Hotel Hamilton, Holyoke, Mass

The Hotel Hamilton, formerly known as the Holyoke House, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The building in 2017:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this hotel was built in 1850 as the Holyoke House, and was part of Holyoke’s early development into a major manufacturing center. It originally consisted of just the Dwight Street side of the building, and was only five window bays deep along the Main Street side to the right. However, it underwent a major expansion in 1889-1890, with a Queen Anne-style addition to the rear of the building, on the far right side of the 1891 photo. This section was the work of noted local architect James A. Clough, and it featured a design that contrasted with the less ornate style of the original building.

The renovations also involved a name change, and the Holyoke House became the Hotel Hamilton. The first photo was taken only about a year later, and shows the building as it appeared during the height of Holyoke’s prosperity as an industrial city. By this point, the hotel had become an important part of downtown Holyoke. Its ground floor storefronts housed a number of tenants, including the post office, and the upper floors had rooms for up to 150 hotel guests. The dining room could seat twice that number, and was used for a variety of functions in its heyday. Written a few years after the first photo was taken, the book Holyoke Past and Present 1745-1895 provides the following description:

The Hamilton has come to be quite a popular place for people giving dinner parties, receptions, etc., for care and attention are always insured, and the details of a social affair are carried out with exactness. The Connecticut Board of Water Works, Connecticut Valley Dental Society, Congregational Club of Connecticut, and many other organizations of like character, hold the Hamilton in high estimation as a meeting place. The number of so-called “swell” receptions held here increases each year, as the capabilities of the house and proprietor become better known. The Arlington Club, the leading and only representative organization of Holyoke’s four hundred, holds the assemblies and balls here. The house, for the time being, is given over to the bright array of society people who always come out to honor the Arlington management.

The hotel would remain in business for more than 50 years after the first photo was taken, but it finally closed in 1943. By then, some of Holyoke’s industries had already begun to close or relocate, and many more would follow in the subsequent decades. A few years later, the building was heavily altered with the removal of most of the fourth floor, except for the section in the distance along Race Street. The large pediment above the main entrance is also gone, most of the windows have been replaced with glass blocks, and most of the storefronts have been rebuilt. The former hotel was most recently used as the Massachusetts Career Development Institute, and was known as the Silvio O. Conte Center. However, it closed in 2003, and the building has apparently remained vacant ever since, with very little resemblance to its appearance in the first photo.

Second Level Canal from Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on the Second Level Canal from the corner of Dwight and Race Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows the view looking north along the Second Level Canal, facing the opposite direction from the views in an earlier post. On the left side of the canal is the Lyman Mills complex, which was built in stages starting around 1849-1850. The earliest of these buildings were the two gable-roofed buildings on the far left, with the dormer windows on the top floor. They were originally built for the Hadley Falls Company, but were subsequently acquired by the Lyman Mills corporation, which was established in 1854.

The Lyman Mills became a major producer of textiles, and steadily expanded the facility over the years, until it included most of the large block between Lyman Street, Dwight Street, and the First and Second Level Canals. According to the History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, published in 1879, the mills had a total floor space of 8.5 acres, and operated 1,556 looms and 74,888 spindles. The company employed about 1,200 people, about two-thirds of whom were women. This workforce was largely comprised of immigrants, and many lived in company-owned tenements on the other side of the First Level Canal, near to High Street.

The company had over 1,300 employees by the turn of the century, shortly after the first photo was taken. The mill complex continued to expand during this time, including the construction of the building on the left side of the present-day scene. However, by the 1920s the New England textile industry was in decline, and faced increased competition from southern manufacturers. The Lyman Mills remained profitable, but its shareholders decided to liquidate the company’s assets instead of continuing to produce textiles. As a result, the mills closed in 1927, leaving about a thousand employees without work, and the property was sold to the Whiting Paper Company, whose factory was located directly adjacent to the Lyman Mills, just out of view to the left of the first photo.

The Whiting Paper Company had been founded here in Holyoke in 1865, and over the years it became one of the nation’s largest paper manufacturers. Its founder, William Whiting, served as mayor of Holyoke and was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, and his son, William F. Whiting, also had a notable political career, serving as Secretary of Commerce during the Coolidge administration from 1928 to 1929. The younger Whiting had taken over the paper company after his father’s death in 1911, and during the late 1920s he oversaw the conversion of the Lyman Mills from textile to paper production. The Great Depression hit soon after, although the company managed to survive, and it remained in business here until closing in 1967.

