Holyoke High School, Holyoke, Mass

Holyoke High School, seen from the corner of Hampshire and Pine Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke High School was established in 1852, and occupied several different buildings before moving into its first purpose-built high school building a decade later. It was located on Elm Street, between Dwight and Suffolk Streets, and it was used as the high school until 1898. However, the city’s population had seen considerable growth during that time, from around 5,000 in 1860 to over 45,000 by the turn of the century, and there was a need for a much larger school building.

As a result, the new high school was completed in 1898, on the outskirts of downtown Holyoke. It was designed by architect George P. B. Alderman, and featured a Classical Revival design with a stone exterior on the first floor and yellow brick on the upper floors. The school grounds occupied an entire city block, surrounded by Pine, Hampshire, Beech, and Sargeant Streets, and the first photo shows the view facing the eastern corner of the building, as seen from the corner of Pine and Hampshire Streets.

This building was used as Holyoke High School until 1964, when the current high school opened a few blocks away on Beech Street. The old school was then renovated and reopened as the home of Holyoke Community College. The college, which had been founded in 1946, had over 1,500 students by the 1967-1968 school year, but its time in this building proved short-lived. On January 4, 1968, a fire started in the attic and quickly spread throughout the building. Around 500 people were inside at the time, but all managed to escape safely. However, the fire burned for hours, completely gutting the building and leaving only the partially-collapsed stone and brick exterior walls.

Following the fire, Holyoke Community College had a somewhat nomadic existence until 1974, when it moved into its present-day campus off of Homestead Avenue, on the western side of the city. Today, the only visible remnant from the first photo is, ironically, the fire hydrant in the foreground at the corner. Although it is not the same hydrant in both photos, it is located on the same spot, and serves as a way to orient the first photo. The former site of the school is still owned by the city, though, and it is now occupied by the Holyoke Senior Center, which is visible in the distance on the left side of the photo.

Fairmount Square, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Oak Street from the corner of Hampshire Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This section of Oak Street, between Hampshire and Cabot Streets, was developed in the mid-1880s by contractor Leslie B. White. It was known as Fairmount Square, and this block included six homes on each side of the street. Each one had a brick exterior on the first floor, with wood on the upper floors, and all had similar Queen Anne-style architecture, although no two homes were identical. The houses on the west side, shown here in this scene, were at a higher elevation than the street, and had sloping yards with steps leading to the front door. Driveways are conspicuously missing from the scene, but a rear alley provided access to the garages on the properties.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the development was completed, and shows the street lined with newly-planted trees. At the time, Holyoke was at its peak of prosperity as an industrial center, and these houses attracted a variety of middle class residents. The house on the far left, at 253 Oak Street, was originally the home of brickmaker George W. Richards, and he lived here with his wife Helen and their theee children. Just to the right, 251 Oak Street was the home of Charles E. Watson, who worked as a bookkeeper for the National Blank Book Company, although by the early 1890s it was the home of attorney Richard D. Kilduff. Further to the right, barely visible in the first photo, 249 Oak Street was the home of H. Dwight Bradburn, a manager at the Nonotuck Paper Company.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, all of the houses on this block of Oak Street are still standing. However, most have undergone significant exterior changes over the years, particularly the addition of artificial siding. Only a few houses on either side of the street still retain their original Victorian-era details, and the name Fairmount Square has long since disappeared from use. Overall, though, the block still survives as one of Holyoke’s upscale 19th century residential developments, and provides a hint of the economic prosperity that the city experienced during this time.

Oren D. Allyn House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 141 Locust Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1890 as the home of real estate developer Oren D. Allyn, and, like many of the other elegant homes in Holyoke during this period, it was designed by noted local architect George P. B. Alderman. The house incorporated many Queen Anne-style elements, including an asymmetrical design, a complex roofline, a large front porch, and a tower on one corner of the house. It was accompanied by a matching carriage house behind it, and the property originally extended to Sycamore Street in the back and Hampshire Street on the left.

Oren D. Allyn was born in Holyoke in 1853, and as a young man he worked in his family’s meat market on High Street, with city directories variously listing him as a clerk, salesman, and bookkeeper. However, by 1885 he had entered the real estate business, and began developing much of the Oakdale neighborhood. This area, at the western end of downtown Holyoke’s street grid, had been laid out in the mid-19th century, but it was not until the 1880s that the city’s growth reached this neighborhood.

