Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (1)

The Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The house in 2016:

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This house is the oldest existing building in West Springfield, and probably the oldest brick building in Hampden County. It was built by Josiah Day in 1754 as a rare example of a brick saltbox-style house, and is probably the oldest such house in the United States. The house actually predates West Springfield itself, which had been settled in 1660 as part of Springfield, but was not actually incorporated as a separate town until 1774. By this point, the village on the west side of the river, with its fertile soil for farming, had grown larger and more prosperous than Springfield itself, and for many years its residents had been calling for separation.

Josiah Day was one of the residents who had petitioned the colonial General Court of Massachusetts for separation from Springfield, but he never lived to see West Springfield become its own town. He died in 1770, and his son Aaron inherited the house. Aaron and his wife Eunice moved into the house after their marriage in 1775, just months before the start of the American Revolution.

Although far removed from any major battles, the Day house nonetheless saw several important events relating to the war. In January 1776, Henry Knox passed in front of the house along his journey from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. He and his men were hauling 60 tons of cannons to fortify Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston, and just two months later these guns forced the British to evacuate Boston. Two years later, the Day House saw the results of another American victory in the war. Following the British defeat at Saratoga, General Riedesel and his Hessian troops were captured and marched to Boston, and along the way they stopped and encamped here in West Springfield on October 30 and 31, 1777, on the common in front of the house.

The closest that the Day House came to witnessing direct military action came nearly a decade later, during Shays’ Rebellion. This uprising, which took place in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787, was the result of high taxes and foreclosures against farmers in the region, and during this time the rebels succeeded in closing courthouses to prevent foreclosure cases from coming to trial. Although Daniel Shays of Pelham was the primary leader of the uprising, Luke Day of West Springfield was also one of the leaders. Luke and Aaron Day were second cousins, and while planning for the assault on the Springfield Arsenal, the climactic event of the rebellion, Luke trained his soldiers on the common in front of the house. According to local tradition, he also used his cousin’s house as his headquarters while he planned the attack.

In the meantime, Aaron and Eunice Day continued living in this house for decades. In 1810, they expanded the house with a wooden addition in the back for their oldest son, Aaron, Jr., who had married Anne Ely that year. Eunice died in 1818 and Aaron, Sr. in 1827, and the house was passed down to the younger Aaron. He and Anne raised their six children here, and Lydia, their last surviving child, lived in the house until her death in 1897. A few years later, the house was sold by the Day family after four consecutive generations of ownership.

While so many other colonial buildings in the area were being demolished around the turn of the 20th century, the Day House was purchased by the Ramapogue Historical Society, around the same time that the first photo was taken. This early effort at historic preservation has been successful, and today the house is still owned by the society. It is open to the public as a museum, and the interior is furnished with antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which had once belonged to members of the Day family.

Frary House, Deerfield, Mass

The Frary House on Old Main Street in Deerfield, around 1900-1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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The Old Deerfield Historic District is a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest level of recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. The well-preserved New England village features 53 historic buildings, with over 30 that date back to the American Revolution or earlier. Among these is the Frary House, seen here in these photographs.

When the first photo was taken, the house was believed to have been built in 1698 by Samson Frary, one of the original settlers of Deerfield. However, dendrochronology has since shown that it was built around 1758, although it is possible that portions of the house may date back to 1698. If so, it would make it one of possibly two houses that predate the 1704 Indian attack on the village. Either way, though, the house is unquestionably old, and historically significant.

The left side of the building is the oldest, and dates back to about 1758, when it was owned by Salah Barnard. He operated a tavern out of the house, and in 1775 Benedict Arnold stopped here on his way north to capture Fort Ticonderoga. The American Revolution had started just weeks earlier, and Deerfield had a large number of loyalist residents, yet Arnold managed to acquire provisions for his men here at the tavern while at the same time maintaining the secrecy of his mission.

The most significant change to the building came around 1795, when Barnard added a larger tavern to the right side of the building. Like many other New England taverns of the era, it not only provided food, drink, and lodging for visitors; it also served as the social center of the town, and would have been used as a meeting place for a variety of local events. Salah Barnard died the same year that the addition was completed, and his son Erastus inherited the building and operated the tavern for the next ten years, until he moved away from Deerfield.

The property was eventually purchased in 1890 by Charlotte Alice Baker, a descendant of Samson Frary, the building’s purported original owner. She hired the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge to restore it to its original colonial appearance, and the work was complete by the time the first photo was taken. Today, the Frary House/Barnard Tavern is owned by Historic Deerfield, a museum that owns a number of historic properties in the village.

Along with the Frary House and Barnard Tavern, this scene shows one other historic home. Just to the right of the tavern is the Nims House, which predates the Frary House by over a decade The original house on this site was built around 1685 by Godfrey Nims, but was destroyed in the 1704 Indian raid. It was rebuilt in 1710, and portions of this house might still be standing, but most of the present-day home dates back to sometime between the 1720s and 1740s. It remained in the Nims family until the 1890s, and it is now owned by Deerfield Academy, who uses it for faculty housing.

First Church, Deerfield, Mass

The First Church of Deerfield on Old Main Street, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Franklin (1891).

