House of Providence Hospital, Holyoke, Mass

The House of Providence Hospital, at the corner of Elm and Dwight Streets in Holyoke, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

The origins of the present-day Sisters of Providence Health System date back to 1873, when four women from the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Kingston, Ontario arrived in the Holyoke area, in order to serve the needs of the largely Catholic, immigrant workforce in Holyoke. Originally, they were located across the river in South Hadley, but in 1874 the Sisters of Providence moved to Holyoke, and built a hospital here at the corner of Dwight and Elm Streets. This became the first public hospital in Holyoke, and served the needs of rapidly-growing city over the next few decades.

The Sisters of Providence remained a mission of the Kingston congregation until 1892, when it became an independent congregation, and two years later a new, larger House of Providence Hospital building was completed here on the site. The first photo shows the building about a decade later, with the Father Harkins’ Home for Aged Women just beyond it on the left. At the time, this area had a number of Catholic institutions, including the Immaculate Conception School, the Convent of Notre Dame, the Convent of St. Vincent de Paul, the St. Jerome Institute, and St. Jerome’s Church, all of which where located within a block of here.

More than a century after the first photo was taken, Holyoke has undergone some significant changes, and today there are no recognizable landmarks from the first photo. In 1958, the hospital moved to its current location in Ingleside, in the southern part of the city, and it is now the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital. The old building was subsequently demolished, and today the site is a vacant lot, although the old Immaculate Conception School – later home of Holyoke Catholic High School – is still standing in the distance on the left.

National Guard Armory, Holyoke, Mass

The National Guard Armory at the corner of Sargeant and Pine Streets in Holyoke, around 1907-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2017:

Around the turn of the 20th century, the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia – later known as the Massachusetts National Guard – built a number of similar, castle-style armories across the state, including ones in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester. The armories were designed to look imposing, and to represent the strength of the state militia, but the architecture was not entirely for looks. At least in the case of the Boston armory, the building was designed to withstand riots and other civil unrest, and its tower could be used to transmit signals to government leaders at the State House.

Here in Holyoke, the armory was smaller than those in the larger cities, but it had similar architecture, with turrets, narrow windows, and a crenellated parapet atop the building. It was designed by local architect William J. Howe and completed in 1907, and was supposedly based on the design of the 18th century Hawarden Castle in Wales. The building included the castle-like structure in the front, along with a drill hall in the back, and it was the home of the 1st Battalion, 104th Infantry Regiment. Only about a decade after the first photo was taken, the 104th Infantry went on to serve with distinction during World War I, suffering heavy casualties and earning the Croix de Guerre from the French government, marking the first time that an American military unit was honored for bravery by a foreign country.

The armory remained in use for much of the 20h century, and in 1990 it took on an usual role as a temporary prison. At the time, the old York Street Jail in Springfield was dangerously overcrowded, to the point where inmates were being released early in order to make room for newly-convicted prisoners. Despite pleas from Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe, county and state officials were slow in responding to the problem, so in February 1990, Ashe took a dramatic step to call attention to the situation. Invoking an obscure 1696 state law that empowered sheriffs to do whatever was necessary to restore order in times of “imminent danger of a breach of the peace”, Ashe commandeered the National Guard armory in Springfield, over the objections of the armory commander, and housed 17 prisoners in the facility.

The bold move quickly gained the attention of state officials, and the news story made headlines across the country. Although Ashe was threatened with criminal trespass charges, a judge ruled that the prisoners could remain in the armory, and the state soon made arrangements for the prisoners to be moved here to the Holyoke armory. The building served as a prison annex for most of 1990, housing nearly 70 inmates, but it had to close in late November after governor Michael Dukakis refused to provide more funding. This closure required the early release of dozens of convicts, but the armory annex was reopened the following year when the newly-elected governor, Bill Weld, authorized funding.

