Home for Friendless Women, Springfield, Mass

The building at 136 William Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2017:

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Springfield was experiencing rapid growth in the 1860s. The Civil War had drawn many to work in the Armory and other factories that contributed to the war effort, and the city grew by 45 percent between 1860 and 1865. With an expanding population came more social problems, though, and in 1865 the Home for Friendless Women was established to provide temporary housing and services for needy women and children. Among the founders, and the organization’s first president, was Rachel Merriam, the wife of dictionary publisher Charles Merriam.

The original building was located on Union Street, directly behind the Merriams’ house on Howard Street. Among those who found shelter here were girls and women fleeing physical and sexual abuse, as well as “fallen women,” a Victorian euphemism for prostitutes. Despite its somewhat bleak-sounding name, the Home for Friendless Women provided much-needed services at a time when such assistance from the government was essentially unheard of, and it was the first charity of its type in the region.

By the late 1880s, the old Union Street building had become too small to meet the growing needs of the organization. After Charles Merriam’s death in 1887, Rachel donated her house on Howard Street. This became the new facility for a few years, but there was still a need for a new building, so in 1897 they opened a new building on William Street, which is seen here. Its design reflects the Colonial Revival style, which was coming into popularity at the end of the 19th century, and it was the work of local architects Benjamin R. Bushey and Guy Kirkham.

Over the years, the building provided shelter for women in a variety of situations. Census records during this time give an interesting snapshot of who was living here, and in 1900 there were ten residents, which included four elderly widows, four single girls in their teens or early twenties, and two young children. Ten years later, in 1910, there were 13 residents, most of whom were elderly and/or widowed. There was also a 36 year old single woman and her infant daughter, plus two teenaged girls and, rather curiously, a 13-year-old boy who does not appear to have been related to anyone else at the home. By the 1920s, it became known as the Home for Girls, and focused exclusively on serving unwed mothers and expectant mothers.

This facility was still in use when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, although overcrowding led the organization to move elsewhere in 1940. By this point, the South End had become largely Italian, and the building became the lodge for the Sons of Italy, an Italian-American fraternal organization. Although they no longer use the building, it is still standing, with few exterior changes, and it is an excellent example of institutional Colonial Revival architecture in the city. As for the Home for Friendless Women, the organization is now known as the Children’s Study Home, and continues to serve Springfield more than 150 years after Rachel Merriam helped to establish it.

Edwin S. Gardner House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 250 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Edwin S. Gardner was a lawyer who, for many years, lived in a fine house on Ridgewood Place. However, in 1928 he and his wife Harriet, along with their children Mary and Edwin, Jr., moved into this house. Designed by John Barnard and built at a cost of $48,000, it was a significant step up from their earlier home, not to mention the sweeping views of the city and the surrounding landscape. The Tudor Revival style was popular during this time period, and a number of such homes were built here on Maple Street. Many of them, including this one, are so well-designed that they seem as though they would fit in better on an English country estate than here in a New England city.

The Gardners did not remain in the house for to long, though. By the mid-1930s they had significantly downsized and were living elsewhere, perhaps as a result of the Great Depression. In their place, the house was owned by Ida Day, the widow of Robert W. Day, who had been the president of the United Electric Light Company. She lived here with her son Winsor and his wife Sarah, although Sarah died in 1938, around the time that the first photo was taken. Ida died in 1942, and Winsor left the house soon after and moved to the Forest Park neighborhood.

In 1977, the house became part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Very little has changed with its exterior, and the house survived the June 1, 2011 tornado. Today, it stands among many other late 19th and early 20th century mansions that overlook the city from atop the hill.

Frederick Harris House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 270 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Frederick Harris and Emily Osborne were married in 1879, and shortly afterward they moved into this new house near the crest of the hill on Maple Street. Frederick was the son of Frederick H. Harris, a banker who came to Springfield in 1838 at the age of 15 and found work as a bank clerk. After a few years, he began working in the lumber industry, but later returned to banking as the cashier of Pynchon Bank. In 1864, he joined Springfield’s Third National Bank as cashier, and became the company president in 1886.

