Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass (2)

The view looking northwest from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two photos were taken from the same spot as the ones in the previous two posts, which face to the southwest and west. This particular view looks toward the northwest, with the town of Adams in the foreground and the Greylock Range in the distance. The present-day photo does not line up perfectly with the first one, as the line of sight from the original spot is blocked by the house on the far left, but the two photos show the same overall scene, including the two houses on the right side of the first photo, which still stand here in the second photo.

The houses here in the foreground were, for the most part, built around the late 19th century. During this time, Adams was growing in population, becoming an important manufacturing center on the Hoosic River, and residential neighborhoods were steadily making their way up the hillside to the east of town. Many of the house lots were still undeveloped by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the century, as indicated by the cornfield in the foreground, but most of these would soon have houses on them.

The two houses on the right side of the first photo were both built sometime around 1900, and they are both included in that year’s census. At the time, the one furthest to the right, at 40-42 Randall Street, was occupied by two families. The left side was the home of 34-year-old teamster Fred Wilder, his wife Ida, their daughter Bertha, and a boarder who also worked as a teamster. On the right side was 23-year-old Grace Welch, who lived here with her three children. They ranged in age from 10 months to 7 years, and according to the census she had been married for nine years. It also listed her as being a widow, although subsequent censuses show her as being married to Melvin Welch, so this part of her record was likely in error.

To the left of the duplex is a single-family home at 38 Randall Street. In 1900 it was owned by Ai Davis, a 47-year-old stonemason who lived here with his wife Nora and their five children, the oldest of whom was 23 and the youngest was 5. Their oldest, Hiram, was a teamster, and two other children were listed as attending school. Like her neighbor Grace, Nora had also apparently married very young, because she was 39 years old in 1900 and had already been married for 24 years.

Further in the distance, the most visible building in downtown Adams is the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company. Founded in 1889, the company grew quickly over the next few decades, and by the time the first photo was taken in the early 20th century it consisted of a large factory complex with a number of buildings in the center of the scene. In 1904, the company had around 2,400 people, making it a significant employer in a town that, at the time, had around 12,000 residents.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, many changes have occurred here in this scene. The cornfield in the foreground is gone, having been replaced by the house on the far left side at some point around the 1920s. In the distance, the slopes of Mount Greylock are now far more wooded than they had been in the first photo, and much of downtown Adams is also now obscured by trees. The houses at 38 and 40-42 Randall Street are still standing though, as are some of the buildings in the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company complex.

During the 20th century, Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing went through a series of mergers in the 20th century, eventually merging with Hathaway Manufacturing in 1955 to become Berkshire Hathaway. It continued to produce textiles here into the second half of the 20th century, and came under the control of a young Warren Buffett in 1965. The factory ultimately closed, and many of the buildings have since been demolished, but the company itself still exists. No longer a small-town cotton mill, Berkshire Hathaway is now a major multi-national holding company headquartered in Omaha, although its name continues to serve as a reminder of its origins here along the Hoosic River in Adams.

Mount Greylock from Adams, Massachusetts

The view of Mount Greylock as seen from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two images do not line up perfectly; the first one was taken a few yards to the south of where the 2019 one was taken. However, the view from that spot is now blocked by a house that stands where the cornfield in the foreground used to be, so the present-day photo was taken a little closer to the corner of Randall Street. However, the overall scene is the same in both photos, showing the town of Adams at the bottom of the hill, with the summit of Mount Greylock as the backdrop in the distant center.

Standing 3,491 feet above sea level, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. It is part of the Taconic Mountains, a range within the Appalachians that runs roughly along the New York-Massachusetts border, and it is also one of the most topographically-prominent mountains in New England, rising nearly 2,500 feet above all of its surrounding valleys. As a result, it is visible for miles in every direction, and it is the most distinctive landscape feature within the town of Adams.

The east slope of the mountain, shown here in this scene, is its steepest. From the summit, it drops more than 2,700 feet in less than three miles to the floor of the Hoosic River valley. The town of Adams was settled here along the river, and during the second half of the 19th century it developed into a thriving industrial community. The town was divided in half in 1878, with the more populous northern half becoming North Adams, but Adams continued to grow, and by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century its population had risen to over 10,000 residents.

