Hadley Falls Dam, Holyoke, Mass

The Hadley Falls Dam on the Connecticut River, on the border of Holyoke and South Hadley, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, Holyoke is the site of the largest waterfall on the Connecticut River, with a drop of 58 feet. This made the location ideal for large-scale industrial development, and during the mid-19th century Holyoke was transformed into a prosperous manufacturing center. The first dam was built here in 1848, but it was poorly constructed, and it failed just hours after the gates were closed. However, a new dam was constructed the following year. It was built of wood, extending 1,017 feet across the river, and was 30 feet tall, with timbers that were firmly anchored four feet deep into the bedrock beneath the river.

This second dam proved far more durable than its short-lived predecessor, and it remained in use for the rest of the 19th century. However, by the early 1890s there was a need for a new dam, this time built of stone. Construction began in 1892, with the new dam being located 150 feet downstream of the old one. It took three years just to excavate the bottom of the river, and the work involved the removal of some 13,000 cubic yards of bedrock. Construction of the dam itself began around 1896, and it was comprised of a combination of rubble stone taken from the riverbed downstream of the dam, along with quarried granite blocks from Vinalhaven, Maine. The work was done in several different stages, as described in a 1900 article in the Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies:

The dam was constructed in four sections, the south end and a center section just north of the drain channel being built up for a considerable height first. Then a coffer dam was built on the first level of the north channel, thus turning the water through the center channel, while a section of dam 5 feet high was constructed behind it. The coffer was then transferred to the center channel, and a section 10 feet high built in that opening. In this way the alternate sections were built in until the structure was complete. The cost of the entire work is said to have been between $600,000 and $700,000.

Upon completion in 1900, the dam measured 1,020 feet across the river, and is said to have been the longest dam in the world at the time. The first photo was taken sometime soon after its completion, and shows water pouring over the top of the dam. On the far right is part of the Carew Manufacturing Company, a paper mill that was located on the South Hadley side of the dam, and in the distance on the right side is Mount Tom, with the Summit House prominently visible atop the 1,202-foot traprock mountain.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, both the Carew factory and the Summit House are gone. However, the dam itself is still here, after having survived a number of major floods during the 20th century. Holyoke is no longer the major industrial city that it once was, but the dam and the canal system are still used to generate power. Both are now operated by the city-owned Holyoke Gas & Electric, with the hydroelectric generators here at the dam provide a significant portion of Holyoke’s electricity.

Post Office, Holyoke, Mass

The former post office on Main Street, between Dwight and Race Streets in Holyoke, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

For many years, the Holyoke post office was located in the ground floor of the Holyoke House, a hotel at the corner of Main and Dwight Streets. However, in 1905 the post office moved into a space of its own, when this elegant Beaux-Art style building was completed. It was located directly behind the Holyoke House, which had by this point been renamed the Hotel Hamilton, and it sat in the middle of a triangular block bounded by Main, Race, and Dwight Streets. The first photo was taken only a few years after it was completed, and it shows the Main Street facade of the building.

This building served as Holyoke’s post office for the first few decades of the 20th century, but it soon became too small for the volume of mail and packages that passed through here. As a result, construction began on a new post office in 1933. It was located further up the hill from here, on Dwight Street between Chestnut and Elm Streets, and was completed in 1935. The older building here on Main Street closed that same year, and it was subsequently demolished in the 1940s. Today, the site is a parking lot, and the present-day scene is dominated by the former Lyman Mills buildings, which stand in the distance on the other side of the Second Level Canal.

Railroad Station, Salem, Mass

The railroad station at the corner of Washington and Norman Streets in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

Salem was a prosperous seaport throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, with a fleet of sailing ships that brought goods to the city from around the world. Given its location on the north shore of Massachusetts, it was heavily dependent on the sea for its commerce, but in 1838 the first railroad line was opened to Salem, connecting the city to East Boston by way of the 13-mile-long Eastern Railroad. The line initially ended here in Salem, at an earlier station on this site, but in 1839 it was extended north to Ipswich, and then to the New Hampshire state line the following year.

