First Level Canal from Sargeant Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north along the First Level Canal from Sargeant Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This view shows the scene from near the southern end of the First Level Canal, looking north toward the center of Holyoke. The tower of City Hall can be seen in the distance on the left side of the first photo, and the foreground shows a variety of industrial development along both sides of the canal. Furthest to the right is the George R. Dickinson Paper Company, one of the many 19th century paper mills in Holyoke. The two-story brick mill was built in 1880, and initially housed two machines that produced book papers. The company’s owner, George R. Dickinson, lived in a mansion in Springfield, and he ran the company until his death in 1887.

George’s son Henry then took over the company, and in 1890 he expanded the building to increase production. The first photo was taken several years later, with Picturesque Hampden describing how “it is now the best equipped mill of its kind in Holyoke, and its productive capacity ranks with the five largest in the United States.” At the time, it was operating day and night in order to keep up with demand, and it had a daily output of around 23 tons of paper.

In 1899, the company was acquired by the American Writing Paper Company, with Henry Dickinson becoming its vice president. This mill continued to operate under the new ownership, and was expanded at some point after the first photo was taken, with an addition on the far right side of the photo. Otherwise, the building is still recognizable from the first photo, particularly its distinctive tower. Although no longer a paper mill, it is still in use as a factory, and today it produces plastic clamshell packaging.

Aside from the George R. Dickinson Paper Company, the other buildings on the right side of the canal are also still standing, although they too have been altered over the years. The next building, just to the left of the tower, was owned by the Holyoke Water Power Company, although it later became the city’s municipal electric light plant. The building appears to still be standing, although it has been expanded and now includes a covered walkway across the canal. Further in the distance, barely visible in the two photos, is the former Crocker McElwain paper mill, which is still standing at the corner of Cabot Street, although without its original towers from the first photo.

Unitarian Church, Holyoke, Mass

The Unitarian Church at the corner of Maple and Essex Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The first Unitarian church in Holyoke was established in 1857, but it only lasted for about a year, and the city’s Unitarians would not form another church for more than 15 years. Finally, in 1874, the Liberal Christian Congregational Society was established with 55 members, and the church met in several different temporary locations for the next two years. In 1875, the Holyoke Water Power Company donated this lot at the northeast corner of Maple and Essex Streets, and construction of a church building began later that year.

The building was completed in 1876, and originally consisted of just the section on the left side of the first photo, to the left of the tower. However, in 1889, the building was significantly expanded to the right, with a matching addition that more than doubled its capacity. The church remained here until about 1930, but by 1931 it was demolished to build the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company building, which still stands here on the site. Its exterior has been altered over the years, and the first floor windows and doors have been bricked up, but it remains as one of the few Art Deco-style buildings in Holyoke.

Maple Street from Essex Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from the corner of Essex Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Maple Street runs parallel to High Street, which is located a block to the east. While High Street was developed as a major commercial center, Maple Street was primarily residential in the late 19th century. The first photo shows several homes on the left side, a group of brick rowhouses in the distance on the right, plus two churches closer to the foreground on the right side. Most of these buildings were fairly new when the first photo was taken, and probably none of them had been built before the 1870s. Perhaps the oldest building is the Unitarian Church on the far right, which was built in 1876, although it was significantly expanded in 1889. Further in the distance, near the center of the photo, is the Second Congregational Church, which was built in 1885 after the congregation moved out of its old building at the corner of High and Dwight Streets.

Today, the Second Congregational Church, now the United Congregational Church of Holyoke, is the only noticeable building still standing from the first photo, although most of it had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1919. All of the other 19th century buildings are gone, and today this block includes the 1930 Elks building on the left, the 1936 War Memorial beyond it, and the 1931 New England Telegraph and Telephone Company building on the right, which stands on the site of the Unitarian Church. Further in the distance is a group of early 20th century apartment buildings, and in between is a single 19th century rowhouse, which is barely visible to the left of the church tower. Built around 1880, it is the sole survivor of the long block of rowhouses that can be seen in the first photo, and it is now surrounded on both sides by parking lots.

