Dwight Street from Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking west on Dwight Street from the corner of Main Street in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows a view similar to the one in an earlier post, but these photos were taken a little further back, showing the entire block of Dwight Street between Main and Race Streets. The first photo here, taken around the early 1910s, shows a busy Dwight Street, with a mix of trolleys, automobiles, and what appears to be a blurry horse-drawn carriage. On the right side of the photo is the Hotel Hamilton, which was built in 1850 and expanded and renovated in 1889-1890. Among its ground-floor tenants at the time was the Mechanics Savings Bank, which occupied the storefront on the far right side, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets. Another bank, the Hadley Falls National Bank, was located directly across the street, in the building on the far left side of the first photo.

Another important building in the first photo was Parsons Hall, the third building from the left side of the photo. Also known as the Chapin Block, it was apparently built around the early 1850s, about the same time as the hotel across the street. Its large third floor, which took up about half the building’s height, housed an auditorium that was used for a variety of events throughout the 19th century. Several local churches, including the Unitarian Church and the French Congregational Church, temporarily worshiped here before constructing buildings of their own, and high school graduations were also held here for many years. The actress Eva Tanguay, a French-Canadian immigrant to Holyoke, made her stage debut here as a young girl in the 1880s, before going on to have a successful career as one of the most famous vaudeville performers in the country.

Further up the street, the first photo shows several of Holyoke’s factory buildings. On the left, just beyond Parsons Hall on the other side of the Second Level Canal, was the mill of the Beebe & Holbrook Paper Company. It was built in the early 1870s as the Hampden Paper Company, but later became Beebe & Holbrook in 1878. Then, in 1899, it became a division of the American Writing Paper Company. This trust included many of Holyoke’s paper mills, and controlled a significant portion of the nation’s writing paper supply. However, other Holyoke mills remained independent, including the Whiting Paper Company, whose mill is visible on the other side of Dwight Street, just beyond the Hotel Hamilton. Further in the distance, hidden from view in the first photo, was the William Skinner & Sons silk mill, and at the top of the hill was Holyoke City Hall, with its tower rising above the factories.

Today, there are still some identifiable buildings from the first photo, but most have undergone significant changes. Some of the Beebe & Holbrook buildings are still standing, but the one that is most visible in the first photo is gone. Similarly, several of the former Whiting buildings are also still there, but not the one shown in the first photo. Closer to the foreground, the Hotel Hamilton building now stands vacant. It was dramatically altered after the hotel closed in the early 1940s, including the removal of most of the fourth floor. Most of the storefronts have also been altered, except for the former Mechanics Savings Bank on the far right side, which still retains its early 20th century appearance.

On the other side of the street, Parsons Hall similarly lost its upper floor during the mid-20th century, and much of its Dwight Street facade was also rebuilt. However, the rest of the building is still standing in its heavily-altered appearance. Its neighbors to the left are gone, though, including the former Hadley Falls National Bank building and the site is now an empty lot at the corner of Main Street. Overall, the only building that has survived from the first photo without any significant changes is city hall itself, which still stands in the distance at the corner of Dwight and High Streets, and remains in use as the seat of the municipal government.

Fairmount Square, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Oak Street from the corner of Hampshire Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This section of Oak Street, between Hampshire and Cabot Streets, was developed in the mid-1880s by contractor Leslie B. White. It was known as Fairmount Square, and this block included six homes on each side of the street. Each one had a brick exterior on the first floor, with wood on the upper floors, and all had similar Queen Anne-style architecture, although no two homes were identical. The houses on the west side, shown here in this scene, were at a higher elevation than the street, and had sloping yards with steps leading to the front door. Driveways are conspicuously missing from the scene, but a rear alley provided access to the garages on the properties.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the development was completed, and shows the street lined with newly-planted trees. At the time, Holyoke was at its peak of prosperity as an industrial center, and these houses attracted a variety of middle class residents. The house on the far left, at 253 Oak Street, was originally the home of brickmaker George W. Richards, and he lived here with his wife Helen and their theee children. Just to the right, 251 Oak Street was the home of Charles E. Watson, who worked as a bookkeeper for the National Blank Book Company, although by the early 1890s it was the home of attorney Richard D. Kilduff. Further to the right, barely visible in the first photo, 249 Oak Street was the home of H. Dwight Bradburn, a manager at the Nonotuck Paper Company.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, all of the houses on this block of Oak Street are still standing. However, most have undergone significant exterior changes over the years, particularly the addition of artificial siding. Only a few houses on either side of the street still retain their original Victorian-era details, and the name Fairmount Square has long since disappeared from use. Overall, though, the block still survives as one of Holyoke’s upscale 19th century residential developments, and provides a hint of the economic prosperity that the city experienced during this time.

