Oliver Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking east on Oliver Street from the corner of High Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

Oliver Street in 2017:

The city of Holyoke became a major manufacturing center in the second half of the 19th century, and among the early corporations here was the Lyman Mills, a cotton company that was established in 1854. The mills themselves were located at the foot of this hill, between the First and Second Level Canals, but the company also built over 200 tenements here on the hill for worker housing. The tenements appear to have been built sometime in the 1850s, and they consisted of brick rowhouses that lined both sides of Oliver and Hampden Streets, as well as the south side of Lyman Street and the west side of Front Street.

The Lyman Mills still owned these tenements when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. Like most of the other mills in Holyoke, the company relied heavily on immigrant labor, and during the 1900 census, the residents of these Oliver Street tenements were almost entirely Polish immigrants. The census records show a mix of jobs within the cotton mill, with carders and weavers being the most common, and each tenement building typically housed about four to five families, with many families also taking in boarders. For example, the tenement at 24 Oliver Street, the furthest one up the hill on the right side (not counting the Fuller Building on the far right) had four families, with a total of 33 residents, including boarders. All of them, except for the young children, were immigrants, and most had arrived in the United States only a few years earlier.

The Lyman Mills tenements were later owned by the Whiting Paper Company, and they remained in use until the 1930s. However, by this point the neighborhood was deemed to be a slum, and the tenement houses were among some 2,800 Holyoke houses that were found to be substandard in a 1938 survey. As a result, the city demolished the entire area between John and Lyman Streets and redeveloped it as a public housing project, with the newly-established United States Housing Authority paying for 90 percent of the project’s $1.8 million construction costs. The bricks from the old tenement buildings were saved, though, and were incorporated into the construction of the new buildings.

This New Deal-era housing project is still standing here today, and the buildings are still owned by the Holyoke Housing Authority. Further in the distance, many of the former Lyman Mills factory buildings are still standing along the canals, but in the foreground the only building remaining from the first photo is the Fuller Building on the far right side of the photo. This building was probably built in the 1850s, around the same time as the old tenements, and today it bears a badly-faded Coca-Cola ad that is painted onto the brick wall.

High Street from Oliver Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on High Street from near Oliver Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, this section of High Street was developed in the second half of the 19th century as one of the primary commercial centers in Holyoke. Most of the buildings in this scene date to around the 1860s and 1870s, but perhaps the oldest is the Fuller Building, visible on the far right of the scene at the corner of Oliver Street. It was built sometime before 1863, probably around the early 1850s, and is a rare example of Greek Revival architecture in a city that is largely dominated by Italianate-style commercial blocks.

Just beyond the Fuller Building, on the other side of Oliver Street, is the four-story Hutchins House, which was built in 1878. Around the time that the first photo was taken, it was being used as a boarding house, with several stores on the ground floor, including a dress and cloak maker as well as a dry goods store. Just beyond this building is a row of five matching Italianate-style blocks, all of which were built sometime around 1870. The Hutchins House has since been demolished, and the site is now a small parking lot, but the other five buildings are all still standing with few exterior changes since the first photo was taken.

Likewise, the buildings on the left side of the photo also date back to around the 1860s and 1870s, and most of the ones in the foreground still survive, although the one on the far left of the first photo appears to have either been demolished or trimmed down to one story. Otherwise, the only significant change in this scene is further in the distance, beyond Lyman Street. Originally, High Street continued north for two more blocks beyond Lyman Street, ending at the present-day Pulaski Park, but these buildings were demolished in the 1970s as part of an urban renewal project, and today the Echo Hill Townhouses are located on the site.

High Street from Hampden Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on High Street from the corner of Hampden Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke was developed into a major industrial center starting in the mid-19th century, and a number of factories were built along the city’s network of canals. Around the same time, two commercial districts were developed to serve the needs of the rapidly-growing population, with one along Main Street at Depot Square and the other one here, a few blocks up the hill on High Street. The commercial blocks here on this section of High Street were primarily built between the 1850s and 1870s, and nearly all are brick, typically with four stories. In the 125 years since the first photo was taken, this street scene has remained remarkably well-preserved, with few significant changes since the first photo was taken.

