Herbert Stearns House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 92 Magnolia Terrace in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1902, as one of the many upscale homes constructed in Springfield at the turn of the 20th century, in order to meet the needs of the city’s growing population of upper middle class residents. Situated on Magnolia Terrace, one of the most desirable streets in the Forest Park neighborhood, this house was originally the home of insurance agent Herbert Stearns and his newlywed wife Mary. Originally from Connecticut, Herbert came to Springfield with his older brother Edwin, and the two started Stearns Brothers, an insurance agency with offices in the Fuller Building, at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets. Early in their business they represented Travelers Insurance, but they were later affiliated with Aetna and several other insurance companies.

Herbert and Mary Stearns lived here until about 1918, but by 1919 the house was owned by Forest L. Mather, who lived here with his wife Caroline and their three children. Mather was an executive for the American Brush Manufacturing Company, which was located on Main Street in downtown Springfield, and he and his family lived here until the late 1920s, when they moved to Manchester, New Hampshire. The house was vacant for several years afterwards, but by the early 1930s it was the home of James L. Durfee, a dairy equipment salesman. However, by about 1936 it was the home of Horace Quimby, a manager at Massachusetts Mutual who lived here with his wife Mary.

The Quimby family was living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they remained here until about 1956 when they sold the house. By this point, Quimby was still working for Massachusetts Mutual, with the city directory listing him as assistant agency secretary. Since then, very little has changed with his former house, and it remains a well-preserved example of Colonial Revival architecture. Even the exterior materials – with clapboards on the first floor and shingles on the upper floors – are still the same, although the current paint scheme does not make this difference very noticeable. Today, like the other surrounding houses, it is part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

James P. Caldwell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 102 Magnolia Terrace in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This Colonial Revival-style home was built in 1903, and was one of the many upscale houses developed in the Forest Park neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century. It was originally owned by James P. Caldwell, a conductor for the Boston & Maine Railroad, who was about 47 at the time and lived here with his wife Edna and their three children: Edgar, Edna, and Eugene. The family was still living here during the 1910 census, and by this point Edgar was working as a bookkeeper for a paper company, while his twin sister Edna was a stenographer for the United Electric Light Company.

Around 1913, the Caldwell family moved out of this house, which was sold to George G. Bulkley, the assistant secretary of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company. Originally from Connecticut, Bulkley moved to Springfield in 1912 after taking the position with Springfield Fire and Marine, and he and his wife Caroline moved into this house with their five children: George, Charles, Chester, James, and Caroline. In the years that followed, Bulkley steadily moved up the ranks of the insurance company, becoming vice president in 1917 and president in 1924. Along with this, he was also a director in a number of local corporations, including the Holyoke Water Power Company, the Springfield Street Railway, and the Third National Bank.

Their daughter Caroline died in 1921, when she was just eight years old, but their four sons all lived to adulthood. The three oldest followed their father into the insurance business while their youngest, James, became an attorney. By the 1930 census, only James was still living here with his parents, and a few years later they moved to a house nearby at 432 Longhill Street, on a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. During this time, George Bulkley continued to serve as president of Springfield Fire and Marine, and he would hold this position for a total of sixteen years before his death in 1940, at the age of 69.

In the meantime, this house on Magnolia Terrace remained in the Bulkley family even after George and Caroline moved out. When the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, their son Chester was renting the house, paying $50 a month and living here with his wife Helen and their daughters Janet and Ann. The house would stay in the family until 1949, and it has remained well-preserved since then. The only significant difference today is the front porch, which was enclosed in the first photo. However, this was almost certainly not original to the house, and today its appearance, with the open front porch, is probably closer to its 1903 design than it was when the first photo was taken.

Main Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Main Street from near the corner of Pynchon Street in Springfield, sometime around 1900-1905. Image courtesy of the James Ward Birchall Collection.

The scene in 2017:

When the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, Springfield was a prosperous, rapidly-growing city, and this section of Main Street was the heart of its downtown shopping district. Major department stores included Forbes & Wallace – whose original building is seen second from the left in the first photo – and W. D. Kinsman, located further in the distance at the corner of Bridge Street. In 1906, a few years after the first photo was taken, these stores would also be joined by another competitor, Steiger’s, which opened its flagship store a couple blocks north of here at the corner of Hillman Street.

