Walter Maranville House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 59-61 Cass Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

As of the 2020 season, at least 25 Major League Baseball players have been born in Springfield. Of those, few had particularly remarkable careers, with only three playing in the majors for more than ten years. However, one Springfield native, Walter “Rabbit” Maranville, became one of the most successful shortstops of the early 20th century. He played 23 seasons with the Boston Braves and several other National League teams between 1912 and 1935, and in 1954 he became the only Springfield-born player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Walter Maranville was born on November 11, 1891, and he was the son of Ward E. Maranville and Catherine E. Nolan. He grew up here in this house at 59-61 Cass Street, at the corner of Franklin Street in Springfield’s Liberty Heights neighborhood. It seems unclear as to exactly when he and his family moved in here, though. Ward Maranville and Catherine’s father James Nolan jointly purchased this property in 1891, but for most of the 1890s the city directories list the Maranvilles at 64 Cass Street, which is diagonally across the intersection. This may have been an error, though, or the street numbers may have changed in the late 1890s, because the present-day site of 64 Cass Street was not developed until the 1910s.

In any case, the Maranvilles and Nolans were definitely living here at 59-61 Cass Street by 1899. The following year’s census shows James and Mary Nolan—Catherine’s parents—living in the unit at 59 Cass Street, along with their adult children, Mary and John. In the other unit at 61 Cass Street, the Maranville household consisted of Ward and Catherine, who were 39 and 32 respectively, and their five children. Ward had previously worked as a brakeman for the Boston & Albany Railroad, but in the mid-1890s he began a long career as a police officer with the Springfield Police Department. Walter was eight years old at the time of the census, and the second oldest of the children. His older brother Ward was ten, and his younger siblings, May, John, and Frances, ranged in age from six to one.

As a child, Walter Maranville attended the Charles Street School, which was located about a quarter mile down Franklin Street from here, at the corner of Franklin and Charles Streets. He subsequently attended Chestnut Junior High School, and then spent a year at Technical High School, where he played catcher on the school’s baseball team. He left school at the age of 15 in order to take an apprenticeship as a pipefitter and tinsmith, but he was more interested in baseball. By 1909 he was playing semi-pro baseball at Forest Park for the Blue Labels of the local City Baseball League.

With Maranville as shortstop and team captain, the Blue Labels won the league pennant in 1910, and the following year he began playing professionally for the minor league New Bedford Whalers. He was recruited by the Whaler’s manager, Tommy Dowd, a Holyoke native who had been impressed by his performance with the Blue Labels. Maranville went on to have a successful year with the Whalers, despite a paltry .227 batting average with just two home runs. During that season, the Springfield Union published a description that of him had originally appeared in the Lawrence Eagle: “Maranville, New Bedford’s short fielder, is a nifty ball player. He handles himself well and if the small little youngster could only pick up a few notches in his stick work he would be a good man for the enterprising scouts to keep their eye on.”

Maranville was indeed small—at 5’5″ he was among the shortest players in major league history—but he did improve his hitting in 1912, and in September he was promoted to the Boston Braves. He joined a team that was hopelessly out of contention, in last place with a 39-90 win-loss record, and the Braves were also overshadowed by the far more successful Boston Red Sox, who were on their way to their second World Series championship at the time. He took over as starting shortstop for Frank O’Rourke, a rookie who had been abysmal as both a hitter and a fielder. Although Maranville continued to struggle at the plate, he was an above-average fielder, and a vast improvement over O’Rourke in both areas. As a result, he went on to start all 26 of the team’s remaining games in the fall of 1912.

Maranville retained the role of starting shortstop for the 1913 season, and he established himself as one of the best players in the league, finishing third in the MVP voting at the end of the year. Then, in 1914, he played an important role in the success of the Miracle Braves, as the team came to be known that year. At the time, the Braves had not had a winning season in over a decade, and they were not expected to be competitive in 1914 either.

The 1914 season began in predictable fashion, and by July 4 the Braves had a 26-40 record and were in last place, 15 games behind the league-leading Giants. However, the Braves then went on an improbable run for the rest of the season, winning 68 of their remaining 87 games. By the end of the year, they lead the league by 10.5, and they went on to win the World Series, sweeping the heavily-favored Philadelphia Athletics. It was the only World Series title that the Braves won while in Boston, and Maranville finished second in the MVP voting, behind his teammate and fellow infielder Johnny Evers.

