Henry Sterns House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 48 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house in 2017:

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Henry Sterns was born in 1794 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but came to Springfield as a young child. He went on to become a prosperous merchant, and in 1826 he married into the prominent Dwight family. His wife, Sophia, was the daughter of the late James Scutt Dwight, who himself had been a wealthy merchant. The following year, the couple moved into this house, which at the time was located closer to Central Street.

The house is built of brick, with a relatively simple Federal-style design that was typical for the time. It was designed by Simon Sanborn, a prolific master builder who constructed a number of buildings in early 19th century Springfield, including the Alexander House. At the time, the Maple Hill section of Springfield was lightly developed, and Sterns’s home was situated on a large lot on the north side of Central Street. Covered in trees, the land became known as Sterns’s Woods, and abutted the land that would later become Springfield Cemetery.

Sterns lived in this house for the rest of his life, during which time he continued to be a successful businessman, and eventually served as treasurer for the Springfield Institution for Savings from 1849 to 1858. He died in 1859, and within the next decade Springfield experienced a rapid population growth. With increasing demand for new houses, the property was subdivided. Two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were developed, with one on either side of the house. Around 1870, the house itself was moved to the back of the lot, and became 48 Madison Avenue. The Charles L. Goodhue House, which still stands at 216 Central Street, was later built on the original site of the Sterns House.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was in its new location, and was the home of jeweler William W. White and his wife Ellen. He died in the 1890s, and by the 1900 census Ellen was living here with her daughter and granddaughter. She also rented to boarders, and four were living here at the time. Among them was a newspaper editor, a proofreader, and an inspector at the Armory.

The old house has since seen a number of other owners, but it is still standing, nearly two centuries after Henry and Sophia Sterns moved in. Very little has changed with the exterior, and its plain design stands out in a neighborhood otherwise dominated by far more elaborate homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city has very clearly grown up around the house, but it survives as a reminder of a long-lost time when Springfield’s wealthy residents lived on large, wooded estates on the outskirts of the downtown area. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

Buckwheat Hall, Springfield, Mass

The house at 224 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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

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The house in 2017:

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James W. Crooks was a lawyer and a prominent Springfield resident of the early 19th century. He was from Blandford, Massachusetts, and had graduated from Yale in 1818. Initially he worked as a teacher, before studying law here in Springfield, under George Bliss, Sr. Aside from his legal work, he also served Springfield in different capacities, including as a member of the school committee, the board of selectmen, and the county commission.

Crooks also owned a significant amount of land in Springfield, and in 1835 he moved into this house on Walnut Street. At the time, Walnut Street marked the eastern extent of Springfield’s development, and beyond here was largely open land, with occasional scattered farms. On the eastern side of Walnut Street, opposite his house, Crooks owned a sizeable tract of land, which extended to Eastern Avenue and was later developed as part of the Old Hill neighborhood. At the time, though, it consisted of open fields of buckwheat, providing the name Buckwheat Hall for his house.

In 1849, Crooks married Ann Chapin, who was the daughter of Colonel Harvey Chapin, another prominent Springfield resident. Two years later, the couple left Buckwheat Hall, and by 1870 it was owned by Joseph and Mary Atwood.Joseph was a carpenter, and probably had plenty of work to do in this neighborhood. In the post-Civil War era, Springfield saw a significant housing boom, resulting in widespread development in the previously vacant land to the east of here.

Both Joseph and Mary died in 1889, and the property was subsequently developed. Atwood Place, seen in the foreground of the 2017 photo, was built just south of the house, subdividing the lot into six new houses. Buckwheat Hall remained, but was used as a rental property. In the 1900 census, it was rented by Francis C. Croy, a teacher who lived here with his wife Ella, their two children, and their daughter-in-law. In 1910, it was the home of carpenter Harry L. Putnam, his wife Bertha, and their two children. By 1920, Arthur M. Tales, who worked as a guard at the Armory, lived here with his wife Billie and their four children.

At the start of the 1920s, the large house was still serving as a single-family residence, but it was soon divided into four different units, and the rear section was reconstructed to match the height of the front. Along with this, as seen in the second photo, a one-story storefront was built on the front of the building. By the time this photo was taken, a convenience store was located here, and advertised a variety of soft drinks, including Nehi, Royal Crown, and Springfield’s own Country Club Soda.

More than 180 years after it was built, Buckwheat Hall is still standing. In 1893, it had been one of over 40 houses featured in Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield. Most of these homes dated to the late 18th and early 19th century, and only four remain today, including Buckwheat Hall. The storefront, which had long been vacant and neglected, was demolished around 2012-2013, revealing the house’s original appearance. From the outside, it looks to be in rough shape, though, and the front windows are still bricked up from when the storefront had been built. The windows at southeast corner of the building, seen here, are boarded up, but the rest of the units appear to still be occupied, and hopefully the house can eventually be restored to its former grandeur.

Ebenezer Gay Manse, Suffield, Connecticut

The Ebenezer Gay Manse on North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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Ebenezer Gay was 23 years old when he was ordained as the pastor of the church in Suffield in 1742. The Hingham, Massachusetts native had recently graduated from Harvard, and he arrived in the midst of the Great Awakening, which was already sweeping across New England and had resulted in a number of revivals here in Suffield. That same year, he married Hannah Angier, and the following year they moved into this elegant, gambrel-roofed Georgian home in the center of town.

