247-249 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The duplex at 247-249 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This Victorian duplex is one of several along this section of Union Street that were built as the city’s population began to spread out from the original downtown area.  Many middle class professionals lived in this area, including music store owner Levi M. Pierce, who lived in the unit on the right side.  He appears to have been the original owner, living here from its construction in 1870 until his death in 1908.  His two children, William and Leona, grew up here, and William went on to become the president of Kenyon College in Ohio, serving from 1896 until 1937.  Leona also distinguished herself in academia; she graduated from Smith College and later received her Ph.D from Yale in 1899, with scintillatingly-titled doctoral thesis: “On Chain-Differentiants of a Ternary Quantics.”  Leona took over her father’s music business after his death, and she was probably still living here when the first photo was taken.  Today’s scene shows a few modifications to the house, especially the front porch and the steps, but otherwise it is a good example of Second Empire architecture from the Victorian era in Springfield.

Stockbridge Street, Springfield Mass

Looking east on Stockbridge Street toward Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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Stockbridge Street in 2015:

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Like many other places in downtown Springfield, Stockbridge Street was once lined with three story brick commercial blocks, much like the ones seen in the 1930s view of the street.  This style appeared throughout the downtown area in the first half of the 19th century, when Springfield began growing into a major commercial and industrial center.  Early views of Court Square, Main Street, and other areas in downtown all feature plenty of examples of these buildings, but today only a few are left.  In the immediate downtown area, the last two are the Byers Block on Court Square, and the Guenther & Handel’s Block in this scene.

The Guenther & Handel’s Block was built in 1845, and as the 1930s photo shows, it was part of a row of similar buildings.  For many years, the ground floor was a grocery store and delicatessen, and in 1913 was sold to Emil Guenther and Richard Handel, who ran a grocery store under their names.  By the time the first photo was taken, both men had died, but the business was run by the family until 1972.  Today, all of the other mid-19th century buildings on the street are gone, and Guenther & Handel’s Block is wedged between an ornate early 20th century apartment building and a drab, nondescript late 20th century commercial building.

Venezian Monumental Works, Springfield Mass

The Venezian Monumental Works building on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This building is located right next to the architecturally similar building at 1579 State Street, which was probably photographed on the same day as this one.  However, while the former Frank’s Service building has long been shuttered, the Venezian Monumental Works is still in business.  The company is actually substantially older than even the first photo; it was established in 1882, when the Pine Point neighborhood was on the remote outskirts of the city.  Since then, the neighborhood has grown, which has presumably increased demand for headstones, and it also doesn’t hurt that they are located right next to St. Michael’s Cemetery.  Today, the building has doubled in size, but the original section is still visible on the left side.

Frank’s Service, Springfield Mass

An automobile service station on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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This building is located in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood, a suburban section of the city that rapidly grew in population in the early 1900s.  At first, this growth was facilitated by the trolley line that ran through here, but later on it was automobiles that made this a practical place to live and commute from.  The establishment in the first photo, which appears to be called Frank’s Service, based on the sign above the door, would have been one of the many automobile-related businesses that opened to meet the demand.  I found this one particularly interesting, though, because my grandmother grew up in this neighborhood, and this place was about halfway between her house and where she worked in the late 1930s, at MassMutual.  She would’ve driven past here every day, and perhaps even stopped in to buy a Coca Cola.  According to the city assessor’s records, it was built in 1935, and although I don’t know what the building has been used for since the 1930s, it has clearly been vacant for a while.  The property has been owned by the City of Springfield since 2003, probably for nonpayment of taxes, so it had likely been abandoned long before that.

French Protestant Church, Springfield Mass

The former French Protestant Church on Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The church in 2015:

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This church on Bliss Street was built in 1887 as the French Protestant Church, thanks in part to the efforts of Daniel B. Wesson, whose Smith & Wesson factory was just on the other side of Main Street from here.  Many of his workers were French-Canadian Protestants, and he wanted them to have a French alternative to the Roman Catholic church.  However, the congregation disbanded in 1909, and several other churches used the building until 1919, when it was purchased by the First Spiritualist Society, who remained at the Bliss Street location until 2013.  The property was purchased by MGM Springfield, and while several historic buildings will be demolished to build the casino, the church will be moved to a new location on the MGM property and renovated as a restaurant.

Springfield Rescue Mission, Springfield Mass

The former WCA boarding house at 19 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The building at 19 Bliss Street has had a variety of roles over the years.  It was built in 1884, as a boarding house for the Women’s Christian Association.  As Springfield’s population and economy grew in the late 19th century, so did the demand for workers.  The WCA provided a place for young, single women to live while working in the city, and this building served that purpose until the larger YWCA building was completed a block away on Howard Street in 1907.  The old building was then used as a private boarding house for many years, as seen in the first photo.  In 1962, the Springfield Rescue Mission acquired the building, and it has been used by them ever since.  There have been a few changes over the years, the most obvious of which is the removal of the front porch; the “shadow” of the porch can still be seen on the front of the building.  Another fairly recent change was the installation of new windows, which required some brick infilling of the window openings; this can be seen the clearest with the windows on the far left side.  It wasn’t planned this way, but notice how the cars in both photos are in essentially the same locations, representing changes in automobiles over the course of three quarters of a century.  Also of note is the tree in the foreground, which appears to be the same tree that was there in the first photo.

However, the historic building sits literally right in the middle of the planned MGM casino, so it is among the buildings that will be demolished.  In exchange for the building, MGM purchased a new location for the Rescue Mission, the former Orr Cadillac dealership on Mill Street, which will allow the organization to expand from 40 to 60 beds.  Currently, the Bliss Street property scheduled to be the last to be demolished, sometime in December of 2015.