Throughout these early years with the Braves, Walter Maranville continued to live here in this house during the off-season. In November 1914, less than a month after winning the World Series, he married his wife Elizabeth Shea, who lived just down the street from here at 25 Cass Street. They were married at Sacred Heart Church on Chestnut Street, and the reception was held at Elizabeth’s house, with over 100 guests present. The couple left for their honeymoon after the reception, and when they returned to Springfield they lived here in the Maranville family home.

However, 1914 was also marked by personal tragedy for the Maranvilles when, on July 11, Walter’s 17-year-old brother John died of chronic nephritis. Unfortunately, this was not the first untimely death in the family; his mother Catherine had died in 1900 at the age of 32, as a result of complications from a pregnancy, and his uncle John Nolan died in 1911 at the age of 38, after falling off an embankment at the east side of the South End Bridge.

Walter and Elizabeth were still living here in this house on Cass Street in 1915, but by the 1916 city directory they were at 45 Underwood Street, located on the spot where the westbound lanes of Interstate 291 now pass through the neighborhood. Their daughter, who was also named Elizabeth, was born in 1916, and by the 1917 directory they were at 318 Franklin Street, in a house that still stands a block away from here, at the corner of Leonard Street. However, Elizabeth Maranville died in March 1917, at the age of 22, from what contemporary newspapers only described as a “short illness.” Her funeral was subsequently held in the same church where where they had been married less than two and a half years earlier.

Walter continued to play shortstop for the Braves throughout this time, although he missed almost the entire 1918 season because of World War I. That year, he served in the navy as a gunner’s mate aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania, and his only appearances on the field for the Braves came in July, when he played in 11 games while on leave for two weeks.

The 1920 census shows Walter still living at 318 Franklin Street, along with his daughter Elizabeth, his father Ward, and his sister Frances. However, this appears to have been his last year in Springfield, because he is not listed in the 1921 or subsequent directories. The rest of the family remained in the city, though, and Ward continued to live at 318 Franklin Street for the next few years before moving back here to this house at 61 Cass Street in 1923.

By the 1930 census, Ward was living here on Cass Street with his daughter Frances, her husband John Sheehan, and their two young children, Eleanor and John. He owned the entire building, which was valued at $7,000, and at the time he was renting the unit at 59 Cass Street for $30 per month to telephone company worker Edmond Ross and his sister Clemence. At 71 years of age, Ward was still working as a police officer, but he died a few months later in July 1930, just an hour after returning home from his shift at the police station.

John and Frances apparently moved out of the house shortly after Ward’s death, but the house would continue to be owned by the family as a rental property for many years. The first photo was taken around the late 1930s, by which point the exterior of the house appears to have been covered in asbestos siding. This would not have been original to the house, and it was probably added sometime in the 1930s, when it became a common building material in place of wood clapboards.

The 1940 census, which was conducted shortly after the photo was taken, shows two different families living here at the time. At 59 Cass Street was a young couple, John and Helen Kawalec. In an unusual reversal of gender expectations for the period, John worked as a sales clerk for a florist shop, while Helen was an inspector for a chemical company. She was also paid at a much higher rate than he was; in 1939 she was earned $554 for 18 weeks of work, while John earned $1,040 in 52 weeks. The other unit, at 61 Cass Street, was occupied by Joseph and Mary Sobolewski. They were both immigrants from Poland, and they lived here with their children Joseph Jr., Adam, Edwin, and Regina. Joseph worked as a roofer, earning $1,500 in 1939, and paid $22 per month in rent.

By the time the first photo was taken, Walter Maranville was still involved in professional baseball. He had remained with the Braves through the 1920 season, and then spent the next four years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the Chicago Cubs in 1925. The Cubs got off to a poor start that year, so midway through the season Maranville was appointed manager. He continued to play shortstop in addition to managing, but the team did not fare much better under his leadership, and he was dismissed as manager before the end of the year.

Maranville next went to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1926. He started the year as their shortstop, but his relatively poor performance on the field led to his release from the team in August. By this point he was 33 years old and his career seemed to be winding down. He spent almost the entire 1927 season in the minor leagues, before earning a September call-up to the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he became the Cardinals’ primary shortstop in 1928, and he was able to re-establish himself as one of the league’s best shortstops, finishing tenth in that year’s MVP Award voting. Then, in 1929 Maranville returned to the Boston Braves, where he spent three years as shortstop before moving to second base for the 1932 and 1933 seasons. He did not play at all in 1934, and his last season in the majors came in 1935, when he played 23 games for the Braves at the age of 43.

