Solyman Merrick House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 104 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The house in the first photo was built in 1850 for Solyman Merrick, a tool manufacturer who had previously lived nearby in a house that still stands at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. Best known as the inventor of the monkey wrench, Merrick had patented his design in 1835 and later sold it to Bemis & Call, a Springfield-based tool manufacturer. He married his first wife, Henrietta Bliss, in 1841, and that same year they moved into the house at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. However, they were only there for a few years, because Henrietta died in 1845 and Solyman sold the property two years later. Then, in 1848, Merrick remarried to Anne Clapp, and in 1850 they moved into this new house at 104 Maple Street.

Although his new home was built less than a decade after his first one, it represented a dramatic shift in architectural styles. His first home had been a fairly conservative Greek Revival-style home, but his new one was a far more ornate Italian villa, designed by architect Leopold Eidlitz. It was one of the first buildings in Springfield to be designed by a formally-trained architect, and caused a considerable stir in the small but growing community. Born in Prague in 1823, he later came to America and studied under renowned architect Richard Upjohn, before starting his own firm in 1846. One of his first works was the home of P. T. Barnum in Bridgeport, and soon afterward he designed this house for Merrick in Springfield. He would go on to have a successful career, including designing Springfield’s old city’s hall, and later in life he was one of several architects who worked on the New York State Capitol.

Unfortunately for Solyman Merrick, he died in 1852, just two years after the completion of this house. He was only 45 at the time, and he left behind his wife Anne and their three-year-old son, William. The two of them continued to live here after Solyman’s death, along with Anne’s sister Caroline and her husband, Albert D. Briggs. During the 1860 census, Albert and Caroline lived here with their two young sons, John and Edward, and the household also included lawyer Franklin Chamberlin and his wife Mary, along with four live-in servants.

Albert Briggs was a bridge builder who, as a boy, had moved with his family to Springfield from Brattleboro, Vermont. When he got older, he found work as as a surveyor and engineer during the construction of the Western Railroad between Springfield and Albany. Despite being barely 20 years old, he was also an assistant engineer for the railroad bridge across the Connecticut River, where he worked under William Howe, the inventor of the Howe truss design. This set Briggs on a successful career as a bridge builder, and he worked closely with Howe for the next decade and even purchased Howe’s patent rights for several states. By the time he moved into this house in the 1850s, he had established a successful business that was building bridges in all parts of the country.

Aside from his bridge building, Briggs was also involved in politics, serving as a city alderman in 1864 and as mayor from 1865 to 1867. He did not, however, serve in the Civil War, but his widowed sister-in-law did. Anne Merrick was 42 years old at the start of the war, and she joined the war effort as a nurse for the 10th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. The history of this regiment, published in 1909, highlights her service, writing that:

“When, in the fall of 1861, typhoid fever was decimating the ranks of the Tenth and Brighwood, two ministering angels in human form, left their happy northern homes to serve these men in camp. Their stay with the regiment was a blessing from the start and every soldier, whether well or ill, has never failed to sing their praises when the names of Mrs. Merrick and Miss Wolcott were mentioned.”

The author, Alfred S. Roe, went on to write:

“Mrs. Merrick, it will be observed, was a widow when she volunteered to minister to the suffering soldiers in Washington. In this capacity she continued until, herself stricken with fever, she was compelled to return home, Miss Wolcott accompanying her.”

Anne Merrick had died long before the book was published, but her fellow nurse, Helen Wolcott, wrote a short letter to the author, describing their experience in the war:

“In regard to Mrs. Merrick and myself, nurses in the old Tenth Regiment, I could tell you more than I can write. It is all very fresh in my mind. The first night we slept on the floor of the tent. The next day the carpenter made us a very good bedstead. I shall never forget how glad the sick men were to see us, as one said, ‘Any one in petticoats.’ I fully recall one from Northampton, who died very soon, his parents coming at the very last moment.”

After her service in the war, Anne Merrick continued to live here with her son William, along with Alfred and Caroline Briggs, until her death in 1879. In the meantime, William followed in his father’s footsteps as a businessman, eventually becoming treasurer of the Springfield Gas Light Company as well as a director of the John Hancock Bank. He was also involved in several city organizations, including the library and the Springfield Hospital, and he donated the land for Merrick Park, at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets. However, like his father, William died young, in 1887 at the age of 37.

