The Elms, Springfield, Mass

The Elms, a private school at the corner of High Street and Ingraham Terrace in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:


This mansion at the corner of High Street and Ingraham Terrace in Springfield was built around the 1860s, and was originally the home of retired Army officer Robert E. Clary. He was born in Ashfield, Massachusetts in 1805, but his family came to Springfield, where his father became a clerk at the Armory. After spending much of his childhood in Springfield, Clary entered West Point in 1823. He graduated thirteenth in his class, which was significantly higher than fellow classmate Jefferson Davis, the future Confederate president. Although Clary would fight against Davis’s armies in the Civil War decades later, the two men were friends at West Point, and Davis even served as the best man at Clary’s wedding in 1829.

When the Civil War started in 1861, Clary had already been in the Army for over 30 years. He spent most of the war as a chief quartermaster for a variety of departments, and at the end of the war he was promoted to the honorary rank of brevet brigadier general. After the war, he retired to this mansion in Springfield. It sat atop the hill just east of downtown, and from here he could enjoy expansive views of the city and the Connecticut River valley. By the 1870 census, Clary was newly-married to his second wife, Mary. The couple shared the house with four other family members, including his 88-year-old mother Electa, and they also had three servants who lived here.

In 1874, Clary sold the house to grocer Olin Smith. He and his family lived here for a few years, but in 1881 the house was acquired by The Elms, a private school that had previously been located in Hadley. Unrelated to the similarly-named Elms College in Chicopee, The Elms was founded in 1866 by Charlotte Porter as a school for girls, to prepare young girls for colleges such as Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley. Charlotte Porter served as the principal of the school for many decades, and lived here at the school until her death in 1931 at the age of 90.

The school appears to have closed soon after Porter’s death, and the building was demolished by the late 1930s, because it does not appear in the 1938-1939 WPA photographs. All of the other homes in the quarter-mile-long block between High Street, Union Street, Walnut Street, and Ingraham Terrace have also since been demolished, and today much of this block is a parking lot for the former Wesson Memorial Hospital. This building, which is now owned by Baystate, is visible on the far left. Further in the distance is the High School of Commerce, which was built in 1915 and was later expanded with an addition on the right side of the photo.

Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from Union Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

Maple Street in 2017:


These two photos, taken 125 years apart, show he changes that Maple Street underwent in the early 20th century. For most of the 1800s, the lower part of Maple Street was an upscale residential area, primarily with large, single-family homes. Several of these can be seen in the first photo, including one in front of the church, and another one just beyond it. However, as the city grew, these homes were steadily replaced with large apartment buildings. The building just to the left of the church, at the corner of Maple and Temple Streets, was built in 1906, and was followed about 20 years later by the apartment building on the right side of the photo. The most recent building in this scene is Chestnut Towers, visible on the far left. This 240-unit, 34-story apartment building was completed in 1976 at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets, and it is the tallest residential building in the city.

Today, the only surviving building from the first photo is South Congregational Church. It was designed by prominent architect William Appleton Potter, and was completed in 1875, replacing an earlier South Congregational Church that had stood several blocks away on Bliss Street. Some of Springfield’s most prominent residents attended this church, including many of those who lived in the nearby mansions. Despite the many changes to the neighborhood over the years, though, the church has remained as an important landmark. It is one of the city’s finest architectural works, and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.

Henry J. Beebe House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 143 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo was probably taken soon after this house was built, given the Colonial Revival-style architecture that was just coming into fashion at the time. The elegance of the house reflected the wealth of the owner, Henry J. Beebe, who was a woolen merchant. Originally from Monson, Massachusetts, Beebe and his father purchased a woolen mill in North Monson in 1870, which they operated until his father’s death in 1876. Henry then purchased another mill in Holyoke, and later sold the Monson mill. The Holyoke company became Beebe, Webber, & Company, and Henry owned it along with his brother-in-law, J. S. Webber. Along with his woolen business, Henry Beebe was also a director of a number of other local companies, including the First National Bank of Springfield and the United Electric Light Company.

Henry Beebe’s first wife, Othalia Vaughan, died in 1871, and he remarried in 1880 to Kate Glover, who was likewise a widow. They moved into this house around 1890, and lived here for the rest of their lives, until Kate’s death in 1912 and Henry’s in 1919. By this point, the lower Maple Street area was changing, and large apartment buildings were starting to replace many of the grand 19th century mansions. After Henry’s death, his house was sold to developers, and it was demolished in the early 1920s to build the four-story, 40-unit apartment building that now stands on the site. Like its predecessor, the apartment building has a distinctive Colonial Revival-style design, and its exterior has changed very little since the second photo was taken in the 1930s.

Thompson Triangle, Springfield, Mass

Facing north toward Worthington Street from the center of the Thompson Triangle, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).


