Old Town Hall, Springfield Mass

Springfield’s old town hall building on State Street near Main Street, around 1892.  Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

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The building in the first photo once served as Springfield’s town hall before it was incorporated as a city.  It was built in 1828, and Springfield became a city in 1852, at which point a more substantial building was needed for the municipal government.  So, in 1855 Springfield City Hall opened across from Court Square, in approximately the same location as the present-day City Hall.  Meanwhile, this building on State Street continued to be used for a variety of purposes.  The first floor was home to several different businesses, including a meat market and wallpaper store, as seen in the first photo.  By the 1880s, the second floor was still owned by the city, and the third floor by the Masons.  It was demolished around 1937, and today the location where it once stood is now part of the MassMutual Center.

Market Street, Springfield Mass

Looking north on Market Street from East Court Street in Springfield, c.1892.  Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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Market Street in 2015:

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Market Street once ran parallel to Main Street from State Street to Harrison Avenue, and these two photos show the northern section of the street toward Harrison Avenue.  This was never a major thoroughfare in the city – in fact, in the 1892 photo it looks more like an alley running behind the buildings on Main Street.  Today, the southern section of Market Street no longer exists at all; the section from State Street to East Court Street is now part of the MassMutual Center.  North of here, the street still exists, but it is a pedestrian-only walkway.

Most of the buildings from the first photo no longer exist.  On the right-hand side, F.B. Taylor once supplied builders with doors, windows, lumber, and paint; today this spot is occupied by the MassMutual Center.  In the distance is the steeple for Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, which once stood on Bridge Street.  Today, the congregation still exists at the large stone church on Sumner Avenue.  The only building in the first photo that survives today is the Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank building, seen on the far left.  The Main Street facade of this building has since been substantially altered, but from the rear it is still recognizable as being the same one.

Springfield Republican Building, Springfield Mass

The Springfield Republican Building at the corner of Main Street and Harrison Avenue in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The scene in 2018:

The Republican in Springfield was established in 1824, and over the years it has been headquartered in a number of different buildings in downtown.  The building in the first photo was completed in 1888, and was located directly across Harrison Avenue from the Union Block, part of which had once been occupied by the newspaper’s offices.  At some point after the first photo was taken, the building was enlarged.  Two stories were added probably around the first decade of the 20th century, as seen in the historic photo in this post.  I don’t know how long the newspaper stayed here, but today both the building and the lot that it once occupied are gone.  The western end of Harrison Avenue was changed to cross Main Street at present-day Boland Way, so the street now passes diagonally through the lot of the old Republican building.

Old Corner Bookstore, Springfield Mass

Springfield’s Old Corner Bookstore at the corner of Main and State Streets, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

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Not to be confused with the more famous Old Corner Bookstore in Boston,this was never a gathering place for prominent 19th century authors, but the building did play a significant role in American literary history.  The building was built in 1834, and a year later George and Charles Merriam opened up a bookstore.  At first, they printed law books, Bibles, and other books, but they gained prominence after 1843, when they purchased the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary.  By the time the first photo was taken, the company had moved directly across Main Street.  Today, the company is still in business, as Merriam-Webster, and their headquarters are still in Springfield, on Federal Street.

As for the building itself, it continued to be used as a bookstore and for publishing, even after the Merriams moved.  Around 1871, James L. Whitney and W. F. Adams took over the bookstore, and sold everything from blank stationery to school textbooks.  In 1884, King’s Hanbook of Springfield gave the business a glowing review, declaring that “The success of this house is largely due to the straightforward and honorable policy by which their affairs ever have been and are now conducted.”  The statement was likely made in all sincerity, too, since King’s Handbook of Springfield was published by one of their Springfield competitors, publisher James D. Gill.

Irrespective of their “straightforward and honorable” nature, however, the bookstore went out of business in 1894, and the building became home to the Old Corner Wall Paper Company.  The old building was demolished sometime between then and 1927, when the Shean Block seen in the present day photo was built.  The only building that can be seen in both photos is the Hampden County Courthouse; the top of the tower can be seen in the distance in the left center, between the chimneys in the 1892 photo and behind the Court Square Hotel today.

