William Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking east on William Street from the corner of Main Street in Springfield, sometime around 1902-1915. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society.

William Street in 2017:


William Street, located in the South End of Springfield, was developed around the middle of the 19th century, as development of Springfield’s downtown area steadily moved southward. The area around this site had once belonged to Alexander Bliss, who operated a tannery on the site. His son, Elijah, inherited his father’s large estate after his death in 1843, and began subdividing the property. The 1851 city map shows a number of buildings here, all owned by Elijah, although the ones in the first photo were probably not built until around the 1860s or early 1870s.

The houses in the first photo were primarily rowhouses, with a larger wooden apartment block further in the distance and a few single-family homes interspersed among the larger buildings. The rowhouses feature Second Empire-style architecture, with the distinctive mansard roofs on the third floor, but their designs also incorporate elements of the earlier Italianate style, such as the curved window lintels and the decorative brackets under the eaves.

The South End has long been home to a variety of immigrant groups, many of whom were living here when the first photo was taken in the early 20th century. The 1910 census shows many different working-class residents living here in apartments and lodging houses, including French-Canadian and Irish immigrants along with native-born Americans. The house on the right side, for example, was a lodging house that was owned and operated by Abbie E. Neale, a 49-year-old widow who also owned the smaller house behind it. She rented the property to 14 lodgers, which included a mix of single people and married couples who were mostly in their 20s and 30s. They held a variety of working-class jobs, including several painters, a hotel bellman, a cotton mill spinner, and a machine shop laborer.

Around the corner on William Street, the three brick rowhouses on the left side of the photo were rented by three French-Canadian families during the 1910 census. The house closest to the camera, at 169 William Street, was rented by Ovide and Elmina Bouley, immigrants from Quebec who lived here with their infant daughter and Elmina’s father. The middle house was rented by Onesime Grise, a 65-year-old French-Canadian widow who lived here with her brother-in-law, three of her sons, her widowed daughter-in-law, and her young grandson. Furthest from the camera, the last of the three rowhouses was rented by another French-Canadian widow, 58-year-old  Alphonsie Archambeau. According to the 1910 census, she had 12 children, only one of whom was still alive. This child, 17-year-old Eva Tatro, was living here at the time, as were three lodgers who rented rooms from Alphonsie.

In the years after the first photo was taken, the South End shifted from predominantly French-Canadian to Italian, a legacy that remains in the neighborhood today, with many Italian restaurants, shops, and bakeries. However, none of the buildings from the first photo are still standing here. The brick ones in the foreground appear to have been demolished prior to the late 1930s, because they were not among the buildings photographed as part of the 1938-1939 WPA project. The wooden apartment building in the distance was still standing at the time, but it has also since been demolished, and today this side of William Street is now primarily vacant lots, with a parking lot here at the corner.

Fort Gilbert Monument, West Brookfield, Mass

The Fort Gilbert Monument at the corner of North Main and Winter Streets in West Brookfield, around 1902-1927. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The monument in 2016:

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The town of Brookfield, which originally included present-day North, East, and West Brookfield, was first settled by Europeans in 1660 as the town of Quaboag. At the time, it was in a very isolated location in central Massachusetts, some 25 miles from the towns in the Connecticut River valley and twice as far from Boston and the other towns along the coast. Because of this, it was very vulnerable to an Indian attack, which occurred in 1675 during King Philip’s War. The town was destroyed and abandoned, with many of the settlers moving back to where they had previously lived.

Over a decade later, settlers returned, and this time they came better prepared for potential raids. They built four forts, including Fort Gilbert here in the western part of the town. It included barracks for soldiers and, if necessary during a raid, to house the families of the town, and it was surrounded by a stockade. The fort was still standing during the French and Indian War, although it was far removed from any battles, and some of its remains were still visible well into the 19th century.

Today, any evidence of the fort is long gone, but the site is marked with this simple monument, which was put here around 1900. It is located in a small park next to the West Brookfield Elementary School, on North Main Street just west of the town common.

Converse Street, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking east on Converse Street from the corner of Longmeadow Street, on May 13, 1913. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The view in 2016:

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The two photos on the left are the same ones seen in the previous post, and this view shows some of the development along the western end of Converse Street that was happening in the 1910s. Part of the South Park Terrace development, most of the houses along Converse Street had just been built when the first photo was taken, and more would be added in this area as Longmeadow became a major suburb of Springfield. In the century since the first photo was taken, Converse Street has been paved, and the end was angled a bit to share a traffic light with Englewood Road on the other side of Longmeadow Street, but otherwise not much has changed in this scene, and most of the historic early 20th century homes here are still standing.

Graves House, Longmeadow, Mass

The Bernard Graves House at the corner of Longmeadow and Converse Streets, on November 22, 1913. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This view provides an interesting side-by-side comparison of two different architectural styles from around the turn of the century. Although built only a few years apart, these two houses represent a shift in style that was happening during this time. The house on the left was built around 1900, and it is an example of Queen Anne architecture, which was popular in the last few decades of the Victorian era. This particular house is actually a fairly subdued version of it; a typical Queen Anne house is usually highly decorative, with plenty of ornamentation and a complex combination of design features. A good example of this can be seen in this Springfield mansion from a previous post. This Longmeadow house was built towards the end of the style’s popularity, but it still has some of the common features, especially with its bay windows, wraparound porch, and asymmetrical design.

The house on the right, on the other hand, represents the Craftsman style of architecture that was gaining popularity just as Queen Anne was falling out of fashion. It was largely a response to the perceived excess of the Victorian era and, by extension, its often gaudy architecture. Rather than decorating houses with excessive amounts of ornamentation, the idea behind the Craftsman style was to simplify, and emphasize quality of workmanship. The house here, which was originally the home of insurance agent Bernard E. Graves and his wife Mary, was built around 1906, near the beginning of this style’s popularity. Over a century later, both it and the Queen Anne house remain well-preserved examples of their respective architectural styles, and aside from the shutters on the house and shed in the backyard, it is hard to notice any differences in these two photographs.

Longmeadow Street, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking south on Longmeadow Street from the corner of Bliss Road, on March 27, 1908. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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Longmeadow Street in 2016:

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Most of the views along Longmeadow Street have not changed much over the past century, but here there are some noticeable differences. To the left is St. Mary’s Church, which was built in the early 1930s along with the house next to it. They replaced the two houses on the left side of the first photo, but the third house in the distance is still standing. It is now part of Bay Path University, whose main campus is located on the right side of the street, just out of view in this scene.

Another change from the first photo is the trolley tracks, which were built in the 1890s. Part of the Springfield Street Railway, they helped to spur development in Longmeadow by making it easy for people to live here and commute to Springfield. This led to new housing developments such as the scenes in earlier posts on Bliss Road and Belleclaire Avenue, both of which are just around the corner from here.

Belleclaire Avenue, Longmeadow, Mass

Looking east on Belleclaire Avenue from the corner of Lognmeadow Street, on August 23, 1918. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The street in 2016:

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This street is a block north of Bliss Road, which is seen in the previous post. Like Bliss Road, Belleclaire Avenue was part of the rapid suburban development that was occurring in Longmeadow in the first two decades of the 20th century. Most of the homes here were built around 1915, with a variety of designs that reflect the popular Craftsman-style architecture of the era. Since the first photo was taken, little has changed here. A few houses, like the one on the far right, were added soon after, and the trees have grown up, but otherwise the street looks much the same as it did almost a century ago.