William F. Clark House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 14 Fairfield Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Nearly all of the homes in the Forest Park Heights neighborhood have unique designs, although often this involves similar houses that have only minor variations from one another. However, this house, located opposite the small Garfield Triangle park, is truly unique among the houses of Forest Park, with a three-story cylindrical tower, Dutch gables, and an exterior that is completely covered in shingles. It was built in 1902, and was originally the home of William F. Clark, the owner of the Clark Engraving Company. However, he evidently did not live here for very long, because by the 1905 city directory he was listed as living in Blandford.

The house was subsequently purchased by Edward C. Page, who was about 37 years old at the time. He had co-founded the Page-Storms Drop Forge Company several years earlier, and he lived here for a few years, along with his wife Charlotte and their sons Donald and Reginald. However, they moved out around 1909, and over the next decade the house would have several more residents, including Arthur K. McGinley, an attorney for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company; Horace D. McCowan, a bookkeeper for the Springfield Safe Deposit & Trust Company; and H. Anthony Treadwell, a real estate agent.

By 1920 it was the home of Salvatore Mazzraferro and his wife Maria, although he died in 1923. Maria was still living here a few years later, but by 1929 the house was owned by Ettore Capecelatro, an Italian-born physician. Along with his wife Margherita and their son Achille, Ettore had immigrated to the United States from Italy in 1920, and they were living here in this house during the 1930 census. However, like all of the previous residents, they only remained in this house for several years, and by 1933 Ettore was practicing medicine in Albany.

Around the time that the first photo was taken, the house was being rented by James F. Tucker, a tire salesman who lived here with his wife Nellie and three children: Kathleen, Barbara, and James, Jr. They were still living here as late as the mid-1940s, making them perhaps the longest-tenured residents of the house in its first 50 years of existence. Despite these many changes in ownership, though, the house remained well-preserved throughout the first half of the 20th century. Since then, the exterior has retained its original appearance, and today the house is one of the many turn-of-the-century homes in the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Thomas O. Bemis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 128 Maplewood Terrace, at the corner of Forest Park Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1902 as the home of Thomas O. Bemis, a coal dealer whose father, Stephen C. Bemis, had been the founder of the Bemis & Call Tool Company. The company was probably best known for purchasing the patent for the first monkey wrench, which Bemis & Call produced for many years, along with other tools. However, Stephen C. Bemis’s business interests also included selling coal, and upon his retirement in 1868 his sons, Arthur and Thomas, continued the coal business with the firm of Bemis & Collins.

Thomas was still selling coal by the turn of the 20th century, and in 1902 he and his wife Sarah moved into this newly-built house in the fashionable Forest Park neighborhood. They were both in their early 60s at the time, and they moved here with their two daughters: Mabel, who was unmarried; and Emma, who lived here with her husband Charles A. Blodgett and their young daughter Miriam. However, Thomas did not get to enjoy his new home for very long; he died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1903, at the age of 62.

Sarah and the rest of her family continued to live here following Thomas’s death, and after her own death in 1916 her daughters inherited the property. Charles, Emma, Miriam, and Mabel were all living here during the 1920 census, with Charles working as a treasurer of a shoe company and Mabel working as a clerk in the city assessor’s office. Mabel died a few years later in 1925, but Charles and Emma remained here until the mid-1930s. The 1934 city directory listed him at this house, and at the time he was working as the president and treasurer of the McIntosh Company, and the treasurer of the M.T. Shaw Shoe Company of New England. However, Emma died in 1935, and by the end of the decade Charles was living in Longmeadow with Miriam and her husband.

When the first photo was taken around 1938 or 1939, this house had become the Randolph Club, and the 1940 census shows eight men, all single and in their 20s or early 30s, living here. Their occupations included two managers, two salesmen, a heating engineer, a machinist, and a factory superintendent, and earned wages that ranged from $1,350 to $2,600 per year. Curiously, one of the men, Carl Hogland, apparently did not cooperate with the census taker, who wrote “will not answer any questions” on Hogland’s line of the census form. Along with these eight men, the house also included a housekeeper, who was paid $600 per year, and a houseboy, who was 24 years old but had neither an occupation nor any annual income listed on the census.