Newton Place, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Newton Place, toward City Hall in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

During the second half of the 19th century, brick rowhouses were common in Holyoke, where they housed workers for the city’s many factories. Newton Place, seen here looking north from the corner of Suffolk Street, was a short street directly behind City Hall, and it was lined on both sides with three-story brick rowhouses, which were probably built sometime in the 1870s or early 1880s. The houses were owned by James H. Newton, a prominent industrialist who had helped to transform Holyoke into a major papermaking center. After arriving in Holyoke in 1864, he and his brothers established the Hampden Paper Company, but Newton soon went on to establish six other paper companies. He was also involved in establishing several banks in Holyoke, and he served as the president of the Mechanics’ Savings Bank for 12 years.

Newton still owned these houses during the 1900 census, when he rented them to a variety of people. Unlike the nearby Lyman Mills tenements, which were crowded with newly-arrived Polish immigrants, these rowhouses appeared to have primarily middle-class residents. Many of them had jobs in the paper mills, but there was also a mix of other occupations, including a teacher, a cigar maker, a restaurant owner, a dressmaker, a messenger boy, a blacksmith, a stonecutter, and a telephone operator. The majority of the residents were born in the United States, but there was also a mix of immigrants from Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, and Scotland.

Today, the only building left from the first photo is City Hall, which is hidden from view by the trees on the left side of the photo. Otherwise, nothing is left from the first photo except the street itself, which is now a pedestrian walkway. The houses on the left side were demolished around 1913 to build the City Hall Annex, which still stands today. The houses on the right were demolished at some point afterwards, and the current Holyoke District Court was built on the site in the late 1970s.

High Street and Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

The corner of High and Dwight Streets in Holyoke, sometime before 1885. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows the Second Congregational Church, which was once located here at the corner of Dwight and High Streets, directly across from City Hall. The church was organized in 1849, and worshiped in several different locations until 1853, when this building was completed, at a cost of $12,000. It was designed by prominent New Haven architect Henry Austin, and was large enough for 800 people, although the congregation only had 36 members at the time. Holyoke was still in the early stages of its industrial development, with a population of a little over 3,000, but over the next few decades both the city and the church saw steady growth. By the mid-1880s, the congregation had outgrown the building, and in 1885 a new church was built a few blocks away, at the corner of Maple and Appleton Streets.

The old church was sold and demolished soon after the new one was completed, and later in 1885, Delaney’s Marble Block was built on the site. The building was owned by John Delaney, and was designed by local architect James A. Clough, with an exterior that was built of Vermont marble. Like many of the other commercial blocks on High Street, the building had stores on the ground floor, with professional offices in the upper floors, and it enjoyed a prominent location at one of the busiest intersections in the city. In later years, the building housed a W. T. Grant store, but around 1950 it was demolished to build a new, more modern-looking building for W. T. Grant. This chain of stores has long since gone out of business, but its architecturally nondescript building still stands here as somewhat of an anomaly, on a street that is otherwise still predominantly lined with 19th century commercial buildings.

High Street from Lyman Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking south on High Street from Lyman Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows the same block of High Street as this previous post, just from the opposite direction. As mentioned in that post, these buildings were mostly built around the 1860s and 1870s, with the oldest probably being the Fuller Block in the center of the photo, which dates back to around the 1850s. Closer in the foreground, there are seven very similar Italianate-style brick commercial blocks. The six closest to the camera were all built around the same time, probably about 1870, and the one near the center of the photo was built a little later, around 1878. Holyoke’s Gothic-style city hall also dates back to around this time, having been completed in 1876, and its tower rises in the distance of both photos.

Today, this scene has not significantly changed in the past 125 years. Everything on High Street to the north of Lyman Street was demolished in the 1970s as part of an urban renewal project, but most of the historic High Street buildings are still standing to the south of Lyman Street. The Fuller Block is still here, as are most of the other buildings beyond it, and five of the seven buildings in the foreground are also still standing. The building on the far left, at the corner of Lyman Street, is gone, as is the one at the corner of Oliver Street, but otherwise this scene retains much of its late 19th century appearance. Because of this, the buildings along this section of High Street are now part of the North High Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.