After the end of his playing career, Maranville transitioned to managing. His brief tenure with the Cubs in 1925 was the only time that he would manage in the majors, but he spent the rest of the 1930s as manager of several different minor league teams. In 1936 he was the player-manager of the Elmira Pioneers, and then he managed the Montreal Royals in 1937 and 1938, followed by the Albany Senators in 1939. His career ultimately came full circle in 1941, when he managed the Springfield Nationals here in his hometown. However, the Nationals finished with a dismal 50-85 record that year, and this proved to be his final role in professional baseball.

In his later years, Maranville was involved in youth baseball programs in several different cities, including in New York. He lived in New York City until his death on January 5, 1954, and his body was returned to Springfield for his funeral at Sacred Heart Church, followed by burial in St. Michael’s Cemetery. Then, just a few weeks later, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the class of 1954. He was the only player elected posthumously that year, but his Springfield family was well-represented at the subsequent induction ceremony in Cooperstown, including his second wife Helena, his daughter Elizabeth McGinnis, and his siblings Ward Maranville and Frances Sheehan.

The Maranvilles still owned this house on Cass Street at the time, and they would continue to own it until 1963, when Frances sold it more than 70 years after her father had purchased the property. Since then, the exterior of the house has not seen many changes, aside from some alterations to the front porch. The house appears to still have the same 1930s-era siding from the first photo, and it has retained some of what appear to be original 1890s decorative features, including the brackets under the eaves and the scalloped shingles on the sides of the porch. Overall, the house closely resembles the rest of the historic houses on Cass Street, which were all built around the same time with similar designs, and there are no plaques or other markings to indicate its significance. Regardless, though, the house is an important historic resource in Springfield, as the childhood home of one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of western Massachusetts.

Thomas Wason House, Springfield, Mass

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

The house in 2019:

This brick Italianate-style house was built sometime around the early 1850s, and it was the home of Thomas Wason, the founder of the Wason Manufacturing Company. At the time, this area of Springfield to the east of Chestnut Street and north of the railroad tracks was sparsely developed, consisting primarily of upscale homes that were modeled on rural Italian villas. A number of these houses are visible in the first photo of an earlier post, which shows the view around 1882, before the area was transformed into the working-class Liberty Heights neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century.

Thomas Wason was born in New Hampshire in 1811, and he grew up in a family with 15 children. His father was a carpenter, so Thomas worked in the shop when he was young, and gained valuable skills that he would put to use after he and his younger brother Charles moved to Springfield in the 1830s. At the time, Springfield was a small but rapidly-growing manufacturing center, and it was also an important transportation hub that would soon become the crossroads of several important railroads.

The Wason brothers took advantage of this new method of transportation, and they started out by preparing timbers for railroad bridges and repairing railroad cars before starting a railroad car manufacturing business in 1845. The company started small, with the Wasons producing cars in a shed that was not even large enough for a single car. However, the rapid growth of the nation’s railroad system resulted in high demand for railroad cars, so the Wasons soon moved to a larger facility. Then, in 1848, they moved again, to the factory of the former Springfield Car and Engine Company, which was located in the block between Lyman and Taylor Streets in downtown Springfield.

Charles Wason ultimately left Springfield in 1851 and moved to Cleveland, where he established his own railroad car company. Thomas purchased his brother’s interest in their partnership here in Springfield, and he carried on the business for many years, turning it into one of the nation’s leading railroad car manufacturers. During that time, the Wason Manufacturing Company produced cars for most major railroads, and also had several overseas contracts, including a 161-car order that was sent to Egypt in 1860. The company also produced the nation’s first sleeping car in 1857, predating the more famous Pullman sleeping cars by several years.

The Wason company was one of the most important industries in Springfield during the second half of the 19th century, and the 1884 book King’s Handbook of Springfield declared that “no manufactory in Springfield has been more world-famed; and none has, during the past twenty years, handled so much money.” Thomas Wason himself also handled plenty of money, and by the mid-1860s he ranked among the city’s top earners, with an 1864 income of $17,944, equivalent to over $300,000 today.

Thomas Wason was around 40 years old when moved into this house in the early 1850s. He and his wife Sarah had two children, Jane and George, who would have been adolescents at the time. Like most affluent families of the period, they also employed servants who lived here in the house; the 1860 census lists 19-year-old servant Edwin Mehan, who was an Irish immigrant. A decade later, the family employed 18-year-old Annie Harris and 16-year-old Ellen Davis. Both were originally from Virginia, and Harris was listed as mulatto and Davis as black, so it is possible that the two may have previously been enslaved in Virginia.