The scene in 2017:


When the first photo was taken, the house in the distance was the home of William McKnight, and it is described in more detail the previous post. John and William McKnight were the developers of most of this neighborhood, and they created a highly-desirable residential area for many of the city’s wealthiest residents. Part of their development plan included several triangular parks, which they donated to the city. Although ostensibly an act of generosity to the public, these parks also added to the value of the lots that bordered them, and it is no coincidence that William McKnight built his own mansion here, overlooking the Thompson Triangle, which is the largest of these parks.

Prior to the McKnight brothers’ development, the land north of Saint James Avenue and east of Thompson Street was owned by Colonel James M. Thompson. He was a businessman who served as president of several of Springfield’s banks, and he also held several political offices, including city alderman, state senator, and member of the Governor’s Council. After his death in 1884, the McKnights purchased and subdivided the property, in the process creating this park as its centerpiece. Many of the finest homes in the neighborhood are located on or around the Thompson Triangle, including the homes on Dartmouth Terrace, which can be seen in the distance in both photos.

Today, the area around the Thompson Triangle remains one of the best-preserved parts of the neighborhood. William McKnight’s house still stands, as do the other 19th century mansions around the park, and in 1976 this area became part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The only significant difference in these two photos is the fountain at the center of the triangle, which was added along with benches and brick walkways during a 1986 renovation of the park.

Dartmouth Terrace, Springfield, Mass

The view looking east on Dartmouth Terrace from Clarendon Street, probably in the 1890s or early 1900s. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

Dartmouth Terrace
Dartmouth Terrace in 2017:

1177_2017

Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood was developed in the late 19th century as an upscale residential neighborhood for the city’s many wealthy and upper middle class families. Today, the neighborhood consists of hundreds of Victorian-era homes on several dozen streets, but perhaps the crown jewel of the entire neighborhood is Dartmouth Terrace. It extends from the Thompson Triangle, which is the largest park in the neighborhood , to the McKnight Glen, a ravine that is one of the few undeveloped places in the area. For most of the road, it also features a landscaped median, complete with a small fountain in the center.

Almost all of the houses on Dartmouth Terrace are on the north side of the street, as seen here. The five houses seen here were all built around 1888-1889, and although none are identical, they all have similar Queen Anne architecture. These are among the largest houses in the McKnight neighborhood, and were originally owned by prominent city businessmen. When first built, these five homes were, from left to right, owned by button company owner Louis H. Coolbroth, corset company owner Albert Nason, paper manufacturer Willis A. Hall, coal dealer James Cowan, and G. & C. Merriam treasurer Orlando M. Baker.

More than a century later, the McKnight neighborhood has remained remarkably unchanged. All five of these houses are still standing, and have been beautifully restored to their original appearance. Aside from the height of the trees, essentially nothing has changed in this view since the first photo was taken, and Dartmouth Terrace is now part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Henry Sterns House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 48 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

1160_1893c sketchesinhabitants

The house in 2017:

1160_2017
Henry Sterns was born in 1794 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but came to Springfield as a young child. He went on to become a prosperous merchant, and in 1826 he married into the prominent Dwight family. His wife, Sophia, was the daughter of the late James Scutt Dwight, who himself had been a wealthy merchant. The following year, the couple moved into this house, which at the time was located closer to Central Street.

The house is built of brick, with a relatively simple Federal-style design that was typical for the time. It was designed by Simon Sanborn, a prolific master builder who constructed a number of buildings in early 19th century Springfield, including the Alexander House. At the time, the Maple Hill section of Springfield was lightly developed, and Sterns’s home was situated on a large lot on the north side of Central Street. Covered in trees, the land became known as Sterns’s Woods, and abutted the land that would later become Springfield Cemetery.

Sterns lived in this house for the rest of his life, during which time he continued to be a successful businessman, and eventually served as treasurer for the Springfield Institution for Savings from 1849 to 1858. He died in 1859, and within the next decade Springfield experienced a rapid population growth. With increasing demand for new houses, the property was subdivided. Two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were developed, with one on either side of the house. Around 1870, the house itself was moved to the back of the lot, and became 48 Madison Avenue. The Charles L. Goodhue House, which still stands at 216 Central Street, was later built on the original site of the Sterns House.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was in its new location, and was the home of jeweler William W. White and his wife Ellen. He died in the 1890s, and by the 1900 census Ellen was living here with her daughter and granddaughter. She also rented to boarders, and four were living here at the time. Among them was a newspaper editor, a proofreader, and an inspector at the Armory.

The old house has since seen a number of other owners, but it is still standing, nearly two centuries after Henry and Sophia Sterns moved in. Very little has changed with the exterior, and its plain design stands out in a neighborhood otherwise dominated by far more elaborate homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city has very clearly grown up around the house, but it survives as a reminder of a long-lost time when Springfield’s wealthy residents lived on large, wooded estates on the outskirts of the downtown area. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.