Albert Briggs died two years after Anne Merrick, in 1881, but Caroline continued to live here in this house, even after William’s death. She died in 1895, and the house was subsequently sold to lumber dealer Frank C. Rice. He was the president of the Rice & Lockwood Lumber Company, and during the 1900 census he was living here with his wife Emily and their son Julian, along with Emily’s mother Charlotte Anderson and sister Martha Anderson.

A decade later, during the 1910 census, Frank and Julian were still living here, but Emily had died in 1907 from appendicitis, at the age of 50. Frank lived here until around 1916, when he moved into an apartment nearby at 169 Maple Street, and he sold this house to Dr. Richard S. Benner, an obstetrician who lived here with his wife Marion and their four children.

Dr. Benner lived here until his death in 1939, right around the same time that the first photo was taken. Marion continued to live here for at least a few more years, although by the mid-1940s she had moved to Randolph Street in Forest Park. In the meantime, her old house stood here on Maple Street until around the early 1960s. Despite its historical significance as the home of the inventor of the monkey wrench, and despite its importance as one of the city’s early architectural landmarks, it was demolished and replaced with the office building that now stands on the site.

76-78 Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

The townhouses at 76-78 Maple Street, at the corner of Park Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This double townhouse was built in 1879 at the corner of Maple and Park Streets, directly adjacent to a block of three townhouses to the left, which were built almost a decade earlier. Architecturally, the two groups of townhouses have similar Second Empire-style architecture, although the 1879 homes show the beginnings of the more elaborate Stick and Queen Anne styles, which would become dominant in the 1880s. These two homes were originally owned by Seth Hunt, who lived in the more desirable house on the right at the corner, and his son David, who lived in the house on the left.

Born in Northampton in 1814, Seth Hunt was a longtime employee of the Connecticut River Railroad, and served as the company’s treasurer from 1858 until his death in 1893. Aside from his work on an actual railroad, though, Hunt was also an abolitionist who was active in the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War. He lived in Northampton at the time, and used his house to help shelter runaway slaves. During this time, he had friendships with some of the country’s leading abolitionists, including Henry Ward Beecher, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, and Sojourner Truth.

Seth and his wife Juliet moved from Northampton to Springfield after this house was completed, and they lived here until their deaths in the summer of 1893, only six weeks apart from each other. In the meantime, in the early 1880s their son David and his wife Grace lived in the house next door on the right side, and he worked with his father as assistant treasurer of the Connecticut Valley Railroad. However, later in the 1880s the city directories show David living with his parents on the right side.

By the late 1880s, the house on the left was the home of Maria Browne, a writer and retired teacher who was about 70 at the time. Born in Northampton, she grew up in Templeton, Massachusetts, and graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1840. She subsequently moved to New York City, where she worked as a teacher while also writing magazine and newspaper articles as well as short books. Her writings included moral stories for children, and in 1866 the book The Female Prose Writers of America described her, with regards to her writing, as being “playful, pathetic, serious, earnest, full of life and intensity, never prosaic, never tedious, never common-place, deeply imbued with the religious, largely read in that school of sensibility which enables her to sympathize with all forms of human sorrow and suffering; her writings, consequently, find their way directly to the heart and bosom of the reader.”

Browne never married, and she lived here in this house from around the late 1880s until her death in 1908 at the age of 89. Two years later, the house was still owned by her heirs, who rented it to real estate broker Henry F. Waters, his wife Frances, and their young daughter, who was also named Frances. During that same time, the house on the right was owned by physician Ralph B. Ober, who lived here with his newlywed wife Eleanor. Dr. Ober was a 1901 graduate of Harvard Medical School, and he began practicing medicine here in Springfield in 1904. By the early 1910s, he was a assistant medical director for Massachusetts Mutual, an assitant surgeon at Springfield Hospital, and president of the Springfield Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis.

The Obers had two children, Frederick and Mary, and they were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. In the meantime, though, most of the nearby townhouses, including the house on left, had become lodging houses in the first half of the 20th century. During the 1930 census, the lodging house was run by Harry A. Engel, who rented it for $85 a month and, in turn, rented rooms to six different families with a total of 19 people. A decade later, shortly after the first photo was taken, it was still a lodging house, although by this point it was being run by Orelina Menard, who had only seven lodgers here.