The most visible building in this scene is the W. L. Martin Block, which was built around 1860 at the corner of High and Hampden Streets. Its design is typical of the earlier commercial buildings in Holyoke, with a relatively plain exterior that contrasts with the more ornate styles of later decades. Just beyond it is the two-story Fuller’s Block, which was built in 1857 by John Fuller, a developer whose property included this building as well as the rest of the lots between here and Oliver Street. Around 1870 he built the one-story buildings near the center of the first photo; these are still standing, although hidden from view by trees in the 2017 photo. Fuller also built the large, gable-roofed building at the corner of Oliver Street. It was completed no later than 1863, and probably as early as the 1850s, making it among the oldest surviving commercial buildings in downtown Holyoke.

Today, nearly all of the buildings in the foreground of this scene are still standing. Everything beyond Lyman Street, which is barely visible two blocks in the distance, was demolished in the 1970s as part of an urban renewal project, but south of Lyman Street very little has changed. The only noticeable loss on the right side of the street in this section is the Hutchins House, which is visible in the distance just to the left of the center of the first photo. Demolished sometime in the late 20th century, this building has not been replaced, and there is now a small parking lot on the site. Otherwise, the rest of the buildings are still standing, and these blocks of High Street are now part of the North High Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Mosher Street from Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking east on Moster Street from the corner of Main Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The railroad bridge in the foreground is located just south of Holyoke’s historic railroad station, and carries the Connecticut River Railroad over Mosher Street. This railroad line, which was acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad soon after the first photo was taken, is the primary north-south railroad route through western Massachusetts, linking the major cities and towns of the Connecticut River Valley with Vermont to the north and Connecticut to the south.

Several blocks away in the distance of the first photo is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was built in 1887 at the northeast corner of Mosher and West Streets. It was one of many Catholic churches built in Holyoke during this time, and both the church and its parish school served the large numbers of Catholic immigrants who came to Holyoke as mill workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first pastor of the church, Michael J. Howard, died in 1888, only a year after the church building was completed, and he was succeeded by Thomas D. Beaven, who served the parish until 1892, when he became bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.

Today, only the railroad itself still exists from the first photo. The church was demolished in 1976, and the rest of the buildings between the railroad and the church are also gone. A large apartment building now dominates the left side of the 2017 photo, and the surrounding streets now consist primarily of modern duplexes, interspersed by occasional historic buildings. The old railroad station, just out of view to the left, is still standing, although it has been vacant for many years. Passenger rail was recently restored to Holyoke, with Amtrak’s Vermonter now running through the city, although it currently uses a small platform located a block south of here at Dwight Street, instead of the abandoned 19th century station.

Main Street from Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Main Street from the corner of Dwight Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

These two photos, taken 125 years apart, show some of the dramatic changes that the city of Holyoke has experienced in the intervening years. When the first photo was taken, Holyoke was among the world’s leading producers of paper, and at its peak the city had more than two dozen paper mills along its extensive canal system. The resulting influx of factory workers led to a dramatic increase in the city’s population, from under 5,000 in 1860 to over 35,000 in 1890, and the first photo shows a busy Main Street, filled with trolleys, horse-drawn carriages, and pedestrians.

The commercial buildings on the right side of Main Street show a mix of late 19th century architectural styles, and are predominantly brick with three or four stories. Probably the oldest building on the right side of the first photo is the Perkins Block, which dates back to about 1870 and was, in later years, known as the Hotel Jess. Its Italianate design was typical of the era, and it includes cast iron ornamentation that has remained well-preserved over the years. Just beyond it is another, somewhat shorter Italianate building, which was built in the mid-1880s. It lacks the cast iron on the exterior, but it has a similar bracketed cornice at the top of the building. The only other building still standing on the right side of the street from the first photo is the narrow, four-story building in the center, which was built around 1883 and has seen few exterior changes since then.

Otherwise, all of the other buildings on this side of the street have either been replaced by newer ones or are now vacant lots. Perhaps the most notable of these lost buildings is the Whiting Street Building at 32 Main Street, the four-story granite building just to the left of the center of the first photo. Completed in 1885, it was owned by Whiting Street, a prominent landowner for whom the Whiting Street Reservoir is named. By the time the first photo was taken, the building was the home of the recently-established American Pad and Paper Company. Now known as Ampad, this company is still a major producer of writing pads and other paper products, although it has long since relocated its headquarters out of Holyoke.

The only building visible on the left side of the first photo is the Holyoke House, which was later known as the Hotel Hamilton. Built in 1878, it was significantly expanded over the years and is still standing, although it has lost its top floor. Like many of the buildings across the street, it is now abandoned, and today the scene of boarded-up storefronts, vacant lots, and a deserted Main Street contrasts sharply with the photo taken at the same site in the 1890s.

