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.

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Dartmouth Terrace in 2017:

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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).

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The house in 2017:

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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.

Buckwheat Hall, Springfield, Mass

The house at 224 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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

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The house in 2017:

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James W. Crooks was a lawyer and a prominent Springfield resident of the early 19th century. He was from Blandford, Massachusetts, and had graduated from Yale in 1818. Initially he worked as a teacher, before studying law here in Springfield, under George Bliss, Sr. Aside from his legal work, he also served Springfield in different capacities, including as a member of the school committee, the board of selectmen, and the county commission.

Crooks also owned a significant amount of land in Springfield, and in 1835 he moved into this house on Walnut Street. At the time, Walnut Street marked the eastern extent of Springfield’s development, and beyond here was largely open land, with occasional scattered farms. On the eastern side of Walnut Street, opposite his house, Crooks owned a sizeable tract of land, which extended to Eastern Avenue and was later developed as part of the Old Hill neighborhood. At the time, though, it consisted of open fields of buckwheat, providing the name Buckwheat Hall for his house.

In 1849, Crooks married Ann Chapin, who was the daughter of Colonel Harvey Chapin, another prominent Springfield resident. Two years later, the couple left Buckwheat Hall, and by 1870 it was owned by Joseph and Mary Atwood.Joseph was a carpenter, and probably had plenty of work to do in this neighborhood. In the post-Civil War era, Springfield saw a significant housing boom, resulting in widespread development in the previously vacant land to the east of here.

Both Joseph and Mary died in 1889, and the property was subsequently developed. Atwood Place, seen in the foreground of the 2017 photo, was built just south of the house, subdividing the lot into six new houses. Buckwheat Hall remained, but was used as a rental property. In the 1900 census, it was rented by Francis C. Croy, a teacher who lived here with his wife Ella, their two children, and their daughter-in-law. In 1910, it was the home of carpenter Harry L. Putnam, his wife Bertha, and their two children. By 1920, Arthur M. Tales, who worked as a guard at the Armory, lived here with his wife Billie and their four children.

At the start of the 1920s, the large house was still serving as a single-family residence, but it was soon divided into four different units, and the rear section was reconstructed to match the height of the front. Along with this, as seen in the second photo, a one-story storefront was built on the front of the building. By the time this photo was taken, a convenience store was located here, and advertised a variety of soft drinks, including Nehi, Royal Crown, and Springfield’s own Country Club Soda.

More than 180 years after it was built, Buckwheat Hall is still standing. In 1893, it had been one of over 40 houses featured in Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield. Most of these homes dated to the late 18th and early 19th century, and only four remain today, including Buckwheat Hall. The storefront, which had long been vacant and neglected, was demolished around 2012-2013, revealing the house’s original appearance. From the outside, it looks to be in rough shape, though, and the front windows are still bricked up from when the storefront had been built. The windows at southeast corner of the building, seen here, are boarded up, but the rest of the units appear to still be occupied, and hopefully the house can eventually be restored to its former grandeur.

First Church, Pittsfield, Mass (2)

Another view of the First Church at Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893).

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The church in 2016:

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As mentioned in a previous post on the church, Pittsfield’s original church building was built here in 1761, and was subsequently replaced by newer buildings in 1793 and, finally, in 1853. The current church is a granite Gothic-style building that was designed by prominent architect Leopold Eidlitz. It is still in use by the congregation today, and very little has changed in this view since the first photo was taken. Even the old 1832 town hall, its plain Federal architecture a sharp contrast to that of the church, is still here. Both buildings are contributing properties in the Park Square Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places.