Ralph Ober died in 1945, but Eleanor continued to live here until her death in 1972, at the age of 86. Just four years later, the house became part of the Maple-Union Corners Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and very little has changed in this scene since then. The only major difference between the two photos is the house in the distance on the far right. Completed in 1899 as the home of firearms manufacturer Daniel B. Wesson, it was later used as the clubhouse of the Colony Club, until it burned down in 1966. A medical office building, visible on the right side, now stands on the site.

80-82 Maple Street, Springfield, Mass

The townhouses at 80-82 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The houses in 2017:

These three Second Empire-style townhouses were built in 1870, at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. They were constructed by local builder Abel Howe, and they originally had a fairly uniform appearance, although two of the three have since been significantly altered. As mentioned in the previous post, the house on the left was the home of Edmund D. Chapin, the longtime cashier and eventual president of the John Hancock National Bank. During the 19th century, the other two houses had similar upper middle class residents, including Dr. David F. Atwater, who lived in the house in the middle, and insurance clerk and real estate agent Frank H. Fuller, who lived in the house on the right.

David F. Atwater was born in 1817 in North Branford, Connecticut, and was the younger brother of George M. Atwater, who established Springfield’s streetcar system. David attended Yale, earning his undergraduate degree in 1839 and his medical degree in 1842, and he practiced medicine in Brooklyn and in Bridgeport before moving to Springfield. He and his wife Sarah were living here at 82 Maple Street by about 1883, and they lived here for the rest of their lives. Sarah died in 1910, and David in 1916, at the age of 98. Prior to his death, David was the oldest living Yale graduate, and he was also the last living Yale graduate from the 1830s. His name still lives on today in Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, a summer camp that was named in his honor after his daughter Mary donated $25,000 in 1926.

In the meantime, the house on the right at 80 Maple Street was the home of Frank H. Fuller, who was living here with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Grace by the mid-1870s. He worked for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, first as a clerk and later as a real estate agent, and he was responsible for the development of the Fuller Block, which still stands at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets.

By the early 20th century, many of the upscale townhouses in Springfield had been converted into lodging houses, including the homes on the right and the left here. During the 1920 census, for example, 80 Maple was rented by a family of four, who in turn rented rooms to nine lodgers, mostly single factory workers. A decade later, during the 1930 census, the house had a similar number of tenants, although most of them were married couples.

Of the three houses, the one in the middle at 82 Maple remained a single-family home for the longest. Daniel Atwater’s daughter Mary continued living here until her death in 1927, and by the end of the decade the house was being rented by John E. Hummel, who lived here with his wife Agnes, their two children, and Agnes’s sister Delia. They also rented rooms to several lodgers, and the 1930 census shows John’s occupation as being a lodging house keeper. However, John was also a retired Major League Baseball player who played second base and outfield for the Brooklyn Superbas and Robins from 1905 to 1915, and the Yankees in 1918. He also played minor league baseball for several years, including here in Springfield in 1922, but he had retired from baseball by the time he and his family moved into this house.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, John Hummel and his family were still living in the house in the middle. The 1940 census shows them paying $50 per month in rent, with John working as a foreman for a match factory, earning $1,440 per year. Their daughter Joan, 22 years old at the time, was also employed, working as a clerk in a department store. A few years later, though, the family left this house and moved to Oswego Street and then to Sumner Avenue, where they lived until John’s death in 1959.

In the 80 years since the first photo was taken, both of the houses on the left have been dramatically altered. The third floor of 84 Maple was removed in the mid-1940s, and at some point the entire facade of 82 Maple was replaced, including a new front door in the basement level. Only 80 Maple on the right has remained relatively unchanged, and today it continues to be used as a private residence. Despite the changes, though, all three houses are still historically significant, and they are now part of the Maple-Union Corners Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Edmund D. Chapin House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 84 Maple Street, at the corner of Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is one of three adjacent brick townhouses that were built in 1870, at the corner of Maple and Union Streets. When completed, all three had mostly identical Second Empire-style designs, and they were constructed by local builder Abel Howe. This house, at 84 Maple Street, was originally the home of Edmund D. Chapin, a banker who had worked as cashier of Springfield’s John Hancock National Bank since its establishment in 1850. He and his wife were in their mid-50s when the house was built, and they lived here for the rest of their lives. In 1890, after working as the cashier of the bank for 40 years, he became the president, and he held this position into the 20th century, when he was in his early 90s.

