High Street from near Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on High Street, from just south of the corner of Dwight Street in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows the commercial center of Holyoke during the early 20th century, when the city was at the height of its prosperity. Both sides of High Street were lined with commercial buildings, most of which had been built in the second half of the 19th century. They represented a range of architectural styles, and two of the most significant buildings stood in the foreground at the corner of Dwight Street. On the left is the six-story Ball Block, which was built in 1898, and on the right side of the first photo is Delaney’s Marble Block, which was built in 1885 and was designed by noted local architect James A. Clough.

Today, more than a hundred years after the first photo was taken, Holyoke has undergone some significant changes. Much of its manufacturing base was gone by the mid-20th century, and the city has since experienced rising poverty rates and declining population. However, this economic stagnation may have also helped to preserve many of the historic commercial blocks on High Street, since there has been little demand for new developments. Almost all of the buildings are still standing from the first photo, and the only noticeable loss is Delaney’s Marble Block, which was demolished around 1950 to build the present-day two-story building. The buildings in this scene are now part of the North High Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Hotel Hamilton, Holyoke, Mass

The Hotel Hamilton, formerly known as the Holyoke House, at the corner of Dwight and Main Streets in Holyoke, around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The building in 2017:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this hotel was built in 1850 as the Holyoke House, and was part of Holyoke’s early development into a major manufacturing center. It originally consisted of just the Dwight Street side of the building, and was only five window bays deep along the Main Street side to the right. However, it underwent a major expansion in 1889-1890, with a Queen Anne-style addition to the rear of the building, on the far right side of the 1891 photo. This section was the work of noted local architect James A. Clough, and it featured a design that contrasted with the less ornate style of the original building.

The renovations also involved a name change, and the Holyoke House became the Hotel Hamilton. The first photo was taken only about a year later, and shows the building as it appeared during the height of Holyoke’s prosperity as an industrial city. By this point, the hotel had become an important part of downtown Holyoke. Its ground floor storefronts housed a number of tenants, including the post office, and the upper floors had rooms for up to 150 hotel guests. The dining room could seat twice that number, and was used for a variety of functions in its heyday. Written a few years after the first photo was taken, the book Holyoke Past and Present 1745-1895 provides the following description:

The Hamilton has come to be quite a popular place for people giving dinner parties, receptions, etc., for care and attention are always insured, and the details of a social affair are carried out with exactness. The Connecticut Board of Water Works, Connecticut Valley Dental Society, Congregational Club of Connecticut, and many other organizations of like character, hold the Hamilton in high estimation as a meeting place. The number of so-called “swell” receptions held here increases each year, as the capabilities of the house and proprietor become better known. The Arlington Club, the leading and only representative organization of Holyoke’s four hundred, holds the assemblies and balls here. The house, for the time being, is given over to the bright array of society people who always come out to honor the Arlington management.

The hotel would remain in business for more than 50 years after the first photo was taken, but it finally closed in 1943. By then, some of Holyoke’s industries had already begun to close or relocate, and many more would follow in the subsequent decades. A few years later, the building was heavily altered with the removal of most of the fourth floor, except for the section in the distance along Race Street. The large pediment above the main entrance is also gone, most of the windows have been replaced with glass blocks, and most of the storefronts have been rebuilt. The former hotel was most recently used as the Massachusetts Career Development Institute, and was known as the Silvio O. Conte Center. However, it closed in 2003, and the building has apparently remained vacant ever since, with very little resemblance to its appearance in the first photo.

Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke, Mass

The Holyoke Public Library, seen from the corner of Maple and Essex Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The library in 2017:

The Holyoke Public Library was established in 1870, and originally consisted of around 1,200 books that were housed in the Appleton Street School. Then, in 1876, the library moved to a room in city hall, where it was located for the next 25 years. However, in 1897 the Holyoke Water Power Company offered this lot, bounded by Maple, Cabot, Chestnut, and Essex Streets, to the library. The only stipulation was that the library must, within three years, raise enough money to construct a building on the site. This goal was ultimately achieved, thanks in part to the contributions of some of Holyoke’s prominent industrialists, including silk manufacturer William Skinner and paper manufacturer and former Congressman William Whiting, who each gave $10,000. Another $10,000 came from the prominent financier J. P. Morgan, whose ancestors had once lived in Holyoke.

The building was designed by noted local architect James A. Clough, who provided the plans free of charge. The exterior was built of limestone, and included classically-inspired elements such as a columned portico, which gave the building the appearance of a Greek temple in the midst of a modern industrial city. It was completed in 1902, and Whiting, who had served as the library’s president since 1870, gave the dedication address. At the time, the the library’s collections had grown to more than 20,000 volumes, and the building featured space for periodicals, reference works, and a children’s department. Within a decade, it would also house a natural history museum, which was later moved to the Wistariahurst museum.

The first photo shows the library as it appeared around the early 1910s. Since then, it has continued to serve as the city’s library for more than a century, although it has recently undergone significant changes. Between 2011 and 2013, it was renovated and expanded, with a large addition to the rear on the Chestnut Street side of the building. This project involved demolishing the old wing that housed the library stacks, and replacing it with a modern steel and glass structure that sharply contrasts with the original architecture of the building. However, the rest of the building was preserved as part of the renovations, and very little has changed from this view, aside from a small portion of the addition that is visible on the far right.

High Street and Dwight Street, Holyoke, Mass

The corner of High and Dwight Streets in Holyoke, sometime before 1885. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene around 1891. Image from Holyoke Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows the Second Congregational Church, which was once located here at the corner of Dwight and High Streets, directly across from City Hall. The church was organized in 1849, and worshiped in several different locations until 1853, when this building was completed, at a cost of $12,000. It was designed by prominent New Haven architect Henry Austin, and was large enough for 800 people, although the congregation only had 36 members at the time. Holyoke was still in the early stages of its industrial development, with a population of a little over 3,000, but over the next few decades both the city and the church saw steady growth. By the mid-1880s, the congregation had outgrown the building, and in 1885 a new church was built a few blocks away, at the corner of Maple and Appleton Streets.

The old church was sold and demolished soon after the new one was completed, and later in 1885 Delaney’s Marble Block was built on the site. The building was owned by John Delaney, and was designed by local architect James A. Clough, with an exterior that was built of Vermont marble. Like many of the other commercial blocks on High Street, the building had stores on the ground floor, with professional offices in the upper floors, and it enjoyed a prominent location at one of the busiest intersections in the city. In later years, the building housed a W. T. Grant store, but around 1950 it was demolished to build a new, more modern-looking building for W. T. Grant. This chain of stores has long since gone out of business, but its architecturally nondescript building still stands here as somewhat of an anomaly, on a street that is otherwise still predominantly lined with 19th century commercial buildings.