The photo shows the downtown area of Adams, as seen from the hills immediately to the east. By this point, this area was in the process of being developed for housing, and the 1904 county atlas shows that the land in the foreground had already been subdivided into individual lots. Some of the houses had already been built by then, but other lots were still vacant, including the cornfield here in the first photo. However, within a decade or two this site would also be developed, and there is now a 1920s-era house that stands just out of view on the left.

Today, Adams is no longer a major factory town, and its population is actually smaller than it was at the turn of the last century. Overall, though, this view is not significantly different from the first photo. Probably the single most noticeable change is the increased number of trees. In the foreground, downtown Adams is mostly hidden by the trees, although there are several buildings visible, most notably the First Congregational Church, which stands in the center of the scene. Beyond the town, the slopes of Mount Greylock are much more wooded today than in the first photo, and at the summit is the Veterans War Memorial Tower, which was dedicated in 1933 in memory of Massachusetts residents who died in World War I.

Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass

The view looking southwest from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Berkshires became an important industrial center, with a number of factories located along the Housatonic and Hoosic Rivers. Here in Adams, near the northwest corner of Massachusetts, the town saw rapid growth during this period because of its industries. It lost nearly two thirds of its population in 1878 when its northern half was partitioned off as the town of North Adams, but over the next 20 years it doubled in population, ultimately reaching its peak at just over 13,000 people by 1910.

The first photo was taken around this time, facing southwest from the hillside just to the east of the center of town. A portion of downtown Adams is visible in the distance, including the steeple of First Baptist Church, which stands in the center of the photo. Further beyond the town is the southern end of the Greylock Range, which features the tallest mountains in the state. The highest, Mount Greylock, is just out of view on the far right side, but the state’s second-highest peak, Saddle Ball Mountain, is evidently visible in this scene.

In the foreground of the first photo is a corn field. At the time, this neighborhood was only partially developed, consisting of a few late 19th century homes interspersed with empty lots such as this one. However, by this point the area was already eyed for future development, with the 1904 county atlas showing that this land had already been subdivided into new streets and house lots, which were owned by the Bonnie Brae Land Company. Many of the houses and streets were ultimately never built, perhaps because the population of Adams plateaued after 1910, but this former corn field was developed sometime after the first photo was taken. As shown in the present-day scene, it is now the site of a bungalow-style house that, based on its architecture, was probably built sometime around the 1920s.

Burbank House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 330 Park Drive in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house is located in Colony Hills, an upscale residential neighborhood that was developed starting in the 1920s. The area is located just to the south of Forest Park, where it straddles the border of Springfield and Longmeadow. The Springfield side, where this house is located, is unusual in that it consists of two separate sections that are effectively enclaves of the city. They are surrounded on three sides by Forest Park, and on the fourth side by the Longmeadow border, so there is no direct road connection between Colony Hills and the rest of Springfield without passing through Longmeadow. As a result, the neighborhood is quiet and isolated from the rest of the city, making it a particularly desirable place to live.

About half of the houses on the Springfield side of the neighborhood are on Park Drive, which runs along part of the perimeter of Forest Park. Of these, this house has perhaps the most desirable location. The property lies in the center of a horseshoe-shaped curve, so it is almost entirely surrounded by wooded parkland, with no other homes visible from the front yard. The house itself was built in 1929, and it features a Tudor Revival design that was typical for upscale homes of this period. It was the work of Max Westhoff, a local architect who also designed similar homes on Maple Street and Longhill Street.

The original owner of this house was Daniel E. Burbank, a real estate investor whose properties included the Hotel Worthy in downtown Springfield. He ran a real estate business here in Springfield, but in 1932 he also became the real estate consultant for the Bickford’s restaurant chain, along with serving as one of the company’s directors.

Burbank was not living in this house during the 1930 census, but he and his family evidently moved in soon afterward. The first photo was taken sometime around the late 1930s, and the 1940 census shows Burbank living here with his wife Helen and their children Daniel Jr., Lyman, Barbara, and David. At the time, the house was valued at $50,000, or nearly $1 million today, and Burbank’s income was listed at over $5,000, which was the highest income level on the census.

Helen Burbank died in 1948, but Daniel continued to live here until his own death in 1960, at the age of 77. Later that year, the house was sold to Joseph J. Deliso, an industrialist who was, at the time, president and treasurer of the Hampden Brass & Aluminum Company, and president of the Hampden Pattern & Sales Company. Deliso has previously lived in a different Westhoff-designed house at 352 Longhill Street, and he went on to live here in this house on Park Drive for the rest of his life.

