Westminster Street from State Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Westminster Street from State Street in Springfield, probably around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The scene in 2017:


About 50 years before the first photo was taken, this section of State Street was only sparsely settled, with very little development to the east of the Armory. This site here, on the north side of State Street, was the approximate location of a farmhouse that was owned by Josiah W. Flagg, who owned 22 acres of land behind the house. Located about a mile and a half from Main Street, and separated from it by a steep hill, this part of the city was hardly desirable real estate, but this began to change in 1870, when the Springfield Street Railway began operation, with a horse-drawn trolley line extending as far as Oak Street.

That same year, dry goods merchant John McKnight entered the real estate business, and purchased the Flagg farm. Along with his brother William, he subdivided the property and laid out four streets between State and Bay Streets, including Westminster Street, as seen here. Thanks in part to the economic recession following the Panic of 1873, development was slow for the first decade or so, but it construction of new homes picked up in earnest by the early 1880s. Most of the houses on this block of Westminster Street were built between 1880 and 1891, with Queen Anne style architecture that appealed to popular tastes of the era.

In contrast to the modest, middle class homes on the side streets, the houses on State Street were much larger, and were built for some of the city’s most prominent residents. The house on the far left of this photo was built for William McKnight in the early 1870s, although he later moved to a different house on Worthington Street. On the opposite side of the photo, this house was built in 1871 for insurance agent Henry K. Simons. However, the house was later remodeled in 1894 for Noyes W. Fisk, an industrialist who worked as the clerk and treasurer of the season Manufacturing Company, and later established the Fisk Rubber Company. The house’s large gambrel roof was probably added during this renovation, and it disguises the fact that the house is actually several decades older than it appears.

About a century after the first photo was taken, much of the McKnight neighborhood remains remarkably well-preserved. However, this section of Westminster Street has lost a number of houses over the years, particularly on the left side of the street. The old William McKnight house on the far left was demolished around the early 1920s to build and an automobile service station that is still standing today. Just beyond it, two highly ornate Queen Anne-style homes have also been demolished, and were replaced with plain multi-family homes.

Further down the street, there are other vacant lots where houses once stood on both sides of the street, but many of the historic homes are still standing, including most notably the house on the far right. Now a funeral home, it is one of the last of the 19th century mansions on State Street, and despite the 1890s alterations it is also one of the oldest homes in the McKnight neighborhood. Today, this neighborhood consists of some 800 historic homes from the late 19th and early 20th century, and they now form the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall, Boston

Facing west on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall from Berkeley Street, on November 27, 1901. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2017:


When the Back Bay was planned in the mid-19th century, the streets were laid out in a rectangular grid pattern, with five east-west streets running the length of the development. In the middle was Commonwealth Avenue, which was made significantly wider than the others in order to accommodate a wide, tree-lined mall in the center. The house lots on this street soon became some of the most desirable in the Back Bay, and as the trees matured the street began to take on the appearance of a Parisian boulevard.

Most of the houses along this section of Commonwealth Avenue, which extends west from Berkeley to Clarendon Streets, were built in the 1860s and 1870s, in the Second Empire style of architecture that was popular during this period. Among the street’s few non-residential buildings is the First Baptist Church, which was built in 1875 and can be seen a block away on the left. The streetscape of Commonwealth Avenue also features a number of statues, including the one in the center of the photo that honors Revolutionary War hero General John Glover.

More than a century after the first photo was taken, the Back Bay has remained remarkably unchanged. Nearly all of the historic Victorian brownstone homes are still standing, and Commonwealth Avenue has continued to be the centerpiece of one of the city’s most desirable neighborhoods. Aside from the cars on the street, the only hint of the modern world in the present-day scene is the Prudential Tower, which is barely visible through the trees on the far left side of the photo.

Forest Park Avenue, Springfield, Mass

Looking south on Forest Park Avenue from near the corner of Randolph Street in Springfield, sometime in the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The scene in 2017:


For most of the 19th century, the area that would become Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood was only sparsely settled. However, with the opening of a trolley line to the area in 1890, the southwestern corner of the city suddenly became within easy commuting distance of downtown Springfield. One of the first developers in the neighborhood was the Mutual Improvement Company, which purchased much of the land in the large triangle between Fort Pleasant, Belmont, and Sumner Avenues. A number of new streets were laid out, including Forest Park Avenue, which is seen here near the center of the development.

The Mutual Improvement Company was founded by John and William McKnight, the brothers who had been developing Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood since the 1870s. Like in McKnight, they sought to create an upscale residential neighborhood here in Forest Park that would appeal to Springfield’s leading citizens. Nearly all of the houses were unique, and were designed by some of the city’s leading architects. They also sold undeveloped lots, although these deeds came with restrictive covenants that required a specific setback from the road and a minimum construction cost.