In addition to manufacturing railroad cars, Thomas Wason’s business interests included being involved with several local banks. He was vice president of the Hampden Savings Bank, and he was also one of the directors of the First National Bank of Springfield. Wason was also active in local politics, serving at various times on the city council, the board of aldermen, and in the state legislature.

Thomas Wason died in 1870 at the age of 58, and he left behind an estate that was valued at nearly $450,000, or more than $9 million today. By far his largest asset was his ownership interest in Wason Manufacturing, which amounted to 760 shares worth a total of $200,000. He also held more than $60,000 in shares of companies like the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, the First National Bank, the Boston and Albany Railroad, and the Michigan Central Railroad. Most of his remaining personal estate was in the form of bonds and promissory notes, which were valued at more than $112,000. Wason also owned $58,500 in real estate, including his house here on Liberty Street, which was assessed at $20,000.

Sarah Wason continued to live here in this house for at least five years after her husband’s death, but she had evidently moved out by 1876. The 1880 census shows her living next door at 284 Liberty Street, at the home of her daughter Jane and son-in-law Henry S. Hyde. However, her old house here at 270 Liberty Street would remain in the family for many years, although it appears to have been used primarily as a rental property. Starting around 1877, it was the home of Aaron Wight, a sawyer who sold wood to railroads. He was also the brother of Emerson Wight, the mayor of Springfield from 1875 to 1878. Aaron lived here in this house for the rest of his life, until his death in 1885 from typhoid malaria at the age of 63.

By the late 19th century, this part of Springfield had begun to change. As the city grew, the old estates here were steadily subdivided into new residential streets, and the neighborhood became predominantly working class, with a number of immigrants and second-generation Americans. The area also became more industrialized during this period, thanks to its proximity to the railroad tracks. The 1899 city atlas shows a rail yard directly across the street from the house, and nearby industries included a stone yard, a coal yard, and a boiler and iron works.

The house was still used as a residence in 1900, although it was apparently divided into multiple units. One of the residents in that year’s census was George K. Geiger, superintendent at the Springfield Steam Power Company. He was an immigrant from Germany, and he lived here with his wife Rosa and their two sons, George and Arthur. The other family living here at the time was Hector and Nell Davis, who lived here with their children Mabel, Fred, and Eugene. Hector was a conductor for the Boston and Maine Railroad, and Mabel and Fred both worked as clerks.

This property underwent a dramatic transformation around 1909, when the Central Storage Warehouse purchased it and built a brick warehouse behind and to the right of the old house. The building evidently functioned much in the same way as modern storage units, with the company advertising, “Storage rooms to let. For furniture and other goods in separate locked compartments.” The warehouse was subsequently expanded in the early 1910s, with a new wing that extended all the way to Liberty Street, as shown on the right side of both photos here.

George Geiger was involved with the company in its early years, working as mechanical engineer and superintendent. By the 1910 census, both he and the Davis family were still living here in the house, although the Davises moved out soon after, and the Geigers left in 1912, when George resigned from his position with the company. After the Geigers, the last long-term resident of this house appears to have been Linda Daniels, who was here from around 1912 until her death in 1921. During the 1920 census she was 60 years old, widowed, and lived in the house with three of her children.

By the mid-1920s, the property seems to have been exclusively commercial in use. During this period, the company frequently listed advertisements in local newspapers, which reflected an expansion of its services beyond just storage. One 1925 ad offered “Local and long distance moving, packing, crating, storage of household furniture, pianos, office effects, merchandise.” Another ad from the same year assured potential customers, “Don’t worry on moving day. Call R. 98 and your moving problems will be solved to your complete satisfaction; storage for household, personal and office effects in strictly fireproof building; skilled workmen, competent to pack and crate any article safely.” In addition to these ads, the company also frequently posted classified ads for auctions and other sales of furniture, antiques, and similar items.

Judging by the few advertisements that appeared in the newspaper for Central Storage Warehouse in the 1930s, the business was probably hurt by the Great Depression. The first photo was taken during this time, probably around 1938 or 1939, and the company’s only appearance in the newspapers in those years seems to have been a December 1939 classified ad listing female canaries for sale, which were “guaranteed singers.”