At the time, it was not uncommon for pastors to be hired directly out of college and remain in the same church for the rest of his life. Ebenezer Gay was no exception, and served here for 54 years, until his death in 1796. Towards the end of his ministry, his son, Ebenezer Gay, Jr., became the assistant pastor, and took over the full duties upon his father’s death. Like his father, the younger Ebenezer lived in this house. He also had a remarkable tenure as the pastor here, serving until his death in 1837, for a total of 95 years between father and son.

When the first photo was taken, the house was already about 200 years old, and its historical significance was well-recognized. It was owned by the Suffield School for Boys, which would become Suffield Academy. At the time, it was vacant, but would eventually be put to use as faculty housing for the school. It is still used for the same purpose, and in the early 2000s it was repaired and restored to its original appearance. Along with the other buildings in the area, it is part of the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Second Baptist Church, Suffield, Connecticut (2)

Another view of the Second Baptist Church, taken around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The church in 2017:

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The first photo was taken as part of a Works Progress Administration program to document historic buildings in Connecticut. Around 100 years old at the time, the Second Baptist Church was among those photographed in Suffield’s historic town center. As mentioned in more detail in the previous post, the congregation was established in 1805 by members of the First Baptist Church. The current building was completed in 1840, and has remained in use ever since.

The church is now nearly twice as old as it was when the first photo was taken, but its exterior has seen little change. The only significant difference is the loss of the parsonage on the extreme right, which was demolished in the 1950s to build a new wing of the church. Along with many other historic buildings in the center of Suffield, the church is a contributing property in the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Second Baptist Church, Suffield, Connecticut (1)

The Second Baptist Church, on North Main Street in Suffield, around the early 1900s. Image from Celebration of the Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Settlement of Suffield, Connecticut (1921).

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The church in 2017:

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In the colonial era, nearly all of the churches in New England were Congregational. At the time, Baptists were a very small minority, but they gained a foothold here in Suffield. The first Baptist church in Hartford County was established in the town in 1769, and its congregation met in a small church about three miles west of the town center. Despite the remote location, the church remained there in the Hastings Hill neighborhood, and the current church building was built in 1846.

Because of how far removed it was from the town center, though, the Second Baptist Church was formed in 1805, and in 1840 they built this building on North Main Street, right in the center of Suffield. It was designed by Suffield native Henry A. Sykes, who was the architect for a number of buildings throughout the Connecticut River Valley in the mid-19th century. The Greek Revival architecture is fairly typical for New England churches of the era, with a symmetrical front facade, a columned portico, and a multi-stage steeple above it.

The church building was completed a year after Dwight Ives became the pastor. He served here for many years, and had close ties to the Connecticut Literary Institute, located across the street. Known today as Suffield Academy, it had been founded as a Baptist school, and many of the students attended church here. During Ives’s 35 year long pastorate here, the church experienced several revivals, with a significant growth in the size of the congregation.

About a century after the first photo was taken, the Second Baptist Church is still an active congregation. There have been some changes, most notably the demolition of the parsonage to the right of the church and the construction of several additions in the 1950s. The church itself is still standing, though, along with the Ebenezer Gay Manse, barely visible in the distance on the far left of the photos. Both buildings are important landmarks in downtown Suffield, and they are part of the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

East Granby Congregational Church, East Granby, Connecticut

The East Granby Congregational Church, at the corner of North Main Street and Rainbow Road, around 1930. Image from Sketch of the Congregational Society and Church of East Granby, Conn. (1930).

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The church in 2017:

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Early 19th century stone churches are rare in the Connecticut River Valley, where most meetinghouses were built of either wood or brick. As a result, this granite church in East Granby stands out in contrast to the archetypal white, wood-frame churches of small-town New England. It was completed in 1831, and was one of many churches designed by Northampton, Massachusetts architect Isaac Damon, whose most prominent existing work is probably Springfield’s Old First Church. However, the East Granby church is very different from most of his other churches, which were almost invariably wood, with a columned portico in the front and a tall spire above it.

At the time of its completion, the church was actually located in Granby. The present-day towns of Granby and East Granby had been part of Simsbury in the colonial era, but in 1786 the two northern parishes were formed into the town of Granby. The eastern parish, originally known as Turkey Hills, subsequently split off from Granby in 1858 to form East Granby, with this area here as the town center.

The first photograph was taken around the time of the building’s 100th anniversary. At the time, East Granby’s population was just about 1,000 people, not much higher than when the town had been incorporated over 70 years earlier. However, in the nearly 90 years since then, the town has undergone significant growth as a suburb of Hartford, and now has over 5,000 residents. Part of Bradley International Airport is also located in the town, just over a mile east of the church.

Despite all of these changes, though, the church is still standing, and remains in active use. There have been several large additions over the years, which are partially visible behind and to the left of it, but Isaac Damon’s original section is largely unaltered. It is a prominent landmark in the center of town, and is part of the East Granby Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.