31-33 Madison Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The duplex at 31-33 Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2016:

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This Italianate duplex was built in 1869 for brothers Henry and Seth Avery, both of whom were merchants in the city. Henry, the older brother, was a tailor, and he lived in house number 31 on the right, with his wife Sarah. Seth, who lived on the left with his wife Elizabeth, was also involved in selling clothing, and according to the 1870 city directory he was a “Dealer in Hats, Caps, Furs, Furnishing Goods, Umbrellas, Trunks, Bags, &c.”

The two brothers lived here for the rest of their lives. Seth died in 1904, while Henry lived to be 93 years old before his death in 1912. After Seth died, the house on the left was sold to John and Mary McGillicuddy, Irish immigrants who lived here with their five children. All five children were still living here as late as the 1920 census, when the youngest was 23 years old. John lived here until his death in the 1930s, and Mary was still living here as late as the 1940 census.

After Henry’s death in 1912, the house on the right was sold to Leslie Goldthwait, a banker who lived here with his wife Florence and, by 1920, their young children Leslie, Jr. and Susan. By 1930, 78 year old widow Anna Howe was living here, along with her daughter Alison and their Irish servant, Bridie Bresnahan. They were no longer here in 1940, and the house does not appear to have been listed in that year’s census. It was likely vacant, as indicated by the “For Sale” sign in the front yard of the first photo.

Not counting the much older Sterns house, which was moved to its current site in the 1870s, this duplex is the oldest building on Madison Avenue. Nearly 150 years after it was built, its exterior remains well-preserved, with an Italianate architectural design that is relatively unusual for Springfield. Along with the rest of the street it is on the outer edge of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

25-27 Madison Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The duplex at 25-27 Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2016:

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This Stick-style duplex on Madison Avenue was probably built in the 1880s, around the same time as the single-family home just to the right of here. The census records in the first half of the 20th century show a variety of residents over the years, starting with the 1900 census. The unit on the right, house number 25, was the home of Homer P. Crossett, who lived here with his wife Laura and their 19 year old son Edward. Homer’s occupation was listed as a messenger for the American Express Company, and Edward was “at school.”

By 1910, it was owned by Edward Taylor, a bookkeeper whose occupation is later listed as a bank teller. In 1910 and 1920, he was a bachelor, and lived here with several boarders. He got married shortly after the 1920 census, and by 1930 he was living here with his wife Mary, along with an Irish servant, also named Mary.

The unit on the left, number 27, was he home of Elmira T. Daboll, a 77 year old widow who lived here with her daughter Mary, who was a schoolteacher, and her grandson, 18 year old Walter Pepper. By 1910, Walter and Mary were still living here, along with two of Walter’s brothers, Cyris and Robert. Mary was still working as a teacher, while Walter was a telephone employee, Cyris worked for a lumber company, and Robert was a bookkeeper.

A new family was living here in 1920. Robert Marsh, who is listed as the superintendent of the city streets, lived here with his wife Louise until at least 1940, the last year for which census records are available. They had two sons, Robert, Jr., and George, both of whom grew up in this house.

As was the case throughout this neighborhood, the early 20th century residents of this house were typically upper middle class, white collar workers, and this affluence was reflected in the houses that they built. Today, the exterior of the house has been well restored to its original appearance, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

William H. Gray House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 19 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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Madison Avenue is a short, dead-end road, tucked away between Ames Hill and the Springfield Cemetery, and consist of 19th century homes such as this one, which was built around the late 1880s or early 1890s. It was the home of William H. Gray, a druggist who was a longtime partner in Springfield’s prominent H. & J. Brewer drugstore. The company, which had been established in 1819, remained in business into the 20th century, and Gray had worked for them since 1858, when he was a teenager.

William Gray lived in this house until his death in 1920, and his widow Sarah later moved to Rochester, New York. By 1930, it was the home of Theodore and Edith Winter, and their two sons. Theodore was the assistant treasurer of the Springfield Five Cent Savings Bank, and this house reflected his wealth, even in the midst of the Great Depression. The family was still living here when the first photograph was taken, and on the 1940 census his income was listed as being over $5,000, which was the highest income bracket that the census used.

