James Hooker House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 118 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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James Hooker was born in Hartford in 1742, and was the great-great grandson of Thomas Hooker, the founder of Connecticut. Like other members of the Hooker family, he was a merchant, and was a partner in the firm of Hooker and Chaffee. This firm helped to provide supplies for the American soldiers during the American Revolution, and Hooker was commissioned as a captain in the Continental Army. He built this house around 1772, several years after the death of his first wife, Hannah Allin. He remarried in 1777 to Dolly Goodwin, and after her death in 1784 he remarried again, this time to Mary Chaffee. She was the daughter of Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee, who lived in the house next door, and was also the sister of John Chaffee, one of Hooker’s business partners.

Although the house itself dates back to the 18th century, it has seen significant alterations over the years. Many of the exterior architectural elements, including the entablature below the roof and the pilasters in the corners, were added around the 1840s, reflecting the Greek Revival tastes of the era. Likewise, little original material remains on the interior. By the time the first photo was taken, the house was part of the Chaffee School, and the interior had been completely gutted to accommodate space for classrooms. Despite these changes, though, the house remains historically significant. It is one of many 18th century homes in Windsor, and it is part of the Palisado Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hezekiah Chaffee House, Windsor, Connecticut

The Hezekiah Chaffee House at 108 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, on January 21, 1937. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee was born in 1731 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, and in the mid-1750s he moved to Windsor. Here, he married Lydia Griswold Phelps, a widow who was nine years older than him. He evidently prospered in his profession, because around 1765 he built this large, elegant home, directly opposite the green at the old town center on Palisado Avenue. Here, the Chaffees raised their five children: Hepsibah, Mary, Hezekiah, Jr., Esther, and John. They also had several slaves, with town records in 1791 indicating that an unnamed slave gave birth to a daughter, Betty Stevenson. At the time, slavery was legal in Connecticut, and would officially remain so until 1848, although gradual emancipation had reduced the number of slaves in the state to just a few dozen by then.

Perhaps the most notable event in the early history of the house came on November 4, 1774, when John Adams spent the night here while on his way back home from Philadelphia after the First Continental Congress. The future president kept a diary during the trip, primarily with brief daily accounts of where he ate and slept, along with occasional remarks about the character of his hosts. In his entry for “Fryday Novr. 4,” he mentioned that he dined in Hartford, and then “Lodged at Dr. Chafy’s in Windsor. Very cordially entertained.”

Dr. Chaffee lived here for the rest of his life, and also had his medical practice here in one of the ells of the home. His wife Lydia died in 1801, and he died in 1819, at the age of 88. The house went to his son, Hezekiah, Jr., who was also a physician. He died just two years later, but the house would remain in the Chaffee family for another century.

In 1926, the house became part of the Loomis Institute, a private school that had been founded 12 years earlier. Located a little north of the Loomis campus, the house became the Chaffee School, the girls-only counterpart to Loomis. It was in use by the school in 1937, when the first photograph was taken as part of Great Depression-era efforts to document historic buildings across the country. The two schools consolidated in 1970, forming the current Loomis-Chaffee School.

The house was subsequently sold to the town of Windsor, and it is operated by the Windsor Historical Society as a museum. More than 250 years after its completion, and despite several changes in use, the house remains well-preserved on both the interior and exterior. It is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Windsor, a town that features many historic 18th century homes. Because of this, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and it was subsequently designated as a contributing property in the Palisado Avenue Historic District, which also encompasses many of the other surrounding historic homes.

Home for Friendless Women, Springfield, Mass

The building at 136 William Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2017:

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Springfield was experiencing rapid growth in the 1860s. The Civil War had drawn many to work in the Armory and other factories that contributed to the war effort, and the city grew by 45 percent between 1860 and 1865. With an expanding population came more social problems, though, and in 1865 the Home for Friendless Women was established to provide temporary housing and services for needy women and children. Among the founders, and the organization’s first president, was Rachel Merriam, the wife of dictionary publisher Charles Merriam.

