Chapin National Bank Building, Springfield, Mass

The corner of Main and Lyman Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The Chapin National Bank was established in 1872 by Chester W. Chapin, a railroad magnate, businessman, and future Congressman who was among the leading citizens of Springfield during the 19th century. The bank was located here, at the southeast corner of Main and Lyman Streets, but the original building was replaced in 1917 with the present-day structure. It was designed by the New York architectural firm of Mowbray and Uffinger, which specialized in banks during the early 20th century, and it featured a Classical Revival design. Its appearance has been altered over the years, but it originally had four columns on the Main Street facade, matching the ones that still stand on the Lyman Street facade to the left.

The bank was gone by the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. By this point, the Main Street facade had been reconstructed, although it seems unclear whether the columns were removed, or simply hidden by the new exterior wall. One of the tenants during this time was the Lorraine Spaghetti Palace, a restaurant that was located in the left storefront. In later years, the building became the Playtown Amusement Center, which opened in 1967. This arcade remained here until it closed in the 1990s, although the old sign is still visible on the left side of the building.

Today, the exterior of the building has not changed significantly since the first photo was taken. Despite the altered Main Street side of the building, it still stands as a good example of early 20th century bank architecture, and its Lyman Street facade remains well-preserved. It is one of a number of historic late 19th and early 20th century buildings along this section of Main Street, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

158-160 Main Street, Indian Orchard, Springfield, Mass

The building at 158-160 Main Street in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The early history of this building seems unclear, but it was likely among the oldest buildings on Main Street in Indian Orchard when the first photo was taken. The state’s MACRIS database estimates that it was built between 1855 and 1860, in the early years of Indian Orchard’s development. At the time, the majority of buildings on Main Street were small wood-frame structures, but over time these began to be replaced by larger brick buildings, as seen on both sides of these photos. However, this building managed to survive, with some alterations, until the late 20th century, despite being overshadowed on either side by taller neighbors.

By about 1880, this building was owned by Walter S. Colwell, a merchant who lived here and ran a meat market around the corner at 21 Oak Street, where the present-day post office now stands. He lived on the left side of this building, at 158 Main, along with his wife Eliza and their son Howard. The  right side of the building was the home of his uncle, Larned Colwell, who lived on the right side with his wife Melissa and their children, Harding and Minnie. Larned was Walter’s business partner, and they were, according to the 1882 city directory, “Dealers in all kinds of Fresh, Salt and Smoked Meats, Lard, Tripe, and Vegetables in their season.”

Larned Colwell died in 1889, and within a few years his widow Melissa had moved to Hampden Street. However, Walter would remain here for at least another decade, although by the 1899 city directory he had evidently left the meat business and was working as a bookkeeper for the Chapman Valve Company. He, Eliza, and Howard moved soon after, and by the 1900 census they were living a few blocks away in a house at 111 Berkshire Street. Within a few years, this property on Main Street was sold to clothing merchant Charles Bengle, who built a large commercial block at the corner of Oak Street, just to the left of this building. Then, in 1908, Octave A. LaRiviere built an even taller building just to the right, surrounding the old building on both sides.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, this building had seen a few alterations from its original appearance, including several storefronts and a cross-gable that faced Main Street. There are no legible signs in any of the storefronts to indicate what businesses were located here, but the building was used for both residential and commercial purposes for many years. It was still standing in 1984, when it was inventoried for the state’s MACRIS database of historic buildings, and a photo from this era showed two ground-floor tenants: de Sousa Real Estate and Notary Public on the left, and Casa de Portugal on the right. However, the building has subsequently been demolished, and today the site is a parking lot, flanked on either side by the other two buildings from the first photo.

Charles Bengle Block, Springfield, Mass

The commercial block at the northeast corner of Main and Oak Streets in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Springfield’s Indian Orchard neighborhood was developed in the late 19th century as a factory village, and this intersection at the corner of Main and Oak Streets became its commercial center. The first significant business block, the three-story Wight & Chapman, was built in 1875 at the northwest corner of the intersection, and it was followed 30 years later by this building, which was completed in 1905 on the opposite side of Oak Street, at the northeast corner of the intersection.

