Deacon John Moore House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 37 Elm Street in Windsor, around 1938-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

The town of Windsor is, arguably, the oldest in Connecticut, and it has no shortage of historic houses. Some of the oldest houses in the state are located here in Windsor, and this house is among the oldest, dating back to around 1664. It has been moved several times and considerably altered over the years, with very little of the original material surviving except for the frame itself, but it still stands as a rare example of post-Medieval architecture in the Connecticut River Valley.

This house was built for John Moore, one of the early settlers of Windsor and a leading citizen here. He and his father, Thomas Moore, had immigrated to America in 1630 and settled in Dorchester, where they lived until 1639, when they moved to the newly-established town of Windsor, located along the banks of the Connecticut River. Here, they joined a number of other Massachusetts expatriates in the new colony, and John soon rose to prominence. He was elected to represent the town in the General Court in 1643, and in 1651 he was ordained as a deacon in the town’s church.

When John Moore built this house around 1664, it was located near here at the corner of Broad and Elm, facing east at the town green. He lived there for the rest of his life, until his death in 1677, and the house remained in his family for several more generations. His only son, John Moore Jr., inherited the house, and subsequently gave it to his son Thomas, who was living here by the 1690s.

The house stood at its original location on Broad Street until around 1805, when it was purchased by William Loomis. He moved it a short distance and attached it to a new house that he had built, with the old Moore house becoming a wing for the kitchen. The conjoined homes were later used as an inn, and they stood attached for nearly a century. At this point, though, the historical significance of the Moore house was already recognized, and it was mentioned in Henry Reed Stiles’s 1859 book The History of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut. In the book, he writes that the house “was in its day, and even within the recollection of some now living, a fine house, but is now degraded to the humble office of a kitchen to a more modern house which occupies its original site.”

This arrangement continued until 1897, when Horace Clark purchased the property. He separated the two houses and moved them around the corner onto Elm Street, where they were situated on adjacent lots on the south side of the street. The Moore house was heavily modified during this time, including the removal of the original central chimney and the addition of a large front porch, along with significant interior alterations.

After the 1897 move, the house was still facing east, with the front facade perpendicular to Elm Street. However, in 1938 the house underwent another renovation, which included the removal of the front porch and the 1890s chimneys. As part of this renovation, the house was also rotated on the lot, so that the front faced north toward Elm Street. The first photo was taken shortly after this work was done, and at this point almost nothing was left of the original house besides the frame. Remarkably, though, three of the seemingly-delicate pendants beneath the front overhang are original to the house. Only the one on the far right is a modern replica, with the original having been removed when that side of the house was joined with the Loomis House. Additionally, two ornamental brackets under the left gable are also original, although they are not visible from this angle.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. The Loomis house still stands on the adjacent lot, where it is partially visible on the left side of both photos, and the Moore house, now over 350 years old, stands as one of the oldest surviving houses in New England. Because of this, and despite the significant changes over the years, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Amaziah Humphrey House, Simsbury, Connecticut

The house at 42 East Weatogue Street in Simsbury, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This house is located in the Simsbury village of East Weatogue, a small farming community on the eastern edge of the town, situated right at the base of the Metacomet Ridge. Compared to some of the other colonial houses in the village, this house was fairly modest, and was built around 1775 for Amaziah Humphrey, who was only about 21 years old at the time. A year earlier, he had married his wife, Elizabeth Harris, and they moved into this house following its completion. However, only a year later Amaziah enlisted in the Continental Army, serving as a private in New York during the American Revolution.

From there, the historical records of Amaziah and this property seem a bit spotty. His name does appear in the Hartford Courant several times, though. In 1805, an “Amaz. Humphrey” was listed as one of Simsbury’s two representatives in the state legislature for that year, and several years earlier a 1797 classified ad listed him as a trustee for a school here in Simsbury. This advertisement reads: “The ſubſcribers reſpectfully inform the public that the ſchool is now open in the ſchoolhouſe lately erected in the firſt ſociety in this town. Scholars may be admitted into ſaid ſchool for inſtruction in the learned languages, at 18ſ per quarter; for Geography, Engliſh Grammar or Arithmetic at 14ſ; and for writing and reading at 12ſ; Alſo convenient boarding upon reaſonable terms.”

Amaziah and Elizabeth had at least seven children, and they appear to have lived here in this house for the rest of their lives, until their deaths in 1822 and 1838, respectively. On his gravestone, located across the river in Simsbury Cemetery, he is identified as “Capt Amaziah Humphrey.” He does not appear to have held this rank during the American Revolution, so it was probably a rank that he earned in the militia at some point after the war.

This house was later inherited by Elijah Case, who was the son of Amaziah and Elizabeth’s daughter Caroline and her husband, Philander Case. Born in 1812, he became a shoemaker, and married his wife Paulina in 1849. The 1860 census shows them living here in this house with their two children, Henry and Flora, and at the time his real estate was valued at $1,200, plus an additional $1,000 for his personal estate. Two decades later, in the 1880 census, he was listed as a farmer rather than a shoemaker, and he died five years later, at the age of 71.