Chapin died in 1907, at the age of 93, and the house appears to have been vacant for several years. Like many of the city’s other elegant 19th century townhouses, it became a lodging house in the mid-1910s, with city directories of the period showing a number of different residents living here, typically for no more than a year or two. By the early 1920s, though, it had become a single-family home again, and was owned by John J. Kennedy, a dentist who had his office here in the house. He was living here as early as 1922, and he was still here during the 1930 census, along with his wife Loretta and their daughters, Catherine and Mary.

However, around the time that the first photo was taken, the house again reverted to being a lodging house. During the 1940 census, it was being rented by Adolph and Ida Samson for $50 a month. They, in turn, rented rooms to lodgers, with the census showing 14 lodgers living here. Most of the lodgers were young, single people who worked in local factories, although there was one married couple here, although with a young widowed mother with her two young children. According to the incomes that were listed on the census, nearly all of the lodgers earned under $1,000 a year (under $18,000 today), with the one exception being 27-year-old John Minney, who earned $1,092 as an assembler at a toy factory, presumably the nearby Milton Bradley factory.

Nearly 80 years later, all three of these townhouses are still standing, although both 82 and 84 Maple have both been heavily altered. In the mid-1940s, only a few years after the first photo was taken, the third floor of 84 Maple was removed, along with the original front entrance. The bay window on the left side has also been removed, although the house retains its original brick exterior, unlike the house to the right at 82 Maple. Despite these changes, though, all three of these townhouses are contributing properties in the Maple-Union Corners Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Lewis E. Tifft House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 225 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This Tudor Revival-style home was built in 1927 for Lewis E. Tifft, an investment banker who lived here with his wife Frances and their daughter Evelyn. A graduate of Williams College, Lewis had established the Tifft Brothers firm with his brother Charles in the early 20th century. He left the firm to serve in France during World War I, but after the war he returned to Springfield and continued working as a banker. During this time, he and Florence lived on Ridgewood Terrace, but they subsequently purchased this property near the top of the hill on Maple Street, and hired Boston-based architect John Barnard to design this house.

The Tiffts were still living here a decade later when the first photo was taken, and they would remain here for many years, until Frances’s death in 1961 and Lewis’s death in 1968. The property was then given to the adjacent MacDuffie School, a private school whose campus encompassed many historic mansions on the upper part of Maple Street. In 1974, the house became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and it continued to be used by the MacDuffie School until 2011, when the school relocated to Granby. That same year, the school buildings were heavily damaged by the June 1 tornado, but the Tifft House has since been restored, and it is now part of Commonwealth Academy, which is located on the former MacDuffie campus.

Foot-Wallace House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 201 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The house around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Homer Foot was born in 1810, and was the son of Adonijah Foot, the master armorer at the Armory. However, Adonijah died in 1825, a few months after 14-year-old Homer began working as a clerk at the Dwight store, at the corner of Main and State Streets. At the time, the Dwight family was one of the leading families in Springfield, and their merchant business was among the oldest and most prosperous in the region. The firm was owned by many successive generations of Dwights, who sold dry goods, groceries, and hardware from their corner store. By the time Homer began working here, longtime owner James Scutt Dwight had recently died, but his son, James Sanford Dwight, took over the firm along with several other partners.

Homer worked as a clerk for James Sanford Dwight for six years, but in 1831 Dwight died from malaria at the age of 31, while vacationing in Italy. His untimely death marked the end of many years of Dwight ownership of the company, and later in 1831 it was sold to 21-year-old Homer Foot. Even then, though, the business did not entirely leave the family, because three years later he married Delia Dwight, the sister of his late employer. They were married at the old Dwight homestead at the corner of State and Dwight Streets, in a double wedding ceremony that also included Delia’s sister Lucy and her husband, William W. Orne.