Dwight Street from Race Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking west up Dwight Street from near the corner of Race Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This photo comparison captures some of the effects of the economic decline that Holyoke has experienced in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. The first one shows the city at the height of its prosperity as a major manufacturing center, and several of these factories are seen here, including the Beebe & Holbrook Paper Company just to the left of the middle of the photo, and the Whiting Paper Company across the street on the right side. Both mills were located along the Second Level Canal, which runs parallel to Race Street near the foreground of this scene.

Two of the city’s leading hotels were also located along this section of Dwight Street. In the foreground on the far right side is the corner of the Hotel Hamilton, which was built in the early 1850s as the Holyoke House, but was later expanded over the years. Further in the distance, with its tower visible just beyond the Whiting Paper Company mill on the right side of the street, is the Windsor Hotel. It was built in 1877 at the corner of Front Street, and it was owned by industrialist William Whiting, who also ran the nearby paper mill. Other important buildings in this scene include Parsons Hall on the far left, and Holyoke City Hall in the distance at the top of the hill.

Holyoke would continue to grow and prosper for several more decades after the first photo was taken, with the population peaking at just over 60,000 in 1920. However, this number would steadily decline throughout the 20th century, as factories closed or relocated and residents moved to the surrounding suburbs. Today, Holyoke’s population stands at about 40,000, and most of its industries are gone, along with many of the factory buildings that once lined the city’s canals.

Both Beebe & Holbrook and the Whiting Paper Company have long since gone out of business, and the Whiting mill in the first photo has been demolished. Part of the Beebe & Holbrook building is still standing on the left side, although the five-story section closest to Dwight Street has also been demolished. Closer to the foreground, both Parsons Hall and the Hotel Hamilton are still here, although both have been heavily altered. Each building has lost most of its upper floor, and the Hotel Hamilton is now abandoned.

Further up the hill, the Hotel Windsor was gone soon after the first photo was taken, when it was destroyed in a fire in 1899. It was replaced by a smaller commercial building that has also since been demolished, and today a parking garage stands on the site. Across the street, though, city hall is still there, and its tower is still a prominent landmark in the city skyline. Of all the buildings from the first photo, it is the only one that survives without any significant changes, and it remains in use by the municipal government more than 140 years after it was completed in 1875.

Flatiron Building, Holyoke, Mass

The corner of Main and Race Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

Long before the more famous Flatiron Building was built in New York City, Holyoke had one of its own. At only four stories, it was much shorter than the skyscraper in New York, but it was built on a similar triangular-shaped plot of land here at the corner of Main and Race Streets. It was completed sometime in the 1870s, and was originally owned by the Parsons Paper Company. Although formally known as the Parsons Block, it had acquired the nickname of the Flatiron Building by the early 1890s, a decade before the one in New York was completed.

The Parsons Paper Company was the oldest paper mill in the city, and had a factory a few blocks away on Gatehouse Road. The company rented space in the Flatiron Building to a variety of commercial tenants, including several stores on the ground floor. Among these was the C. E. Ball & Co. drugstore, which occupied the prominent storefront at the “point” of the building when the first photo was taken. The business later became the drugstore of Charles E. Bardwell, and was located here in this building during the early 20th century.

