Union House, Springfield, Mass

The former Union House/Chandler Hotel building on the right side of the photo, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2016:

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The building on the right side of this scene is one of the oldest existing commercial blocks in downtown Springfield, although much of it will soon be demolished as part of the MGM Springfield casino project. When it opened as the Union House in 1846 it was one of the finest hotels in the city, and it was built for Jeremy Warriner, who had previously operated a tavern a block away at the corner of Main and State Streets. His old tavern had been popular in the stagecoach days, but with the opening of the railroad a half mile away, his inconventiently located, colonial-era building faced stiff competition from modern hotels like the Massasoit House.

Here at the corner of Main and Bliss Streets, his new hotel was actually slightly further from the railroad, but it was at least in a modern building. Within a few years, the hotel had attracted some prominent guests, including President James K. Polk, who stayed overnight here in 1847, accompanied by future president James Buchanan, who was Secretary of State at the time. In 1849, author Sara Jane Lippincott, who wrote under the pen name of Grace Greenwood, visited the hotel and later raved about the quality of the meals here, explaining “I am not about to attempt a description of Warriner’s dinner, with their endless succession of delicious dishes, their inimitable sauces, and exquisite puddings and pastry. For this I have neither time nor talent sufficient.”

However, the Massasoit House continued to draw guests with its convenient location next to the railroad station, and “Uncle Jerry” and “Aunt Phoebe” Warriner retired from the hotel business a few years later. The building continued to be used as a hotel through several changes in ownership, and by the 1880s it had become Chandler Hotel, a name that would remain until it closed in 1933. During this time, the building was extensively renovated, to the point where very little is left from the original 1846 structure.

The first photo was taken soon after the hotel closed, and at the time the first floor was being used as a drugstore. Most recently, it was the home of Glory Shoes, but the upper floors have been vacant for years and are in poor condition. Most of the building will soon be demolished except for the Main and Bliss Street facades, which will be incorporated into the casino design. As for the other buildings in the first photo, the Metropolitan Furniture Company was one of several furniture companies that were once located in the South End. This building was either demolished or trimmed down to one floor at some point, because there was a one-story commercial building here that was demolished as part of the casino project, along with the one on the far left side of the first photo.

1007-1017 Main Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at the corner of Main and Union Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2015:

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The section of Main Street south of State Street was once primarily residential, but as the city grew in the second half of the 19th century many of the homes were either demolished or, in many cases, had storefronts built in front of them. Based on its blend of Greek Revival and Italianate architectural styles, this house was probably built around the 1850s, but sometime around 1900-1910 the owners built a one-story commercial building around it, presumably incorporating the first floor of the house into the stores. This is similar to what happened to the John Avery House, a c.1825 house located diagonally across the street from here.

When the first photo was taken, the building had several commercial tenants, including The Linoleum Shoppe on the left and a cigar store on the right. The old house was still clearly visible at the time, but later taken down after a fire. The rest of the building was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, and was subsequently renovated into its current appearance, as seen in the 2015 photo.

1069-1073 Main Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 1069-1073 Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The site in 2015:

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This duplex was built sometime between 1870 and 1880, at a time when this section of Main Street was still largely residential. In the 1880 census, the unit on the left was the home of Dennis S. Goff, a 47 year old widower whose occupation was listed as working in a pistol shop, presumably the nearby Smith & Wesson factory. He lived here with his 25 year old daughter Jessie and their servant, Jane West. In the same census, the unit on the right was owned by Austin B. Bush, his wife Susan, and their son Harry. His occupation was rather curiously listed as “No Special Business,” but he was evidently a somewhat prominent individual because his biography included in the 1902 book “Our County and Its People” A History of Hampden County. The book, though, mentions his ancestry and his education, but likewise makes no mention of his actual occupation.

By the 1900 census, Austin Bush still owned the unit on the right, but Dennis Goff died in 1896 and his daughter Jessie inherited the house to the left. She used this house as a rental property, because at the time she was married and living with her husband, Henry S. Safford, in a house at 80 Dartmouth Street that is still standing today. Jessie’s husband was a Springfield native who over 20 years before their marriage had played a role in the aftermath of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. At the time, Safford had been living in Washington DC, where he rented a room in the Petersen House across from Ford’s Theatre. When he heard the commotion outside after Lincoln was shot, Safford went outside and told the men carrying the mortally wounded president to bring him into the boarding house, where he died the following morning.

Sometime between 1900 and 1910, the entire property was sold to Nelson L. Elmer, and the storefront on the right was added. When the first photo was taken, this storefront was used as a barber shop, and the rest of the building appears, based on the signs in front, to have been used as a boarding house. Today, the building has long since been demolished, and the site is now occupied by a parking lot, but the Morse Block, which is visible to the right in the first photo, is still standing today.

Morse Block, Springfield, Mass

The Morse Block at 1055-1063 Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This building at 1055-1063 Main Street was built around 1904, and the signs in the first photo indicate that by the 1930s it was home to a bowling alley and a variety store. Along with the building to the right, it was later owned by Hampden Furniture until the company closed in 2007. Both buildings were damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but they were repaired and reopened in 2014 as the home of the Caring Health Center, a nonprofit healthcare organization that has several clinics in Springfield.

Coombs Block, Springfield, Mass

The Coombs Block at the corner of Main and Park Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Very little has changed in this view since the first photo was taken in the 1930s. The building here at 1049-1051 Main Street was built in 1914, and for many years it was used as a furniture store, as the sign in the first photo shows. In the 1940s, Hampden Furniture moved into this building and the adjoining one to the left, and they operated here until the company went out of business in 2007. The buildings were sold to the Caring Health Center, and despite suffering damage in the June 1, 2011 tornado, they were repaired and opened in 2014 as the Richard E. Neal Complex, named for the city’s former mayor and current Congressman.

John Avery House, Springfield, Mass

The John Avery House at the corner of Main and Union Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This brick commercial building at the corner of Main and Union Streets does not look particularly noteworthy, but it is actually one of the oldest buildings still standing on Main Street, although it hides its age very well. It was built around 1825 as the home of John Avery, a blacksmith who lived here for almost 50 years until his death in 1874.In 1898, as this section of Main Street became more commercial, the building was expanded all the way to the edge of Main Street, with storefronts on the first floor.

When the first photo was taken, the original house was still largely intact and clearly visible. However, the rear section was demolished by around the 1970s, and in 2011 much of the house, including the original roof, was destroyed by the tornado that passed through the South End. Today, the only visible remnant of the old house from this angle is the wall on the Union Street side of the building, which includes a single window and a doorway.