In the absence of standardized street numbers in historical records, it is difficult to trace the exact ownership of this house. However, it appears to have remained in the Case family until at least the late 20th century. When the first photo was taken around the late 1930s as part of the WPA Architectural Survey, the owner was listed as the “L. Case Estate,” and as late as the 1990s the property was still owned by the Case family, who operated Case’s Flowers here.

Today, the greenhouses, sheds, and other outbuildings that had been part of Case’s Flowers are now gone, but the house itself has hardly changed since the first photo was taken around 80 years ago. Along with the rest of the surrounding area, the house is now part of the East Weatogue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

David Phelps House, Simsbury, Connecticut

The house at 2 East Weatogue Street, at the corner of Hartford Road in Simsbury, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

This elegant Federal-style home was built around 1800, and in the early 19th century it served as a tavern along the stagecoach route to Hartford. Located in the village of East Weatogue in Simsbury, it is in the narrow area of land between the Farmington River to the west and the Metacomet Ridge to the east, at the foot of one of the few passes through the long, narrow mountain ridge. It was an ideal spot for a tavern, because nearly all traffic between Hartford and Simsbury would have passed by the front door. Originally owned by David Phelps, the tavern is not to be confused with another Phelps Tavern, which was located in the center of town and was operated by Noah Phelps around the same time as this one.

The architecture of the house reflects the Federal style of the era, with distinct features such as a symmetrical front facade, a Palladian window on the second floor, and a front door flanked with sidelights and a fanlight above it. The main section of the house has two chimneys, and when the first photo was taken the house had a total of 11 fireplaces. The wraparound porch, which extends the length of the front and the right side of the house in the first photo, was not original to the house, and was added around the turn of the 20th century.

About 80 years after the first photo was taken, the house has seen some significant changes, most notably the removal of the large porch. Today, it looks much more historically accurate than it did in the early 20th century, and it still stands at an important intersection along the main route from Simsbury to Hartford. Despite its proximity to the state capital, though, the village of East Weatogue has retained much of its original agrarian appearance, and this house now forms part of the East Weatogue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Simeon E. Walton House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 80 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is known locally as the “Peter Proud House” for its role in the 1975 film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, but the house was already nearly a century old when it made its brief Hollywood appearance. It was built in 1888, and was originally the home of Simeon E. Walton, a carpenter and builder who, according to an 1892 advertisement in the city directory, specialized in hardwood mosaic floors. This likely explains the interior of the house, which is still covered in fine hardwood floors, as well as wood paneling on the walls. He and his wife Ella had previously lived in a different house in the McKnight neighborhood, at 77 Clarendon Street, but they moved here after this house was completed and lived here until around 1910, when they moved to Agawam.

During the 1910 census, the house was owned by William Patton, a real estate developer whose properties included the Patton Building, which still stands at 15-19 Hampden Street. He was 52 years old and unmarried, and he rented part of this large house to Frederick and Mary Simmons, who were in their late 60s at the time. They lived here with their son, Frederick Jr., but both Frederick and Mary died of pneumonia in January 1914, less than a week apart. Their son continued to live here for a few more years, but he died in 1918 at the age of 50.

After Frederick’s death, his sister Emma and her husband, George B. Church, moved into this house, along with their two teenaged daughters, Dorothea and Mary. William Patton continued to live here during this time, and George worked as a secretary for his real estate company. However, William died in 1925, and George and Emma subsequently moved to their own house on Morningside Park, in the Forest Park neighborhood.

This house stood vacant throughout the late 1920s, and was not occupied again until the early 1930s, when it was the home of Philip Decoteau, a French-Canadian immigrant who owned a shoe repair business on Oak Street in Indian Orchard. He and his wife Emily were in their 60s at the time, and they lived here with their sizable family, which included at least six of their adult children, plus a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. They were still living here into the late 1930s, but by 1939 the house was vacant and for sale, as indicated by the sign in the front yard of the first photo.

The house’s moment of fame came in 1975, when it was featured in the supernatural film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. The movie was an adaptation of the 1973 novel of the same name, which was written by Springfield native Max Ehrlich, and much it was filmed here in Springfield. In the movie, the title character (played by Michael Sarrazin) is a college professor in California who suffers from recurring nightmares that, as it turns out, are flashbacks from a previous life. Seeking answers, he travels to Springfield, where he discovers many of the landmarks from his dreams, including this house, which had been his home in his previous life.

Today, the house still stands on Cornell Street, and still retains much of its Victorian-era elegance, although it has undergone some significant changes over the years. Even before the first photo was taken, the original clapboard exterior was replaced with stucco, and during the 1940s the interior was divided into several different apartments. The original tin roof, visible in the first photo, is also gone, except for the top of the spire. However, it remains a prominent house in a neighborhood that is filled with fine Victorian homes, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

John McFethries House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 52 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This elegant home was built in 1888 for John McFethries, a Scottish-born mechanical engineer who was in his late 50s at the time. He had come to America as a young man, where he married his first wife, Juliette McLean, in 1864 in Ludlow, Massachusetts. However, they subsequently moved to Russia, where John worked for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railroad. Juliette died there in 1886, and three years later, while still in Russia, John remarried to Emily Pudan, who was originally from England.