Allyn’s father, Anderson Allyn, owned a large plot of land in this section. The 1884 city atlas shows the property line running diagonally to the street grid, starting near the corner of Beech and Franklin Streets and ending near the corner of Essex and Pleasant Streets. The land covered much of the area now bounded by Beech Street, Franklin Street, Hampshire Street, and Magnolia Avenue, and in the coming years Oren Allyn built over 300 homes in the neighborhood, including his own house here on Locust Street.

Aside from his work in real estate development, Allyn also served on the city’s board of public works from 1899 to 1906. He supported the City Beautiful movement of the era, and during his time on the board he encouraged projects such as planting trees along the city’s streets. He put these ideas into practice in his own expansive yard as well, including cultivating a large rose garden here. The first photo was taken only about a year after the house was completed, but by this point the left side of the scene was already dotted with a number of recently-planted trees and bushes.

The completion of this house coincided with Oren’s 1891 marriage to Alice Ladd, and he lived here for the rest of his life. He and Alice did not have any children, but they shared the house with Alice’s family. By 1900, her mother Augusta and sister Mabel were both living here. Augusta died in 1904, and Mabel was no longer here by the 1910 census, but by that point Alice’s widowed brother Wilbur was living here with his three sons. Wilbur had moved out before the 1920 census, but his sons were still living here at the time. Oren died in 1929, at the age of 75, and Wilbur subsequently returned to this house in order to live with his sister. He died in 1935, and Alice moved out of the house in 1939.

The property was later subdivided, and today two houses stand on the left side of the house, on Hampshire Street. The carriage house is gone, along with Allyn’s rose garden and other landscaping, and in the mid-20th century the wooden clapboards were covered with green asphalt shingles. These shingles have since been removed, but other exterior changes have included enclosing the top of the tower and replacing the railing and posts on the front porch. A fire escape, only partially visible in the 2017 photo, has been added to the left side of the house, and the interior is now divided into eight apartment units. However, the house still stands as one of the many elegant mansions that were built in Holyoke during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Michael Cleary House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 1137-1139 Dwight Street, near the corner of Pleasant Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This two-family, Queen Anne-style house was built in 1891, shortly before the first photo was taken, and was designed by noted Holyoke architect George P. B. Alderman. The house was apparently numbered 287 Dwight Street at the time, before the current numbering system was adopted in the first decade of the 1900s, and was originally the home of carpenter and contractor Michael Cleary and his family. Michael only lived here for a few years, before moving to a house on Northampton Street, but other members of the Cleary family remained at this house for many years.

By the 1900 census, the house was occupied by five siblings: Thomas, Margaret, Dennis, John, and William Cleary. Their ages ranged from 29 to 42, and all were single except for the youngest, William, although his wife was not listed here on the census. All five of them were born in the United States to Irish immigrants, and both Thomas and Dennis were liquor dealers, in the firm of Thomas M. Cleary & Co. The company was located on Maple Street, and according to an advertisement in the 1905 city directory they were:

Wholesale Dealers in Foreign and Domestic Winds and Liquors. Also Agents for P. Ballantine & Sons’ Celebrated Newark Ales and Porter and Union Brewing Co.’s Boston Lager Beer. Agents Western Massachusetts for the well known Van Hook Whiskey. Also Gibson’s XXXX Whiskey. Also general line of fine Whiskey for Medicinal use.

The 1910 census shows Thomas and Margaret still living here. Margaret had married by this point, to dry goods store clerk Thomas Fitzgerald, and they lived here with their two young children, Claire and Thomas. Thomas Cleary was still in the liquor business, along with Michael Cleary, and he continued to operate his firm on Maple Street until his death in 1917. As it turned out, Prohibition went into effect only three years later, and by the early 1920s the company was evidently out of business.

Thomas and Margaret Fitzgerald were still living here in this house by 1920, along with their children and Margaret’s brother, John Cleary. Thomas died at some point in the 1920s, but the rest of the family was still living here during the 1930 census. The property was valued at $25,000 (about $380,000 today) and she rented the right side of the two-family home to Walter Shean, who lived here with his wife Rose and their son Joseph. They paid $100 in monthly rent (about $1,500 today), which was more than double what most of their neighbors were paying at the time.

Margaret and her children, Claire and Thomas, were still living here during the 1940 census, and the house would remain in the family for many more years. Both children lived here for the rest of their lives, until Claire’s death in 1978 and Thomas’s in 1985. The house was subsequently sold out of the Cleary-Fitzgerald family for the first time in nearly a century, but it is still standing today, with a well-preserved exterior that has not changed significantly in 125 years since the first photo was taken. The house further in the distance is gone, having been replaced by a modern apartment complex, but other elements from the first photo are still here, including the retaining wall and steps on the right side of the scene.