Also visible in the first photo, just above the second story windows, is a sign advertising the architectural firm of D. H. & A. B. Tower, which had its offices here in the building. The firm was comprised of brothers David H. and Ashley B. Tower, and they specialized in designing factories, including paper mills. Their works included many of the factory buildings here in Holyoke, but they also designed buildings across the country and internationally, with some as far away as Europe, Brazil, and India. The brothers were in business together from 1878 until 1892, when Ashley purchased his brother’s interest in the firm. He would continue to have his offices here in the building for several more years, but moved the firm to New York City in 1897. A sketch in Picturesque Hampden, published in 1892, provides a description of the offices here in Holyoke:

Mr. Tower’s office itself is one of the best possible for its purposes. It is located in what is known as the “Flatiron Block,” at the junction of Main and Race streets, a few rods from the Connecticut River railroad, and occupies the norther portion of the second story. On the eastern side, with entrance near the head of the stairway, is the suite of apartments occupied by Mr. Tower and his draughtsmen and assistants, beyond which is a private apartment or consultation room. A long-distance telephone is at hand in a convenient closet. The draughtsman’s room is on the west side of the block, into which one steps directly from the general offices, and is one of the finest apartments for the purpose imaginable.

In 1899, the Parsons Paper Company was acquired by the American Writing Paper Company, a trust that included many of the paper mills in Holyoke and elsewhere. The Flatiron Building became the corporate headquarters, and its offices were located here throughout the first half of the 20th century. During this time, American Writing Paper sought to compete with other paper trusts, including International Paper, which had been formed a year earlier in 1898. At one point, American Writing Paper produced about 75 percent of the country’s fine paper, but the company was ultimately plagued by many years of mismanagement and labor problems. Its offices remained here in this building until 1952, and by the 1960s the assets of the once-powerful company were liquidated.

Different sources give conflicting dates for when the Flatiron Building was demolished. This may have occurred in either the 1950s or 1960s, but, according to city records, the present-day building on the site was constructed in 1953, suggesting that the Flatiron Building was demolished soon after American Writing Paper relocated its offices. Today, very little is left from the first photo. The former location of the Flatiron Building is now the site of two nondescript one-story buildings, and most of the buildings on the left side of Main Street are also gone, except for a few in the distance near the corner of Dwight Street. Near the center of the photo is the Hotel Hamilton, which was also once owned by the Parsons Paper Company. The historic building is still standing, but it has been altered over the years, and it is now boarded up and abandoned.

Taber, Tilley, and Preston Blocks, Holyoke, Mass

A row of commercial buildings on the west side of High Street, between Dwight and Suffolk Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows High Street as it appeared around 1891, when Holyoke was at the peak of its prosperity as an industrial city. These commercial blocks had all been built only a few years earlier in the 1880s, and housed a variety of businesses and professional offices. The three most visible buildings in the center of the photo all featured ornate Romanesque Revival-style architecture, and formed a nearly symmetrical group, with many similarities between the buildings on the right and the left.

On the right side, closest to the camera in the first photo, was the the Preston Block, which was built in 1886. It was owned by Joseph S. Preston, a hatter who had a shop on the ground floor, and the upper floor tenants included the Childs Business College. According to its advertisement in the 1891 city directory, this school “Provides a thorough Business Education for Young Men and Women. Business men promptly supplied with Bookkeepers, Stenographers and Business Assistants. Sessions Day and Evening, from September to July.”

To the left of the Preston Block, in the center of the photo, was the Tilley Block. It was built in 1888 and was owned by John Tilley, who ran a furniture, carpet, and bedding store on the ground floor. Further to the left, on the other side of the Tilley Block, was the Taber Block, which was built around 1884. Its design was similar to the Preston Block, although somewhat shorter and with a brick facade instead of rusticated stone. When the first photo was taken, the storefront on the ground floor was occupied by Frank L. Taber, a jeweler and watchmaker.

Today, very little is left from the 1891 scene, although nearly all of these changes came within just a couple decades after the photo was taken. The first change came only a few years later, in 1899, when the one-story building on the far right was demolished and replaced by the Steiger’s department store. This Beaux Arts-style building was designed by prominent local architect George P. B. Alderman, and featured a light-colored exterior that contrasted with the darker brick of the older buildings in the scene. Two years later, in 1901, Albert Steiger purchased the adjoining Preston Block and expanded the store. It does not seem clear whether the Preston Block was demolished or simply incorporated into the Steiger’s building, but either way the stone facade of the Preston Block was replaced by one that matched the rest of the department store.