The 1838 railroad station was built at the southern end of downtown Salem, meaning that the extension of the line would have to pass directly through the center of the city. In order to accomplish this, the railroad dug a 718-foot tunnel directly underneath Washington Street, allowing trains to pass through without disrupting downtown Salem. The incline for the tunnel began immediately north of the station, just out of view to the left of this scene, and it re-emerged just north of present-day Federal Street. The 1917 book The Essex Railroad, by Francis B. C. Bradlee, provides a description of the 1839 construction of the tunnel:

In order to build it the old Court House, together with stores and other buildings standing south of Essex street, were demolished. Washington street was laid open throughout its entire length and a wide ditch was dug, much trouble being experienced from the sandy nature of the soil. Residents on the side of the street boarded up their house fronts and moved away for some weeks. The sidewalks were piled with gravel. A stone arch was built in the open ditch, and when this was finished the gravel was back-filled as far as possible and the surface restored. Three air holes surrounded with iron railings came up from the tunnel through the street for ventilation, but when the locomotives began to burn coal they were done away with. All this work was done on the most elaborate plans and models, it being considered one of the largest pieces of granite work ever undertaken up to that time in New England.

The original railroad station was used until 1847, when it was replaced by the one in the 1910 photo. It was designed by prominent architect Gridley J. F. Bryant, with a castle-like appearance that included two large crenellated towers on the north side of the building, as seen here. Trains passed directly through the building, and under a granite arch between the towers that resembled a medieval city gate. The interior originally included three tracks, and the upper level of the station housed the offices for the Eastern Railroad, including those of the president and the superintendent.

The station was badly damaged by an April 7, 1882 fire that started when a can of flares exploded in one of the baggage rooms. The wooded portions of the building were destroyed, but the granite exterior survived, and the rest of the station was soon rebuilt around it. Then, in 1884, the Eastern Railroad was acquired by its competitor, the Boston and Maine Railroad, and the station became part of a large railroad network that extended across northern New England. The first photo, taken around 1910, shows the a side view of the front of the building, with the original granite towers dominating the scene. In the lower left, a locomotive emerges from the station, while railroad flagmen – barely visible in front of the train – warn pedestrians and vehicles on the street.

In 1914, much of the area immediately to the south of the station was destroyed in a catastrophic fire that burned over a thousand buildings. The station itself survived, though, and remained in use for more than a century after its completion. However, it was demolished in 1954 in order to extend the tunnel south to its current entrance at Mill Street. By this point, intercity passenger rail was in a serious decline, due to competition from automobiles and commercial airlines, and the replacement station was a much smaller building on Margin Street, just south of the new tunnel entrance.

The 1950s station was used until 1987, when the present-day station was opened at the northern end of the tunnel, at the corner of Washington and Bridge Streets. Salem is no longer served by long-distance passenger trains, but it is now located on the MBTA Newburyport/Rockport commuter rail line, and trains still pass through the tunnel that runs underneath Washington Street. On the surface, though, there are no recognizable landmarks from the first photo, and today the scene is a busy intersection at the corner of Washington and Norman Streets. The former site of the historic station is now Riley Plaza, a small park that was dedicated in 1959 and named in honor of John P. Riley (1877-1950), a Salem resident who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Spanish-American War.

Lindall-Barnard-Andrews House, Salem, Mass

The house at 393 Essex Street in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1740, and various sources have identified the original owner as either James Lindall or his brother Timothy. However, it seems more probable that it was the home of James, a wealthy merchant who also served as a justice of the Court of General Sessions, as well as a deacon in the First Church of Salem. He was born in 1675/6, and in 1702 he married Elizabeth Corwin, the daughter of Jonathan Corwin. A decade earlier, Corwin had been one of the judges involved in the Salem Witch Trials, and his house, now known as the Witch House, still stands a little further to the east of here on Essex Street.

James and Elizabeth had three children, one of whom died in infancy, and she died in 1706. Two years later, he remarried to the widow Mary Weld, who also had connections to the Salem Witch Trials. Her grandfather, the Reverend John Higginson, was the longtime pastor of the First Church in Salem, and was serving in that role during the trials of 1692. His own daughter, Ann Dolliver, was among those arrested for witchcraft, although she was never ultimately convicted. In addition to the two surviving children from his first marriage, James and Mary had seven children, three of whom died young. It seems unclear whether Mary was still alive when this house was built around 1740, but James would have been in his mid-60s at the time, and all of his children would have been adults by then.

James Lindall died in 1753, and later owners of the house included the Reverend Thomas Barnard, who was the pastor of the North Church in Salem from 1772 until his death in 1814. Early in his career, he played an important role in diffusing a confrontation between British soldiers and American militamen, and may have prevented the American Revolution from starting here in Salem. On February 26, 1775, several months before the war began at Lexington and Concord, British soldiers under Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Leslie attempted to cross the North Bridge in Salem, in order to seize cannons that were stored on the north side of the river. However, they were blocked by a large group of militiamen and townspeople, and a tense standoff ensued. Colonel Leslie was determined to cross, and evidently considered using force until Reverend Barnard intervened. According to subsequent accounts, he introduced himself to Colonel Leslie, saying:

I am Thomas Barnard, a minister of the Gospel, and my mission is peace. You cannot commit this violation against innocent men, here, on this holy day, without sinning against God and humanity. The blood of every murdered man will cry from the ground for vengeance upon yourself, and the Nation which you represent. Let me entreat you to return.