Emily, however, came from an even more prominent family. Originally from Auburn, New York, her father David was a prominent businessman and mayor, but her family was even better know for social activism. Her grandmother, Martha Coffin Wright, and her great aunt, Lucretia Coffin Mott, were both leaders of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, and her brother, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the warden of Sing Sing and an influential prison reform advocate. Her sister, Helen Osborne Storrow, was a wealthy philanthropist, and Helen’s husband was James Jackson Storrow II, a Boston businessman who briefly served as president of General Motors in the company’s early years.

The younger Frederick Harris followed his father’s footsteps as a banker, starting out as a messenger for Third National in 1871. He steadily advanced in the bank, though, and eventually became vice president and then president, succeeding his father after his death in 1911. In addition, he was also active politically, and served as an alderman and as a member of the school committee. When the house was completed, it was considerably smaller than its current appearance. The first major expansion came in 1886, followed by the addition of a ballroom in 1900, bringing the house to over 10,000 square feet of living space.

Frederick and Emily had two children, Florence and Helen, but they were hardly the only residents of this house. Like other wealthy families of the era, they regularly employed multiple servants who lived here. In the 1900 census, they had three, and by 1910 they had four: a housekeeper, waitress, cook, and laundress. Florence moved out after her marriage in 1907 to Frederic Jones, and the couple later moved into a nearby house on Maple Street. Like his father-in-law, Frederic Jones would later go on to serve as president of Third National Bank.

By 1920, Frederick and Emily were living here alone, aside from their army of servants. Frederick died in 1926, and two years later he was memorialized in the naming of the Frederick Harris School, an elementary school on Hartford Terrace in the East Forest Park neighborhood. Emily was still living here when the first photo was taken, and she died in 1940, some 60 years after she first moved in. Since then, the house has remained well-preserved on both the exterior and interior. It was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but was restored and remains as an important part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Captain James B. Hatch House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 210 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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Most of Springfield’s wealthy 19th century residents earned their money through manufacturing, banking, insurance, or similar businesses. In this sense, James B. Hatch was somewhat of an exception. He was born in Springfield in 1815, but when he was 15 he left to become a sailor, starting out as a third mate before eventually becoming a ship captain and owner. On one of his early voyages as a third mate, one of the crew members was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who later wrote his famous memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, based on this journey. Dana mentioned Hatch several times throughout the book, writing that:

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, though only a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the next voyage, and rose soon to command some of the finest clippers in the California and India trade, under the new order of things,— a man of character, good judgment, and no little cultivation.

As a ship captain, Hatch made a number of voyages to and from California. The discovery of gold in 1848 was particularly profitable for Hatch, whose clipper ships transported prospectors and supplies to San Francisco in the ensuing years. There were challenges to captains like Hatch, though. The tantalizing lure of instant riches caused many sailors to desert upon reaching San Francisco, making it difficult to find enough crew members for the return voyage.

Captain Hatch retired in the early 1870s, and in 1874 he moved into this house on Maple Street. It was designed and built by Chauncey Shepard, a prolific master builder who was constructing the Loomis House next door at around the same time. Although its architecture is not a distinct as that of the Loomis House, the Hath House definitely matches its neighbor, with a similarly brick exterior and Gothic-style appearance.

Along with his wife Clarissa, Captain Hatch also lived here with their only child, Mabel. In 1879, she married Charles Tremain, a paper manufacturer from New York, but she died of complications from a pregnancy just two years later. To add to the tragedy, Clarissa died the following day. Her cause of death was listed as pneumonia, but her daughter’s untimely death was probably a contributing factor as well.

