Chicopee Bank Building, Springfield

The Chicopee Bank Building, at the corner of Main and Elm, sometime before 1889.  Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

121_1870s-1880s spp

The same location, between 1889 and 1895. Photo courtesy of James Ward Birchall Collection.

121_1889-1895 jwb

The scene in 2014:

121_2014

The original building was built in 1835, at the same time as the other three-story commercial buildings on and around Court Square. It was demolished in 1889 and replaced by the current structure, which survives with minimal changes. The building to the left, however, has been trimmed down in height. On the other side, along Elm Street, the 1835 Byers Block survives as a remnant of what the old Chicopee Bank building once looked like.

Corner of Dwight and Sanford Streets, Springfield

The building that once stood at the corner of Dwight and Sanford Streets. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

120_1800s spp

The location in 2014:

120_2014

As seen in today’s photo, the buildings in the first photo don’t exist anymore, and in fact neither does the street on the right, Sanford Street. The first photo shows two different 17th century houses: the old Nathaniel Ely Tavern in the foreground, built in 1660, and the Margaret Bliss House just beyond it, built around 1695. Obviously both buildings are long gone. I don’t know when they were demolished, but it is safe to say they were gone before the MassMutual Center was built in the 1970’s.

Court Square, Springfield (6)

Springfield’s Court Square, sometime in the 1880s or earlier. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

119_1870s-1880s spp

The scene in the 1890s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

119_1890s ocaip

The scene in 2014:119_2014

The three photos show the progression of the appearance of Court Square in the past 125+ years. In the first photo, the buildings along Elm Street are all 1830’s-era three story commercial buildings, most of which were replaced by the Court Square Theater in 1892, which can be seen in the second photo, a rare view of the building before the 1900 expansion on the right side. That is essentially the only change between the second photo and today’s scene – not much has changed with the four major buildings in this angle. One notable survivor on the far left is the Byers Block, which was built in 1835 and is the last remaining part of the Elm Street commercial blocks from the first photo. Wedged in between two much larger late 19th century building, it is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, although not the oldest building in the photo – Old First Church on the far right dates to 1819.

Old Masonic Building, Springfield, Mass

The old Masonic Building in Springfield, around 1910, from The View Book of Springfield (1910).

116_1910c tvbs

The same building in 2012:

116_2012

The old Masonic Building at the corner of State and Main was built around 1893, and was used by the Masons until 1924, when they built a new temple further up State Street. At some point, the ornate sandstone facade was replaced with a more bland brick appearance, and the clock tower was either moved back or replaced entirely. However, there is a small surviving part of the original facade – the sandstone arch above the doorway on the left-hand side is still there, complete with a Masonic symbol above it.

Old City Hall, Springfield, Mass

Springfield’s old City Hall, sometime before 1905. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

115_1905c spp

The view in 2014:

115_2014

Although settled in 1636, Springfield wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1852. Four years later, the first city hall was built here, on the north side of Court Square. It was dedicated with much fanfare on January 1, 1856, and stood here for nearly 50 years. During this time, the city offices were housed on the first floor, with the police department in the basement and a 2,300-seat auditorium on the upper floor. The auditorium was used for a variety of events, including one that resulted in the destruction of the building. On January 6, 1905, a fire started in the auditorium, allegedly caused when a monkey overturned a kerosene lantern. Regardless of the cause, though, the building was a total loss, and eight years later the present-day Springfield Municipal Group was dedicated, with new City Hall, Symphony Hall, and campanile tower in between.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Visits Springfield

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s car travels down Elm Street past the Court Square Theater in 1940. Image courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

114_1940-2Bcinematreasures

The same scene in 2014:

114_2014

On October 30, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a stop in Springfield on his way to Boston to give a campaign speech. Just six days before the election, he stopped to inspect the Springfield Armory and give a speech. The top photo shows him passing by Court Square along Elm Street, with the Court Square Theater in the background. The building is still there today, but the theater section itself is gone – it was demolished in 1957, and is now a parking lot. The main entrance for the theater, which is seen in the background of the 1940 photo, is now the entrance to the parking lot.

Roosevelt, however, is far from the only past, present, or future president to visit Court Square. George Washington once lodged at Parsons Tavern, which occupied part of what is now Court Square. According to one 19th century account, Washington “tasted liquid refreshments of a strong flavor” at the tavern. In addition, President William Howard Taft, several months after leaving office, presided over the dedication ceremonies for City Hall and Symphony Hall. On the day before the 1960 election, then-Senator John F. Kennedy spoke from the steps of City Hall to a crowd gathered in Court Square. More recently, just two days before the 1996 election, President Clinton also gave a speech in front of City Hall, in support of Senator John Kerry.