Wesleyan Academy Baseball Field, Wilbraham Mass

The baseball field at Wesleyan Academy (today Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, probably around 1900.  Image courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The field in 2015:

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These photos show the same field as the one in this post, just from a different angle.  The historic image here was probably taken at a later date; the one in the other post dates to the early 1890s at the absolute latest, while this one is probably about 10 years later.  This game certainly seems to have attracted a bigger crowd, although obviously the game itself has not started yet – if nothing else, the table sitting on the first base line should give that away.

Wesleyan Academy is now Wilbraham & Monson Academy, and the field is still there, although today it is used for soccer and lacrosse.  The three houses in the background are also still there, and are part of the academy campus.  From left to right, they are: the 1854 Morrow House, the c.1814 Brewer House, and the 1878 Winchester House.  Like most of the other buildings on campus, they are well-preserved, and they make up part of the Academy Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places site.

Wesleyan Academy Baseball Game, Wilbraham Mass

A view of a baseball game in progress at Wesleyan Academy (today Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The field in 2015:

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The first photo is a rather remarkable scene showing an early baseball game.  Most 19th century baseball photos are staged studio portraits that loosely imitate in-game action (see this photo from the Library of Congress website, where the string holding the ball is clearly visible and it looks more like a magic levitating trick than anything one might encounter at a baseball game), so it is fairly rare to see real, in-game action from the 1800s.  This particular photo was taken no later than 1892, the year it was published, and no earlier than 1878, when the house on the far left was built.  Most likely though, it was probably taken shortly before publication.

By the time that the photo was taken, the game of baseball was well established as the most popular sport in the country, at both the professional and amateur levels.  For the most part, the game 125 years ago wasn’t all that different from baseball today – this scene is instantly recognizable as a baseball game.  However, there was one last major change in the rules that happened a few years after this photo was taken.  A close examination of the photo shows that the pitcher is standing on flat ground, and appears closer to home plate than in modern baseball.  Prior to 1893, the pitcher released the ball 55.5 feet from home plate, and stood on flat ground rather than a raised mound.  In 1893, the distance of 60.5 feet was established; this remains the same today, and was such a major change that many baseball historians consider 1893 to be the beginning of modern baseball.

I don’t know which team is the home team, but this was taken at what was once Wesleyan Academy, and is now Wilbraham & Monson Academy.  My great grandfather attended the academy in the late 1880s, and I don’t know whether he played baseball there, but depending on the exact date of the photo, he could easily be among the players or spectators – some of whom seem to be standing dangerously close to the batter.  Today, the campus has grown significantly since the first photo was taken, but the field is still there and is still used for sports, although baseball is now played on a different field on the other side of the campus.

Indian Motocycle Factory, Springfield Mass

The factory on Wilbraham Road in Springfield, which would later house the Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company.  Seen here around 1892 and published in Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The building in 2015:

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This building is best known as having been part of the Indian Motocycle Company factory, but it has had a variety of uses over the years.  The original section of the building, as seen in the 1892 photo, was built in 1883 for the Bullard Repeating Arms Company, a rifle company that was not as successful as another firearms company founded in Springfield during the 19th century.  Bullard didn’t last too long, and the building was then used by the Springfield Industrial Institute, a private trade school.  In 1895, the school moved to the building across the courtyard, and the Elektron Company occupied this building.  It was at this point that the wing was built to the east, beyond the tower.

Early in the 20th century, George Hendee moved his motorcycle company to this site, which was originally named Hendee Manufacturing Company, but was later renamed Indian Motocycle Manufacturing Company (the “r” was intentionally omitted from “motorcycle” for trademark purposes).  The two story addition was put on the building in 1911, which by then had nearly quadrupled in size from the 1892 photo.  This triangle between State Street and Wilbraham Road was the home of the company until they closed in 1953, at which point the buildings were used for various other businesses.  Since then, several of the buildings have been demolished, although the original 1883 Bullard building survives, and it has been renovated and turned into apartments.

City Hall, Holyoke Mass

City Hall in Holyoke, seen looking up Dwight Street in 1892. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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City Hall in 2015:

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It almost resembles a Medieval cathedral, and in fact the original caption of the 1892 photo misidentified it as a church, but this building is actually Holyoke City Hall.  Opened in 1876, it bears some resemblance to the Hampden County Courthouse.  Both were made out of the same material, granite from Monson, Massachusetts, and with similar neo-Gothic and Romanesque style architecture, which was common in late 19th century public buildings.  Curiously, it had two architects: Charles B. Atwood, who designed most of the exterior, and Henry F. Kilburn, who took over after Atwood failed to produce his work in a timely manner.  Kilburn ended up designing the interior and the 220 foot tower.  Today, the exterior is well-preserved; it continues to be used as City Hall, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

High Street, Holyoke Mass (2)

Looking north on High Street from Suffolk Street in Holyoke, around 1903-1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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High Street in 2015:

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These photos show a scene similar to the ones in this post, just a half a block further south, at the corner of High and Suffolk Streets.  This area is also part of the North High Street Historic District, and all of the buildings on the left-hand side date to between 1880 and 1920.  The first photo was taken at a good time to show some of the changes that happened in the early 19th century.  Had this photo been taken less than 10 years later, we would see almost no change today; all of the present-day buildings in the foreground were built by about 1912.  Starting on the far left side and heading down High Street, the first five buildings in the present-day photo are:

  • An unnamed commercial block, which was built in 1910 and replaced two earlier buildings, including the ornate Naumkeag Clothiers building in the first photo.
  • Bishop Block, which was built around 1890 and has had a few alterations over the years, especially the facade on the second floor.
  • Taber Block, which was built around 1884 and is architecturally very similar to the Russell-Osborne Building further down the street
  • Childs Building, which was built around 1912
  • Steiger’s Building, which was built around 1900 and was home to one of Albert Steiger’s department stores

Overall, the changes in the two photos reflect the prosperity of Holyoke at the turn of the last century; its paper mills were bringing jobs and wealth to the city, and this was seen on High Street, where relatively new buildings from the 1880s and 1890s were being taken down and replaced by larger commercial buildings.  However, just as new construction on this part of High Street seemed to stagnate by the mid 20th century, Holyoke’s economy also stagnated with the closing of the paper mills.  Today,  parts of Holyoke are filled with historic buildings, but sadly this is not necessarily because of careful attention to historic preservation, but rather from a lack of new economic development in the city.

High Street, Holyoke Mass (1)

Looking north on High Street between Suffolk and Dwight Streets, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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High Street in 2015:

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Holyoke has a number of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but these photos show the only Historic District located within the city.  The two photos show a number of changes in the past 100 years, but even the most of the “new” buildings seen in the 2015 photo date to the 1920s or earlier.  Several notable buildings from the first photo have survived, though.  On the left-hand side, starting closest to the foreground, they are:

  • Mayberry Building (narrow red brick building) – Built in 1881, although it had a fourth story added at some point after the 1908 photo.
  • Russell-Osborne Building (the next red brick building) – Built in 1885, this building’s ornate facade contrasts with most of the other more reserved architectural styles, but it has lost some of its decoration over the years, including the gargoyle-like carvings that can be seen in the 1908 photo.
  • Ball Block (yellow brick, in center of the photos) – Built in 1898 and located at the corner of High and Dwight Streets, this was an office building but was later converted into a bank.  However, most of the modifications were made to the interior, so from the outside it hasn’t changed much in appearance since the first photo was taken.
  • Caledonia Building (in the distance, flying an American flag) – Built in 1874, its Second Empire architectural style with a mansard roof is very different from most of the other buildings along this part of High Street, but its exterior hasn’t changed much since it was built.