The armory would remain in use as a jail annex until 1992, when the current Hampden County House of Correction opened in Ludlow. The historic building has remained vacant since then, and it is now owned by the city. Over the years, it has been the subject of various redevelopment proposals, but none have come to fruition and the building has steadily deteriorated. In early 2016, the drill shed in the rear of the building collapsed, requiring emergency demolition of the ruins. The front portion of the building survived the collapse, and it is still standing, but it is still vacant, despite efforts by the city to find a buyer for the property.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Northampton, Mass

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Elm Street in Northampton, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2017:

St. John’s Episcopal Church was established in 1826, initially meeting in the town hall until their own church building was completed on Bridge Street in 1829. The congregation worshipped there for more than 60 years, but by the early 1890s they had outgrown that building and were in need of a new one. The funding for such a church was provided by George Bliss, a wealthy New York banker who had grown up in Northampton and had attended St. John’s back when services were held at the town hall.

George Bliss purchased this lot on Elm Street, adjacent to Smith College, and he paid for the construction of the church, which was designed by noted New York architect Robert W. Gibson. Like many other churches of the era, it features Romanesque  Revival architecture, with features such as a tall tower in the corner, rounded arches, and a rough-faced stone exterior. The church was completed in 1893, and Bliss attended the consecration service along with his business partner, Levi P. Morton, who had served as Vice President of the United States under Benjamin Harrison from 1889 to 1893.

More than 110 years after the first photo was taken, the church has not significantly changed. Although surrounded on all sides by the Smith College campus, it remains in use as an Episcopal church, with close ties to the college. The church appears to be missing the weathervane that was atop the tower in the first photo, but otherwise all of the other architectural details have been preserved, even down to the gargoyles that extend from the corners of the tower.

College Hall at Smith College, Northampton, Mass

College Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

College Hall in 2018:

Smith College was established in 1871, as part of the will of Sophia Smith (1796-1870), who left a large bequest to establish a women’s college in Northampton. This building, College Hall, was the first building on the campus, and it was completed in 1875, the same year that the school opened. It was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston-based architectural firm, and its design reflected the High Victorian Gothic style that was fashionable at the time. Smith College has just 14 students and six faculty members when it opened in the fall of 1875, and this building was used for almost everything except dormitory space. When completed, it included classrooms, a laboratory, a social hall, an art gallery, and administrative offices, although this soon began to change as the college grew.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the college’s enrollment had increased significantly. The campus had grown accordingly, and included new residential buildings, a gymnasium, a music hall, an art gallery building, a science building, a chemistry building, and a new academic building. College Hall itself had also been expanded, with an 1890 addition that increased the capacity of the social hall – renamed Assembly Hall – from 500 to 900. In 1901, Assembly Hall was expanded again, by opening up the second floor above the hall and adding another 500 seats. However, this ended up being a temporary change. John M. Greene Hall, with its 2,225-seat auditorium, was completed in 1910, eliminating the need for such a large auditorium here in College Hall, and the second floor above Assembly Hall was subsequently reconstructed.

By the 1909-1910 school year, Smith College employed 104 faculty members and had 1,635 students, with an annual tuition that had just been increased from $100 to $150. At this point, College Hall was only used for the auditorium, some classrooms, and administrative offices, but over time this would continue to change as more buildings were added to the campus. College Hall would ultimately come to be used only for offices, resulting in significant changes to the interior in he process. However, the exterior appearance has remained well-preserved over 140 years after the building first opened, and today the only noticeable difference between these two photos is the lack of ivy on the brick walls of the building.

Main Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Main Street from near the corner of Pynchon Street in Springfield, sometime around 1900-1905. Image courtesy of the James Ward Birchall Collection.

The scene in 2017:

When the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, Springfield was a prosperous, rapidly-growing city, and this section of Main Street was the heart of its downtown shopping district. Major department stores included Forbes & Wallace – whose original building is seen second from the left in the first photo – and W. D. Kinsman, located further in the distance at the corner of Bridge Street. In 1906, a few years after the first photo was taken, these stores would also be joined by another competitor, Steiger’s, which opened its flagship store a couple blocks north of here at the corner of Hillman Street.

Along with large department stores, this scene also included smaller, specialized retailers. On the far right was D. H. Bingham & Co., a clothing store that had opened here in 1867 in a building previously occupied by the offices of the Springfield Republican. Other early 20th century stores in the foreground included Johnson’s Bookstore, which was located next to D. H. Bingham, and the W. J. Woods Co., another clothing store located further in the distance at the corner of Main Street and Harrison Avenue. The scene also featured several hotels, including most prominently the Haynes Hotel on the left side in the foreground.

