Central Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking east on Central Street from the corner of Main Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

Central Street in 2017:

In the 1880s, Springfield acquired the sobriquet of the “City of Homes,” thanks to the city’s abundance of fine single-family homes. Because such homes were the predominant residential construction of the 19th century, rowhouses were comparatively scarce, and were only built in a few parts of the city. Aside from a few small groups of homes on Temple and Maple Streets, only Mattoon and Central Streets have rowhouses in significant numbers, and this block of Central Street has, by far, the longest unbroken row of these homes.

In general, these rowhouses are less ornate than the ones on Mattoon Street, but they were built around the same time, over the span of about 10 years in the 1870s and early 1880s. They have similar Second Empire-style architecture, with two lower floors and a mansard roof on the third floor, and the western half of the block was built by B. F. Farrar, the same mason who was responsible for some of the homes on Mattoon Street.

The earliest of these houses are the five in the foreground, which were built in 1873 by Farrar. That same year, a financial panic hit the country, leading to a significant drop in demand for new houses, but despite the recession Farrar built nine more identical rowhouses in 1875, directly adjacent to his original five. The eastern half of the block, further in the distance, was built in 1882, and generally matches the design of Farrar’s original homes. However, many of the newer homes have bay windows, which contrast with the flat front facade of the earlier homes.

Although the entire south side of Central Street became a continuous set of rowhouses, the north side was never developed in a similar way. When the first photo was taken, the left side was lined with single-family homes, many of which would later be demolished to build a factory for the Springfield Knitting Company. This factory has, in turn, since been demolished, and today only one 19th century home still stands on the left side of the street.

Unlike the left side of the street, the right side of this photo has remained remarkably unchanged, 125 years after the first photo was taken. All of the historic rowhouses are still standing, after having been restored in the mid-1970s. The only significant change to this side of the street is the building on the far right, at the corner of Main Street. Known as The Central, this five-story Classical Revival building was built in 1908, with four stores on the first floor and 27 apartments on the upper floors. Like the neighboring rowhouses, the apartment building was restored in the 1970s, and it is still standing, with few changes from its original exterior appearance.

Samuel Bowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 182 Central Street in Springfield, probably sometime around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The house in 2017:

This elegant Italianate-style home was built in 1853, along the slope of Ames Hill near the corner of Maple and Central Streets. It was designed by Henry A. Sykes, an architect from Suffield, Connecticut, whose other Springfield works included the Mills-Stebbins Villa on nearby Crescent Hill, and it was originally owned by Francis Tiffany, the pastor of the Church of the Unity. Reverend Tiffany had become the pastor of the church in 1852, and he would go on to serve the congregation for the next 12 years. He and his wife Esther lived in this house throughout this time, and by the 1860 census they were living here with four young children.

In 1864, Tiffany left the church to take a position as an English professor at Antioch College in Ohio, and he sold the house to Samuel Bowles, who was a friend of his and one of the most influential men in the city. He was the son of Samuel Bowles II, a journalist who had founded the Springfield Republican as a weekly newspaper in 1824. The younger Samuel was born two years after the paper started, and began working alongside his father when he was 17. Around the same time, the Republican became a daily newspaper, and after his father’s death in 1851, Samuel took over control of the paper, when he was just 25 years old.

By the time Samuel Bowles and his wife Mary moved into this house, the Republican was one of New England’s leading newspapers, and as the name of the paper suggested, it generally supported Republican, anti-slavery policies before and during the Civil War. Bowles was also a friend of Emily Dickinson, and he published several of her poems in the Republican. These poems, which were heavily edited in order to conform with conventional poetic styles, were among the very few that were ever published during her lifetime, as most of her nearly 1,8000 poems were discovered and published posthumously.

Samuel and Mary Bowles raised ten children in this house, although during this time he frequently traveled. He suffered from poor health, which was attributed to over-working, so because of this he took a number of trips to the American West and to Europe in the 1860s and early 1870s, often publishing accounts of his travels. However, he died in 1878, at the age of 51, and the responsibility of running the newspaper fell to his son, Samuel Bowles IV, who was 26 years old at the time, just a year older than his father had been when he took over the paper in 1851.

