South Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

South Congregational Church on Maple Street in Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of Jim Boone.

The church in 2017:

South Congregational Church was established in 1842 by members of Springfield’s First Congregational Church, and its first permanent home was on Bliss Street. This rather plain church had a very conservative architectural design that looked like any number of other churches in the area at the time, but in 1875 the congregation built a new, far larger and more elaborate church here, at the corner of Maple and High Streets.

This church was designed by William Appleton Potter, the half-brother of the equally notable architect Edward Tuckerman Potter. It was one of his first major works, and it is an excellent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. The 1873-1874 city directory described it as being “a rather bold departure from ordinary models, being much like an amphitheater, and entirely unlike any other church building in Springfield.” This may have been somewhat of a hyperbole, since the Memorial Congregational Church in the North End, built a few years earlier, has many similar Gothic-style features, but South Congregational Church certainly stood out at a time when Springfield was building a number of fine churches.

Like many of the city’s other churches and public buildings of the era, it was built with locally-quarried stone, with a foundation of Monson granite and walls of Longmeadow brownstone. Along with this, terracotta, sandstone, and other materials were used to add a variety of colors to the exterior of the building. Also common in churches of the time period, the building is very asymmetrical, with a 120-foot tower located off-center in the southwest corner, and the main entrance at its base.

In total, it cost some $100,000 to construct, which was substantially more than most of the other new churches that were built around this time. However, the costs were offset by contributions from some of Springfield’s most prominent residents, including dictionary publishers George and Charles Merriam, railroad engineer Daniel L. Harris, and gun manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, who later moved into a massive mansion directly across the street from the church.

At the time that this building was completed, the pastor of the church was Samuel G. Buckingham, who had served in that position since 1847. He was also an author, and he wrote a biography of his brother, William A. Buckingham, a former Connecticut governor and U.S. Senator. Reverend Buckingham remained here at the church for 47 years, until his retirement in 1894. His successor was Philip Moxom, who, aside from his work here at the church, was also the president of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

More than 140 years after its completion, South Congregational Church is still an active congregation, and the building survives as one of Springfield’s finest architectural works. The only major change over the years was the addition of a parish house on the back of the church in the late 1940s. Not visible from this angle, it matches the design of the original building and it was even constructed with brownstone that had been salvaged from the demolished First Baptist Church. The church is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District, and in 1976 it was also individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from Union Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

Maple Street in 2017:

These two photos, taken 125 years apart, show he changes that Maple Street underwent in the early 20th century. For most of the 1800s, the lower part of Maple Street was an upscale residential area, primarily with large, single-family homes. Several of these can be seen in the first photo, including one in front of the church, and another one just beyond it. However, as the city grew, these homes were steadily replaced with large apartment buildings. The building just to the left of the church, at the corner of Maple and Temple Streets, was built in 1906, and was followed about 20 years later by the apartment building on the right side of the photo. The most recent building in this scene is Chestnut Towers, visible on the far left. This 240-unit, 34-story apartment building was completed in 1976 at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets, and it is the tallest residential building in the city.

Today, the only surviving building from the first photo is South Congregational Church. It was designed by prominent architect William Appleton Potter, and was completed in 1875, replacing an earlier South Congregational Church that had stood several blocks away on Bliss Street. Some of Springfield’s most prominent residents attended this church, including many of those who lived in the nearby mansions. Despite the many changes to the neighborhood over the years, though, the church has remained as an important landmark. It is one of the city’s finest architectural works, and it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976.

Henry A. Gould House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 89 Maple Street, at the corner of Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Henry A. Gould was born in 1828 in Manlius, New York, and grew up there and in nearby Syracuse. However, in 1854 he moved to Russell, Massachusetts, where he became a clerk at a paper mill. Four years later, he and Springfield resident Charles O. Chapin purchased the business, which became the Crescent Mills. Under the previous owners, the company had already been a major producer of paper, accounting for more than 13 percent of the country’s entire paper production, but Chapin and Gould grew the business even further. They expanded the factory in 1858, and the Crescent Mills went on to become a successful paper company for many years.

In 1855, Gould married Lucy Bliss Lyman, a 26-year-old widow from Springfield, and they lived in Russell until 1871, when they moved here to the corner of Maple and Union Streets. Another house had previously stood on this lot, but it was demolished to build the Goulds’ new home, which was designed in the Victorian Gothic style of the era. This same style can also be seen in other nearby homes, including 210 Maple and, on a much grander scale, 220 Maple.

Henry and Lucy did not have any children, and Lucy died in 1883. Two years later, he remarried to Harriet L. Bliss, who was the granddaughter of prominent early 19th century architect Asher Benjamin. By the 1900 census, they were living here with Henry’s niece, Emily Hedden, plus three servants. After Henry’s death in 1908, Harriet remained here until her death in 1920, and the house was subsequently sold to physician George Weston. Aside from his medical practice, Dr. Weston had also served as president of the Hampden District Medical Society and as a longtime member of the Springfield School Committee, and he lived here at this house until his death in 1931.

Like many of Springfield’s other mansions during the Great Depression, this house was converted into a boarding house. There were ten lodgers living here during the 1940 census, all of whom were middle aged or older, with occupations that included two teachers, a paymaster, a stenographer, and a salesperson. Ultimately, several decades after the first photo was taken, the property was sold to the Insurance Company of North America, who built an office building here in the 1960s. This building later became offices for Milton Bradley, and it is now the Milton Bradley Elementary School. The school itself is just outside of view to the right, but the site of the former house is now a parking lot for the school.