Crescent Hill, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Crescent Hill, from near the corner of Pine Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Crescent Hill is, as its name suggests, a curved ridgeline just to the southeast of downtown Springfield, near the corner of Maple and Pine Streets. Today, the area consists of several historic houses on two discontinuous streets named Crescent Hill, but it was originally developed in the second half of the 19th century as one of the city’s most desirable residential areas. The first house here was the Mills-Stebbins Villa, which was completed in 1851, and by the time the first photo was taken Crescent Hill consisted of seven large houses, all of which were connected by a network of paths such as this one.

The first view shows one of these houses, which is visible in the distance at the end of the road. Both it and the carriage house, which is seen on the left side of the photo, were completed in 1865, and were designed by the prominent New York architect Calvert Vaux. It was one of the finest homes ever built in Springfield, and enjoyed views overlooking the city and surrounding countryside from the top of the hill. Shortly after its completion, the house was mentioned in the 1866-1867 city directory, which gave the following description:

It stands on a sight which commands one of the finest outlooks on the Connecticut Valley, and the genius of its architect has let it every exterior grace and interior comfort to correspond with the beauty and quiet of of its location. The house is of brick, red mortar being used, with wooden cornices painted and sanded in the same color as Nova Scotia stone. The outside trimmings are elegantly moulded in graceful designs. The porch is inlaid with bay, butternut, and pine, unpainted. There is no paint in the interior of the house, but each compartment is finished with an ingenious arrangement of contrasted woods; as, for instance, mahogany is the prevailing wood in the library, black walnut and red cedar in the parlor and dining-room, butternut in the hall, kitchen and pantries. All the upper chambers are finished in black walnut and butternut. There are some exquisite frescoes to add to the charm of the interior, done in taste by Mohr of New York. The plans were designed by Vaux of New York. C. S. Ferry of this city did the wood-work, and R. Harrington the masonry. The building was commenced in the summer of 1864, and completed in September, 1865.

The original owner of this house was George E. Howard, an industrialist who was a partner in Howard & Bros., a firm that, according to the 1872 city directory, sold railroad and car builders’ supplies. However, the company later specialized in cotton waste, and by the late 19th century Howard was the president and treasurer of the Springfield Waste Company, which also dealt in cotton waste.

George Howard moved into this house with his wife Elizabeth, but she died of tuberculosis in 1869, at the age of 39. By the following year, George was living here alone in this house except for two servants, and the census listed his real estate value at $50,000, plus a personal estate valued at $100,000, for a total net worth of nearly $3 million in today’s dollars. He remarried in 1877, to Alice S. Graves. At 24 years old, she was less than half the age of the 52-year-old George Howard, and they had two children, George and Anna.

The Howard family lived here until the late 1880s, when they moved to a house nearby at 165 Mill Street. Their house here on Crescent Hill was later purchased by H. Curtis Rowley, the treasurer of the dictionary publishing company G. & C. Merriam. Rowley’s wife, Thirza J. Merriam, was the daughter of company president Homer Merriam, and her uncles, George and Charles, had been the original founders of the company. The Rowleys moved into this house around 1893, and by the 1900 census they were living here with their two sons, Harold and Arthur, plus H. Curtis Rowley’s sister Harriet and two servants.

At some point, either before or during the Rowley’s ownership, the house was named Wyndhurst. They purchased the property about the same time that the first photo was taken, and several years later they hosted president William McKinley, who visited the house with his wife Ida in 1899. Although more than 30 years old at this point, the 23-room mansion was still among the finest in the city, and the Rowleys continued to live here until around 1917, when they moved to a comparatively modest house at 24 Oxford Street.

In 1917 the Rowleys sold Wyndhurst to Alfred H. Chapin, the president and treasurer of the Moore Drop Forge Company. Chapin subsequently demolished the house and built a new, even larger house on the property. However, this house did not last for very long, ultimately falling victim to the Great Depression. It was demolished around 1940, and the site was vacant for many years, until it was finally redeveloped in the late 1980s with a condominium building. Named the Wyndhurst Condominiums, it is barely visible in the distance of the present-day photo. Also visible in the photo is the original 1860s Wyndhurst carriage house, which still stands on the left side of the scene. The only remaining feature from the first photo, survived the demolition of both houses on the property, and it has since been converted into a single-family residence.