Park Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass (2)

The Park Congregational Church at the corner of Saint James Avenue and Clarendon Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this church was built around 1889 as Park Congregational Church, and was used by this church until they merged with South Congregational Church in 1973. That same year, they sold the building to Faith Baptist Church, but it was gutted by a fire just three weeks later. The wooden upper section of the church was destroyed, but the lower brick section survived the fire, and the church was rebuilt a few years later.

Today, the building stands vacant and deteriorated, with hardly any resemblance to its appearance in the first photo. The surviving walls have been heavily altered, but there are still a few remnants of the original design, including the steps to the side entrance, the arched windows on the left side, and a few of the windows on the right side. Despite these dramatic alterations, though, the church is a contributing property in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, right around the same time that the church was rebuilt.

Park Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

The Park Congregational Church at the corner of Saint James Avenue and Clarendon Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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

The church in 2017:

The McKnight neighborhood in Springfield was developed in the late 19th century, just to the east of the Armory and a little over a mile from downtown Springfield. The large, elegant homes, landscaped streets, and easy access to trolley lines made it a desirable neighborhood for many of the city’s prominent residents, with hundreds of families moving here by the end of the 19th century. The neighborhood was almost exclusively residential, but there were also a number of new churches that were established in the neighborhood, including Park Congregational Church, which is seen here in these photos.

The church was established in 1889, and this building was completed around the same time. Its design reflected the popular Romanesque architecture of the era, and it was constructed with a variety of materials, including a stone foundation, brick lower walls, and shingled upper walls. It was situated in a prominent location at the corner of Saint James Avenue and Clarendon Street, and it was named for the Thompson Triangle, the largest park in the neighborhood, which is located directly opposite the church.

The first photo was taken soon after the building’s completion, and it shows a round turret at the northwestern corner of the building. However, this was removed by the time the second photo was taken nearly 50 years later, and the building instead had square, one-story additions on either side of the Clarendon Street entrance, on the left side of the photo. The other notable change in the second photo is the cupola, which was added to the top of the roof.

This building continued to be the home of Park Congregational Church for more than 30 years after the first photo was taken, but in 1973 the church merged with the South Congregational Church. Shortly after the merger,  this property was sold to Faith Baptist Church, which had previously been located at 76 Oak Street. However, in April 1973, just three weeks after Faith Baptist moved in, this building was gutted by a fire. The brick section of the walls survived the fire, though, and the building was subsequently reconstructed around them, with a dramatically different architectural style that included a low, mostly flat roof, and a tall, narrow tower at the Saint James Avenue entrance.

Despite its heavily modified appearance, the church building became a contributing property in the McKnight Historic District in 1976, when the neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It would remain the home of Faith Baptist Church into the early 2000s, but in 2006 the congregation merged with Christian Hill Baptist Church, which is located nearby on Bowdoin Street. This building was later sold in 2013, but it appears to have remained vacant ever since, and it is currently boarded up and in poor condition, as seen in the 2017 photo.

First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church, Springfield, Mass

The First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church at 57 Bay Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The church in 2017:

During the 19th century, Springfield experienced significant population growth as it developed into a major industrial and commercial center. From its 1800 population of 2,312, it grew to over 62,000 by 1900, and with many new residents bringing new languages, cultures, and religious beliefs to the city. At the start of the 19th century, Springfield’s only religious institution was a single Congregational church, but over time Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, and other denominations would all establish churches in the city.

By the turn of the 20th century, many of these churches served specific ethnic groups, particularly recent immigrants. The early Catholic churches were predominantly Irish, but other parishes were later established for French, Italian, and Polish Catholics. In addition, there were six Protestant churches that held their services in a language other than English, including one German, one Italian, one French, and three Swedish churches. Of the Swedish churches, there was one Congregational church, one Lutheran church, and a Methodist church, which was located here on Bay Street.

The First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1893, and in its early years it held services in a hall above the First National Bank on Main Street, opposite Court Square. However, in 1901 the congregation built this church building, near the corner of Bay and Pleasant Streets in Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood. Its Shingle-style design reflected architectural tastes of the era, although its windows, with their pointed arches, give it somewhat of a Gothic appearance as well.

In the late 1930s, around the time that the first photo was taken, the church was renamed the Bay Street Methodist Church. The congregation continued to use this building for the next decade or so, until it merged with the Asbury First Methodist Church in 1952. The new church held its services in the Asbury church building at the corner of Hancock and Florence Streets, and this property on Bay Street was sold in 1953 to the Church of the Nazarene. This church would remain here for the next 13 years, until moving to a new building on Wilbraham Road in Sixteen Acres in 1966.

Later in 1966, the building was sold to the Holy Trinity Church of God in Christ, which remains an active congregation here more than 50 years later. During this time, the exterior of the building has remained well-preserved, and the only significant change in this scene has been the addition of a wheelchair ramp on the right side of the building. It stands as a good example of Shingle-style church architecture, and it is a contributing property in the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nehemiah A. Leonard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 87 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house underwent a significant exterior renovation in the early 20th century, but it actually dates back to 1870, when it was built with a Second Empire-style design that included a clapboarded exterior, a mansard roof, and a bay window on the right side. It was originally the home of Nehemiah A. Leonard, a New Bedford native who came to Springfield after graduating from Brown University in 1848. Here, he studied law under George Ashmun, a Congressman who was one of Springfield’s most prominent lawyers. After being admitted to the bar in 1851, Leonard joined Ashmun’s firm as a partner, and went on to have a successful legal career.

