68-76 Elliot Street, Springfield, Mass

The houses at 68 and 76 Elliot Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

These two houses were both constructed in 1871, and although they were originally separate buildings, they have since been joined by a one-story walkway that is partially visible in both photos. The house on the left, at 68 Elliot Street, was the work of local architect James M. Currier, and it is perhaps the finest surviving Gothic-style house in the city. It was originally the home of Warner F. Sturtevant, a merchant who was a partner in the wholesale grocery firm of Downing & Sturtevant. The 1880 census shows him living here with his wife Julia and their three children, along with two servants.

In the meantime, the house on the right, at 76 Elliot Street, was built around the same time, but with a somewhat different architectural style. Designed by the firm of Perkins and Gardner, it had some Gothic-style details, such as the steeply-pointed dormer windows, but it also featured a Second Empire-style mansard roof. The original owner of the house was William L. Wilcox, a stove manufacturer and dealer. The 1875 city directory includes an advertisement for his business, W. L. Wilcox & Co., which was located at 140 State Street and was described as “Manufacturers and Dealers in Stoves, Ranges and Furnaces, Iron Sinks, Farmers’ Boilers, Refrigerators, and Housekeeping Goods generally. Dealers in the celebrated Richmond Range and Vindicator Cook Stove, Hydraulic Cement Drain and Sewer Tubing, all sizes.” During the 1880 census, he was living here with his wife Emma, their daughter, and a servant.

Both families continued to live in these houses for many years. William L. Wilcox died in 1890, but the other members of both families were still here during the 1900 census. By this point, Warner F. Sturtevant was still a wholesale grocer, this time with the firm of Sturtevant, Merrick & Co., and he was living here with Julia, two daughters, a granddaughter, and two servants. On the right, the widowed Emma was 67 years old, and she lived here with her daughter, E. Lillian Kirkham, and Lillian’s husband J. Stuart Kirkham. Stuart had evidently taken over his father-in-law’s business, because he was a stove merchant of the firm of Whitcomb, Kirkham & Gray, which was located at the same address at 140 State Street.

Emma Wilcox died later in 1900, and both families appear to have moved out of these houses by 1902. The Sturtevants subsequently moved into a house in the McKnight neighborhood, at 1064 Worthington Street, and the Kirkhams moved to Forest Park, to a new house at 107 Maplewood Terrace. Around the same time, these two houses were acquired by the Diocese of Springfield. They were adjacent to the church property, which by this point had grown to include St. Joseph’s Normal School, St. Michael’s School, a high school, a rectory, St. Luke’s Sanitarium, and St. Michael’s Cathedral, all on the south side of Elliot Street between here and State Street. The former Wilcox house on the right was converted into the diocesan chancery, while the Sturtevant house became the residence of the bishop.

The first to occupy the house was Thomas D. Beaven, who served as bishop from 1892 until 1920. At some point during his time here, he added the walkway between the two houses. Otherwise, though, the exteriors appear to have undergone few changes in the early 20th century. By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, 68 Elliot Street was the home of Beaven’s successor, Thomas M. O’Leary, who served from 1921 until 1949. The house still had its Gothic-style ornamentation at the time, although some of this would be lost later in the 20th century.

Today, these two buildings remain in use as the bishop’s residence and the chancery office. Aside from losing some of the exterior details, there have been some minor changes to 68 Elliot Street, including the enclosed porch on the left side. Overall, though, the building have remained well-preserved, and they are contributing properties in the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Myrtle Street School, Indian Orchard, Springfield, Mass

The Myrtle Street School in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard, seen from Worcester Street near the corner of Myrtle Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Prior to the Civil War, Springfield lacked a strong centralized school system. The city was divided into 12 school districts, each of which was responsible for taxing residents, hiring teachers, setting curriculum, and maintaining schools. However, this proved inefficient, in part because these school districts tended to focus more on lowering taxes than improving education, and by the late 1860s school committee member Josiah Hooker had led a large-scale reform of the city’s public schools.

The result of these reforms was a new high school building on State Street, plus six new grammar schools around the city. All were located in or near the downtown area except for the Indian Orchard school, which was located here at the corner of Worcester and Myrtle Streets. Located in the far northeastern corner of the city, Indian Orchard developed as a factory village in the mid-19th century. It saw a significant population growth during this time, particularly among French-Canadians and other immigrant groups who came to work in the mills, so a grammar school became necessary to serve the needs of the village.

At the time, students attended primary school for three years, followed by six years of grammar school and then four years of high school. The 1884 King’s Handbook of Springfield provides a description of the grammar school curriculum, writing that “In these schools, thorough instruction is given in all the common English branches, including book-keeping, and United-States and English history; and special teachers give instruction in penmanship, music, and drawing.” Following the reforms of the 1860s, the school year began on the first week of September and ended on the Friday before July 4, and students attended school from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with a two-hour break from noon to 2:00.

The Indian Orchard school was designed by James M. Currier, a local architect whose works included three other schools in Springfield, along with an assortment of factories, business blocks, and houses. Perhaps his most notable commission, however, was a house in Ottawa, Canada, that he designed for his brother, Joseph M. Currier, who was a lumber dealer and Canadian politician. This house, located at 24 Sussex Drive, now serves as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Canada, although it has been heavily altered from Currier’s original design.

Like the Prime Minister’s residence, though, the Indian Orchard school has also been extensively modified over the years. The first photo shows its original appearance, with its mansard roof and Second Empire-style architecture, but by the turn of the 20th century this building had become too small for the growing population of the village. As a result, in 1904 a large wing was built on the west side of the original building, facing Myrtle Street. This is the part of the school building that is visible in the present-day photo, and features a Classical Revival-style design that was the work of architect Eugene C. Gardner. The addition hid the original school building from this angle, although it is still standing and still visible from the other side of the school.

This expansion added eight classrooms to the school, but within a decade there was again need for more space, and in 1914 Gardner was hired to design a matching, nearly symmetrical wing on the south side of the building. Located on the left side of the 1904 addition, just out of view from this angle, the new wing doubled the size of the building. It was completed in 1915, and included eight more classrooms, plus a lunchroom, gymnasium, and an auditorium that could seat nearly 700 people.

The school, which became known as the Myrtle Street School after the additions, remained in use until the early 1980s. Like several other historic Springfield school buildings, it has since been converted into condominiums, and is still standing with few significant exterior changes. Even the original 1868 section is still there, and it now stands as the oldest existing school building in the city, as well as the only one of the original six grammar schools that is still standing. Because of this, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.