During this time, Deliso was instrumental in establishing Springfield Technical Community College after the closure of the Armory, and he was the first chairman of the STCC Advisory Board, serving from 1967 to 1981. He subsequently became the first chairman of the STCC Board of Trustees, and in 1992 one of the buildings on the campus was named Deliso Hall in his honor.

Deliso died in 1996, and a year later the house was sold to the Picknelly family, owners of the Peter Pan Bus Lines. The property is still owned by the Picknellys today, and the house remains well-preserved, with few exterior changes from this view aside from an addition on the far left side. It is now the centerpiece of the Colony Hills Local Historic District, which was established in 2016 and encompasses all of the historic homes on the Springfield side of the neighborhood.

Neil’s Bakery, Springfield, Mass

Neil’s Bakery, at 531 Main Street in Indian Orchard, around the 1930s. Author’s collection, gift of Linda Thayer.

The scene in 2019:

This photo shows one of the five storefronts that are located on the ground floor of a two-story building at the corner of Main and Parker Streets, in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard. The building was constructed in 1924, and the photo was probably taken within about a decade afterward. At the time, this particular storefront was the home of Neil’s Bakery, and the photo shows a variety of muffins, cookies, pies, cakes, and other baked goods on display behind the front windows.

According to a handwritten caption on the photo, the woman in the doorway is Caroline Neils. She was the daughter of Ludwig Neils, the owner of the bakery. Ludwig and his wife Aniela were both Polish immigrants, and they came to the United States as teenagers in the early 20th century. Caroline, their oldest child, was born in Springfield in 1912, and they had six other children, the youngest of whom was born around 1930.

The 1920 census shows Ludwig—who also went by the name Louis—working as a polisher in a machine shop, but by 1930 he had opened his bakery. It was still in business a decade later, during the 1940 census, and both Aniela and one of their sons were also listed as employees there. In both 1930 and 1940, the family was living just around the corner from here at 34 Parker Street, where they paid $17 per month in rent.

However, the bakery evidently closed soon after the 1940 census, and Ludwig returned to working as a machinist. According to the 1941 city directory, he was employed by the Van Norman Machine Company, and he subsequently worked there for many years. In the meantime, Caroline Neils married William Bak, and by the 1950s they were in Pittsfield. She lived there until her death in 2002, at the age of 90.

Today, the building where the Neils family once had their bakery is still standing. The storefront has been altered, and the interior was badly damaged by a fire in 1974, but there are still some subtle hints from the first photo. The bricks are the same in both photos, and as a result the building has the same arrangement of light- and dark-colored bricks, which is particularly noticeable in the vertical course directly above the storefront.

Mount Holyoke Summit House and Inclined Railway, Hadley, Massachusetts

The inclined railway leading up to the Summit House on Mount Holyoke, around 1867 to 1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in the previous post, the summit of Mount Holyoke was the site of one of the first mountaintop hotels in the United States. At just 935 feet in elevation, it is not a particularly tall mountain, yet it rises high above the surrounding landscape in the otherwise low, flat Connecticut River valley. It is part of the Holyoke Range, a narrow ridgeline that runs east to west for about eight miles. This, in turn, is a sub-range within the much longer Metacomet Ridge, a traprock ridge that extends from Long Island Sound in Connecticut to just south of the Massachusetts-Vermont border.

Mount Holyoke is not the highest peak in the Holyoke Range, as it stands nearly 200 feet lower than Mount Norwottuck. However, it forms the western end of the ridge, with the Connecticut River passing through a narrow gap between Mount Holyoke and the Mount Tom Range. This prominent location makes it a major landmark for travelers in the river valley, and it also means that the summit has nearly 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

The combination of dramatic views and proximity to large large population centers made Mount Holyoke a popular destination in the 19th century, and the first building at the summit was built in 1821. In the spirit of a traditional barn raising, it was built with the help of nearly 200 townspeople who climbed to the summit to lend a hand. Consuming, as one 19th century account described it, “a little water with a good deal of brandy in it,” the group completed the summit house in just two days. It was a modest structure, measuring just 18 by 24 feet, but it was dedicated with much fanfare, including a speech by Northampton native and U. S. Senator Elijah H. Mills.

