Springfield Skyline (3)

The view of Springfield from West Springfield, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view in 2014:

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The most obvious difference here is the lack of a covered bridge – this bridge was replaced by the current Memorial Bridge (just to the right of the scene in the 2013 photo) in 1922. The first bridge across the river in Springfield was an uncovered, six span bridge that was built in 1805. It collapsed in 1814, and was replaced by the covered bridge, which was completed in 1820. The designer was Isaac Damon, the same architect who designed Springfield’s Old First Church.  This bridge far outlasted its predecessor, and even the present Memorial Bridge hasn’t reached the 102 years that the covered bridge made it to.

The bridge was finally demolished – or, to be more accurate, dismantled piece by piece to reuse the wood – in 1922, upon completion of Memorial Bridge. Although there are no visible traces of the bridge itself, it’s still easy to pinpoint its location; there is a Bridge Street in Springfield, and another one directly across the river in West Springfield. Neither street currently leads to a bridge, but they were once the approaches to the old covered bridge.

Springfield Skyline (2)

The South End of Springfield, seen from West Springfield between 1900 and 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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Like the photos taken from the same spot but angled a little upstream, not much remains visible from the original photo.  Old First Church, the Hampden County Courthouse, and the Court Square Building are still there, but not much else is readily identifiable in both photographs.  The steeple that is visible toward the right-hand side of the first photo is St. Joseph’s Church, which was built in 1873 and demolished in 2008.  The building that has since taken its place is visible in the second photo – it is a gray-green rectangular building visible just above and to the left of the large brick structure that is on the waterfront on the right-hand side of the photo.

Several buildings that are visible in the 2013 photo did exist when the earlier one was taken, but they aren’t visible in it. Among those is the old castle-like National Guard Armory, which was built in 1895 and damaged in the 2011 tornado. At the time it was being used as the South End Community Center, but today it stands vacant, although part of MGM’s proposed casino includes preserving the distinctive facade of the building.
Along the waterfront, much has changed in the past 100 years.  Back in the early 20th century, the waterfront was dominated by boating clubs and factories.  According to a 1910 map, there were three boathouses along this stretch of riverfront, several of which can be seen in this photo. They were the Springfield Yacht Club, the Springfield Canoe Club, and the Springfield Boat Club. Presumably many of their members are among those who are sailing or rowing on the Connecticut River.  Sadly, this is not the case today – the construction of I-91 effectively blocked off downtown Springfield from the waterfront, and today a little-used bike path along the riverfront is the only significant recreational activity available on this part of the river.

Springfield Skyline (1)

Springfield, as it looked from across the river around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2010:

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It’s a good thing that Old First Church and the Hampden County Courthouse still exist – otherwise it would’ve been very difficult to pin down exactly what part of Springfield is seen in the early 20th century photo.  In addition, the old Court Square Building is barely visible in between those two buildings in photos.  There are some parts of Springfield that still look similar to how they were 100 years ago, but downtown isn’t one of them.  Along with the skyscrapers and modern hotels that now sit directly across the river, there is also the Memorial Bridge, which wouldn’t exist for another 10+ years from the first photo.  Instead, travelers would cross the river slightly upstream of the current bridge, on a terrifyingly rickety-looking covered bridge that I will probably cover in a future post.  The other big change in the past century was the elevated I-91 viaduct along the Connecticut River, which replaced the railroad as both the prominent feature along the river and also the way that most people traveled from Springfield to points north and south.

Samuel Chapin Statue, Springfield

The Samuel Chapin Statue at the Quadrangle, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same statue in 2012:

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Samuel Chapin, one of my ancestors, was an early settler in Springfield, one of several such founders memorialized in a statue in the city.  He served as the first deacon of the church, was on the first board of selectmen, and also served as a town magistrate.  In 1881, one of his descendants, businessman and Congressman Chester W. Chapin, commissioned noted sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens to create this statue.  It was finished in 1887, and was first situated at Stearns Park, but was moved to Merrick Park at the Quadrangle in 1899, shortly before the above photo was taken.  The statue, named The Puritan, became one of St. Gaudens’s most popular work, and it hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years, although some of the buildings around it have.  The house directly behind it in the 1905 photo (I believe it’s the parsonage for Christ Church Cathedral) is long gone, as is the old library, which isn’t visible in the photo, but which was located just to the photographer’s right.  Note, however, the arches in the distance on the far right of the 1905 photo – those are from the art museum, which still exists – the arches aren’t visible from the angle of the 2012 photo, but the building itself is barely visible above the hedges.

Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Government

The scene in 2014:

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The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.

Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2014 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.

Railroad Arch, Springfield

Looking north toward the Boston & Albany Railroad arch over Main Street in Springfield, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The railroad arch in 2018:

 

For many years, there was no bridge over Main Street, forcing the busy rail line to cross the busy road at grade.  Finally, in 1890, the stone arch was built, and survives to this day, even when none of the other buildings from the first decade of the 20th century have.  See the 1882 photo in this post for a view of Main Street before the arch was built.