This building was originally owned by Charles Bengle, a merchant whose store was located on the ground floor. A native of Quebec, Bengle came to Indian Orchard in 1867, where he found work in the mills. However, after a short time he began working for a grocer, and then for a clothier. After just a year, he purchased an interest in the clothing firm, which became Chapman & Bengle. In 1875, the store moved into the newly-built Wight & Chapman Block, where they were, according to city directories of the era,“Dealers in Clothing, Gentlemen’s Furnishing Goods, Boots and Shoes. Repairing neatly and promptly done.”

In 1886, Bengle purchased Chapman’s interest in the business and became its sole owner. The store remained in the Wight & Chapman Block until 1905, when Bengle completed his new building across the street. His store occupied the storefront on the left side, and he ran it until his death in 1909. However, the business remained in the family for many years, and it thrived during the first half of the 20th century, drawing customers not only from Indian Orchard but also from the nearby towns of Ludlow and Wilbraham.

The first photo, taken in the late 1930s, shows the sign for the “Charles Bengle Co.” above the left storefront. At the time, it was run by Charles’s son Adelard, who died in 1946 and left the store to his son, Victor. However, by this point the store was in decline, and it finally closed in 1952, more than 75 years after Charles Bengle first entered the retail clothing business. It was replaced in this storefront by a radio and television store, but subsequent tenants included an auto parts store and, today, a cabinetry store.

Overall, despite changes in its use, the building itself has remained remarkably well-preserved. The storefronts have not been significantly changed since the first photo was taken, and the upper floors retain their decorative Classical Revival-style features. It is one of several historic business blocks that still stand here on this section of Main Street, including the Wight & Chapman Block and the nearby LaRiviere building, and today the center of Indian Orchard still retains much of its original late 19th and early 20th century appearance.

The LaRiviere, Springfield, Mass

The building at 162-164 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This commercial block was one of several Indian Orchard properties that were owned by Octave A. LaRiviere, a French-Canadian merchant, politician, and contractor who was among the neighborhood’s leading citizens of the late 19th century. LaRiviere, who also went by the name of John Rivers earlier in his career, lived in the house directly to the right of this building, and he also owned a tenement building, which was located a block west of here on Main Street.

This four-story brick building was completed in 1908, and was known as The LaRiviere. It is perhaps the most architecturally significant of the several late 19th and early 20th century commercial buildings here on Main Street, and it features an ornate, polychromatic Classical Revival facade. There are two storefronts on the ground floor, with apartments in the upper floors, and the 1910 census shows at least four families in the building. Based on the census records, the residents were primarily skilled laborers and other middle-class workers at the nearby factories in Indian Orchard, and included a machinist, a foreman, an inspector, a pattern maker, a traveling salesman, a clerk, and a chief engineer.

By the time the first photo was taken, America was in the midst of the Great Depression, but there were still a good number of factory jobs here in Indian Orchard. As was the case in 1910, most of the residents worked as skilled laborers, with the 1940 census showing that most of them earned around $1,000 to $1,300 per year. The building had five different families at the time, with two each paying $40 per month in rent, one paying $36, one paying $20, and one whose rent was not included on the census.

Today, The LaRiviere is one of several historic commercial blocks in the center of Indian Orchard. It remains remarkably well-preserved, with even the storefronts looking the same as they did over 80 years ago. LaRiviere’s house, located on the right side of the scene, has since been altered, but it is still standing and still recognizable from the first photo. The only significant change in this scene is the building on the left, at 158-160 Main Street. It was still standing here as late as the 1980s, when it was included in the state’s MACRIS database of historic properties, but it has since been demolished, and the site is now a parking lot.

Dr. Paul H. Larose House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 200 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Indian Orchard’s growth in the late 19th century was largely independent from the rest of Springfield, and it became largely a working-class factory village, with large numbers of immigrant laborers. This contrasted with the rest of the city, which had an economy that was based primarily on insurance, banking, and skilled manufacturing, and as a result, Indian Orchard never had significant numbers of large, elegant houses like the ones in McKnight, Forest Park, and other upscale neighborhoods. Instead, Indian Orchard’s housing stock consisted mainly of factory tenements and small, single-family homes. However, this house on Main Street was one of the exceptions, and was built in 1898 with a Queen Anne style that reflected the design of contemporary houses in McKnight and elsewhere in the city.

