J.R. Montgomery Company Buildings, Windor Locks, Connecticut

The J.R. Montgomery Company, along the canal in Windsor Locks in October 1939. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

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The factory in 2015:

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The town of Windsor Locks gets its name from the canal locks that were located here, which allowed boats to bypass the Enfield Falls just to the north.  More of a series of rapids than a true waterfall, the Enfield Falls are the natural head of navigation on the Connecticut River, and were a significant obstacle to river trade with Springfield and other cities to the north.  This problem was resolved in 1829, with the opening of a 5.25 mile long canal that ran parallel to the river.  However, it never became a major transportation route, because like many other early 19th century canals it was soon superseded by railroads.  However, at least one notable visitor did pass through here on the canal; author Charles Dickens traveled along the river on a steamboat in 1842, just two years before the construction of the Hartford and Springfield Railroad, which can be seen next to the canal in the foreground of both photos.

Although the heyday of transportation canals was short-lived, the Enfield Falls Canal was soon put to a different use.  Here in Windsor Locks, at the southern end of the canal, the 30-foot drop from the canal to the river made it an ideal location for factories.  Industrialist J.R. Montgomery established a thread and yarn factory here in 1871, eventually producing a variety of, as the sign atop the building reads, “Novelty Yarns” and “Tinsel Products.”

The brick building in the distance was built in 1891 and expanded to the north (further from the camera) in 1904. The white concrete section was added in 1920, so the entire structure combines 30 years of factory architecture styles into one building.  However, the Montgomery Company closed in 1989, and the building has stood vacant ever since.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but three fires and over 25 years of neglect have certainly taken their toll, so at this point the future of the historic property is certainly in question.

Agawam Woolen Mill, Agawam, Mass

Looking west on Elm Street, with the Agawam Woolen Mill to the right, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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Elm Street in 2015:

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The former Agawam Woolen Mill building still stands on Elm Street, although it is mostly hidden behind the trees from this angle. Agawam was never a major industrial center, but this site along the Three Mile Brook had been used by mills since the early 1800s.  In 1857, the Agawam Company, later renamed the Agawam Woolen Company, established its first factory here, which was rebuilt in 1875 and destroyed in a fire in 1889.  The present-day factory was built around 1890, and was subsequently expanded several times after the first photo was taken.  However, by the mid 1900s, New England’s once thriving textile industry began to struggle amid increased competition, and like many others the Agawam Woolen Company closed in the 1950s.  The building still stands today, not all that different from the 1890s photo except for the early 1900s additions.  It is a contributing property, and the only industrial building, in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Chapin House, Agawam, Mass

The Chapin House on Elm Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Elm Street was built around 1850, and is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture that was popular in rural and suburban American houses in the mid to late 1800s.  The only noticeable change from the first photo is the porch, which once wrapped around from the right side to the front door.  I’m not sure whether this porch was original to the house anyway, and in either case this house is well-preserved and is a contributing property in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Elm Street, Agawam, Mass

Looking down Elm Street from Main Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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Elm Street in 2015:

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Today’s view doesn’t have the same pastoral look that it had 120 years ago, but the two buildings from the 1890s photo are still standing today.  On the far right is the Rufus Colton House, which was built in 1806 and is mentioned in more detail in the previous post.  To the left is the First Baptist Church, which still exists but in a heavily modified form.  Baptists had been meeting in Agawam since 1790, and the present church was built around 1830 on Main Street, just south of Elm Street and diagonally across from the Agawam Congregational Church.  Substantial additions from the mid 20th century added wings on both sides and behind the original church, so not much is left from its original appearance except for the front entrance.  Nonetheless, today it is a contributing property in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rufus Colton House, Agawam, Mass

A view of Main Street in Agawam from the corner of Elm Street, with the Rufus Colton House in the distance on the left, seen around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The scene in 2015:

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Built in 1806, the Rufus Colton House is architecturally similar to the nearby Captain Charles Leonard House, which was built a year earlier.   Both are believed to have been designed by Asher Benjamin, and like the Leonard House it was built for a local militia officer, Lieutenant Rufus Colton.  Beginning around 1830, it was owned by Martin King (not Martin Luther King, just Martin King), who operated a tavern here for some time.  Main Street was once part of the Boston Post Road, connecting Boston to New York and points south, so it is likely that a good part of King’s business was from travelers on the road.

Today, Main Street is busier, with paved streets replacing the dirt roads of the 1890s, but the Rufus Colton House remains well-preserved after over two centuries.  It may or may not have been designed by Asher Benjamin, but either way it is an excellent example of Federal architecture, and it retains many of its original elements, including the hip roof, the fan window over the door, and the Palladian window in the center of the second floor.  In 2001, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Agawam Center Historic District.

Congregational Church Parsonage, Agawam, Mass

The parsonage on Main Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

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This house on Main Street opposite School Street was built around 1850 as the parsonage for the Agawam Congregational Church, which is located a few hundred yards south of here on the opposite side of Main Street.  The church building that it once served was several decades older; it was built in the early 1800s and was demolished in the 1960s, when the current church was built on the same spot.

Today, the parsonage is partially hidden by trees from this angle, but it is still there, with some alterations.  It appears to be a multi-unit apartment now, with additions in the back of the house where the barn once stood in the 1890s photo.  The area around the house has also changed; the house to the right was probably built in the early 1900s, and later on the land behind the parsonage was subdivided and Raymond Circle was developed.  Despite the changes, however, the building is a contributing property in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.