Early in his time in Springfield, Leonard met Clara T. Chapman, the daughter of one of George Ashmun’s friends. He and Clara married in 1854, and for many years they lived in rented houses in the city. However, in 1870 they built a house of their own here in Mulberry Street, in what was at the time one of the most desirable residential areas of the city. That year’s census listed Leonard’s real estate as being worth $12,000, along with another $1,000 for his personal estate, and he and Clara lived here with their three young daughters: Mary, Anna, and Katharine.

In the course of Leonard’s law practice, one of his most important clients was the Connecticut River Railroad, which ran north from Springfield to the Vermont state line in Northfield and connected Springfield with Holyoke, Northampton, Greenfield, and Vermont. He worked closely with the railroad’s president, Daniel L. Harris, who also lived in Springfield, and Leonard took over as president after Harris’s death in 1879. Leonard remained the president of the railroad for the next eleven years, until his death in 1890, and three years later the line was acquired by the much larger Boston and Maine Railroad.

During this time, Clara Leonard became a prominent social reformer who was the founder and president of the Hampden County Children’s Aid Society, as well as secretary of the Springfield Home for Friendless Women. In the 1870s, she led a campaign to reform the state prison system, advocating for separate prison facilities for female convicts. Her efforts were successful, and in 1874 Massachusetts became only the second state to establish women’s prisons.

Then, in 1880, Governor John D. Long appointed Clara to the state Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity. She was the first woman on the nine-person board, and was still serving when Long’s successor, Benjamin Butler, became governor in 1883. Unlike Clara Leonard and Long, Butler was a Democrat, and he sought to fill the board with as many political allies as possible. As Clara’s term was not yet expired, he tried several different ways of removing her, first by offering her the recently-vacated position as superintendent of the women’s prison. It was a lucrative job offer, with a salary of $2,500, but she sensed his true motives and declined, choosing instead to remain on the board, and Butler then filled the superintendent position with another Clara: Red Cross founder Clara Barton.

Unable to entice her with a well-paying government job, Governor Butler next tried to remove her through legal semantics. Under state law, the Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity was to have nine persons on the board. He argued that, since a woman was not a person in the legal sense, the phrase “nine persons” could only mean nine men, thus making Clara ineligible to serve on the board. He went as far as to appoint her replacement to the board, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ultimately resolved the linguistic dispute, unanimously ruling that Clara was, in fact, a person, and was therefore eligible to serve on the board.

During Governor Butler’s single one-year term as governor, he and Clara Leonard were also involved in a public dispute over the state almshouse in Tewksbury. Early in his term, Butler had tried to make it a political issue, arguing that the almshouse received too much state money. He claimed that the facility was poorly managed and unsanitary, and accused the superintendent and other officers of embezzling funds, abusing inmates, and even selling dead bodies to medical schools for personal profit. However, Clara Leonard was familiar with the almshouse and, along with the rest of the board, was skeptical of these accusations. She made an unannounced visit to inspect the conditions, and her subsequent report refuted nearly all of the governor’s claims, while also arguing that the facility needed more state funding, rather than less.

Clara’s report was well-received by the general public, and undermined some of the governor’s credibility. It may have even been a factor in Butler’s defeat for re-election in the fall of 1883, when he lost by a narrow margin to George D. Robinson, a Republican Congressman from Chicopee. Robinson would go on to serve three terms as governor, and during this time he reappointed Clara to another five-year term on the Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity. However, she would only serve until 1886, when she resigned because of poor health.

After Nehemiah’s death in 1890, Clara continued to live here in this house until her own death in 1904. She later became the subject of a biography written by her daughter Katharine, which was published in 1908. In the meantime, her family sold this house to Mary P. Colburn, a widow who lived here for a few years before selling the house to Richard Hooker in 1913. Before moving in, however, Hooker had the house significantly expanded and remodeled. He hired the local architectural firm of Kirkham & Partlett for the renovations, which included replacing the mansard roof with a cross-gabled one, covering the exterior walls in stucco, and building an addition to the house.

Richard Hooker was the grandson of Samuel Bowles, the prominent editor of the Springfield Republican, and after graduating from Yale in 1899 he joined the staff of the newspaper. From 1904 to 1911 he was the newspaper’s Washington correspondent, where he worked during the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft. Both men offered Hooker the position of White House press secretary, although he declined these offers. He would later decline several offers from Woodrow Wilson as well, including the position of assistant secretary of the treasury and assistant secretary of the navy.

Shortly after his 1910 marriage to Winifred E. Newberry, Hooker became the literary editor of the Republican, and they moved into this house a few years later. In 1915 he became the the newspaper’s editor after the death of his uncle, Samuel Bowles, and he held the position until 1922, when he resigned because of poor health. However, he remained affiliated with the Republican, serving as president of the Republican Publishing Company and in 1924 he published a book that chronicled the newspaper’s first hundred years.