Robert B. Johnson House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 1425 Northampton Street in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The house in 2017:

This large Queen Anne-style house was built in 1884, and was the home of Robert B. Johnson, a prominent insurance agent and bank executive. Johnson was born in 1828 in East Weare, New Hampshire, but he later came to Holyoke. He established the R. B. Johnson & Son insurance agency, which offered fire, life, and accident insurance out of its offices on High Street, and he was also involved in both the Holyoke Savings Bank and the Holyoke National Bank. From 1866 until his death in 1899, Johnson was the treasurer of the savings bank, and he was also the first vice president of the national bank, starting in 1872. He eventually became president of the bank in 1896, and served in that role until his death three years later.

Robert Johnson lived here in this house with his wife Cornelia and their two children, Charles and Jenta. Charles joined his father in the insurance and banking businesses, eventually succeeding Robert as treasurer of the Holyoke Savings Bank, and he lived here in this house until around the time of his marriage in 1890. Two years later, he built a house of his own, which was located just south of his father’s house at 1439 Northampton Street. Then, in 1893 his sister Jenta married businessman George C. Gill, and the couple lived here in this house with Robert and Cornelia.

The 1900 census, taken a year after Robert’s death, lists Cornelia living here along with Jenta, George, and their two daughters, Dorothy and Dorcas. The family also employed four servants, who also lived here in the house. Until 1899, he was the president of the George C. Gill Paper Company, and he later became vice president of the American Writing Paper Company, after the company acquired the Gill company. He resigned the position in 1902 in order to become president of the Holyoke National Bank, and over the years he also served as president of the Missisquoi Pulp and Paper Company, the Erving Paper Mills, and the Holyoke Heater Company.

Cornelia Johnson died in 1914, and her daughter Jenta in 1923. However, George Gill outlived his late wife by many years. During the 1930 census he was living here with Dorcas and her husband, Lincoln B. Smith, who worked under Gill as the assistant treasurer of the Holyoke Heater Company. A decade later, Lincoln and Dorcas had two young children, Robert and Virginia, and they were still living here with George Gill. By this point, Lincoln was Vice President of the Holyoke Heater Company, with the 1940 census listingjisbannual salary as $4,000, but he subsequently became a sales representative for the Haven Paper Company.

George Gill went on to live in this house until his death in 1955, at the age of 97. Lincoln and Dorcas moved out at around the same time, and at some point around the mid-20th century the exterior of the house was altered. This included replacing the exterior wood with siding, and enclosing the second-floor porch. These changes resulted in the loss of many of the home’s Victorian-era ornamentation, but otherwise the house is still standing. The carriage house, visible further in the distance on the right side of both photos, is also still there, and its exterior has actually been better-preserved than the house itself.

Leslie B. White House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 56 Fairfield Avenue in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1888, and was among the first houses to be built here on Fairfield Avenue. The street is part of the Highlands neighborhood, which was developed in the late 19th century after streetcar lines enabled residents to live further outside of downtown Holyoke. Fairfield Avenue, with its landscaped median and elegant homes, attracted a number of upper middle class residents, including Leslie B. White, a contractor and carriage dealer who designed some of the houses here on the street. He moved into this house upon its completion, and lived here until at least 1895. However, the 1896 city directory lists him further down the street at 31 Fairfield Avenue, and by 1897 he had moved to Westfield.

The house was subsequently owned by John F. Knightly, a slate roofer who was living here during the 1900 census. He and his wife Maria were both the children of Irish immigrants, and they had six children together, although only two were still living by 1900. They lived here for a few years, but later moved to 10 Fairfield Avenue, where Maria died in 1907. By 1911, this house at 56 Fairfield Avenue was owned by traveling salesman Charles H. Tower. He was later listed as a manager of an asbestos mill, and he lived here with his wife Jennie until his death in 1941.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the house was built, when Leslie White still lived here. At the time, the lot was evidently wider, since the carriage house was located further to the right, near where the house on the far right now stands. The carriage house appears to have survived, although at some point around the turn of the 20th century it was moved to its current location directly behind 56 Fairfield Avenue. Otherwise, this scene has not changed significantly in the past 125 years, and the house is still standing with most of its Queen Anne-style exterior decorations. It is now part of the Fairfield Avenue Local Historic District, which was established in 2007 as the city’s first local historic district.