Along with large department stores, this scene also included smaller, specialized retailers. On the far right was D. H. Bingham & Co., a clothing store that had opened here in 1867 in a building previously occupied by the offices of the Springfield Republican. Other early 20th century stores in the foreground included Johnson’s Bookstore, which was located next to D. H. Bingham, and the W. J. Woods Co., another clothing store located further in the distance at the corner of Main Street and Harrison Avenue. The scene also featured several hotels, including most prominently the Haynes Hotel on the left side in the foreground.

Most of the buildings in the first photo were built in the late 19th century, during a period of rapid growth that saw Springfield’s population double roughly every 20 years. However, very few of the buildings along this section of Main Street are still standing today, aside from the Haynes Hotel on the left and several of the buildings on the right in the foreground. The old Forbes & Wallace building is gone, along with its early 20th century replacement, and today Monarch Place occupies the site. Further in the distance, the Tower Square skyscraper now fills the entire block between Boland Way and Bridge Street, and there are no other 19th century buildings on the left side until the Fort Block, which is barely visible more than four blocks away, in the distant center of the photo.

Main & Hampden Streets, Springfield, Mass

The northwestern corner of Main and Hampden Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

According to city records, the present-day building at this site dates back to 1909, which, if accurate, means that it is the same building in both photos. This is entirely possible, especially since both the size of the building and its window arrangement are very similar to the one in the first photo, but at the very least it has undergone dramatic changes over the years. When the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the ground floor was occupied by Whelan Drugs, along with a bake shop on the right side, while the upper floor tenants included professional offices such as City Optitians and City Dentists.

Assuming the present-day building is the same one from the first photo, it has had significant renovations that have entirely obscured its original appearance, including very different exterior materials. In particular, the first floor has been heavily altered, and now has a recessed entrance in place of the old storefront. The right side of the building has been incorporated into newer construction, and today the only recognizable feature from the scene in the first photo is the Paramount Theater, which is partially visible in the distant right of both photos.

Boston and Albany Railroad Offices, Springfield, Mass

The Boston and Albany Railroad offices, just north of the railroad tracks on Main Street in Springfield, around 1870-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Henry H. Richardson was one of the most influential architects in American history, and helped to establish what became known as the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture. Along the way, he designed churches, government buildings, libraries, railroad stations, and private homes, but he began his career here in Springfield, where he received his first commission in 1866. Although originally from Louisiana, Richardson had graduated from Harvard, where his friends included James A. Rumrill, Jr.. a Springfield resident who later married the daughter of Chester W. Chapin. Chapin, a railroad and banking executive, was among the richest men in the city, and he was also a prominent member of the Church of the Unity. Through this connection Richardson able to enter a design competition for a new church building, and his plans were ultimately selected, giving him his first commission and helping to establish his career as an architect.

Even before the Church of the Unity was completed, Richardson’s connection to Chapin helped him to obtain several more commissions here in Springfield. Among other business interests, Chapin was the president of the Western Railroad, and in 1867 Richardson was hired – without any competition – to design a building for the railroad’s headquarters here in Springfield, directly adjacent to the city’s railroad station. The result was a granite, Second Empire-style building, with a design that bore more resemblance to the fashionable townhouses of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood than to an office building. Although hardly an architectural masterpiece, it reflected Richardson’s training at the École des Beaux Arts in France, and it showed his abilities in designing commercial structures.

Shortly after Richardson received his commission in 1867, the Western Railroad merged with the Boston and Worcester, forming the Boston and Albany Railroad, with Chapin as its president. The building was completed two years later as offices for the new railroad, and was ideally situated at the midpoint of the line, 98 miles from Boston and 102 miles from Albany by rail. Chapin went on to serve as president of the railroad for the next decade, with the line serving as an important link between Boston and the rest of the country. In 1900, it was acquired by the New York Central, but retained its separate Boston and Albany branding for many years. This building continued to be used as offices well into the 20th century, but it was finally closed in 1926 and was demolished soon after.