Eventually, the two sides reached a compromise. In order to save face, Colonel Leslie would be allowed to cross the bridge, with the understanding that he was to make only a cursory inspection for the cannons – which had long since been relocated anyway – before crossing back over the bridge and leaving Salem. This was done without incident, and the the soldiers subsequently marched peacefully out of town, escorted by militiamen from all of the surrounding towns. However, the compromise only delayed the inevitable, and less than two months later the war began after the British made a similar expedition to Concord.

In 1816, two years after Barnard’s death, the house was sold to John H. Andrews. He was evidently a merchant, and the house was subsequently inherited by his son, John P. Andrews, who was also a merchant. The younger John never married, and the census records throughout the late 19th century show him living here with his sister, Caroline. He had apparently retired from active business by about 1860, when the census listed him as a “Gentleman.” During that year, his real estate was valued at $5,000, and his personal estate at $15,000, for a total that was equivalent to over half a million dollars today.

John P. Andrews died in 1890, at the age of 85, and the house was subsequently owned by William P. Andrews, who may have been John’s nephew. He was an assistant clerk of the District Court in Salem from 1869 to 1888, and then served as clerk from 1888 until 1893. It does not appear exactly how long he lived in this house, if at all, but by 1893 he had resigned his job and moved to Italy, where he lived until his death in 1916.

Andrews still owned the house when the first photo was taken, nearly a century after the property was first acquired by the Andrews family. However, at the time it was being rented out to William W. Coolidge, a lawyer who was the city solicitor during the 1910 census. In the following decades, it was converted into a multi-family home, and later in the 20th century it became a mixed-use property, with offices on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors.

Today, the exterior of the house has seen some alterations, including the loss of the shutters and the addition of siding in place of the original clapboards. The chimney on the right is also gone, as is the fence in the front yard, and the side yard has been replaced by a parking lot. However, the nearly 280-year-old house still has many recognizable features from the first photo, and it stands as one of the many historic 18th century homes in Salem. Along with the other homes in the area, it is now part of the Chestnut Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Assembly House, Salem, Mass

The Assembly House at 138 Federal Street in Salem, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

This building was constructed in 1782, and was originally a public hall and “Federalist Clubhouse” known as the Assembly House. The original exterior of the building is unknown, but it was significantly different from its later appearance, and reportedly had a very plain design. The interior evidently included an entry hall and drawing rooms at the front of the building, with a large two-story ballroom in the rear section. A variety of events were held here throughout the first decade of its existence, including balls, concerts, and lectures, and it was also the site of receptions for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1784 and George Washington in 1789.

Washington’s visit was part of his trip through New England in the fall of 1789, during his first year as president. He arrived in Salem on October 29, having been escorted into town by the local militia, and was greeted with an ode and a speech before being brought to the Joshua Ward House on modern-day Washington Street. He received visitors at the house, and in the evening he came here to the Assembly House, where he spent several hours before returning to the Ward House for the night there. Writing in his diary, Washington described the events of the day in Salem:

At the Bridge, 2 Miles from this Town, we were also met by a Committee—who conducted us by a Brigade of the Militia, & one or two handsome Corps in Uniform, through several of the Streets to the Town or Court House—where an Ode in honor of the President was sung—an address presented to him amidst the acclamations of the People—after which he was conducted to his Lodgings—recd. the compliments of many differt. Classes of People —and in the evening between 7 and 8 Oclock went to an assembly, where there was at least an hundred handsome and well dressed Ladies. Abt. Nine I returned to my Lodgings.

The prominent Salem pastor William Bentley also described the day in his diary, including a similar description of the reception here at the Assembly House:

After Seven the General attended the Assembly, & tarried till after nine. The ladies were numerous & brilliant. The Gentlemen were also numerous.

The building continued to be used as a public hall until the early 1790s, and it was subsequently sold to a private owner who, in turn, sold the property to Samuel Putnam (1768-1853) in 1798 for $2,656. Putnam soon converted the building into a mansion, hiring prominent architect Samuel McIntire to design the renovations. This included an elegant front facade, with Federal-style features such as pilasters between the second floor windows, along with a pediment above them. As was typical for Salem homes of this era, the front was symmetrical, with five window bays in width, and was topped by a hip roof with balustrade.