By the early 1880s, John had moved back to the Springfield area along with Emily, and he became a prominent resident in the city. For several years they lived in a house nearby at 69 Clarendon Street, but around 1888 they moved into this house on Cornell Street, along the northwestern edge of the McKnight neighborhood. John was involved in several different local businesses, including serving as treasurer of the Waltham Watch Tool Company. He was also involved with the Highland Extension Company, which developed much of the land in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Springfield, and from 1890 to 1891 he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Emily died in 1900, and that year’s census shows John living here with his daughter Olga, her husband John E. Cowan, their infant daughter Martha, and Emily’s brother Frank. The Cowans subsequently moved to California, and John McFethries lived here in this house until his death in 1907 at the age of 76. His heirs owned the house for a few more years, and rented it to several different tenants, including Frank W. Watkins, who lived here from about 1910 to 1912. He lived here with his wife Mary and their daughter Lila, and he worked as a designer for the Taber-Prang Art Company, a Springfield-based firm that was a leading producer of fine art prints in the early 20th century.

Around 1913, the house was sold to Augustus C. Lamb, who lived here with his wife Effie and their three sons. He was a salesman for the American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, and in 1917 he was promoted to sales manager. However, he resigned two years later to become factory manager of the Russ Gelatin Company, although he only stayed there for a few years before returning to American Writing Paper in 1922. Around the same time, he and his family also moved out of this house, and into an apartment in Forest Park at 143 Belmont Avenue.

This house then became the home of George S. Lewis, a firearms manufacturer who had previously worked for J. Stevens Arms of Chicopee. By the time he and his wife Fannie moved into this house around 1922, George had left Stevens and was in business for himself, starting the Page-Lewis Arms Company. He was vice president, general manager, and designer for this company, and he was also the general manager of the affiliated Page Needle Company, both of which were located in the same factory in Chicopee. However, in 1926, Page-Lewis was purchased by J. Stevens Arms, and George later began working for Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, Connecticut.

George and Fannie appear in city directories here as late as 1934, but by the end of the decade the house had been divided into several different apartments. During the 1940 census, which was done shortly after the first photo was taken, the house was owned by Robert W. Leduc, an accountant who lived here and rented out two other units in the home. One was rented by Edward J. Sawyer, a supervisor at Westinghouse who lived here with his wife Jean and their son, Edward Jr., and the other unit was rented by Nellie M. Allen, a widow who was 74 years old at the time.

In subsequent years, the city directories show a number of different residents living in this house, and it appears to have frequently changed owners in the mid-20th century. However, it is now a single-family home again, and it is one of the hundreds of historic 19th century homes in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Frederick A. North House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 28 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1895, and was originally the home of Frederick A. North. He only lived here for a few years, though, because by 1898 he had moved to New York, and by the following year the house was owned by James M. Van Deusen. He was a graduate of Rutgers and the Hartford Theological Seminary, but never entered the ministry, and instead worked in the four and grain business, with the firm of Van Deusen & Foley. He and his wife Isabel lived here with their five children for about a decade, but in 1908 they sold the house and moved to Pasadena, California, where James died in 1921.

The house subsequently became the home of Henry L. Thomas, a Canadian-born mason who is also listed in city directories as being a building supervisor. He and his wife Eleanor had seven children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 26 at the time of the 1910 census. The oldest, William, was listed in the census as working as a stage electrician for an opera company, although city directories from the same period list his occupation as an actor. Either way, he later married and moved to a house on Winthrop Street in the South End, where he was living in 1917 while working for Poli’s Palace Theatre. Several of William’s younger siblings also moved out of this house during the 1910s, and around 1920 Henry and Eleanor moved to an apartment at 663 State Street, where they lived with their three youngest daughters.

This house would remain in Henry’s family, though, because during the 1920 census his daughter Mary was living here with her husband, John E. Keefe, and her daughter Patricia. John was a dentist and oral surgeon who was originally from Fall River, and in the aftermath of World War I he traveled to Romania with the American Red Cross. He was featured in several photographs taken by the Red Cross in 1919, including the one below, which shows him at work in his clinic in Bucharest.

The caption of this photo explains that he performs around 400 major dental operations each month, while one of the other captions explains how “The war has wrought many changes in the life of the people of southwestern Europe and has brought them in contact with many people they had never seen before. Here is Capt. John Keefe of N.Y. who has charge of the A.R.C. dental hut at Bucharest which is the mecca for native dental experts anxious to learn the mysteries of modern dental surgery.”

Dr. Keefe returned to Springfield after his time overseas, and for many years he worked out of an office at 1490 Main Street, where Tower Square now stands. He and Mary were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here until Mary sold the house in 1953, a few years before John’s death in 1957.

In the second half of the 20th century, the McKnight neighborhood entered a decline, and many properties were abandoned or taken by the city for tax delinquency. This particular house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but several years later the city took the property, and it stood empty for many years until it was finally destroyed in a fire in 1999.