The trend toward Beaux Arts architecture continued around 1912, shortly after the Tilley Block was purchased by Thomas S. Childs. The building itself evidently survived, but the facade was rebuilt to match early 20th century architectural tastes, with a design that was also the work of Alderman. Childs was a shoe and hosiery dealer, and his store occupied the ground floor of the building, where Tilley’s furniture business had once been located. Like Steiger’s, the Childs shoe store would remain a fixture here in downtown Holyoke for many years, but it was gone by the early 1980s. Today, the ground floor still has a commercial tenant, but the three upper floors of the building are boarded up.

Of the three buildings in the center of the first photo, only the Taber Block survives relatively unchanged. Its neighbor to the left, the c.1890 Bishop Block, is also still standing from the first photo, although the exterior of the second floor has been rebuilt with new windows. Overall, though, this section of High Street has a remarkable number of historic commercial buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and these buildings are now part of the North High Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

High Street from Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking south on High Street from the corner of Dwight Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows the same section of High Street as an earlier post, just from the opposite end of the block, and the first photo above was taken around 15 years earlier than the one in that post. This photo dates back to around 1891, and shows the commercial center of Holyoke during the time when the city was reaching the peak of its prosperity as an industrial center. Just out of view to the left is city hall, and on the right side of High Street was a row of mostly three and four-story brick commercial buildings, each of which had awnings projecting from the ground-floor storefronts. The automobile was still several years away from large-scale production, but the unpaved street was busy with pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages, along with an electric trolley further in the distance.

Most of the buildings in the first photo were relatively new, dating back to around the 1870s and 1880s. The one in the foreground at the corner was perhaps the oldest, featuring Italianate architecture that contrasted with the far more ornate Romanesque Revival-style buildings beyond it. When the first photo was taken, it housed the drugstore of M. J. Griffin on the ground floor, with professional offices on the upper floors. These included a real estate agent whose signs advertised, among other things, “Houses on Large Lots Sold on East Terms of Payment.” Further down the street, other signs advertised for physicians, an attorney, a dentist, a bank, a hardware and cutlery store, and Childs Business College, which was painted on the side of a building in the distance.

Today, nearly all of the buildings in this scene are over a century old, but surprisingly few are still standing from the first photo. The two buildings closest to the foreground are actually still there, although they have been dramatically altered. By the early 20th century, the buildings had become home of the McAuslan and Wakelin department store, and in 1920 they were combined into a single building. They retained their original exteriors for a few more years, but in 1929-1930 the facades were reconstructed with a more modern design, including large windows and minimal ornamentation.

Just beyond the McAuslan and Wakelin building are two older brick buildings. Closer to the foreground is the Russell-Osborne Building, which dates back to around 1885. It once housed the hardware and cutlery shop from the first photo, but later housed a hosiery store and then a shoe store. At some point around the mid-20th century, the original Victorian-era exterior was hidden behind a plain aluminum facade, but this was removed by the 1980s, and today the building looks much as it did when the first photo was taken. To the left of it is the Mayberry Building, which dates back to around 1881. It originally had three stories, but was later expanded to four, and the facade has been heavily altered as well. Beyond it is a newer three-story building, which was constructed in 1912, replacing the earlier one that stood on the site in the first photo.

Probably the most historically significant building in the present-day scene is the Steiger’s building at 259-271 High Street, which is visible in the distance on the right side. It was built in 1899 to house the department store of Albert Steiger, a dry goods merchant who had previously operated a store in Port Chester, New York, before going into business here in Holyoke in 1896. He would later expand his company to include stores across southern New England, including a flagship store that opened in Springfield in 1906. The company would eventually go out of business in the 1990s, and the iconic Springfield store was demolished, but the ornate Classical Revival-style building in Holyoke is still standing here on High Street.

Further in the distance, there are at least two other buildings that still stand from the first photo, including the c.1884 Taber Block at 281-283 High Street and the c.1890 Bishop Block at 284-287 High Street. Overall, though, despite the many changes since the first photo was taken, this scene has remained well-preserved in its early 20th century appearance. The most recent major change to this scene came nearly 90 years ago, when the current facade was added to the building on the corner, and today these buildings are now part of the North High Street Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places.