The company remained here as late as 1940, but its business license was revoked in the fall of that year, and in February 1941 the property was sold at a foreclosure sale to the moving and storage company Lindell & Benson. Within a few years Lindell & Benson became Anderson & Benson, and this moving company would go on to operate here for many years before it was acquired by Sitterly Movers in 1975.

Today, the house has come a long way since being the home of one of Springfield’s most prosperous 19th century industrialists, and it has seen some exterior changes since the first photo was taken, including the loss of the porches on the left and right sides of the house. It is now almost entirely surrounded by larger industrial and commercial buildings, and the vacant lot on the left side of the first photo is now a building that partially blocks the view of the house from this angle.

Otherwise, though, remarkably little has changed in this scene over the past 80 years. Despite the exterior alterations, the house is still standing as one of the few survivors of the once-numerous Italian villas in this area. The early 20th century warehouse next to it is also still standing, with the same “Furniture Storage” advertisement still visible at the top, although it is more faded than in the 1930s. This property is still owned by Sitterly Movers, which continues to use this location as its Springfield branch, and in 2016 both buildings were designated as a local historic district.

Highland Ice Company, Springfield, Mass

The Highland Ice Company on Coleman Street in Springfield, around the turn of the 20th century. Photo from author’s collection.

The scene on October 4, 1938. Image courtesy of the Springfield Building Department.

The scene in 2019:

The first photo here is from my family’s old photos, and it shows the ice business of my great-great uncle, George M. Lyman. It is actually a composite image; it appears to have been two separate images that were developed on the same sheet of photo paper, with a gap in the middle. I digitally eliminated the gap, and stitched the two images together to form a single panoramic view of the scene. The photo is undated, but the writing on the back, which reads “For Uncle Arthur from Leslie,” suggests that it was probably taken sometime between 1908 and 1912. The Leslie who wrote it is probably Leslie Page, who married George Lyman’s stepdaughter in 1908, and Uncle Arthur appears to have been Arthur W. Lyman, George’s older brother. Arthur worked as a teamster for the ice business, but he died in 1912, so the photo must have been taken before then.

The people in the photo are unidentified; it is possible that the man carrying the block of ice in the foreground might have been either Arthur or George, but I have never seen photos of either of them before. In any case, though, the photo was definitely taken on Coleman Street, right next to George Lyman’s house at 34 Coleman Street. The house is directly behind the photographer and not visible in the scene, but the photo shows several outbuildings on the property that were used by the ice business, including a large shed in the center, an ice bin on the right, and part of another shed on the far left. The photo is facing north, and the house in the distance on the left is at 153 Boston Road, which stood directly opposite Jasper Street.

George Lyman was originally from Wilbraham, and he grew up on the family farm on Springfield Street, just east of the Springfield boundary. His family was relatively prosperous, and he attended the town’s private high school, Wesleyan Academy, which is now Wilbraham-Monson Academy. Most of his siblings also attended the school, as did both of his parents, and both of his grandfathers had been trustees of the school. George’s father died when he was 13, and he subsequently assisted his mother on the farm. However, in the early 1890s, when he was 22, he moved to Springfield and entered the ice business.

At the time, in the days before electric refrigeration, ice was a valuable commodity. Aside from providing cold drinks on hot summer days, it also played an important role in the nation’s food supply by preserving meats and other perishable foods. This allowed food to be stored longer and transported further, and ice was used in large-scale commercial settings and in the iceboxes of individual households.

The commercial ice industry peaked in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was particularly prevalent in the northeast, which had the ideal combination of cold winters and extensive transportation networks to move the ice. The ice was harvested in the winter from lakes, ponds, and occasionally rivers, typically once the ice was about 18 inches thick. It was cut into blocks, and then stored in ice houses, where it could be kept until the following winter. From there, the ice could be used locally during the warm months, or it could be sold to different parts of the country or even overseas.

After moving to Springfield in the early 1890s, George Lyman lived in several different places before moving to 34 Coleman Street around 1899. At the time, Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood was just beginning to be developed into a residential suburb, and Lyman would have been among its early residents. He was about 30 years old, and he had recently married his wife Laura, a widow six years his senior who had three children from her previous marriage. George and Laura would subsequently have a child of their own together, Ralph, who was born in 1900, but he died at the age of seven.