Dr. Luke Corcoran House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 95 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

For many years, this site on Maple Street was the home of James Dwight Brewer, a local merchant and member of the prominent Brewer family. However the house in the first photo does not appear to be the same one that he lived in. Given the home’s architectural style, it was probably built after Brewer’s death in 1886, when his daughter Harriet inherited the property. Her husband, Dr. Luke Corcoran, was a leading physician in the city who also served as a trustee of the Northampton State Hospital. The Corcorans were also art patrons, and amassed a considerable collection here at their home.

Luke and Harriet Corcoran had two children, James and Sarah, although Sarah died in 1881 at the age of two.  James became an author and journalist who worked for the Springfield Republican, along with writing several books of his own. He married his wife Carolyn in 1901, and the couple lived here with James’s parents and their daughter Celeste. Both Luke and Harriet died in the 1920s, but James and his family continued to live here for many years. Carolyn died in 1953, but James was still living in this house until around 1963, when he sold the property to the Insurance Company of North America. The house was subsequently demolished, and the insurance company built the current building on the site. This building later became offices for Milton Bradley, and is now the Milton Bradley Elementary School.

Eunice B. Smith House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 111 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Eunice B. Smith was born in 1826, and grew up in Springfield’s prominent Brewer family. Her father James was a merchant who was one of the founders of Chicopee Bank, and her grandfather Chauncey was a distinguished physician in the colonial era. Likewise, her husband David P. Smith was also a physician. He served in the Civil War as a surgeon, first for the 18th Massachusetts Infantry and eventually as chief surgeon at the Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Alexandria, and after the war he became a professor of surgery at Yale.

David and Eunice’s only child, George, died in 1873 at the age of nine, and David died in 1880 at the age of 50. In 1890, Eunice had this house built on Maple Street, in between Union and Mulberry Streets. In the 1900 census, she was listed as living here with two servants, plus a woman who was identified as being her companion. Ten years later, she and her companion were still living here, along with four servants, which included a waitress, a cook, and two nurses.

After Eunice’s death in 1911, the house was sold to businessman Harry G. Fisk. He came from a family of successful industrialists, including his uncle, George C. Fisk, who was the longtime president of the Wason Manufacturing Company. Harry’s father, Noyes W. Fisk, was the clerk and treasurer of Wason, but in 1898 he and Harry established the Fisk Rubber Company in Chicopee. While Wason was one of the nation’s leading railroad car manufacturers, Fisk Rubber became a major producer of bicycle and car tires, and Harry served for many years as the company’s treasurer.

Aside from his involvement in the rubber company, which was later renamed the Fisk Tire Company, Harry Fisk was also the president of the Fisk Manufacturing Conpany, which made soap, and he was the president of the Knox Motor Company, a Springfield-based automobile manufacturer. He served as a director for several other area companies, including the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and he even owned a large farm in East Longmeadow, where he bred cattle.

Harry Fisk and his wife Alice had four children, one of whom died in infancy. The family lived in this house for many years, and their wealth can be seen in the census valuations of the property. In 1930, for example, the house was valued at $75,000, or around $1.1 million in 2017 dollars. This was substantially higher than the other nearby mansions, which were fine homes in their own right. By the 1940 census, however, the home’s value had declined to $40,000, or about $700,000 today. This was partially a result of the Great Depression, but it was probably also a reflection of changes in the neighborhood. By this point, many of the fine Gilded Age mansions on lower Maple Street had either been demolished to build apartments, or were converted into boarding houses. However, Harry Fisk remained here until his death in 1945, a year after Alice’s death.

Along with the other three mansions along this section of Maple Street between Mulberry and Union Streets, this house was demolished sometime in the two decades between Fisk’s death and the construction of the present building, which was completed in 1965. It was originally built as offices for the Insurance Company of North America, but was later used by Milton Bradley. In the mid-1990s, it was sold to the city and converted into the Milton Bradley Elementary School.

Charles Marsh House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 127 Maple Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This Queen Anne-style mansion was built sometime in the 1880s, and was the home of Charles and Helen Marsh. Charles was the president of Springfield’s Pynchon National Bank, but he was also heavily involved in many nonprofit organizations in the city, serving as treasurer of Springfield Hospital, the School for Christian Workers, the Hampden County Benevolent Association, the Hampden Conference of Congregational Churches, and the Connecticut Valley Congregational Club. Along with this, he served in various capacities for other organizations, including teaching Sunday school at the nearby South Congregational Church. He even ventured into politics, and was twice the Democratic candidate for Secretary of the Commonwealth, although he lost both times.

Their time at this house was relatively short, because Charles Marsh died in 1891, and Helen died in 1894. Subsequent owners included James F. Bidwell, a tobacco dealer who was living here by the 1910 census. Born in 1844, Bidwell served in the Civil War as a private in the 5th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Several years after the end of the war, he married his wife Frostine, and they had two children, Mary and Robert. Aside from his tobacco business, Bidwell was also involved in local politics. He served as a city alderman for several years, and he was also a water commissioner from 1894 to 1902.

James Bidwell died in 1917, and Frostine lived here until her death in 1934. The first photo shows a large “For Sale” sign on the front of the house, and at this point the neighborhood had changed. When the house had been built some 50 years earlier, lower Maple Street was lined with large mansions. However, by the early 20th century these were steadily being replaced or repurposed. In the late 1950s, this house was converted into doctors’ offices, and a few years later it was demolished to build an office building for the Insurance Company of North America, which was completed in 1965. This building was later used by Milton Bradley, and it is now the Milton Bradley Elementary School.