Today, this scene has undergone many changes in the 125 years since the first photo was taken. Nearly all of Holyoke’s once-prosperous industries are long gone, and the city now faces significant problems with poverty and vacant properties. Many of the historic factory buildings have been demolished, although the former Lyman Mills and Whiting Paper complex is still standing on the left side of the canal. It is now a mixed-use property known as Open Square, and it is part of the ongoing revitalization efforts here along the canals in downtown Holyoke.

Sacred Heart Church and Rectory, Holyoke, Mass

The Sacred Heart Church (right) and rectory (left), seen from Maple Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, the Sacred Heart Parish was established in 1878 as an offshoot of St. Jerome’s Parish, which had been the first Catholic church in Holyoke. Sacred Heart served the Catholics in the southern section of downtown Holyoke, and in 1876 construction began on the church building here at the corner of Maple and Sargeant Streets. The Second Empire-style rectory, on the left side of the scene, was built around the same time, but the church would not be completed until 1883.

The first pastor of the church was Father James T. Sheehan, although he died of tuberculosis two years later in 1880, at the age of 32. He was succeeded by Father P. B. Phelan, a Newfoundland native who had previously served as pastor of the church in West Springfield. Upon his arrival here in Holyoke, Phelan inherited the incomplete church building, along with a sizable debt of $40,000. However, he oversaw the completion of the church, paid off the debt, and went on to serve the parish for the next 39 years, until his death in 1919.

The church was built at a cost of $90,000 (almost $2.5 million today), and featured ornate Gothic-style architecture on both the exterior and interior. By the time the first photo was taken around 1891, the church and rectory had also been joined by a school and a convent, both of which stood just out of view on the left side of the scene. Together, these four buildings occupied an entire city block, surrounded by Maple, Sargeant, Chestnut, and Franklin Streets.

The spire was not added to the church until 1897, but otherwise this scene has not seen many changes since the first photo was taken. It is hard to tell because of the tree in front of it, but the exterior of the church has remained well-preserved, and it is still in use as an active parish. To the left, the rectory is also still standing, and still has its Victorian-era details, such as the corner tower, the ornate front entryway, and the curved front steps. However, both the 19th century school and the convent are gone, and the southern half of this lot is now vacant except for a parking lot.

Sacred Heart Convent and School, Holyoke, Mass

The Sacred Heart Convent (left) and School (right), seen from Maple Street near the corner of Franklin Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke’s first Catholic church was St. Jerome’s, which was established in 1856 and was located at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets. This was followed in 1869 by the Parish of the Precious Blood, which served French-Canadian immigrants in the Flats of Holyoke. However, as the city’s population continued to grow, particularly as Irish immigrants moved to the city for manufacturing jobs, there was an increased need for another Catholic parish. So, in 1878 the Sacred Heart Parish was established as an offshoot of St. Jerome’s, encompassing the southern part of downtown Holyoke.

The church owned an entire city block here, bounded by Maple, Franklin, Chestnut, and Sargeant Streets, and over the next few years this site was developed with the construction of several different buildings. The first was the rectory, which was built around 1876 and is partially visible on the extreme right side of both photos. That same year, construction began on the church itself. It was located to the right of the rectory, on the northern end of the lot along Sargeant Street, although it would not be completed until 1883. The school was completed in 1890, at the corner of Franklin and Chestnut Streets, and is seen on the right side of the first photo. Around the same time, the convent was completed on the left side of the photo, at the corner of Maple and Franklin Streets.

By 1895, only a few years after the first photo was taken, the school had about 500 students who were taught by 12 nuns. The building was described in an 1895 edition of the Sacred Heart Review, which paid particular attention to the assembly hall in the school:

The school hall, seating nine hundred people, has a splendid stage, fine scenery, and opera chairs, and is most peculiarly though ingeniously constructed, the ceiling being finished in wood, which, with the many windows, the acoustically-arranged studding, and the crossing, so to speak, of two gable roofs, makes the hall a marvel of convenience to sight and hearing. The schoolrooms are very generously lighted, and are furnished with wood ceilings.

Today, Sacred Heart is still an active parish, and both the church and the rectory are still standing. However, aside from the small section of the rectory that is visible on the right side, there is nothing remaining in this scene from the first photo. The school and convent are long gone, and the site is now empty except for a small parking lot. Further in the distance, the block on the other side of Franklin Street had been undeveloped when the first photo was taken, but it now includes an ornate five-story brick apartment building, which is partially visible beyond the trees in the 2017 view.