By the end of the 19th century, the house had become part of the MacDuffie School, which had been founded in 1890 by John and Abby MacDuffie as a school for girls. The Bowles house became the school’s main classroom building, but over time the campus expanded, eventually encompassing many of the historic mansions on and around Ames Hill. The house became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, but in 1978 the school requested permission from the Historical Commission to demolish the house, claiming that it was in poor condition and that the land was needed for tennis courts. The Commission ultimately granted the request, and despite a court challenge by local preservationists, the house was demolished in 1980. However, the tennis courts were never built, and the site of the house remains vacant nearly 40 years later.

Central Street and Madison Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The corner of Central Street and Madison Avenue in Springfield, with the Goodhue House in the distance, around 1905. Image from Springfield, Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in 2017:

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This neighborhood of Springfield, variously referred to as Maple Hill and Ames Hill, was the city’s most fashionable residential area of the city in the 19th century. Here on Central Street, this site was once the home of Henry Sterns, a merchant who built his house here in 1827. By the late 1860s, though, his property was subdivided and two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were built here. The old house was moved to the back of the lot around 1870, and can be seen in the distant right of both photos.

The original location of the house later became the site of a new mansion, which was completed in 1894 for Charles L. Goodhue. He was a contractor and businessman who, among other things, served as president of Chicopee National Bank and the Knox Automobile Company, and he was still living here when the first photo was taken. His house was among the largest ever built in the city, and offered commanding views of downtown Springfield from atop the hill.

By the 1940s, the mansion was owned by Mayor Roger L. Putnam, but in the second half of the 20th century it was owned by several different schools, before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. Despite a 1950s classroom wing on the left side of the house, its exterior is otherwise unaltered from the first photo. Similarly, the other houses on Madison Avenue have also survived, and the entire street is part of the Maple Hill Local Historic District. The Goodhue House, however, is also part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles L. Goodhue House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 216 Central Street in Springfield, at the corner of Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This site near the top of the hill on Central Street had been the home of merchant Henry Sterns since 1827. Around 1870, his house was moved to the back of the lot, where it still stands on Madison Avenue, and several decades later Charles L. Goodhue purchased the property. A contractor who specialized in building municipal water systems, he had done work across the country, including here in Springfield. He built the city’s reservoir in Ludlow, and also served as the chairman of the Water Commission for many years.

Completed in 1894, this house had few rivals among the Gilded Age mansions in Springfield, and remains one of the largest private residences ever built in the city. Goodhue lived here with his wife Harriet and their daughter Grace, and during this time he expanded his business activities. Along with building water works, he also served as president of the Chicopee National Bank, and as the president of the Knox Automobile Company, an early Springfield-based car manufacturer.

Harriet Goodhue died in 1903, and Charles in 1912. After his death, Grace inherited the property and rented out the house. By the 1920 census, she was renting it to Arthur T. Murray. Just 29 at the time, he was the president of the American Bosch Magneto Corporation, and had previously been the president of the Bethlehem Motor Corporation. He lived here with his wife Anna, their daughter Ruth, and five servants, which included a butler, maid, chambermaid, cook, and a governess for young Ruth.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was owned Roger L. Putnam, who served three terms as Springfield’s mayor, from 1937 to 1943. His political career subsequently included serving in the Truman administration as the director of the Economic Stabilization Administration from 1951 to 1952. In the 1940 census, soon after the first photo was taken, he and his wife Caroline were living here with their six children, along with a lodger and three servants. They remained here until 1956, when he sold the massive home to the Ursuline Order.

The house became Ursuline Academy, and was expanded to include a classroom wing on the west side of the building, which is partially visible on the far left of the photo. It has since changed hands several times, becoming Springfield Christian School in 1980 before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. The building is still in use by Head Start, and retains much of its historic appearance. Despite the changes in use, it survives as one of the city’s finest 19th century mansions, and it is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

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.