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.

Henry Sterns House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 48 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house in 2017:

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Henry Sterns was born in 1794 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but came to Springfield as a young child. He went on to become a prosperous merchant, and in 1826 he married into the prominent Dwight family. His wife, Sophia, was the daughter of the late James Scutt Dwight, who himself had been a wealthy merchant. The following year, the couple moved into this house, which at the time was located closer to Central Street.

The house is built of brick, with a relatively simple Federal-style design that was typical for the time. It was designed by Simon Sanborn, a prolific master builder who constructed a number of buildings in early 19th century Springfield, including the Alexander House. At the time, the Maple Hill section of Springfield was lightly developed, and Sterns’s home was situated on a large lot on the north side of Central Street. Covered in trees, the land became known as Sterns’s Woods, and abutted the land that would later become Springfield Cemetery.

Sterns lived in this house for the rest of his life, during which time he continued to be a successful businessman, and eventually served as treasurer for the Springfield Institution for Savings from 1849 to 1858. He died in 1859, and within the next decade Springfield experienced a rapid population growth. With increasing demand for new houses, the property was subdivided. Two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were developed, with one on either side of the house. Around 1870, the house itself was moved to the back of the lot, and became 48 Madison Avenue. The Charles L. Goodhue House, which still stands at 216 Central Street, was later built on the original site of the Sterns House.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was in its new location, and was the home of jeweler William W. White and his wife Ellen. He died in the 1890s, and by the 1900 census Ellen was living here with her daughter and granddaughter. She also rented to boarders, and four were living here at the time. Among them was a newspaper editor, a proofreader, and an inspector at the Armory.

The old house has since seen a number of other owners, but it is still standing, nearly two centuries after Henry and Sophia Sterns moved in. Very little has changed with the exterior, and its plain design stands out in a neighborhood otherwise dominated by far more elaborate homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city has very clearly grown up around the house, but it survives as a reminder of a long-lost time when Springfield’s wealthy residents lived on large, wooded estates on the outskirts of the downtown area. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

William B. Harris House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 39 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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This house dates back to the 1870s, and was the home of William B. Harris, a civil engineer who lived here with his wife Rebecca and their three children: Charles, Helen, and John. Both Charles and Helen lived here with their parents well into adulthood. William and Rebecca appear to have died between 1910 and 1920, because by the 1920 census Charles, age 51, and Helen, age 47 were living here alone.

Subsequent residents of this house included William and Gladys Langston, who were living here in 1930, followed by George and Ellie Chamberlain, who were living here in the late 1930s when the first photo was taken. In the nearly 80 years that have followed, very little has changed with the house. It still retains its distinctive features, such as the porch on the left, the bay windows, and the Italianate brackets under the eaves. Along with the rest of Madison Avenue, it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Historic District.

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.