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.

William H. Wilson House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 67 Fairfield Avenue in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1891 in the Highlands neighborhood of Holyoke. Located to the northwest of downtown, this area was developed in the late 19th century after streetcar lines made it easy to commute from here. Fairfield Avenue was one of the centerpieces of the neighborhood, with its landscaped median and elegant homes, and it attracted a variety of upper middle class residents. The original owner of this house was William H. Wilson, who worked as a foreman at the Hampden Glazed Paper and Card Company. The house was designed by prominent local architect George P. B. Alderman, and featured a Queen Anne-style design that was fashionable for houses of this period.

William Wilson only lived in this house for a few years, and by 1897 he had relocated to a house nearby on Lincoln Street. From around 1897 to 1899, this house on Fairfield Avenue was the home of Charles E. Walden, a publisher whose company produced a variety of trade journals and books relating to the paper industry, including U. S. Paper Maker, New England Stationer and Printer, New England Paper and Pulp Trade, and Walden’s ABC Pocket Guide for Paper Makers, Dealers and Stationers. However, by 1900 Walden had left this house moved to New York City.

The next owner of the house was its architect, George P. B. Alderman. Earlier in the 1890s, he had lived two houses away at 63 Fairfield Avenue – which he had also designed – but by 1900 he had purchased this house at 67 Fairfield. He was 37 years old when the 1900 census was taken, and he lived here with his wife Belle, their four children, and a servant. The couple had two other children who had died young, and they would go on to have one more child, who was born in 1901.

Alderman was originally from Connecticut, but came to Holyoke as a teenager and became a carpenter. However, he soon began working for local architect James A. Clough, and in 1885 he went into business for himself. His architectural career coincided with Holyoke’s height of prosperity, and in the ensuing years he designed a number of churches, schools, commercial blocks, and houses in the city and throughout the region. He designed many of the homes here on Fairfield Avenue, and some of his other important works in Holyoke included the First Congregational Church (1887 and 1893), the First Methodist Episcopal Church (1889), the former Steiger’s building (1899 and 1901), the recently-demolished Mater Dolorosa Church (1901), the William Whiting School (1910), the Strand Theatre (1920), the Masonic Temple (1922), and the Post Office (1933).

The Alderman family lived here in this house until around 1908. By the 1910 census, George and Belle had divorced, and George was was living with his parents in a house nearby on Pearl Street. He later remarried to Hortense Bacon, a young widow who was about 20 years his junior. They had three children together, and by 1924 they were living almost across the street from here, in a house at 52 Fairfield Avenue. It is not clear whether he was the architect of that house, but he and Hortense lived there until his death in 1942, at the age of 80.

In the meantime, his former home here at 67 Fairfield Avenue had several other owners in the subsequent decades. By 1911, it was the home of Dr. Arthur B. Wetherell, a physician who lived here with his wife Erminie until his death in 1927. The next owner was James J. Dowd, who was living here by 1930 along with his wife Clare and their four young children. Dowd was an insurance executive, and he also served as the city’s postmaster from 1933 to 1949, coincidentally working in the new post office building that Alderman had designed.

James Dowd lived here in this house until his death in 1960, and Clare sold the property in 1967. However, the exterior of the house has hardly changed since the first photo was taken more than 125 years ago, and it still retains its Queen Anne-style details. It is one of many well-preserved homes that still stand here on Fairfield Avenue, and today the street comprises the Fairfield Avenue Local Historic District, which was established in 2007 as the city’s first local historic district.

George W. Prentiss House, Holyoke, Mass (2)

The house at 1399 Northampton Street, opposite Fairfield Avenue in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1892).

The scene in 2017:

 

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this house was built around 1884 for wire manufacturer George W. Prentiss and his wife Jane. They both lived here for the rest of their lives, and after George’s death in 1915 the property was inherited by their son William, who lived here until his death in 1954 at the age of 100. The first photo was taken around 1891, and shows the front elevation of the house, with its asymmetrical Queen Anne-style design. On the left side of the house is the driveway and porte-cochere, and to the right is a carriage house. In the foreground, the property features a large, landscaped front lawn, and in the distance a low hill rises beyond the house to the west.

Today, nothing in the present-day scene is recognizable from the 1891 view. Shortly after William Prentiss’s death, the property was sold to a contractor and subdivided. The old house was demolished around 1955, and Carol Lane was built through the property. Ten new houses were constructed here, but the carriage house was preserved and was converted into a house. Although not visible from this angle, it is still standing on the right side of the street as the only surviving remnant. Also hidden from view is Interstate 91, which now runs along the hill in the distance of this scene, cutting through part of what had once been Prentiss’s backyard.

George W. Prentiss House, Holyoke, Mass

The house at 1399 Northampton Street in Holyoke, Mass, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The large Queen Anne-style house in the first photo was built sometime in the early 1880s, and it was originally the home of George W. Prentiss, a wire manufacturer. Prentiss was born in 1829 in Claremont, New Hampshire, but he subsequently moved to Massachusetts, where he worked for wire manufacturers Worcester and Boston. He came to Holyoke in 1857, back when the city was still in the early years of its industrial development, and he went into business for himself, establishing a wire mill that came to be known as George W. Prentiss & Co.

His wire company prospered, and Prentiss remained involved in it until his death in 1915. In the meantime, he was also involved in other businesses, variously serving as president of the Holyoke Savings Bank and the Holyoke National Bank, treasurer of the Holyoke & Westfield Railroad, and a director for several other companies. Prentiss was also involved the civic life of the city, serving a director of the Holyoke Public Library and the Holyoke City Hospital, and as a member of the Board of Aldermen in 1874 and 1875.

George W. Prentiss married his wife, Jane D. Washburn, in 1852, several years before their move to Holyoke. They had two children, William and Clara, and the family lived in a house at the corner of Chestnut and Suffolk Streets for many years. However, by 1885 they had moved west, outside of the downtown area, to the Highlands neighborhood. At the time, this part of Holyoke was just starting to be developed as an upscale residential area, and Prentiss’s house was located on Northampton Street, directly opposite Fairfield Avenue. The house was presumably built around the same time that the family moved in, and the property also included a matching Queen Anne-style carriage house, which was located behind and to the right of the house, hidden from view in the first photo.

George and Jane Prentiss lived here in this house for the rest of their lives, until Jane’s death in 1912 at the age of 83, and George’s death three years later at the age of 85. Their son William then inherited the house, and by the 1920 census he was living here with his wife Helen and their daughter Bertha, along with a cook and a maid. William had served for many years as the treasurer of George W. Prentiss & Co., and after his father’s death he took over his role as president. Although over 60 years old at the time, William would hold this office for nearly 40 more years, until his death in 1954 at the age of 100.

After William’s death, his house was sold to a contractor. It was demolished around 1955, the property was subdivided, and Carol Lane was built through here, with an assortment of ranch and split-level homes. However, the old Prentiss carriage house was preserved and converted into a home. It is not visible in the 2017 photo because of the trees, but it still stands at 15 Carol Lane, where it is a Victorian-era outlier in the midst of a modern suburban development.