Samuel Putnam was a lawyer, and was about 30 years old when he moved into this house. He and his wife Sarah (1772-1864) had been married three years earlier, and had a young child, who was also named Samuel. They would go on to have seven more children, and lived in this house until 1833, when the moved to Boston. During this time, Putnam had a successful career as a politician and judge. He served four one-year terms the state senate, from 1808 to 1809 and 1813 to 1814, and in 1814 he was appointed as an associate justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, a position that would hold until 1842.

When the Putnam family moved to Boston in 1833, they sold this house to Benjamin P. Chamberlain, a merchant who lived here until 1856. The the next owners of the house were Stephen and Anne Chase, who lived here for the next two decades. The 1860 census shows them here along with Anne’s brother, Sylvester Robinson, plus two servants. Both Stephen and Sylvester had “Gentleman” listed as their occupations, and Stephen’s personal and real estate had a combined value of $105,000, equivalent to nearly $3 million today.

Both Stephen and Anne died in the 1870s, and Sylvester inherited this property. He was living here in 1880 with his niece, Zella Faulkner, along with a a servant, and he remained here until his own death in 1883. The house was then sold to Mary Ann Bertram, the widow of the recently-deceased merchant and philanthropist John Bertram. She was in her early 70s at the time, but she would live here for more than 25 years, until her death in 1909 at the age of 98. She did not have any children of her own, but the house was inherited by Jennie M. Emmerton, who was the daughter of John Bertram by his first wife. However, Jennie outlived her stepmother by just three years, and upon her death in 1912 she left the house to her daughter, Caroline, the philanthropis who is best known for her work in restoring the House of the Seven Gables.

Neither Jennie nor Caroline Emmerton appear to have actually lived in this house, and in 1919 Caroline sold it to Joseph Newton Smith, a businessman who served as president of the Cambridge-based Boston Woven Hose and Rubber Company from 1928 to 1951. He had married his wife, Lillie, a few years earlier, and by 1920 they were living here with their daughter Sylvia and three servants. They soon had a second daughter, Mary, who was born the following year, and all four family members were still living here by the 1940 census.

Joseph Newton Smith died in 1951, and Lillie died in 1964, leaving this house to their daughter Mary. In 1965, she donated the house to the Essex Institute, the museum that would later become part of the Peabody Essex Museum following a 1992 merger with the Peabody Museum of Salem. It is one of the many historic properties that the museum owns in Salem, and it is also part of the Chestnut Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The first photo was probably taken sometime during the ownership of Mary Ann Bertram, but it has seen few changes after more than a century, and it stands as one of the many fine examples of Federal-style architecture in Salem.

Peirce-Nichols House, Salem, Mass

The house at 80 Federal Street in Salem, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

This house is widely regarded as a masterpiece of early Federal-style architecture, and was among the first works by the prominent Salem architect Samuel McIntire. It was completed around 1782 as the home of Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827), a prosperous merchant who was a partner in the firm of Peirce & Waite. He was originally from Charlestown, but came to Salem in 1763 as a teenager, along with his older brother Benjamin. Here he worked as a leather dresser, and in 1772 married his wife, Sarah Ropes (1752-1796). However, Benjamin was killed three years later, in April 19, 1775, while serving as a minuteman in the opening battles of the American Revolution.

Later in the war, in 1778, Peirce went into business with Aaron Waite, as co-owners of the privateer Greyhound. Their partnership subsequently grew into a prosperous shipping firm, and within a few years the former leather dresser had commissioned McIntire to build this mansion. Although there is no surviving documentary evidence from the period that links the famous architect to this house, both family tradition and the visual appearance of the house suggest that it was the work of McIntire, and most historians seem to have accepted this as fact. Among other buildings in Salem, its exterior bears a strong resemblance to the home of Elias Hasket Derby, a merchant who hired McIntire to renovate his Washington Street home around the same time that Peirce’s house was built.

Like so many of the other Salem mansions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it has a rectangular form with three stories, with the third story somewhat shorter than the other two. The exterior is clapboarded, with large pilasters on the corners, and the house is topped by a low hip roof that is partially hidden by a balustrade. A stable, partially visible behind the house in the first photo, was also built around the same time. The backyard was landscaped with a terraced garden, And the property originally extended as far as the North River, where the Peirce & Waite wharf and warehouse were located.

