Old Toll Bridge, Springfield Mass

Springfield’s old covered bridge, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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This is the first then & now recreation that I’ve done from a watercraft.  The first photo was taken from the riverbank, but because of its relatively inaccessible location today, I decided the water would be a better option.  Plus, the first photo shows some river recreation in the foreground, so I figured it would be appropriate to include a modern-day equivalent.

The building in the foreground of the first photo is the floating bathhouse for one of Springfield’s boat clubs, with a variety of small boats in the water next to it.  Today, Springfield’s waterfront is far more deserted, although there are still several boat clubs on the river nearby.

The bridge in the photo is Springfield’s Old Toll Bridge, which is featured in this post, seen from the other side of the river.  Note that in the old photo in that post, the same boathouse is visible in the distance.  The old covered bridge was replaced by the Memorial Bridge in 1922.  The Memorial Bridge was built a couple blocks downstream, and it is barely visible on the far left of the 2014 photo.

North End Bridge, West Springfield Mass

The view looking east over the North End Bridge from the West Springfield side of the river, around 1900-1910.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The bridge in 2014:

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The North End Bridge was the second road bridge to be built across the Connecticut River in Springfield, and opened in 1877.  Both views show the bridge looking east from West Springfield toward Springfield.  This bridge was particularly significant to West Springfield residents, as it directly connected downtown West Springfield to the north end of Springfield and, more importantly at the time, Springfield’s railroad station.

The old bridge was described by King’s Handbook of Springfield in 1884 as being “one of the handsomest highway bridges in the United States.”  In 1923, though, it caught fire and was completely destroyed. Two years later a new bridge was completed, and it remains in use today, carrying US Route 20, the longest road in America, over the Connecticut River.  The road on the far left-hand side just before the bridge in the first photo is Riverdale Street; it didn’t look like much at the turn of the last century, but today it is part of Route 5, and is a major north-south route through the Springfield area.  It does not actually pass through this intersection anymore, though.  The 2014 photo was taken from the center of a rotary, which was built atop a tunnel for Route 5.

As an incidental historical note, there is a sign on the bridge in the first photo, which is barely legible.  In higher-resolution copies of the photo, it reads: “No person shall ride or drive a horse or mule on any part of this bridge at a rate faster than a walk under a penalty of two dollars for each offence.”  Today, the bridge traffic usually travels at a significantly higher rate of speed than a walk, except during rush hour.

Springfield & Connecticut River from Forest Park

The view looking toward Springfield from atop Laurel Hill in Forest Park, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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While driving along Interstate 91 through the Longmeadow curve, there is a semicircular retaining wall built into the side of the hill, with a flagpole on top.  I had never paid much attention to it, but when I came across the first photo above, I wondered if that is where it was taken from.  As it turns out, this overlook is part of what is called Laurel Hill, and is the section of Forest Park where the Barney Mausoleum is built.  From the Mausoleum, it is just a short path to this overlook, which once offered views of the city of Springfield and the Connecticut River.  Today, neither the city nor the river is visible from this spot, and the small dirt road barely visible in the 1905 photo is now Interstate 91.

From a traffic perspective, this is a major bottleneck in the Springfield area.  Route 5 and I-91, which are combined in this short section, serve as the primary north-south transportation corridor in western New England, and link Springfield to Hartford and points south.  However, because of the tight fit in trying to squeeze an interstate highway between the hills on the right and the railroad tracks on the left, I-91 is reduced to just two lanes, and that, combined with the many on/off ramps and curves, makes this a common site of traffic jams and accidents.  It all looks so much more peaceful 100 years ago.

Sumner Avenue, Springfield Mass

Looking east on Sumner Avenue, Springfield Massachusetts, from near the intersection with present-day Washington Street, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Sumner Avenue is the primary thoroughfare across the southern part of Springfield, passing through the Forest Park neighborhood.  At the time that the first photo was taken, this was a prominent, expensive neighborhood with large, ornate houses, similar to the ones seen on Maple Street and other parts of the city.  However, like many of these other areas, the neighborhood has declined, with most of the wealthy residents moving to Longmeadow or somewhere else outside the city.  Today, most of the houses are still there, though, including the Smith Platt House on the extreme left, and the Lathrop House next to it.

Maple Street Homes, Springfield Mass

Several homes on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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Around the turn of the last century, Maple Street was one of the best places in Springfield to live. This side of the street was particularly desirable, because of the view looking toward downtown Springfield and across the Connecticut River. Today, that isn’t the case. Although the view is still there, it is no longer one of the city’s premier residential areas, and the two mansions in the first photo no longer exist.

Located directly across the street from the former MacDuffie School campus, this area was right in the path of the June 1, 2011 tornado that tore across western Massachusetts. These houses, however, were gone long before then.  The one on the right was at the time the home of businessman and city library president Nathan D. Bill, and was built in the 1880s as the Andrew Fennessy House. It was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1969, after having been vacant for several years. Today, only the concrete driveway is still there, and can be seen better on Google Maps. The house just beyond it was built in 1882 and belonged to Walter H. Wesson, the son of Daniel Wesson, co-founder of Smith & Wesson. In 1982, this historic house was also heavily damaged in a fire, and was subsequently demolished.

Church of the Unity, Springfield Mass

The Church of the Unity, photographed in 1959. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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The Church of the Unity is also featured in this post, although the photo in that one is close to 100 years older than this “before” one is.  As mentioned there, this church was significant as the first commission of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and was built between 1866 and 1869.  However, it was demolished only two years after this photo was taken, and was replaced with a parking lot for the Springfield Public Library.