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The church in 2016:

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Deerfield’s Old Main Street is a remarkably well-preserved New England village, with a number of historic homes and other buildings dating back to the 18th and early 19th centuries. The entire village is included in the Old Deerfield Historic District, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most prominent buildings in the district is the First Church of Deerfield, also known as the Brick Church. Although not as old as many of the nearby homes, the church has been at the center of the village for nearly 200 years.

It was built in 1824 and designed by architect Winthrop Clapp, although it was virtually a copy of the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, which had been built in 1819 about three miles away. The Greenfield church had been designed by Isaac Damon, whose other works included churches in Springfield, Northampton, and Southwick. Although he did not actually design the Deerfield church, his influence is still evident, and it bears a strong resemblance his other churches.

Damon’s Greenfield church has long since been demolished and replaced with the present-day building, but the Deerfield church is still standing. Its interior was restored to its original appearance in 1916, and today the building still houses an active Unitarian-Universalist congregation. The brick exterior has remained essentially the same as it was when it was built, and its surroundings have also changed very little, with the village still retaining its appearance as a small, colonial-era community.

The Common, Greenfield, Mass

Looking west across the Common toward Park Square in Greenfield, sometime around the 1880s. Image from Greenfield Illustrated.

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The scene in 2016:

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The Common is at the heart of downtown Greenfield, and over the past 130 years or so, not much has changed in this view. This scene includes three historic buildings, which are partially hidden by the trees on the Common. To the left is the Second Congregational Church, which was built in 1868 on the site of an earlier church and is still standing, largely unchanged. To the right is another well-preserved building from the same era, the George A. Arms Block. Built in 1876 at the corner of Main Street and Court Square, this four-story brick building is one of many surviving 19th century commercial blocks in downtown Greenfield.

The building in the center of both photos is also still standing, although it has undergone far more drastic changes than the other two. Built in 1848 as the Franklin County Courthouse, it was originally a wooden Greek Revival building designed by Isaac Damon, a Northampton architect who designed churches, courthouses, and bridges across Western Massachusetts. A few decades earlier, he had designed courthouses for Hampden and Hampshire Counties, and he had also designed Greenfield’s original Second Congregational Church just to the left of the courthouse.

In 1872, Damon’s courthouse was essentially rebuilt, with little if anything left from the original structure. Because of the need for a more fire-resistant place to store county records, the exterior of the courthouse was covered in brick, and it was redesigned in a Gothic Revival style, in keeping with the architectural tastes of the era. The building’s design was again altered in 1954, when the exterior was renovated to its current Colonial Revival appearance. Today, the building is now Greenfield’s municipal building, and it, along with its neighbors to the left and right, are part of the Main Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Second Congregational Church, Greenfield, Mass

The Second Congregational Church on Court Square in Greenfield, around the 1870s or 1880s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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The church in 2016:

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Greenfield’s Second Congregational Church was established in 1817, during a time when many New England churches were experiencing division. Here in Greenfield, though, the source of the dispute was not theological but geographical, as the two factions could not agree on a location for the meetinghouse. Ultimately, the offshoot congregation built their church here in what is now the center of Greenfield. Their first building was designed by prolific Western Massachusetts church builder Isaac Damon. This brick Greek Revival design was copied a few years later and a few miles south of here in Deerfield, and still stands today as part of Historic Deerfield.

Here in Greenfield, though, the old church was demolished in 1868 and replaced with a new building on the same site. By this point, the Greek Revival style of the early 19th century had fallen out of style, and Gothic Revival had become prevalent in post-Civil War churches. This church was designed by the Boston firm of Richards & Park, and included many of the common Gothic Revival features, including a stone exterior, an off-centered steeple, and pointed arches over windows and doors. The church is still standing today, essentially altered from its original appearance. It is one of many surviving 19th century buildings facing the Common, and is part of the Main Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Main Street, Greenfield, Mass

The north side of Main Street at the corner of School Street in Greenfield, sometime around the 1880s. Image from Greenfield Illustrated.

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The view in 2016:

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Greenfield’s Main Street is lined with a number of historic 19th century commercial blocks, including several in this scene, located opposite the Common. The ones on the left are partially hidden by trees in the present-day scene, but they are the same ones that stood here in the first photo.

Starting on the far left is Pond’s Block, a four-story Italianate building that dates back to around 1874. Just to the right of it is the smaller but architecturally similar Hollister Block, which was built around the same time. Both were built on the former site of the Long Building, which had burned down in 1873. The Bird-Hovey Block, at the corner of School Street in the center of the photo, also matches the architecture of the other two buildings. However, it is actually far older, with parts of it dating back to 1812. It originally had two stories, but in 1872 a third was added. During this renovation, the current Italianate facade was also added, in keeping with commercial architectural trends of the mid-19th century.

Today, the Bird-Hovey Block stands as the city’s oldest surviving commercial building, and its neighbors to the left are also still standing, with largely the same appearance as they had in the 1880s photo. Together, they form part of the Main Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The only major difference between the two photos is the building on the right side. It was built in 1870, and stood here for about a century until it was mostly demolished to build the Franklin County Trust Building in 1972. Parts of the old building were incorporated into the new structure, but there is nothing recognizable on the exterior. Today, the building houses Greenfield’s branch of TD Bank.