Maple Street, Springfield

The view looking down Maple Street toward State Street, between 1905 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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If the street network seems a little different here, it’s because it is.  When the first photo was taken, Maple Street and Chestnut Street (which are essentially the same road – they just switch names after crossing State Street) were together a major two-way, north-south road running along the top of the hill overlooking downtown.  Dwight Street was,  likewise, a major north-south road that ran from the North End until terminating at State Street.  However, in 1972, Dwight Street was extended diagonally up the hill to meet Maple Street, and turned into a one-way street carrying southbound traffic.  Maple/Chestnut, north of this intersection, then became a parallel, northbound one-way street.  South of here (the opposite direction of this photo), Maple Street is still a two-way road.

In any case, this is part of the reason why the left-hand side of this photo looks so dramatically different from the 1905-15 photo; the houses and apartment buildings were later demolished to make room for the extended Dwight Street.  The right-hand side of the street, however, remains essentially the same; the apartment building in the foreground is the most obvious, but there is also another building behind it, and the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Building barely visible at the corner of State and Maple.

The other major change between the two photos is the massive 34-story Chestnut Park apartment building, which was built between Dwight and Chestnut Streets on State Street.  It is the third-tallest building in Springfield and the tallest residential building.

St. Michael’s Cathedral, Springfield

The view of St. Michael’s Cathedral, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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From the same spot in 2013:

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The tree is somewhat blocking it, but St. Michael’s Cathedral is still there today, looking as good as it did when it was built in the 1860’s.  It was the first Roman Catholic church in Springfield, and it is currently the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts, which covers all four counties in Western Massachusetts.  The 1908 photo shows the church and the rectory, both of which still exist, but it also shows St. Luke’s Sanitarium, to the left of the church, which no longer exists.  Note, however, the break in the curb along the sidewalk that once led to the building.

On an arborist note, the short but wide tree on the far right of the 2013 photo appears to be the same one in the 1908 photo.  In addition, this may be pure conjecture, but the tree that now all but obscures the church from this angle appears to be visible in the 1908 photo.  There is a young sapling that is barely noticeable in the photo, and it appears to be in the same location as the present-day tree.  The current tree looks like it could be around 100 years old – could it be the same tree?

Corner of State & Maple, Springfield

The corner of State Street and Maple Street in Springfield, between 1900 and 1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same street corner in 2013:

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These photos were taken from the opposite side of State Street from the photos in this post, and show some of the changes that the Quadrangle area has undergone in the past 100+ years.  Some things remain – Christ Church Cathedral and the statue of Samuel Chapin are the two obvious ones.  Even minor details such as the short, bowling pin-looking granite posts on either side of the sidewalks are still there.  But, the big difference, aside from the traffic lights and complete lack of cobblestone in the 2013 photo, is the main Springfield Library building.

The library building in the early 20th century photo was built in the 1860’s as the first public library in Springfield.  Very shortly after this photo was taken, however, construction began on the new library (this happened in 1909, thus establishing the upper limit of the date range for the photo).  But, rather than demolishing the old structure, and to allow the library to function while the new building was being constructed, the old one was moved directly back, into the present-day Quadrangle.  The new library was dedicated in 1912, and the books were moved to the old one.  Whether the old building was demolished right after that, or whether it was used for something else in the intervening years, I don’t know at this time.

Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.

Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2014 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.

Railroad Arch, Springfield

Looking north toward the Boston & Albany Railroad arch over Main Street in Springfield, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The railroad arch in 2018:

 

For many years, there was no bridge over Main Street, forcing the busy rail line to cross the busy road at grade.  Finally, in 1890, the stone arch was built, and survives to this day, even when none of the other buildings from the first decade of the 20th century have.  See the 1882 photo in this post for a view of Main Street before the arch was built.

Massasoit House, Springfield

The Massasoit House in Springfield, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated by James D. Gill (1882)

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The same scene around 1908, with the stone railroad arch in the distance. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2017:

 

This scene on Main Street in Springfield was prime real estate when the first two photos were taken.  The hotel building in those photos, the Massasoit House, opened in 1843, right next to the railroad depot (the building partially hidden by a tree in the right-center of the 1882 photo), just four years after the railroad came to Springfield.  It was the perfect place for a hotel, because the railroad depot made this location the transportation hub of the city, and the Massasoit House had its share of notable guests over the years, including Charles Dickens, Daniel Webster, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, and Jefferson Davis.  However, in 1926 the building was sold and turned into the Paramount Theatre.  Most of the structure was demolished, but there are a few surviving sections of the original 1843 building.

One thing lacking in the 1882 photo is the iconic stone arch, which wasn’t built until 1890.  It helped to alleviate congestion on Main Street by elevating the railroad, and it also coincided with the opening of a new Union Station just a short walk away on Lyman Street.  By the 1908 photo, the railroad arch is there, and the scene captures an interesting combination of transportation modes.  Along with the railroad in the distance, it shows trolleys alongside a roughly equal number of automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, during the period of transition from draft animals to internal combustion engines.  Today, as seen in the 2014 photo, buses have replaced the trolleys, and automobiles clearly won out over horses; not a single horse-drawn carriage is to be seen on Main Street anymore.