Richard and Winifred had four children: Richard, Sarah, Mary, and Arthur. The family lived here in this house until around 1930, when they moved to Longmeadow, and they subsequently rented this house to Mabel Moore, a widow who lived here with her daughter Louise and Louise’s two young children. They were living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and at the time Mabel was paying $100 in rent while also employing three live-in servants: a butler, maid, and nurse.

Mabel later purchased the house from Richard Hooker in 1945, and she lived here until her death in 1961, at the age of 86. Since then, the exterior of the house has seen few changes. There is hardly any trace of its original 1870 design, but it retains its post-1913 appearance, and it stands as one of many well-preserved historic homes in the area. Along with these other homes, it is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Homer Foot, Jr. House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 67 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in the early 1880s for Homer Foot, Jr., the son of prominent local hardware store owner Homer Foot. The older Homer had begun his career in 1825, as a 14-year-old clerk in the old Dwight store at the corner of Main and State Streets. By the time he was 21 he had purchased the business, and he would go on to have a long career as one of the city’s leading merchants. The younger Homer was one of ten children, and he grew up in his father’s mansion at the corner of Maple and Central Streets. He married his wife, Katherine Bailey, in 1863, and three years later he became a partner in his father’s company, after having worked as a clerk for some time.

Homer and Katherine previously lived nearby on Union Street, but in the early 1880s they moved into this house, along with their three sons: Homer, Russell, and Augustus. By the 1900 census, their two older sons had moved out, but Homer and Katherine were still living here with Augustus, as well as two Irish-born servants: Margaret Mulrone Mary Sullivan. Katherine died five years later, but Homer was still living here during the 1910 census, along with both Margaret and Mary, and he would remain here until his death in 1917.

The house does not appear to have been listed in the 1920 census, but by 1930 it was owned by Mabel B. Moore, a 54-year-old widow who lived here with her son Robert and daughter Louise, plus a roomer, a cook, and a maid. However, within a few years Mabel had moved to a nearby house at 87 Mulberry Street, and for most of the 1930s this house was the home of another widow, Louise B. Emerson, who lived here with her son Richard and her niece, Fanny R. Childs. However, like many of the other 19th century mansions in the area, this house subsequently became a rooming house, with the 1940 census listing 12 tenants. Half of them were over the age of 60, and and there were only two married couples in the group, with the rest being either single, widowed, or divorced.

Many of the elegant mansions along Mulberry Street have since been restored and are now single-family homes once again. However, this house continued to be used as a rooming house into the late 1960s, and it was eventually demolished by 1970 and replaced with a small, nondescript office building that now stands on the site.

Edmond H. Smith House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 75 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1889 for Edmond H. Smith, a tobacco dealer with the firm of Hinsdale Smith & Company. His father, Hinsdale, had entered the tobacco business as a young man in 1840, and Edmond subsequently joined the firm as a partner, along with his cousin, Enos Smith. He and Enos took over control of the company after Hinsdale’s death in 1893, and by the early 20th century it was a major producer of tobacco, with locally-grown tobacco from its farms in Feeding Hills in addition to imports from Sumatra and Havana.

Edmond married his first wife, Annie Parker, in 1882, and about seven years later they moved into this newly-completed house on Mulberry Street. By this point they had four young sons, who were all born within a four-year span from 1884 to 1888: Bradford, Theodore, James, and Rodney. They would have a fifth son, Edmond, who was born in 1896, but Annie died during the birth and young Edmond only lived for a few months. Two years later, Edmond remarried to Cora W. Atkinson, and they had one child, Julia, who was born in 1902.

By the 1910 census, Edmond and Cora were living here with the five children, plus Edmond’s elderly mother-in-law from his first marriage, Sophia Parker. Edmond’s four sons were in their 20s at this point, and the two younger boys were students at Colgate University. Bradford, the oldest, had graduated from Colgate in 1908, and Theodore from Dartmouth in 1910. All four sons had moved out of the house by the next census in 1920, with James serving as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps during World War I.

Edmond died in 1932, and the house sat vacant for several years. However, by the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s it had been converted into a rooming house. The 1940 census shows that the house was owned by Eva B. Chevalier, a 48-year-old widow who lived here and rented rooms to seven women, whose ages ranged from 19 to 63. Aside from the oldest, who was presumably retired, they all had working-class jobs. Some of the job descriptions were fairly straightforward, such as a hairdresser and a telephone operator, but others were a little more enigmatic, such as “child nourishment” for “school lunch project,” “cutter” for “canning project,” and “presentation leader” for “first aid arts and crafts.”

The house continued to be used as a rooming house throughout the 20th century, but both it and the surrounding neighborhood steadily declined. By the 1990s the house was in serious disrepair, but it was purchased in 2001 and restored to its original appearance, around the same time as the restoration of the long-vacant house next door to the left. Today, both houses stand as good examples of late 19th century residential architecture in Springfield, and they are part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.