The 1899 city atlas shows the Lyman home on one parcel, and the outbuildings on the next two parcels to the north. The ice bin on the right side of the first photo was not built yet, but the other two sheds were. Unlike the house, which was listed as belonging to George, these two parcels were owned under Laura’s name. George conducted his ice business here, and the large shed in this photo was apparently used to store the wagons, which were used to deliver the ice to both retail and commercial customers. As indicated by the wagon on the left, it was known as the Highland Ice Company, and the ice was harvested from Loon Pond, about two miles to the east of here on Boston Road. George owned a parcel of land at the southwest corner of the pond, at the corner of Boston and Pasco Roads, and this is apparently where his ice house was located.

The ice business was labor-intensive work, starting with the cutters who worked on frozen ponds in the middle of winter and ending with the teamsters who delivered it to homes and businesses throughout the year. George Lyman occasionally published classified ads looking for workers, including one in 1906 that sought an “ice peddler” and promised “good wages for the right man.” Nearly a decade later, in 1915, he posted another ad looking for two peddlers, and the only requirement listed was that they “must be temperate.” In addition, several of George’s family members worked for him, including the above-mentioned brother Arthur. According to family tradition, his younger brother Frank Lyman—my great grandfather—also worked for him, although this may have been on a temporary basis, because census records and city directories all indicate that Frank’s primary occupation was as a machinist.

During the early 20th century, George Lyman appears to have harvested about 3,000 to 4,000 tons of ice per year, although the particularly cold winter of 1911-1912 was a boon for ice dealers, and by the end of February he had stockpiled about 6,000 tons. That year, an article in the Springfield Republican listed the amount harvested by different local ice companies, and he was tied for the fifth-highest out of the nine dealers on the list. Based on contemporary advertisements in the newspapers, he generally sold his ice for 40 cents per 100 pounds to retail customers, 30 cents to drugstores, and 25 cents to markets.

George Lyman was apparently looking to get out of the ice industry as early as 1913, when he published a classified ad that read, “Having been in business 21 years, would like to sell 3000 tons of ice, house, barn, sheds, wagons, horses, tools, elevator, icehouse, etc.” However, he must not have had any takers, since he continued to run the business for several more years before selling it to the Harder Grain and Coal Company around 1915. He then turned his attention to the family farm in Wilbraham, but he continued to live here on Coleman Street until around 1925, when he and his wife Laura moved to Wilbraham.

The first photo was taken in 1938 as part of a WPA project to document every building in the city of Springfield. By this point the ice bin on the right side had been removed, but the old shed was still standing, although its condition had deteriorated considerably since the days when George Lyman ran his ice business here. The old horse-drawn ice wagons were long gone by then, and the dump truck in one of the bays demonstrates the ways in which transportation had changed over the past few decades.

During this time, the surrounding neighborhood had also changed. By the late 1930s, Pine Point had become much more developed, and Boston Road was now lined with a number of businesses. The house in the distance on the left side of the first photo was gone by this point, and it was replaced by a row of commercial buildings, one of which is partially visible on the far left side of the second photo. Among the retail tenants of these buildings was the first Friendly’s restaurant, which had opened in 1935 in a storefront directly behind the old shed. There, brothers S. Prestley and Curtis Blake got their start in selling ice cream, just yards away from where George Lyman had once sold ice.

Today, more than 80 years after the second photo was taken and over a century after the first one, the old shed is long gone. Lyman’s house at 34 Coleman Street is still standing, but the other two parcels next to the house have been transformed. Around 1954 a house was built on the lot directly adjacent to his old house, and it stands approximately on the spot where the first photo was taken. The other lot, where the shed was once located, is now part of a parking area for the businesses on Boston Road. These early 20th century commercial buildings are still standing today, and they are visible on the left side of the present-day photo. Furthest to the right in the photo, directly behind the telephone pole, is the part of the building that was once occupied by the first Friendly’s restaurant.

Washington Avenue Armory, Albany, New York

The Washington Avenue Armory, at the corner of Washington Avenue and Lark Street in Albany, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

This building was completed in 1890 as the armory for the Tenth Battalion of the state militia. It originally consisted of an administrative area here in the front section of the building, with meeting rooms for the various companies within the battalion, and a large drill hall directly behind it. The armory was located in the midst of an urban environment, surrounded by rowhouses and commercial buildings and only a few blocks west of the capitol, and it served as both a place for military training and as a social club for the unit’s members.

