Corner of Main & State Streets, Springfield

The northeast corner of Main and State in Springfield, sometime in the 19th century.  Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The same location, around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The corner in 2014:

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Many of these Springfield street scenes follow a predictable pattern over the past 150 years or so – first, a pre-Civil War Federal style commercial block, followed by a larger, more ornate building in the latter part of the 19th century, and finally some sort of modern, 20th century structure.  In this case, we clearly see all three generations of commercial development at the corner of Main and State, culminating with the MassMutual Center of the 1970s.  Of particular interest is the building in the second photo – above the entrance is a sign that reads “G. & C. Merriam & Co Publishers,” the publishers of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Today, the company is still headquartered in Springfield, just up the hill on Federal Street.  See this post and this post for a few other angles of the neighborhood that is now the MassMutual Center.

Chicopee Bank Building, Springfield

The Chicopee Bank Building, at the corner of Main and Elm, sometime before 1889.  Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, between 1889 and 1895. Photo courtesy of James Ward Birchall Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The original building was built in 1835, at the same time as the other three-story commercial buildings on and around Court Square. It was demolished in 1889 and replaced by the current structure, which survives with minimal changes. The building to the left, however, has been trimmed down in height. On the other side, along Elm Street, the 1835 Byers Block survives as a remnant of what the old Chicopee Bank building once looked like.

Corner of Dwight and Sanford Streets, Springfield

The building that once stood at the corner of Dwight and Sanford Streets. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The location in 2014:

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As seen in today’s photo, the buildings in the first photo don’t exist anymore, and in fact neither does the street on the right, Sanford Street. The first photo shows two different 17th century houses: the old Nathaniel Ely Tavern in the foreground, built in 1660, and the Margaret Bliss House just beyond it, built around 1695. Obviously both buildings are long gone. I don’t know when they were demolished, but it is safe to say they were gone before the MassMutual Center was built in the 1970’s.

Court Square, Springfield (6)

Springfield’s Court Square, sometime in the 1880s or earlier. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in the 1890s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The three photos show the progression of the appearance of Court Square in the past 125+ years. In the first photo, the buildings along Elm Street are all 1830’s-era three story commercial buildings, most of which were replaced by the Court Square Theater in 1892, which can be seen in the second photo, a rare view of the building before the 1900 expansion on the right side. That is essentially the only change between the second photo and today’s scene – not much has changed with the four major buildings in this angle. One notable survivor on the far left is the Byers Block, which was built in 1835 and is the last remaining part of the Elm Street commercial blocks from the first photo. Wedged in between two much larger late 19th century building, it is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, although not the oldest building in the photo – Old First Church on the far right dates to 1819.

Arcade Theatre, Springfield

The Arcade Theatre on State Street in Springfield, around 1933. Photo courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

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The same scene in 2012:

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The building in the foreground of the 1933 photo is the Arcade Theatre, which opened two years earlier.  The marquee advertises the film College Humor, a Bing Crosby comedy that was released in July of 1933, hence giving the approximate date of the photo.  The theater closed in 1971, and was demolished a year later to allow for Dwight Street to be extended up the hill to Maple Street.  This enabled Dwight Street and Maple/Chestnut Streets to function as a one-way pair to help with traffic around the newly-built Civic Center (now the MassMutual Center, barely visible on the far right of the 2012 photo).  The building in the center of the photo is the Epiphany Tower, which is being renovated to become a Holiday Inn Express.  Several other buildings that still exist are the c.1893 old Masonic Building at the corner of State and Main (with the green tower) and 1200 Main Street just beyond it, which was built in 1908.

Notice also the road itself – 1933 seems like a rather late date for a major road in Springfield – at the time it was part of Route 20 – to be paved with cobblestone, but apparently that was the case.  Notice the trolley tracks as well, and the trolley in the distance – very different from the PVTA buses that now navigate the streets of Springfield.

Court Square Theater, Springfield

Springfield’s Court Square Theater, as it appeared between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

 

The Court Square Theater was built in 1892, and substantially expanded in 1900.  Originally, the building was symmetrical, but the 1900 addition gave the building an extra five rows of windows on the front facade, and also extended the right-hand side of the building all the way back to State Street.  A photo on this blog shows a rare glimpse of the building prior to the expansion.  The other two buildings visible along Court Square are the the 1835 Byers Block, and the 1889 Chicopee Bank Building.  Neither buildings have changed much in appearance since the first photo was taken.

Right now, the Court Square Theater building stands vacant.  The theater section itself (not visible) was demolished in 1957, and there have been various proposals for restoring the building, but so far none have begun.