Today, the house’s exterior has been well-restored, with hardly any discernible differences from the 1930s photograph. Along with the rest of Madison Avenue, it is not part of the Ames and Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is along the edge of Springfield’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

240 Central Street, Springfield, Mass

The house a 240 Central Street, at the corner of Cedar Street, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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According to the city records, this Queen Anne-style house was built in 1901, although it probably dates back a few years earlier, because it appears on the 1899 city atlas. At the time it was owned by Lorin Wood, who, appropriately enough, was a lumber dealer. He lived here with his wife Grace, along with a 20 year old Irish servant, Margaret Mansfield. By the 1910 census, the Woods were living in the house directly behind this one on Cedar Street, and this house was owned by real estate agent John Smith and his wife Mary.

A century later, the house is now owned by Phoenix House, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization that also runs the nearby group home at 5 Madison Avenue. It is at the outer edge of the Maple Hill neighborhood, which was Springfield’s premier residential area at the turn of the 20th century. Today, most of this neighborhood is part of the Ames and Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places, but this property is just outside the border. However, it is located within the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

Rufus Chase House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 5 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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In the late 1800s, the Maple Street area of Springfield became the home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents, and some of the finest homes. Here at the corner of Central Street and Madison Avenue, lumber dealer Rufus Chase built this large brick house. It was designed by Perkins and Gardner, the same local architectural firm that also designed many of the houses on Mattoon Street, and it was completed in 1872.

Chase did not live here long, though, and by 1880 it was owned by John C. Alden, who was listed in the census as a “manufacturer of woolen goods.” He was 34 at the time, and lived here with his wife Henrietta and an Irish servant, Helen Lynch.

John Alden died in 1900, but this house had already changed hands before then, and by the 1900 census it was owned by John S. Sanderson, who lived here with his daughter Carrie, her husband William O. Day, and their 18 year old daughter, Hazel. Day was a longtime employee of Morgan Envelope Company. In 1871, after his sophomore year in high school, he left school to work for the company, and two years later they achieved prominence as the first company to manufacture postcards. He eventually became a director of the company, and after it was absorbed by the United States Envelope Company in 1901, he became that company’s treasurer.

In 1910 the Days were still living here, although John Sanderson had died in 1903. Their daughter Hazel also lived here, along with her husband, George W. Pike, a stock broker. Like many other upper middle class families, they also employed a live-in servant, Rose Waramac, a 22 year old biracial woman from Virginia. Carrie Day died in 1918, and by 1920 William was remarried and living in a different house at 54 Ridgewood Place. Hazel and George remained here at this house, though, along with their eight year old daughter Hazel and a different servant, Mary O’Connell, a 32 year old Irish immigrant.

George Pike died in 1932 while still living at this house, and William O. Day died in 1939. By the time the first photograph was taken, George’s widow Hazel was still living here, and the only other resident in this massive house was Augusta Larson, a Swedish maid. The census records are unavailable after 1940, so it is unclear how long Hazel lived here, but she died in 1952. She and her husband are buried in Springfield Cemetery, which is located directly behind the house where she spent most of her life.

Now nearly 150 years old, this historic house has seen few significant changes to the exterior, aside from the enclosed front porch. No longer a single family home, it has been used for many years as the Marathon House, a group home for treating drug and alcohol addition, and is currently operated by Phoenix House.

Merrick-Phelps House, Springfield, Mass

The Merrick-Phelps House at 83 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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This house at the corner of Maple and Union Streets was built in 1841 as the home of Solyman Merrick, a tool manufacturer who, six years earlier, had invented the monkey wrench. He sold his patent to Stephen C. Bemis, and had apparently made enough money off the sale to afford this elegant house. The same year he moved into this house, Merrick married Henrietta Bliss, and the couple lived here until her death, just three years later. In 1847, Merrick sold the house and had another new one built, this time nearly across the street at 104 Maple Street.

The second owner of this house was Ansel Phelps, an attorney who served as mayor from 1856 to 1858. He died in 1860, and for many years this section of Maple Street continued to be the home of some of the city’s most prominent residents. This house remained as a single-family home well into the 20th century, but gradually fell into decline along with the rest of the neighborhood, suffering from years of neglect.

By the early 2000s it was badly deteriorated. The interior had significant water damage, and the exterior porches and pillars were collapsing. However, it was purchased by DevelopSpringfield in 2013, and the organization restored the home to its original condition. The restoration was completed in 2016, with the interior being converted into offices. Along with this house, DevelopSpringfield is also working on restoring the adjacent 1832 Female Seminary, visible in the background of both photos. When complete, these two restored buildings, along with the carriage house of the Merrick-Phelps House, will form an office park of historic 19th century buildings.