The entire building was constructed of brick, with brownstone trim from East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. It was designed by prominent architect Isaac G. Perry, and it features a Romanesque design that gives the armory the appearance of a medieval castle. This style of architecture was common for public buildings of the late 19th century, and particularly for state armories in New York and elsewhere. For these armories, the architecture was not merely decorative; the building’s massive, imposing appearance conveyed a sense of governmental authority and strength, and it could be used as a fortification in the event of civil unrest.

During the late 19th century, concerns about civil unrest were largely based on a number of violent labor disputes that occurred around the country starting in the 1870s and 1880s. This would continue for the next few decades, including at least one deadly strike that occurred here in Albany in 1901. That year, the city’s trolley motormen went on strike, and the United Traction Company replaced them with non-union operators. In response, the strikers and their supporters vandalized a trolley, cut the overhead trolley wires, and sent at least one of the replacement motormen to the hospital.

The Tenth Battalion was assembled here at the armory before dispersing by company to protect the company’s powerhouse and two trolley barns during the night of May 15. The next morning, they were supplemented by the arrival of the 23rd Regiment from Brooklyn. This unit had prior experience in dealing with strikes, and they also had the advantage of not having any local connections to the strikers. However, perhaps because of that, these outside soldiers caused further violence when several opened fire on a crowd, killing two bystanders who were not involved in the strike.

In addition to its military use, though, the armory was also used for a variety of civilian purposes, including as a venue for sporting events, dances, concerts, lectures, and expositions. One early event was a wrestling match featuring the reigning world heavyweight champion, Joe Stecher, who easily defeated Mort Henderson, the “Masked Marvel.” Later in 1920, Albany residents could pay 50 to 75 cents to “watch” the World Series here, which was reproduced on a board based on live play-by-play telegraph reports.

Over the years, perhaps the armory’s best-known use has been as a basketball arena. It was the home court of the city’s first professional basketball team, the Albany Senators, which began playing here in the 1919-1920 season as part of the New York State League. Basketball was still a relatively new sport at the time, and there were no nationwide professional leagues, but the New York State League was one of many regional leagues, with teams such as the Schenectady Dorpians, the Utica Utes, and the Gloversville Glovemakers.

The Senators played particularly well in their first year, and they finished the season as co-champions along with the Troy Knights of Columbus. During that year, the team’s starting lineup included Marty Friedman and Barney Sedran, both of whom were later elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Both were short by modern basketball standards, and Sedran is, at 5’4”, the shortest player in the Hall of Fame. Another notable teammate of theirs here in Albany was Harry Riconda, who was the Senators’ leading scorer for the 1919-1920 season. He was also a professional baseball player, and he played parts of six seasons as a Major League Baseball third baseman between 1923 and 1930.

More recently, the armory has been used by Albany Patroons, a minor league basketball team that began playing here in 1982. The team moved into the new Knickerbocker Arena—now the Times Union Center—in 1990, and three years later they moved to Hartford. However, a new Patroons team was formed in 2005, and returned to the armory for its home games. This team folded after the 2009 season, but it was replaced by a third iteration of the Patroons in 2018. The new team continues to use the armory, more than a century after the original Albany Senators played here.

Throughout this time, the armory remained in use by the National Guard until 1989. Since then, in addition to basketball games, it also hosts a number of other events, particularly concerts, and it has a seating capacity that ranges from 3,600 for basketball games to 4,300 for concerts. On the exterior, very little has changed in the building’s appearance since the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century. It stands as an important landmark along Washington Avenue, and in 1995 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Union Station, Albany, New York (3)

The main entrance to Union Station on Broadway in Albany, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

This view of Union Station is similar to the one in the previous post, but provides more of a close-up view of the central part of the building, with the main entrance in the foreground. As explained in that post and an earlier one, the station opened in 1900, and it served passengers of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, the Delaware and Hudson Railway, the West Shore Railroad, and the Boston and Albany Railroad. The latter two railroads were owned by the New York Central, so overall the railroad was responsible for two-thirds of the daily trains here. This is emphasized by the fact that the New York Central’s name is engraved here on the facade in the first photo, directly above the central arch.

The station was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, with a Beaux-Arts style that was popular for public buildings of the era. The three arches here at the main entrance are the most distinctive architectural elements of the building, and in some ways they foreshadow the similar arches used more than a decade later when the New York Central built Grand Central Terminal more than a decade later.

Above the arches are a number of carvings, including a clock in the center atop the building, which is incorporated into the New York state seal. To the left of the clock is a figure representing Liberty, and to the left is Justice. An eagle is perched atop a globe above the clock, and underneath the clock is the inscription “Excelsior,” the state motto of New York. Other prominent carvings include large globes atop the corners, each of which is supported by four lions.