Captain Hatch lived here until his death in 1894, and the house was inherited by Charles Tremain. In the 1910 and 1920 censuses, it was owned by Clifford D. Castle, a grocer who also served on the Board of Aldermen for several years. Another former alderman, H. Goodman Waters, owned the house by 1930, but died shortly after the census was taken. His family continued living here for some time, but by 1940 it was being rented out for $75 per month.

When the first photo was taken, the house still had much of its original Gothic detail, including the decorative bargeboard under the gables of the roof. The bargeboard now gone, and there have been several other exterior alterations, including a one-story addition on the left side of the front. Like the rest of the neighborhood, the house was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but it survived and still stands as one of many 19th century mansions on Maple Street. Along with the other houses in the area, it is a contributing property in the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles L. Goodhue House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 216 Central Street in Springfield, at the corner of Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This site near the top of the hill on Central Street had been the home of merchant Henry Sterns since 1827. Around 1870, his house was moved to the back of the lot, where it still stands on Madison Avenue, and several decades later Charles L. Goodhue purchased the property. A contractor who specialized in building municipal water systems, he had done work across the country, including here in Springfield. He built the city’s reservoir in Ludlow, and also served as the chairman of the Water Commission for many years.

Completed in 1894, this house had few rivals among the Gilded Age mansions in Springfield, and remains one of the largest private residences ever built in the city. Goodhue lived here with his wife Harriet and their daughter Grace, and during this time he expanded his business activities. Along with building water works, he also served as president of the Chicopee National Bank, and as the president of the Knox Automobile Company, an early Springfield-based car manufacturer.

Harriet Goodhue died in 1903, and Charles in 1912. After his death, Grace inherited the property and rented out the house. By the 1920 census, she was renting it to Arthur T. Murray. Just 29 at the time, he was the president of the American Bosch Magneto Corporation, and had previously been the president of the Bethlehem Motor Corporation. He lived here with his wife Anna, their daughter Ruth, and five servants, which included a butler, maid, chambermaid, cook, and a governess for young Ruth.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was owned Roger L. Putnam, who served three terms as Springfield’s mayor, from 1937 to 1943. His political career subsequently included serving in the Truman administration as the director of the Economic Stabilization Administration from 1951 to 1952. In the 1940 census, soon after the first photo was taken, he and his wife Caroline were living here with their six children, along with a lodger and three servants. They remained here until 1956, when he sold the massive home to the Ursuline Order.

The house became Ursuline Academy, and was expanded to include a classroom wing on the west side of the building, which is partially visible on the far left of the photo. It has since changed hands several times, becoming Springfield Christian School in 1980 before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. The building is still in use by Head Start, and retains much of its historic appearance. Despite the changes in use, it survives as one of the city’s finest 19th century mansions, and it is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ebenezer Gay Manse, Suffield, Connecticut

The Ebenezer Gay Manse on North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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Ebenezer Gay was 23 years old when he was ordained as the pastor of the church in Suffield in 1742. The Hingham, Massachusetts native had recently graduated from Harvard, and he arrived in the midst of the Great Awakening, which was already sweeping across New England and had resulted in a number of revivals here in Suffield. That same year, he married Hannah Angier, and the following year they moved into this elegant, gambrel-roofed Georgian home in the center of town.

At the time, it was not uncommon for pastors to be hired directly out of college and remain in the same church for the rest of his life. Ebenezer Gay was no exception, and served here for 54 years, until his death in 1796. Towards the end of his ministry, his son, Ebenezer Gay, Jr., became the assistant pastor, and took over the full duties upon his father’s death. Like his father, the younger Ebenezer lived in this house. He also had a remarkable tenure as the pastor here, serving until his death in 1837, for a total of 95 years between father and son.

When the first photo was taken, the house was already about 200 years old, and its historical significance was well-recognized. It was owned by the Suffield School for Boys, which would become Suffield Academy. At the time, it was vacant, but would eventually be put to use as faculty housing for the school. It is still used for the same purpose, and in the early 2000s it was repaired and restored to its original appearance. Along with the other buildings in the area, it is part of the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.