Peirce was about 35 years old when he moved into this house. He and Sarah had three living children at the time: Joseph, Benjamin, and Sarah. However, they had previously had two other sons, both named Benjamin, who had died young. After moving into this house, they would have three more daughters, all named Elizabeth, and a son, Henry. The first two Elizabeths both died when they were only a few months old, but the third Elizabeth and Henry both survived into adulthood. They would lose one more child in 1793, though, when Joseph died at the age of 18, and Jerathmiel was widowed three years later, when Sarah died in 1796 at the age of 44.

The interior of the house was remodeled in 1801, with McIntire evidently performing this work as well, and the fence in front of the house was also added during this time. These renovations coincided with the marriage of Jerathmiel’s oldest daughter, Sarah (1780-1835), to her first cousin, George Nichols (1778-1865), who was a ship captain and merchant. They were married in the drawing room here in this house, in a small ceremony that the groom described in his memoirs many years later:

The ceremony took place on the 22nd of November, 1801, on Sunday evening. We were married by Rev. Dr. Hopkins, in my Father Pierce’s great eastern room, which was finished and furnished only a short time before. Aunt Adams [Jerathmiel’s older sister Rebecca] was buried from the same room, only three days before. My wife wanted only a day or two of being twenty-one years old, and I have often laughed and told her she was never free. No one was present at the wedding but the two families. Betsey and Charlotte [Sarah and George’s sisters, respectively] were the bridesmaids, or at least considered themselves so. Sally’s dress was a beautiful striped muslin, very delicate, made in Bombay for some distinguished person. I purchased it of Nasser Vanji, at five dollars per yard. . . . This muslin Sally wore over white silk. Her headdress was a white lace veil, put on turban fashion. Her cake, of which she had a large quantity, was made in a great bread tray by Nellie Masury, a sister of the late Deacon Punchard. She was quite a celebrated cook.

Following their marriage, George and Sarah Nichols moved into a house at the corner of Washington and Federal Streets. In the meantime, though, Jerathmiel continued to live here in this house. In 1803, his son Benjamin (1778-1831) married George Nichols’ sister, Lydia Ropes Nichols (1781-1868). Benjamin and George subsequently went into business together, running a prosperous shipping firm in the years leading up to the War of 1812. Benjamin also had a successful political career during this time, including serving as a state representative for several years, and as a state senator in 1811. However, the war took a heavy toll on Peirce, Nichols, and many other Salem merchants, with Nichols later writing:

We were generally prospered in business and when the war broke out in 1812 I was quite a rich man for those times, being worth at least $40,000. This was a very disastrous war to me. I lost in it nearly one-half of all my property, notwithstanding I had a great deal of insurance. Every vessel in which I was concerned was captured. Among them was the “Rambler,” a beautiful vessel, owned by my brother Peirce and myself. She was making a fine voyage, but she was taken by the British, off the Cape of Good Hope. Privateering was very common in that war, as in all wars, but I could not feel it to be right and therefore did not engage in it. At the close of the war in 1815, I engaged again in commerce with Benjamin Peirce and others, and for several years affairs went along somewhat prosperously. Then came on a long series of disasters, ruinous voyages were made, the effect of bad management, and in 1826 I found myself bankrupt, as were also my father Peirce and his two sons.

As a result of this change of fortune, George Nichols had to sell much of his property in order to pay off his creditors. Benjamin Peirce left the shipping business altogether and moved to Cambridge, where he worked as the librarian of Harvard College until his death in 1831. His son, also named Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880), went on to become a prominent mathematician, and was the father of philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) and diplomat Herbert H. D. Peirce (1849-1916). In the meantime, Jerathmiel Peirce was also hit hard by these financial troubles, and in 1827 he was forced to sell this mansion in order to pay his creditors. He subsequently moved in with George and Sarah, but only lived in their house for a short time before his death on August 20, at the age of 80.

The property here on Federal Streeet was purchased by George Johonnot, an elderly friend of the Peirce family. He lived here until his death in 1839, and his wife Martha died the following year, leaving the house to George Nichols, who moved into the house in August 1840. By this point his wife Sarah had died, and in 1836 he had remarried to her younger sister, Elizabeth Peirce (1787-1864). George and Elizabeth died a year apart in the 1860s, but the house remained in the Nichols family for another half century until 1917, when it was sold to the Essex Institute.

The first photo was taken around the time that the Essex Institute acquired the property. Over the following decades, this museum would continue to add historic Salem houses to its properties. These would all become part of the Peabody Essex Museum following a 1992 merger between the Essex Institute and the Peabody Museum of Salem.  Because of its architectural significance, the Peirce-Nichols was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968, and it is also a contributing property in the Chestnut Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the house has seen few exterior changes since the first photo was taken, although the house is now partially hidden by trees from this angle.