Willow Street, Springfield, Mass

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

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Willow Street in 2015:

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When the first photo was taken, the building on the right was the headquarters of the Milton Bradley Company, which had been founded in Springfield in 1860 as a lithograph company. Its owner, Milton Bradley, soon switched to board games, beginning with The Checkered Game of Life in 1860. By around 1880-1881, the company built this factory on Willow Street, as seen on the right side of the photo. This is the oldest part of the facility, which was soon expanded as demand increased. By the early 1900s, the company owned the entire block between Park, Willow, and Cross Streets, with its buildings almost completely surrounding a central courtyard.

Aside from Milton Bradley, this section of downtown Springfield was once home to several other factories. On the other side of Cross Street from the Milton Bradley factory was Smith & Wesson, whose factory also occupied an entire block. None of the buildings are visible in the first photo, but the brick and concrete building just beyond the Milton Bradley building was built by Smith & Wesson in the early 1900s.

Today, all of the houses on the left side of the photo are gone, and the lots are now used for parking. Smith & Wesson moved its factory to a different location in Springfield in the mid-1900s, and around the same time Milton Bradley moved to nearby East Longmeadow. Most of the Smith & Wesson buildings are gone now, except for the one in the distance of the 2015 scene. The Milton Bradley buildings are still standing, though, and along with the Smith & Wesson building they have since been converted into apartments.

Elliot Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking down Elliot Street from Edwards Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The view in 2015:

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Most of the views of Springfield featured in Picturesque Hampden almost 125 years ago are now drastically changed, but thankfully very little is different about this view of Elliot Street. Aside from the one on the far left, all of the other buildings in this scene are still standing. The most prominent is the North Congregational Church, which was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1873. It was one of his earlier works, and is one of two of his buildings, along with the Hampden County Courthouse, that is still standing in Springfield. To the left is the William Mattoon House, which was built around 1870 and is the oldest building in the scene. It was owned by William Mattoon, who also owned the land behind it that was later developed as Mattoon Street. To the right in both photos is the duplex at 95-99 Elliot Street, which was built in 1887, only a few years before the first photo was taken. Today, all of these buildings have been restored and are part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

50-52 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The twin houses at 50-52 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The houses in 2015:

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These two houses are among the earlier ones built on Mattoon Street, and their architecture is among the finest on the street. The one on the right, number 52, was built first, around 1872, for furniture dealer Julius A. Eldredge and his wife Catherine. A year later, the matching house on the left was completed, giving the front of the building its symmetrical design. By the 1900 census, the house on the left was owned by Thomas and Margaret Keating, two Irish immigrants who lived here with their three children. The one on the right was rented by Horace and Martha Eddy, their son Arthur, his wife Florence, and their infant son Lawrence.

By the 1940 census, just after the first photo was taken, the situation here was very different. I could not find any available data on the house on the left, but the one on the right was, like many other on the street at the time, used as a rooming house. It was rented for $65 a month by Alice LeBlanc, a French-Canadian immigrant who sublet the house to 11 lodgers, as the census described them. The census also lists their occupations, which included a baker, machinist, waitress, janitor, and a department store clerk. Their salaries are also listed, which reflected an economy that was still recovering from the Great Depression; they ranged from the waitress’s $440 annual income to the baker’s comparatively princely $1540 earnings (in 2016 dollars these equate to about $7,500 and $26,000, respectively).

When the Massachusetts Historical Commission filed reports on the historic Mattoon Street houses in the early 1970s, most were in a state of disrepair, except for the house on the right here. In their report on it, they remarked that “It is the only existing structure on the street to be rehabilitated and stands as an example of excellence for other owners to strive for.” Thankfully, in the years since, the other owners have followed suit, and today the entire street has been restored to its former elegance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

42-44 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The twin houses at 42-44 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2015:

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These two houses are architecturally very similar to the neighboring house to the left, and all were built in 1888 and owned by Lebbeus C. Smith. Together, they were among the last houses to be built on Mattoon Street in the 19th century, and they are the only examples of Queen Anne architecture on the street. The 1900 census shows that, like many of the other homes on Mattoon Street at the time, they were used as rooming houses. The one on the left, number 42, was rented by 68 year old dressmaker Mary W. Chamberlain, who in turn sublet the house to nine roomers, whose occupations included several shoe factory workers, clothing salesmen, a dry goods salesman, a telephone inspector, a barber, and a student. The house on the right was similarly crowded; in 1900 it was rented by Canadian immigrants John and Elizabeth Ashton and their daughter Dorothy, along with six roomers, which included two milliners, a dressmaker, a bookkeeper, and a dentist.

When the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, many of the homes on the street were still being used as rooming houses, and by the 1960s many were in disrepair. As mentioned in an earlier post, some of the townhouses on this side of the street were demolished in the early 1970s because of their poor condition. However, the remaining houses, including these ones, have since been restored. and are now part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

36 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 36 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2015:

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This house was built in 1888, at the same time as the matching duplex to the right, and these properties were among the last 19th century buildings to be completed on Mattoon Street. They were both owned by Lebbeus C. Smith, who rented this house to other tenants. One such resident here in 1901 was George Newell Bowers, an artist who was active in Springfield in the late 1800s and early 1900s. All three of the buildings visible in the first photo have been restored and are still standing today, and they are part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kingsbury House, Springfield, Mass

The Kingsbury House at 34 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Mattoon Street was built in 1873, and it was originally owned by George O. Kingsbury, a real estate developer who built over 400 homes in Springfield. His house was one of four identical four-story brick townhouses, all of which were built by contractors A.B. Howe and C.C. Moulton for some of the city’s prominent residents. However, over time the buildings deteriorated, and three of the four were demolished in the early 1970s, leaving only the Kingsbury house still standing. The vacant lot to the left was filled in the 1980s, though, when a condominium building was built at 26-32 Mattoon Street. Although new, it was designed to match the Victorian architecture of the rest of the street, and today it blends in well with the historic homes around it.