State Street from Elliot Street, Springfield Mass

The view looking east on State Street from near the intersection of State & Elliot, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The view in 2015:


As with the previous post, State Street in Springfield looks very different before and after Dutch Elm Disease.  However, far more has changed than just that.  This stretch of State Street, leading up the hill to the Armory, was once predominantly residential, mostly single-family homes.  Some of these historic homes are still here, and for the most part have been converted to commercial use.

The present-day photo actually appears to be a few steps ahead of where the 1908 photo was taken; the pillars on the extreme left-hand side of the 1908 photo appear to be those of the rectory of St. Michael’s Cathedral, which is directly across Elliot Street from the courthouse.  Barely visible through the trees in the left-center of the photo appears to be the Alexander House, which was built in 1811.  It is one of Springfield’s oldest existing buildings, although the construction of the federal courthouse, which now occupies the space along State Street between Elliot and Spring Streets, required it to be moved around the corner to a new location on Elliot.  However, the architect of the courthouse designed the building around the two massive trees that once stood next to the Alexander House, and one of the trees is visible on the left-hand side of the 2015 photo.  The trees are almost certainly there in the 1908 photo as well, but it’s hard to pick them out among all of the other foliage.  One other landmark that exists in both photos is the entrance to the Armory grounds at Byers Street; the gates are barely visible in the distance on the left-hand side of State Street.

State Street from Walnut Street, Springfield Mass

The view looking east on State Street from the corner of State & Walnut, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same view in 2014:


This was once a common scene in the towns and cities of New England: streets lined with stately elms that formed almost a tunnel over the road with their branches.  However, within a few decades of the first photo being taken, most of the large elms in the northeast, and eventually the entire country, were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease.  Today, flora aside, a trip down State Street is very different from a century ago; instead of single-family homes, the road is fronted primarily by apartment buildings and commercial developments, although the buildings on the far left that once made up part of the Springfield Armory are still there.

Springfield Public Library, Springfield Mass (3)

The newly-completed Springfield Public Library, around 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2014:


Springfield’s current main branch of the public library system was opened on January 10, 1912, which is probably around the time that the first photo was taken. The Library of Congress data indicates that it was taken between 1900 and 1910, but obviously that is not the case. Regardless, not much has changed with this view, although the foreground is now a parking lot; in 1912, it was the front lawn of the Church of the Unity.

Springfield Public Library, Springfield Mass (2)

Springfield Public Library, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same view in 2014:


Another view of the old library, which was built in 1871 and moved around 1910 in preparation for the construction of the new library, which sits on the same spot today.

Springfield Public Library, Springfield Mass (1)

The Springfield Public Library, around 1900-1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same scene in 2014:


Springfield’s first public library opened in 1871, on State Street just up the hill from Chestnut Street.  However, it didn’t take long to outgrow the building, and in 1905 Andrew Carnegie donated money to Springfield to build a new main library and several branch libraries.  The library needed to stay open during construction, so the old building was moved back and the new building was built in its spot. It was dedicated on January 10, 1912, and the old library building was subsequently demolished.

Hampden Park, Springfield, Mass

Hampden Park in Springfield, Mass, during a football game, probably around 1905. Photo from Springfield: Present and Prospective, published in 1905.

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The approximate scene in 2014:


First, a quick explanation: these two photos do not necessarily match up perfectly. They are both oriented in the same direction, but I don’t know whether this particular field was located here, or further south.  The baseball diamond is visible in contemporary maps; an 1899 city map shows it further south, while a 1910 map shows it at approximately the location of the present-day photo.  However, as I don’t know when the transition happened, I am left only to estimate when re-creating the 1905 photo.

In any case, Hampden Park (not to be confused with the major sports arena of the same name in Glasgow, Scotland) was used for a variety of athletic events for over a century.  First opened in the 1850s, the site, bounded by the Connecticut River, the railroad tracks, and Plainfield/West Street (North End Bridge), was originally used for horse and bicycle racing.  In 1861, it was used as the muster grounds for Civil War infantrymen, and later became a baseball field as well. It was here that in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first openly professional team, played against the Springfield Mutuals.  Cincinnati won 80-5 en route to a perfect 65-0 season.  A few years later, several National Association (the precursor to modern Major League Baseball) games were played here – first the short-lived Middletown Mansfields for a game in 1872, and later, for one game each year in 1873 and 1875, the Boston Red Stockings, now known as the Atlanta Braves, played at Hampden Park.

Later on, the park became home to a series of minor league baseball teams, with the location of the field changing several times.  Most recently, it was located in the northwest corner of the lot, closest to the North End Bridge. Built in 1922 as the creatively-named League Park, it was renovated and renamed Pynchon Park in 1940.  This field was home to minor league affiliates for the Cubs and later for the Giants; from 1950 through 1953, they were the Springfield Cubs, Chicago’s AAA affiliate. The last season of Springfield minor league baseball was in 1965, when the AA Springfield Giants played here; the next year, the team moved, and the park burned down.  The present-day photo above was taken from around the left-field corner of the park, with the former location of home plate being being behind me, around where the Pride gas station and convenience store now stands.

In the first photo above, the field is configured for a football game, likely an Ivy League college game.  From 1889 to 1894, the annual Harvard-Yale game was played here, as Springfield was a neutral site in between Cambridge and New Haven; after a particularly violent 1894 game, known as the “Hampden Park Blood Bath,” the game was suspended for two years, and the number of severe injuries called into question the future of the entire sport.  Later on, in 1905 and 1906, Hampden Park hosted the Brown-Dartmouth game, and it is possible that the 1905 game might be the one in the above photo.