Fairmount Square, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Oak Street from the corner of Hampshire Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This section of Oak Street, between Hampshire and Cabot Streets, was developed in the mid-1880s by contractor Leslie B. White. It was known as Fairmount Square, and this block included six homes on each side of the street. Each one had a brick exterior on the first floor, with wood on the upper floors, and all had similar Queen Anne-style architecture, although no two homes were identical. The houses on the west side, shown here in this scene, were at a higher elevation than the street, and had sloping yards with steps leading to the front door. Driveways are conspicuously missing from the scene, but a rear alley provided access to the garages on the properties.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the development was completed, and shows the street lined with newly-planted trees. At the time, Holyoke was at its peak of prosperity as an industrial center, and these houses attracted a variety of middle class residents. The house on the far left, at 253 Oak Street, was originally the home of brickmaker George W. Richards, and he lived here with his wife Helen and their theee children. Just to the right, 251 Oak Street was the home of Charles E. Watson, who worked as a bookkeeper for the National Blank Book Company, although by the early 1890s it was the home of attorney Richard D. Kilduff. Further to the right, barely visible in the first photo, 249 Oak Street was the home of H. Dwight Bradburn, a manager at the Nonotuck Paper Company.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, all of the houses on this block of Oak Street are still standing. However, most have undergone significant exterior changes over the years, particularly the addition of artificial siding. Only a few houses on either side of the street still retain their original Victorian-era details, and the name Fairmount Square has long since disappeared from use. Overall, though, the block still survives as one of Holyoke’s upscale 19th century residential developments, and provides a hint of the economic prosperity that the city experienced during this time.

Oren D. Allyn House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 141 Locust Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1890 as the home of real estate developer Oren D. Allyn, and, like many of the other elegant homes in Holyoke during this period, it was designed by noted local architect George P. B. Alderman. The house incorporated many Queen Anne-style elements, including an asymmetrical design, a complex roofline, a large front porch, and a tower on one corner of the house. It was accompanied by a matching carriage house behind it, and the property originally extended to Sycamore Street in the back and Hampshire Street on the left.

Oren D. Allyn was born in Holyoke in 1853, and as a young man he worked in his family’s meat market on High Street, with city directories variously listing him as a clerk, salesman, and bookkeeper. However, by 1885 he had entered the real estate business, and began developing much of the Oakdale neighborhood. This area, at the western end of downtown Holyoke’s street grid, had been laid out in the mid-19th century, but it was not until the 1880s that the city’s growth reached this neighborhood.

Allyn’s father, Anderson Allyn, owned a large plot of land in this section. The 1884 city atlas shows the property line running diagonally to the street grid, starting near the corner of Beech and Franklin Streets and ending near the corner of Essex and Pleasant Streets. The land covered much of the area now bounded by Beech Street, Franklin Street, Hampshire Street, and Magnolia Avenue, and in the coming years Oren Allyn built over 300 homes in the neighborhood, including his own house here on Locust Street.

Aside from his work in real estate development, Allyn also served on the city’s board of public works from 1899 to 1906. He supported the City Beautiful movement of the era, and during his time on the board he encouraged projects such as planting trees along the city’s streets. He put these ideas into practice in his own expansive yard as well, including cultivating a large rose garden here. The first photo was taken only about a year after the house was completed, but by this point the left side of the scene was already dotted with a number of recently-planted trees and bushes.

The completion of this house coincided with Oren’s 1891 marriage to Alice Ladd, and he lived here for the rest of his life. He and Alice did not have any children, but they shared the house with Alice’s family. By 1900, her mother Augusta and sister Mabel were both living here. Augusta died in 1904, and Mabel was no longer here by the 1910 census, but by that point Alice’s widowed brother Wilbur was living here with his three sons. Wilbur had moved out before the 1920 census, but his sons were still living here at the time. Oren died in 1929, at the age of 75, and Wilbur subsequently returned to this house in order to live with his sister. He died in 1935, and Alice moved out of the house in 1939.

The property was later subdivided, and today two houses stand on the left side of the house, on Hampshire Street. The carriage house is gone, along with Allyn’s rose garden and other landscaping, and in the mid-20th century the wooden clapboards were covered with green asphalt shingles. These shingles have since been removed, but other exterior changes have included enclosing the top of the tower and replacing the railing and posts on the front porch. A fire escape, only partially visible in the 2017 photo, has been added to the left side of the house, and the interior is now divided into eight apartment units. However, the house still stands as one of the many elegant mansions that were built in Holyoke during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.