25 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 25 Mattoon Street, seen around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This building is a little different from the rest of the houses on the south side of Mattoon Street. It was built in 1891, making it the newest on that side of the street. Unlike all of the others, it was built as an apartment building, and its Romanesque architecture is very different from the rest of the street. It is also known as the Yadow Building, because of the somewhat enigmatic “Yadow” inscription in the center of the parapet, and it is part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Armory of the First Corps of Cadets, Boston

The armory at the corner of Arlington Street and Columbus Avenue in Boston, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

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Mixed in with modern high-rise buildings, this building looks more like it belongs in medieval Europe than in Boston, but it once served an important role in the city’s history.  It was one of many National Guard armories built across the state in the late 1800s, and it bears some resemblance to Springfield’s state armory, which was built around the same time.  The Armory of the First Corps of Cadets was built between 1891 and 1897, and like many other prominent civic buildings in late 19th century Boston it was designed by William Gibbons Preston, whose other works included Mechanics Hall and the Museum of Natural History.  Although the castle-like building seems somewhat whimsical in appearance, it actually served a very practical purpose; in the event of riots or other civil unrest, it would be able to withstand any attacks.  The tower could even be used to exchange signals with officials at the Massachusetts State House, which is located on the other side of Boston Common.

Over a hundred years after its construction, the armory is relatively unchanged on the exterior, although it has gone through several different uses over the years.  In the mid-20th century it was used for several different military-related museums, and in 1966 it was sold to a private owner.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and went through several different uses, including as a library and as an exhibition hall.  Today, it is owned by the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and is rented as a banquet and conference facility.

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.