The original building was located on Union Street, directly behind the Merriams’ house on Howard Street. Among those who found shelter here were girls and women fleeing physical and sexual abuse, as well as “fallen women,” a Victorian euphemism for prostitutes. Despite its somewhat bleak-sounding name, the Home for Friendless Women provided much-needed services at a time when such assistance from the government was essentially unheard of, and it was the first charity of its type in the region.

By the late 1880s, the old Union Street building had become too small to meet the growing needs of the organization. After Charles Merriam’s death in 1887, Rachel donated her house on Howard Street. This became the new facility for a few years, but there was still a need for a new building, so in 1897 they opened a new building on William Street, which is seen here. Its design reflects the Colonial Revival style, which was coming into popularity at the end of the 19th century, and it was the work of local architects Benjamin R. Bushey and Guy Kirkham.

Over the years, the building provided shelter for women in a variety of situations. Census records during this time give an interesting snapshot of who was living here, and in 1900 there were ten residents, which included four elderly widows, four single girls in their teens or early twenties, and two young children. Ten years later, in 1910, there were 13 residents, most of whom were elderly and/or widowed. There was also a 36 year old single woman and her infant daughter, plus two teenaged girls and, rather curiously, a 13-year-old boy who does not appear to have been related to anyone else at the home. By the 1920s, it became known as the Home for Girls, and focused exclusively on serving unwed mothers and expectant mothers.

This facility was still in use when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, although overcrowding led the organization to move elsewhere in 1940. By this point, the South End had become largely Italian, and the building became the lodge for the Sons of Italy, an Italian-American fraternal organization. Although they no longer use the building, it is still standing, with few exterior changes, and it is an excellent example of institutional Colonial Revival architecture in the city. As for the Home for Friendless Women, the organization is now known as the Children’s Study Home, and continues to serve Springfield more than 150 years after Rachel Merriam helped to establish it.

Edwin S. Gardner House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 250 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Edwin S. Gardner was a lawyer who, for many years, lived in a fine house on Ridgewood Place. However, in 1928 he and his wife Harriet, along with their children Mary and Edwin, Jr., moved into this house. Designed by John Barnard and built at a cost of $48,000, it was a significant step up from their earlier home, not to mention the sweeping views of the city and the surrounding landscape. The Tudor Revival style was popular during this time period, and a number of such homes were built here on Maple Street. Many of them, including this one, are so well-designed that they seem as though they would fit in better on an English country estate than here in a New England city.

The Gardners did not remain in the house for to long, though. By the mid-1930s they had significantly downsized and were living elsewhere, perhaps as a result of the Great Depression. In their place, the house was owned by Ida Day, the widow of Robert W. Day, who had been the president of the United Electric Light Company. She lived here with her son Winsor and his wife Sarah, although Sarah died in 1938, around the time that the first photo was taken. Ida died in 1942, and Winsor left the house soon after and moved to the Forest Park neighborhood.

In 1977, the house became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Very little has changed with its exterior, and the house survived the June 1, 2011 tornado. Today, it stands among many other late 19th and early 20th century mansions that overlook the city from atop the hill.

Frederick Harris House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 270 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Frederick Harris and Emily Osborne were married in 1879, and shortly afterward they moved into this new house near the crest of the hill on Maple Street. Frederick was the son of Frederick H. Harris, a banker who came to Springfield in 1838 at the age of 15 and found work as a bank clerk. After a few years, he began working in the lumber industry, but later returned to banking as the cashier of Pynchon Bank. In 1864, he joined Springfield’s Third National Bank as cashier, and became the company president in 1886.

Emily, however, came from an even more prominent family. Originally from Auburn, New York, her father David was a prominent businessman and mayor, but her family was even better know for social activism. Her grandmother, Martha Coffin Wright, and her great aunt, Lucretia Coffin Mott, were both leaders of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, and her brother, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the warden of Sing Sing and an influential prison reform advocate. Her sister, Helen Osborne Storrow, was a wealthy philanthropist, and Helen’s husband was James Jackson Storrow II, a Boston businessman who briefly served as president of General Motors in the company’s early years.