Many years later, this site was again used for transportation when, in 1969, the Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Lines built its terminal here. Established in 1933 by Peter C. Picknelly, Peter Pan became a major intercity bus company in the northeast, and it has remained in the Picknelly family ever since. Peter’s son, Peter L. Picknelly, served as the company chairman from 1964 until his death in 2004, and building, which also served as the terminal for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses, was named in his honor in 2005. However, in 2017, shortly after the first photo was taken, both Peter Pan and the PVTA moved across Main Street to the newly-restored Union Station, and the long-term future of this site seems uncertain at this point.

Old Union Station, Springfield, Mass

The old railroad station on Main Street in Springfield, around 1870-1885. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Railroads first came to Springfield in 1839, with the opening of the Western Railroad from Worcester to Springfield, and the line terminated here at a wooden, Egyptian Revival-style railroad station on the west side of Main Street. The railroad was later extended west through the Berkshires, and Springfield became an important midway point on the route between Boston and Albany. The original station stood here for 12 years, but in 1851 it was destroyed in a fire after sparks from a passing locomotive ignited the building.

A new station was soon built on the same site, as seen in the first photo. Like the first station, trains passed directly through the building, although this one was less flammable, having been built with brick and iron. Architecturally, this new station was unremarkable, resembling a large shed rather than a grand union station, but it was designed by railroad engineer George William Whistler, the older brother of the famous painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Their father, George Washington Whistler, had briefly lived in Springfield in the early 1840s, and had been the chief engineer of the Western Railroad during the construction of route through the Berkshires.

The new station was joined in the late 1860s by a new office building for the Western Railroad, which was located just north of the station on the right side of the first photo. A striking architectural contrast compared to the plain railroad station, this granite Second Empire-style building was one of the earliest works of Henry H. Richardson, who would go on to become one of the most important architects in American history. Although very different from his later Romanesque Revival buildings, this design reflected his education in France’s École des Beaux Arts, and it helped to establish him as a notable architect.

In 1867, around the same time that Richardson received his commission for the building, the Western Railroad merged with the Boston and Worcester Railroad, forming the Boston and Albany Railroad. Both the station and the office building became part of the new railroad, but by this point it was obvious that the station, less than 20 years old, was already obsolete. As a union station, it served not just the Boston and Albany, but also the Connecticut River Railroad, and the Hartford and New Haven Railroad. Because of this, essentially all rail traffic from the four cardinal directions had to pass through this station, and Springfield’s rapidly growing population was straining the station’s capacity.

Along with overcrowding, the station’s location also caused problems, since the railroad tracks crossed Main Street just to the east of the station, as seen in the first photo. The busy railroad traffic meant that the Main Street crossing gates were closed as often as they were open, with an 1872 observer noting that the gates closed 66 times during one four-hour span from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This  caused a significant disruption to the busy pedestrian, carriage, and trolley traffic in downtown Springfield, but the problem persisted for several decades, with neither the city nor the Boston and Albany Railroad wanting to pay the expense of lowering the grade of Main Street or raising the grade of the railroad.

Because of this impasse, the old station remained in use well into the 1880s, since the railroad was unwilling to build a new station until the tracks were raised above street level. It was not until February 1888 that the two sides reached a compromise, with the railroad agreeing to spend $200,000 to raise the tracks and build a stone arch over Main Street, while the city would spend $84,000 to lower Main Street by four feet, and would settle any damage claims by adjacent property owners. Most significantly, though, this project meant the construction of a new railroad station, which would be built across the street from here on the east side of Main Street.

The old railroad station was demolished in the spring of 1889, but the platforms and two waiting rooms were left standing until the new station opened in July. Like the older railroad office building, the new station was based on the designs of Henry H. Richardson, although he died before construction began, and his successors made some significant alterations to his original plans. The entire project was finished once the railroad arch was completed in 1890, finally eliminating the long-problematic grade crossing on Main Street.

Despite all of these changes, the Boston and Albany office building remained standing well into the 20th century, and continued to be used even after the railroad was acquired by the New York Central in 1900. The building was finally demolished in the late 1920s, around the same time as the 1889 railroad station. Despite being less than 40 years old, this station had become obsolete as quickly as its predecessor, and in 1926 it was replaced by the current Union Station on the same site. However, the stone arch is still here, and still serves as an important downtown landmark on Main Street.