Most of the buildings in the first photo were built in the late 19th century, during a period of rapid growth that saw Springfield’s population double roughly every 20 years. However, very few of the buildings along this section of Main Street are still standing today, aside from the Haynes Hotel on the left and several of the buildings on the right in the foreground. The old Forbes & Wallace building is gone, along with its early 20th century replacement, and today Monarch Place occupies the site. Further in the distance, the Tower Square skyscraper now fills the entire block between Boland Way and Bridge Street, and there are no other 19th century buildings on the left side until the Fort Block, which is barely visible more than four blocks away, in the distant center of the photo.

Thames and Pelham Streets, Newport, RI (2)

Looking north on Thames Street from the corner of Pelham Street in Newport, in August 1906. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

As with an earlier post, the first photo here shows Thames Street decorates in patriotic bunting for the Newport Carnival, which was held in August 1906. The building on the right side, at the corner of Pelham Street, was the United States Hotel, which had been one of the city’s finest hotels when it was built in 1836. Originally owned by the Townsend family, the hotel had replaced the earlier Townsend’s Coffee House, which was built in 1785 and had been a popular gathering place for Newport’s leading citizens in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The United States Hotel enjoyed similar success in the mid-19th century, and for many years it was the site of the state legislature’s “‘Lection Day” celebrations. Held on the last Tuesday of May, this was the day when the results of the statewide April elections were announced and the winners were inaugurated, and the occasion was a major holiday here in Newport.

By the time the first photo was taken, the ‘Lection Day festivities were a thing of the past, and the state legislature no longer met here in Newport. The United States Hotel has long since been eclipsed by more fashionable Gilded Age hotels, and it had gone through a succession of ownership changes since the Townsend family sold the property in 1858. In 1896, for example, it was being run by George E. Houghton, who declared in a full-page advertisement in the city directory that the hotel had been “thoroughly renovated and refurnished,” and offered “steam heat, electric bells, and table unsurpassed,” and overall it was “the best $2.50 hotel in New England.” When the first photo was taken less than a decade later, though, the hotel was being run by Wulf Petersen, who advertised that it was “lately renovated and under new management,” and was “open the entire year.”

Aside from the United States Hotel, the other historically-significant building in the first photo was the one just beyond it to the left. Built in 1817, this elegant Federal-style building was the home of the Rhode Island Union Bank, which later became the Union National Bank of Newport. The building was designed by Asher Benjamin, a prominent and influential early 19th century architect whose works can be found across New England. However, despite his prolific career, and Newport’s reputation for outstanding architectural works, this bank was Benjamin’s only known commission in the city. Part of this may be due to the fact that the early 19th century was somewhat of a lull in Newport’s prosperity; the city’s shipping industry had never fully recovered after the American Revolution, and its renaissance as a wealthy resort community would not start for several more decades. Consequently, there was limited demand for new buildings, and little need for Asher Benjamin and other architects of his era.

The Union National Bank was still located here when the first photo was taken, and the building was also the home of the People’s Library, which was located on the right side of the building. When the People’s Library – later renamed the Newport Public Library – was established in 1869, the concept of public libraries was still in its infancy in the United States. Members-only libraries, such as Newport’s own Redwood Library, had existed since the 18th century, but it was not until the mid-19th century that public libraries began to take hold, particularly here in the northeast. The library moved into the storefront on the right side in 1870, and would remain here for more than 40 years, until moving out in 1914.

In the years after the first photo was taken, this scene underwent significant changes. The United States Hotel closed in 1918, and remained vacant for many years. Badly deteriorated, it was finally demolished in 1933, leaving only the first floor. This surviving section appears to still be standing, having been incorporated into the present-day commercial building, but all traces of the original hotel building are long gone. In the meantime, bank building to the left was demolished in the 1950s, but like its neighbor it appears part of the first floor survived, and still stands in the present-day scene. However, despite these dramatic changes in the foreground, the two buildings in the distance on the left have survived relatively unchanged, and today they form part of the Newport Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.