The house was originally owned by Dr. Paul H. Larose, a physician who, like many other Indian Orchard residents of the era, was a French-Canadian immigrant. Dr. Larose was an 1892 graduate of Laval University in Quebec, and he moved to the United States soon after, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1898. He moved into this house around the same time and, like many other physicians of the era, he practiced medicine out of an office here in his home. Around 1899, he married his wife Alexina, who was also a French-Canadian immigrant. However, the couple only lived here for a few years before Larose’s sudden death from heart disease in 1901, at the age of 31.

The house was subsequently owned by Napoleon Bengle, who was another French-Canadian immigrant. He also went by the name Paul, perhaps in an effort to avoid anti-immigrant discrimination, and he worked as a clerk in the nearby clothing store of his brother, Charles Bengle. During the 1910 census, Napoleon was 42 years old and unmarried, and lived here with his widowed mother Louise. The household also included his sister Mary, her husband Louis Roy, their 21-year-old son Louis, and a lodger. The elder Louis Roy was a physician and, like the previous owner of the house, also had his office here in the house.

By about 1915, this house had changed hands again and was owned by Joseph Ratell, a barber who was, of all things, also an undertaker. According to he 1915 directory, he had a barber shop here in this house, and worked as an undertaker at 119 Main Street. However, by the end of the decade, Ratell was evidently performing both of these jobs here in this house, where he lived with his son Ernest, plus Ernest’s wife Lena and their daughter Loretta. Ernest worked for his father as an embalmer and, after Joseph’s death in 1929, he continued to operate the funeral home here in this house.

Ernest and Lena were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, along with Loretta and their younger daughter Rita, and Ernest continued to run the funeral home until his death in 1947. Very little has changed since then, and the Ratell Funeral Home is still located here in this house. Now over 100 years old, it is perhaps one of the oldest businesses in the city that is still housed in the same building. As the two photos show, the house itself has not changed too much over time, aside from the one-story addition on the right and the wheelchair ramp on the front, and it still stands as one of the finest 19th century homes in Indian Orchard.

Indian Orchard Mills Company Tenements, Springfield, Mass

The tenement block at 114-124 Main Street in the Indian Orchard neighborhood of Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Indian Orchard is located along the Chicopee River, in the northeast corner of Springfield, and in the mid-19th century it was developed into a factory village. The first mill was built in 1854 by the Ward Manufacturing Company, a cotton company that also owned the dam on the river, the power canal, and much of the land in the village. The company also built a number of tenement blocks in the vicinity of the mill, and this building on Main Street was likely one of them. However, Ward Manufacturing went bankrupt only a few years later, and in 1859 the mill and tenements were acquired by the Indian Orchard Mills Company.

Many of the early mill workers were French-Canadian immigrants, and it was common for almost every family member to be employed in the mills, including young children. Long before child labor laws were enacted, one 1867 observer wrote: “I have admitted that there are great abuses in the employment of children,” and he went on to describe “a resident population composed mainly of English, Irish and French Canadians, requiring separate tenements and the whole family, save one or two, working in the mills. The adults are ignorant and illiterate, and force their children to work and when operatives are scarce, as they have been, the mill owner is obliged to allow the employment of the children or lose the whole family, thus causing his machinery to stay idle.”

The 1900 census shows 10 families living in this building, nearly all of whom were French-Canadian. Most worked for the mills in some capacity, including as a weaver, spooler, teamster, boiler tender, and watchman. The largest family was that of John and Rose Levesque, who lived here with nine of their 11 children. The children’s ages ranged from one to 26, with the four oldest employed in factories, although it is also possible that the younger children may have – at least unofficially – been working as well, since child labor was still a common practice here in Indian Orchard and throughout the country. However, perhaps the most tragic story seen through the census records is that of Owen and Mary Hammond, two Irish immigrants who were in their 50s at the time. They lived alone, but according to the census, Mary had six children, only one of whom was still alive by the time of the census.

The building was still standing when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, but, like all of the other Indian Orchard Mills tenements in the area, it has since beeen demolished. Some of the mill buildings are still standing, though, and the interior space is now rented to a variety of tenants, who use it for offices, manufacturing, and art studios. These buildings can be seen in the distance of the present-day photo, although closer in the foreground, the former site of the tenement house is now a parking lot that extends the entire length of the block from Main to Front Streets.