The younger Frederick Harris followed his father’s footsteps as a banker, starting out as a messenger for Third National in 1871. He steadily advanced in the bank, though, and eventually became vice president and then president, succeeding his father after his death in 1911. In addition, he was also active politically, and served as an alderman and as a member of the school committee. When the house was completed, it was considerably smaller than its current appearance. The first major expansion came in 1886, followed by the addition of a ballroom in 1900, bringing the house to over 10,000 square feet of living space.

Frederick and Emily had two children, Florence and Helen, but they were hardly the only residents of this house. Like other wealthy families of the era, they regularly employed multiple servants who lived here. In the 1900 census, they had three, and by 1910 they had four: a housekeeper, waitress, cook, and laundress. Florence moved out after her marriage in 1907 to Frederic Jones, and the couple later moved into a nearby house on Maple Street. Like his father-in-law, Frederic Jones would later go on to serve as president of Third National Bank.

By 1920, Frederick and Emily were living here alone, aside from their army of servants. Frederick died in 1926, and two years later he was memorialized in the naming of the Frederick Harris School, an elementary school on Hartford Terrace in the East Forest Park neighborhood. Emily was still living here when the first photo was taken, and she died in 1940, some 60 years after she first moved in. Since then, the house has remained well-preserved on both the exterior and interior. It was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but was restored and remains as an important part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Captain James B. Hatch House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 210 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Most of Springfield’s wealthy 19th century residents earned their money through manufacturing, banking, insurance, or similar businesses. In this sense, James B. Hatch was somewhat of an exception. He was born in Springfield in 1815, but when he was 15 he left to become a sailor, starting out as a third mate before eventually becoming a ship captain and owner. On one of his early voyages as a third mate, one of the crew members was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who later wrote his famous memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, based on this journey. Dana mentioned Hatch several times throughout the book, writing that:

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, though only a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the next voyage, and rose soon to command some of the finest clippers in the California and India trade, under the new order of things,— a man of character, good judgment, and no little cultivation.

As a ship captain, Hatch made a number of voyages to and from California. The discovery of gold in 1848 was particularly profitable for Hatch, whose clipper ships transported prospectors and supplies to San Francisco in the ensuing years. There were challenges to captains like Hatch, though. The tantalizing lure of instant riches caused many sailors to desert upon reaching San Francisco, making it difficult to find enough crew members for the return voyage.

Captain Hatch retired in the early 1870s, and in 1874 he moved into this house on Maple Street. It was designed and built by Chauncey Shepard, a prolific master builder who was constructing the Loomis House next door at around the same time. Although its architecture is not a distinct as that of the Loomis House, the Hath House definitely matches its neighbor, with a similarly brick exterior and Gothic-style appearance.

Along with his wife Clarissa, Captain Hatch also lived here with their only child, Mabel. In 1879, she married Charles Tremain, a paper manufacturer from New York, but she died of complications from a pregnancy just two years later. To add to the tragedy, Clarissa died the following day. Her cause of death was listed as pneumonia, but her daughter’s untimely death was probably a contributing factor as well.

Captain Hatch lived here until his death in 1894, and the house was inherited by Charles Tremain. In the 1910 and 1920 censuses, it was owned by Clifford D. Castle, a grocer who also served on the Board of Aldermen for several years. Another former alderman, H. Goodman Waters, owned the house by 1930, but died shortly after the census was taken. His family continued living here for some time, but by 1940 it was being rented out for $75 per month.

When the first photo was taken, the house still had much of its original Gothic detail, including the decorative bargeboard under the gables of the roof. The bargeboard now gone, and there have been several other exterior alterations, including a one-story addition on the left side of the front. Like the rest of the neighborhood, the house was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but it survived and still stands as one of many 19th century mansions on Maple Street. Along with the other houses in the area, it is a contributing property in the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.