The house later reverted to a single-family home, and today it remains well-preserved. There have been a few minor changes, such as removing the right side of the front porch and enclosing the small porch on the right side, but overall it has retained most of its original architectural details, including the balustrade over the front porch and the ornate scroll pediments above the dormer windows. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the house is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

John B. Phelps House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 114 Maplewood Terrace in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1904, and was originally the home of John B. Phelps, the treasurer and clerk of the Hampden Savings Bank. He was about 43 years old at the time, unmarried, and lived here with his widowed mother Ellen and his sister Genevieve, who was also unmarried. John had been in the banking industry since he was in his early 20s, first working as a bookkeeper for the Agawam National Bank in the early 1880s before, by the middle of the decade, becoming a teller at Hampden Savings Bank. During this time, he and Genevieve lived with their mother on High Street, but by the early 20th century the family had joined many of Springfield’s other middle class residents in moving to the fashionable, newly-developed Forest Park neighborhood.

All three members of the family would end up spending the rest of their lives here. Ellen died in 1920, and John in 1936, but Genevieve was still here when the first photo was taken around 1938 or 1939. She died in 1956, at the age of 90, after having lived in the house for over 50 years. Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, with only a few significant changes, most notably the loss of the balustrades above the front porch and atop the roof. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the house is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Nathan H. Harriman House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 162 Sumner Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1892, and was among the first homes to be built in the Forest Park Heights development of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was originally the home of Nathan H. Harriman, a Baptist pastor and evangelist, but he did not live here for very long. Around 1895, he moved to Tacoma, Washington to become the pastor of the First Baptist Church, although he only held this position until early 1897, when he resigned after a period of erratic behavior.

According to a January, 1897 Boston Globe article, Harriman “startled his congregation Friday by announcing to them that he would not preach to them again until they had cast out the demons that were in them.” During this time, Harriman spent about 10 days “fasting on crackers and cheese and walking the floor nights wrestling with the devil,” and many believed that the fasting had caused his mind to become “unbalanced,” resulting in the strange behavior. Regardless of the cause, though, Harriman ultimately resigned from the church about a month later, and subsequently returned to New England.

In the meantime, this house was sold to Robert W. Smith, a boot and shoe dealer who operated a store in the Masonic Building at the corner of Main and State Streets. He was 38 years old during the 1900 census, and lived here with his wife Laura and their four children: Linda, Robert, Walter, and Edith. However, they were only here for a few years, because they sold the house in 1901 and moved to a home on Riverdale Street in West Springfield.

The next owner of the house was Theodor Geisel, a brewery owner who is best known today as having been the paternal grandfather of Dr. Seuss. Born in Germany in 1840, Geisel became a jeweler, and he later immigrated to the United States in 1867. He settled in Springfield, and worked for a time for the Rumrill Chain Company before entering the brewing industry in 1876. At the time, Americans were just beginning to develop a thirst for German lager-style beer, and many German immigrants across the country – including such figures as Adolphus Busch, Adolph Coors, Frederick Miller, and Frederick Pabst – found brewing to be a lucrative business.

Here in Springfield, Geisel partnered with fellow German native Christian Kalmbach, and they purchased the brewery of Oscar Rocke – yet another German immigrant – on State Street, at the present site of the MassMutual headquarters. The original brewery had a capacity of about a thousand barrels per year, but Kalmbach and Geisel soon expanded the facility, which was producing some 40,000 barrels a decade later. Then, in 1893, Geisel purchased Kalmbach’s share in the brewery, renaming it the Highland Brewing Company. Geisel, in turn, sold the company to the Springfield Breweries Company in 1898, although he remained there as a manager until 1901.

Theodor Geisel married his wife, Christine Schmaelzle, in 1871, and they had seven children, two of whom died in childhood. The family lived on Boston Road near the brewery for many years, but they finally moved in 1901, around the same time that Theodor left his position as a manager. The Geisels then purchased this house on Sumner Avenue, where Theodor and Christine lived with their two youngest surviving children: Adolf and Christine. Dr. Seuss’s father, Theodor R. Geisel, does not appear to have lived here in this house with them, since the move occurred the same year that he married his wife, Henrietta Seuss.

In 1902, the elder Theodor and his son Theodor established a new brewery, the Liberty Brewing Company, located near the corner of Liberty and Chestnut Streets. That same year, Theodor Seuss Geisel, the future Dr. Seuss, was born at his parents’ house on Howard Street. Then, in 1906, Theodor and Henrietta moved to Forest Park, to a house on Fairfield Street only a few blocks away from here. Young Dr. Seuss would have undoubtedly made many visits to his grandparents house here on Sumner Avenue, although his grandmother Christine died in 1908 when he was just six years old.