This first building was soon joined by a rival establishment nearby, but the two buildings were consolidated under the same ownership in 1825. The business operated here for several more decades, and during this time the view from the top of the mountain was made famous by Thomas Cole’s 1836 painting The Oxbow, long regarded as a masterpiece of 19th century American landscapes.

However, despite the mountain’s growing popularity, the accommodations at the summit remained primitive until mid-century. This began to change in 1849, when Northampton bookbinder John French and his wife Frances purchased the property. They soon began making improvements, most significantly a new hotel at the summit, which was completed in 1851. It was named the Prospect House, and it had two stories, with a dining room, sitting room, and office on the first floor, and six guest rooms on the second floor. Above the second floor was a cupola, which was equipped with a telescope. The hotel was later expanded several times, but this original 1851 structure still survives as part of the present-day building.

In addition to constructing a more substantial building, French also improved access to the summit. Prior to his ownership, it was relatively easy to reach the spot where these two photos were taken, whether on foot or by carriage. In terms of elevation, this spot is more than halfway up the mountain, but from here the slope becomes significantly steeper, as is made particularly evident in the first photo. The only options for visitors during the first half of the 19th century were either to take the long, winding, narrow carriage road to the summit, or hike the short but steep path up the mountainside, gaining over 350 feet in elevation in just 600 horizontal feet.

Neither option was ideal for most visitors, and the situation also made it difficult for French to bring supplies up the mountain. Even water had to be either carted or carried up to the summit, requiring him to sell it for around three to five cents per glass, or about $1.00 to $1.50 today. However, in 1854 he solved both problems with the construction of an inclined railway. It began here at this spot, next to French’s residence, which was known as the Halfway House, and it rose to the top of the mountain. It was originally powered by a stationary horse here at the base, although in 1856 French switched to steam power. The railway itself was rebuilt several times, but it had largely assumed its final form by 1867, as shown in the first photo. By then, the railway had two tracks, was completely enclosed, and brought its passengers directly into the basement of the hotel.

In the meantime, the hotel also grew, with the first major addition coming in 1861, when it was expanded to ten rooms. Then, in 1871 French sold the property to South Hadley businessman John Dwight. However, John and Frances French remained here to manage the hotel, and they continued in that role until their deaths in the 1890s. Then, the hotel was expanded even further in 1894, with the addition of a large wing on the south side of the building. This increased the hotel’s capacity to 40 guests, along with a dining room that could seat 200 people.

By then, the hotel had several local competitors on the nearby Mount Tom Range, with the Eyrie House atop Mount Nonotuck, and the Summit House on Mount Tom. However, both of these were plagued by fires, which was a constant danger for wood-frame buildings on isolated mountaintops. The Eyrie House, built in 1861 and later expanded, burned in 1901, and the same fire also destroyed the partially-built structure of what would have been a new hotel. The Summit House on Mount Tom faced similar problems, with the original 1897 hotel burning in 1900, and its replacement suffering the same fate in 1929.

However, although older than the other nearby hotels and built of similar materials, the hotel here on Mount Holyoke managed to avoid catastrophic fires. It faced different challenges, though, most significantly the declining popularity of mountaintop hotels in general. John Dwight died in 1903, the property was subsequently acquired by a group of prominent locals, including Holyoke silk manufacturer Joseph Skinner. The new owners made significant improvements, including electricity and modern plumbing. The railway was also electrified, and the first automobile road to the summit opened in 1908.

Skinner would ultimately acquire full ownership of the hotel, and he continued to modernize it throughout the early 20th century. It continued to face challenges though, particularly with the onset of the Great Depression, but the hotel was ultimately closed after the September 1938 hurricane. The older section of the building survived, but the storm destroyed the large 1894 addition. A year later Skinner donated the property to the state, and it became the Joseph Allen Skinner State Park.

Both the hotel and the inclined railway deteriorated after the park was established, and much of the roof over the railway was destroyed in a heavy snowstorm in 1948. The remains of the railway were removed in 1965, and the hotel itself was also threatened with demolition around this time. Despite many years of neglect, though, the building was ultimately restored in the 1980s, and it is now a museum.

Today, nearly all of the historic 19th century mountaintop hotels in the northeast are gone, most having been lost to fire, neglect, or both. However, the Summit House on Mount Holyoke is still standing as one of the few surviving examples. This scene has changed considerably since the first photo was taken around 150 years ago, including the loss of the railway and the significant tree growth on the previously bare slopes, but the Summit House is still visible from this spot.