Early in their marriage, Homer and Delia lived in a house at 41 Maple Street, right next to where the South Congregational Church was later built. However, in 1844 he hired master builder Simon Sanborn, Springfield’s leading architect of the first half of the 19th century, to design a house on the hill at the corner of Maple and Central Streets. Foot was among the first of Springfield’s wealthy residents to move to the upper part of Maple Street, which was further from downtown but offered dramatic views of the surrounding landscape. The design of the house itself was also a departure from Springfield’s conventional architecture. Most of the homes in this era were fairly plain, conservative Greek Revival-style homes, but Sanborn designed a large, Gothic Revival-style house that reflected the Victorian-era shifts toward more elaborate, ornate architecture.

Shortly after the completion of his house, Foot embarked on an even more ambitious building project. For many years, the Dwight store had been located in an old brick building at the northeast corner of Main and State Streets, where the MassMutual Center is now located. However, in 1846 he purchased the old Warriner’s Tavern, which was located diagonally across the street. Once the leading tavern in Springfield, this colonial-era building was obsolete by the mid-19th century, and owner Jeremy Warriner had moved his business to the nearby Union House. The old tavern building itself was moved off the property, a little to the west along State Street, and Homer Foot built his new store on the site.

Aside from his own business, Foot was also involved in several other local companies, serving as a director of the Pynchon Bank, auditor for the Springfield Institution for Savings, and treasurer of the Hampden Watch Company. He was also a lieutenant colonel in the state militia, but unlike many of the city’s other prominent businessmen of the era, he never held public office, aside from serving as one of the overseers of the poor. However, this did not stop the Whig party from nominating him, against his wishes, as their candidate for lieutenant governor in 1856, although he ended up finishing a distant third in the general election.

Homer and Delia raised their ten children here in this house, and they went on to live here for the rest of their lives. They were both still living here when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, but Delia died in 1897, and Homer died a year later. By this point, the upper part of Maple Street has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods for the city’s wealthiest residents, and in 1901 the house was purchased by Andrew Wallace, the co-founder and owner of the Springfield-based Forbes & Wallace department store.

Andrew Wallace was born in Scotland in 1842, and immigrated to the United States in 1867, where he found work in Boston with the dry goods firm of Hogg, Brown & Taylor. From there, he moved to Pittsfield and then to Springfield, where in 1874 he partnered with Alexander B. Forbes to establish Forbes & Wallace. Like Homer Foot & Co. a generation earlier, Forbes & Wallace became the city’s leading retail company, with a large store on Main Street in the heart of downtown Springfield.

Andrew Wallace, his wife Madora, and their six children had previously lived in a fine Second Empire-style mansion on Locust Hill, at the corner of Main and Locust Streets in the South End, but in 1901 he purchased this house from Homer Foot’s heirs. By this point, the house was nearly 60 years old, and Gothic-style architecture had long since fallen out of fashion, so Wallace expanded and remodeled the house, adding a large wing that dominates the foreground of the two 20th century photos. Along with this, he added a large stable on the other side of the house, which included a recreation room on the second floor. The result was an interesting mix of architectural styles, which included many of the original Gothic details, combined with a new stucco exterior and tile roof.

After Andrew’s death in 1923, his son Andrew Jr. inherited the house, where he lived with his wife Florence and their children, Andrew and Barbara. During the 1930 census, they lived here with three servants, and the house was valued at $100,000, equivalent to nearly $1.5 million today. They were still living here later in the decade, when the first photo was taken, and Andrew was working as the president of Forbes & Wallace, which remained a retail giant in the region for many more decades, until it finally closed in 1976.

The Wallace family continued to live here until Florence’s death in 1951 and Andrew’s death five years later. The property was then sold to the MacDuffie School, a private school that was, at the time, located across the street at 182 Central Street. The house was converted into a dormitory, and was used by the school until the spring of 2011, when the school moved from Springfield to a new campus in Granby. Coincidentally, the move coincided with the June 1, 2011 tornado, which caused heavy damage to the Springfield campus, including the Foot-Wallace House. Many of the other buildings have since been restored, and the campus is now the home of Commonwealth Academy, but this house is still awaiting repairs, and remains boarded-up more than six years later. Because of this, the house has been included on the Springfield Preservation Trust’s annual listing of the city’s Most Endangered Historic Resources.