Isaac Brewer House, Wilbraham Mass

The Isaac Brewer House on Main Street in Wilbraham in 1898. Image courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The house in 2015:

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The Isaac Brewer House is one of the oldest existing buildings in Wilbraham; it dates to about 1748, and was originally the home of Isaac Brewer, a prominent early settler of what is today the town of Wilbraham.  Present-day Wilbraham was settled beginning in the 1730s, and at the time it was part of Springfield.  Known as the Outward Commons, this area was on the extreme eastern edge of Springfield’s borders, which once stretched as far as Wilbraham to the east and Westfield to the west.  Isaac Brewer was the son of Daniel Brewer, who served as the pastor of the church in Springfield from 1694 to 1733.  Following Reverend Brewer’s death in 1733, a dispute arose in Springfield regarding his replacement, Robert Breck, whose views were considered unorthodox to the more conservative Calvinists in Springfield.  This was perhaps a factor in Isaac Brewer’s decision to move to Wilbraham around the same time that Breck became the pastor, and in 1741 he was one of the eight original members of the newly-created Wilbraham church.

The house remained in the Brewer family for 150 years, until it was sold in 1898 to merchant Frank Gurney, the owner of Gurney’s Store just a short distance away (his home is almost visible on the far right of the 1904 photo in that post). The first photo must’ve been taken either right before or right after he moved in; perhaps his family is the one photographed in the front yard.  Like the historic photo in this post, I suspect that this photo may have been taken by the Howes Brothers, photographers from Ashfield Massachusetts who traveled around New England during the late 1890s and early 1900s, often photographing people in front of their homes.

Sometime soon after Gurney moved in, he made some alterations that are apparent in the present-day scene, including the front porch, second story bay window, and the altered windows on the first floor.  By the 1950s, the Gurneys were no longer living here, and the house was divided into a two-family residence.  However, overall the building remains in good condition, and aside from Gurney’s alterations it is still recognizable as a historic colonial-era house.

Wesleyan Academy Baseball Game, Wilbraham Mass

A view of a baseball game in progress at Wesleyan Academy (today Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The field in 2015:

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The first photo is a rather remarkable scene showing an early baseball game.  Most 19th century baseball photos are staged studio portraits that loosely imitate in-game action (see this photo from the Library of Congress website, where the string holding the ball is clearly visible and it looks more like a magic levitating trick than anything one might encounter at a baseball game), so it is fairly rare to see real, in-game action from the 1800s.  This particular photo was taken no later than 1892, the year it was published, and no earlier than 1878, when the house on the far left was built.  Most likely though, it was probably taken shortly before publication.

By the time that the photo was taken, the game of baseball was well established as the most popular sport in the country, at both the professional and amateur levels.  For the most part, the game 125 years ago wasn’t all that different from baseball today – this scene is instantly recognizable as a baseball game.  However, there was one last major change in the rules that happened a few years after this photo was taken.  A close examination of the photo shows that the pitcher is standing on flat ground, and appears closer to home plate than in modern baseball.  Prior to 1893, the pitcher released the ball 55.5 feet from home plate, and stood on flat ground rather than a raised mound.  In 1893, the distance of 60.5 feet was established; this remains the same today, and was such a major change that many baseball historians consider 1893 to be the beginning of modern baseball.

I don’t know which team is the home team, but this was taken at what was once Wesleyan Academy, and is now Wilbraham & Monson Academy.  My great grandfather attended the academy in the late 1880s, and I don’t know whether he played baseball there, but depending on the exact date of the photo, he could easily be among the players or spectators – some of whom seem to be standing dangerously close to the batter.  Today, the campus has grown significantly since the first photo was taken, but the field is still there and is still used for sports, although baseball is now played on a different field on the other side of the campus.