Development in this section of Forest Park began in the early 1890s, primarily in the area between Garfield Street, Churchill Street, Sumner Avenue, and Forest Park Avenue. A few of these homes are visible in the distance, and they tend to have Queen Anne-style architecture, which was popular in the last decades of the 19th century. However, the large-scale development of this area did not begin until after 1900. At this point, architectural tastes had shifted toward Colonial Revival, as can be seen in the house on the far left, which was built in 1902. Other buildings that were completed during this second phase include the 1901 Park Memorial Baptist Church, which is visible in both photos.

About a century after the first photo was taken, the Forest Park Heights neighborhood remains remarkably well-preserved, and very little has changed in this scene on Forest Park Avenue. The only significant difference is the house on the right side of the first photo, at the corner of Garfield Street. It was built in the early 1890s, and was the home of candy manufacturer Franz Jensen. However, it was demolished in the 1930s, and was later replaced by a smaller Cape-style home in the 1940s. Overall, though, most of the historic homes in this neighborhood have survived with few major changes, and in 1982 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Forest Park Heights Historic District.

South Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

South Congregational Church on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The church in 2017:


South Congregational Church was established in 1842 by members of Springfield’s First Congregational Church, and its first permanent home was on Bliss Street. This rather plain church had a very conservative architectural design that looked like any number of other churches in the area at the time, but in 1875 the congregation built a new, far larger and more elaborate church here, at the corner of Maple and High Streets.

This church was designed by William Appleton Potter, the half-brother of the equally notable architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It was one of his first major works, and it is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. The 1873-1874 city directory described it as being “a rather bold departure from ordinary models, being much like an amphitheater, and entirely unlike any other church building in Springfield.” This may have been somewhat of a hyperbole, since the Memorial Congregational Church in the North End, built a few years earlier, has many similar Gothic-style features, but South Congregational Church certainly stood out at a time when Springfield was building a number of fine churches.

Like many of the city’s other churches and public buildings of the era, it was built with locally-quarried stone, with a foundation of Monson granite and walls of Longmeadow brownstone. Along with this, terracotta, sandstone, and other materials were used to add a variety of colors to the exterior of the building. Also common in churches of the time period, the building is very asymmetrical, with a 120-foot tower located off-center in the southwest corner, and the main entrance at its base.

In total, it cost some $100,000 to construct, which was substantially more than most of the other new churches that were built around this time. However, the costs were offset by contributions from some of Springfield’s most prominent residents, including dictionary publishers George and Charles Merriam, railroad engineer Daniel L. Harris, and gun manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, who later moved into a massive mansion directly across the street from the church.

At the time that this building was completed, the pastor of the church was Samuel G. Buckingham, who had served in that position since 1847. He was also an author, and he wrote a biography of his brother, William A. Buckingham, a former Connecticut governor and U.S. Senator. Reverend Buckingham remained here at the church for 47 years, until his retirement in 1894. His successor was Philip Moxom, who, aside from his work here at the church, was also the president of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

More than 140 years after its completion, South Congregational Church is still an active congregation, and the building survives as one of Springfield’s finest architectural works. The only major change over the years was the addition of a parish house on the back of the church in the late 1940s. Not visible from this angle, it matches the design of the original building and it was even constructed with brownstone that had been salvaged from the demolished First Baptist Church. The church is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District, and in 1976 it was also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, sometime around the early 1900s. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The scene in 2017:


In the second half of the 19th century, the section of lower Maple Street between State Street and Central Street featured some of the finest homes in the entire city. Most of these homes are now gone, but the first photo shows the street as it appeared around the turn of the 20th century, when many of Springfield’s prominent residents lived here. The four houses seen here, between Mulberry and Union Streets, were built in the late 1800s, and were, starting in the foreground, house numbers 127, 111, 95, and 89.

At the corner of Mulberry Street was 127 Maple Street, which was the home of Charles Marsh, the president of Pynchon National Bank. By the early 1900s, it was owned by James F. Bidwell, a tobacco dealer who held several municipal offices, including serving as a city alderman and as a water commissioner. To the left of his house was 111 Maple Street, the home of Eunice B. Smith, an elderly widow whose husband, David, had been a physician. The third house, 95 Maple Street, was the home of Eunice’s brother, James D. Brewer, and was later owned by his daughter Harriet and her husband, Dr. Luke Corcoran. The fourth house, 89 Maple Street, is barely visible at the corner of Union Street, and was the home of Henry A. Gould, a paper manufacturer.

All four of these homes survived well into the 20th century, but they were all demolished by 1965, when the current building was built on the site. It was originally offices for the Insurance Company of North America, but it was later sold to the Milton Bradley Company, who used it as their corporate offices. However, in 1984 Milton Bradley merged with Hasbro, and the following year its offices were moved to East Longmeadow, leaving this building vacant. In the early 1990s, it was sold to the city, expanded, and is now the Milton Bradley Elementary School.

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:

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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.