ancient colonial buildings being used as laundromats.  Here on East Court Street, most of the occupations themselves are as obsolete as the buildings that once housed them here – the signs reveal that one could procure services from wagon and carriage makers, horse shoers, and farriers (although I’m not sure what the distinction is between a horse shoer and a farrier).  Within just a couple decades, these industries would go the same way of blacksmiths and coopers, and by the 1970s all of the dozens of buildings in the four square block area would be demolished to make way for the MassMutual Center.

Springfield Rescue Mission, Springfield Mass

The former WCA boarding house at 19 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The building at 19 Bliss Street has had a variety of roles over the years.  It was built in 1884, as a boarding house for the Women’s Christian Association.  As Springfield’s population and economy grew in the late 19th century, so did the demand for workers.  The WCA provided a place for young, single women to live while working in the city, and this building served that purpose until the larger YWCA building was completed a block away on Howard Street in 1907.  The old building was then used as a private boarding house for many years, as seen in the first photo.  In 1962, the Springfield Rescue Mission acquired the building, and it has been used by them ever since.  There have been a few changes over the years, the most obvious of which is the removal of the front porch; the “shadow” of the porch can still be seen on the front of the building.  Another fairly recent change was the installation of new windows, which required some brick infilling of the window openings; this can be seen the clearest with the windows on the far left side.  It wasn’t planned this way, but notice how the cars in both photos are in essentially the same locations, representing changes in automobiles over the course of three quarters of a century.  Also of note is the tree in the foreground, which appears to be the same tree that was there in the first photo.

However, the historic building sits literally right in the middle of the planned MGM casino, so it is among the buildings that will be demolished.  In exchange for the building, MGM purchased a new location for the Rescue Mission, the former Orr Cadillac dealership on Mill Street, which will allow the organization to expand from 40 to 60 beds.  Currently, the Bliss Street property scheduled to be the last to be demolished, sometime in December of 2015.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (2)

Howard Street School in Springfield, seen from Union Street around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Another view of the Howard Street School, seen from the Union Street side (see this post for a view from Howard Street).  As mentioned in the other post, the school was built in 1905 and was severely damaged in the 2011 tornado.  It is scheduled to be demolished by MGM Springfield as soon as the Massachusetts Historical Commission gives them the green light, and the MGM parking garage will be built on the site.  It shouldn’t be too controversial, though; even if not for MGM, there would be no saving the building – the tornado left it damaged beyond repair, and it was never seen as a particularly historic structure to begin with.  The second photo was taken on March 24, 2015, the day of the official groundbreaking ceremony that took place on the other side of the school.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (1)

The Howard Street School, seen from Howard Street, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The Howard Street School was built in 1905, and was one of many school buildings built in Springfield around the turn of the 20th century, which included Forest Park School, Classical High School, Chestnut Junior High School, and the Technical High School. This school was used for over 100 years, and was most recently known as the Zanetti School.  The Zanetti School moved to a new location in 2009, and two years later the 2011 tornado caused substantial damage to the building.  It has been vacant ever since, and it is now slated to be demolished to make way for a parking garage for the planned MGM Springfield casino.  The 2015 photo was taken on March 24, the day of the ceremonial groundbreaking, and the old school building is to be the first building demolished, once the Massachusetts Historical Commission signs off on it.