The first photo was taken soon after the station opened, and it shows an interesting mix of people outside the station. There are no cars visible on the street, but there are two horse-drawn vehicles, with an expensive-looking coach in the foreground on the right, and a more modest carriage further in the distance on the left side of the scene. Several people appear to have been watching the photographer, including a man with a top hat just beyond the coach, a man beneath the right arch with a briefcase and bowler hat, and three young newsboys who are standing in the street. Others seem indifferent to the camera, including at least three women walking along the sidewalk in front of the station, and another man in a bowler hat who is smoking a pipe and casually leaning against a column.

Union Station continued to be used by the railroads well into the mid-20th century, but by the 1950s ridership was in a steady decline, here in Albany and around the country. The station ultimately closed in 1968, ending passenger rail service into downtown Albany. To replace it, the railroad built a new, much smaller station across the river in Rensselaer.

The old station here in Albany was in limbo throughout the 1970s, and it was the subject of several different proposals, including demolition. However, it was ultimately restored as an office building in the late 1980s by Norstar Bancorp, whose name still appears on the facade in the spot where the New York Central’s name was once located. After a series of bank mergers, the building eventually became offices for Bank of America until 2009, and it is now occupied by several different tenants. Despite these changes in use, though, the exterior remains well-preserved, and the only significant difference here in this scene is the loss of the iron canopy above the entrance.

Union Station, Albany, New York (2)

Union Station in Albany, seen from the southwest corner at Broadway and Steuben Streets, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in more detail in a previous post, Albany’s Union Station opened in 1900 here on Broadway, in the northern part of downtown Albany. It was primarily used by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, along with two of its subsidiaries: the West Shore Railroad and the Boston and Albany Railroad. Together, these three railroads comprised more than two-thirds of the rail traffic here when the station opened, with 42 New York Central, 13 West Shore, and 10 Boston and Albany trains departing daily. The remaining traffic was from the Delaware and Hudson Railway, which was headquartered in Albany and had 31 daily departures here.

The first photo was taken soon after the station was completed, showing its ornate granite Beaux-Arts exterior. It was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, which was responsible for many of the stations along the route of the Boston and Albany. During the heyday of passenger rail travel, the railroad stations of large cities often featured grand architecture. Such stations would provide a good first impression to visitors of a particular city, along with demonstrating the importance and prosperity of the city and its railroad lines. This would have been especially important here in Albany, given its role as the capital city of what was, at the time, the largest state in the country.

Here on the west side of the station, where most passengers would have entered and exited the building, the exterior features three arches, giving it an appearance similar Grand Central Terminal, which was built more than a decade later. Above these arches are a number of elaborate carvings. Of these, the most prominent is the state seal of New York, which was carved over the course of three months by about 15 workers. It stands above the middle arch, and it consists of a clock that is flanked on either side by allegorical representations of Liberty and Justice. Beneath the clock is the state motto, Excelsior, and above it is an eagle perched on a globe. To the left and right of the seal, atop the corners of the central part of the station, are stone globes, each supported by four lions. Although not visible here, two identical globes are located on the other side of the building.

This station was a busy place throughout the first half of the 20th century, with rail travel peaking during World War II when up to 121 daily trains departed from here. However, railroads around the country saw a steep decline in ridership soon after the war, when highways and airlines became the preferred ways to travel by the 1950s. Even the New York Central, once one of the most lucrative companies in the country, was facing possible bankruptcy. This financial situation was not helped by the fact that it had to maintain large, aging stations such as this one in Albany, despite very limited numbers of passengers.

In 1968, the New York Central merged with its former rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, creating the Penn Central Railroad. Around the same time, the railroad began constructing a new, much smaller station across the Hudson River in Rensselaer, and the old station here in Albany closed on December 29, 1968. The tracks to the station were then removed and, as a sign of the changing ways that Americans traveled, Interstate 787 was built through the former rail yard behind the station.

The station itself was the subject of different redevelopment proposals, some of which would have involved demolishing the old building. Instead, it was ultimately preserved and converted into offices in the 1980s. For many years it was occupied by banks, beginning with Norstar Bancorp. The company’s name is still carved in the facade above the central arch, but the bank went through a series of mergers in the 1990s and early 2000s, eventually becoming part of Bank of America. The former station was occupied by Bank of America until 2009, and the building is now used as offices for a variety of other companies.