After his wife’s death, Theodor continued to live here in this house, along with his daughter Christine and her husband, James L. Wallace, whom she married in 1910. They had two children, Theodor and Richard, and Christine also served as a caretaker for his father as he got older. He retired from the brewery business in the early 1910s, selling Liberty Brewery to Springfield Breweries, in what turned out to be fortuitous timing on his part. The Eighteenth Amendment, which established nationwide prohibition on alcoholic beverages, was ratified in 1919, bringing about the demise of the vast majority of America’s breweries. As for Theodor himself, he did not live long enough to see Prohibition enacted; he died on December 5, 1919, at the age of 79, just six weeks before Prohibition went into effect on January 17, 1920.

James and Christine inherited the house after Theodor’s death, and they continued to live here with their sons. They were still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, with James working as a manager for a paper company in Holyoke, Theodor working as a civil engineer, and Richard working as a switchboard operator. The two sons later moved out, but James and Christine lived here for the rest of their lives, until Christine’s death in 1961 and James’s in 1965.

After more than 60 years in the Geisel family, this house has seen few significant changes, and it looks essentially identical to its appearance when the first photo was taken nearly 80 years ago. For the most part, the other surrounding houses have also sbeen well-preserved, including the William May House on the left, and today these houses make up part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Nathan Nirenstein House, Springfield, Mass

The house at the corner of Washington Road and Sumner Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is one of the newest in the Forest Park Heights neighborhood, dating back to 1931, only a few years before the first photo was taken. It was built in a Tudor Revival style that was popular for upscale homes of the era, and was originally the home of real estate dealer Nathan Nirenstein. A native of Russia, Nirenstein immigrated to the United States as a boy and subsequently entered the real estate business. In 1925 he established the Nirenstein National Realty Map Company, which published high-quality real estate maps of locations throughout the United States, and he was also involved in several other companies, including the Kellogg Buildings Realty Trust Company, the Harrison Realty Corporation, and the Bowles Lunch Company.

Nirenstein built this house around the same time as his marriage to his wife Tessie, and the couple had two children, David and Judy, who were born a few years later. They would continue to live here for many years, until around the early 1970s. Since then, the house has been well-preserved, with no noticeable differences between the two photos. It still stands as one of the many fine early 20th century homes in the area, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Edward B. Tarbell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 72 Firglade Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1901, with a design that was a blend of the older Queen Anne style and the newer Colonial Revival style of architecture. It was originally the home of Edward B. Tarbell, a freight agent for the Boston and Maine Railroad, and he lived here with his wife Lucy and their two children, Frank and Florence. Both children were in their mid-20s at the time, with city directories listing Frank as working in the Boston and Maine shops, while Florence was assistant supervisor for drawing in the public schools.

Edward died in 1909 at the age of 59, and the rest of the family lived here for a few more years before moving to West Springfield around 1913. The house was subsequently owned by Margaret Renfrew, an elderly widow who lived here with her son Carl, who was a plumber. Margaret died in 1927, and by the 1930 census Carl was living here with brother Robert, his sister Mabel, and her husband Charles A. Souler. However, Carl committed suicide in 1931, and the rest of the family moved out of here a few years later.

By 1934, the house was being rented by Ellie J. Lennon, an Irish immigrant who had come to the United States as a girl in 1886. Her husband Matthew had died in 1918, when their children were still young, and by the 1930s she was living her on Thomas and daughter Mae. They were here when the first photo was taken, and according to the 1940 census they paid $35 per month in rent. Ellie was 68 and presumably retired, but Thomas earned $926 per year as a lithographer, while Mae earned $1,020 as a court clerk.

Thomas and Mae purchased the house in 1942, and the house would remain in he family for more than 50 years. Ellie died in 1949, but at some point her sister, Bridget Keane, moved in here, and she lived here until her death in 1963 at the age of 100. In the meantime, neither Thomas nor Mae ever married, and they remained here for the rest of their lives. Mae continued to work as a court clerk for many years, while Thomas worked as a teacher in Wilbraham, and they both died in the mid-1990s, more than 60 years after they had moved in here with their mother.

Today, the house has seen few changes since the first photo was taken nearly 80 years ago. Like most of the other houses in the neighborhood, it has been well-preserved and still stands as a good example of early 20th century architecture. Along with the rest of the area, it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.