Rockingham House, Springfield, Mass

The Rockingham House, on the southeast corner of State Street and Walnut Street, sometime around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2019:

Built in 1796 diagonally across from the Armory, the Rockingham House was originally called the Armory House, for obvious reasons.  Along with being used as a lodging place for people associated with the Armory, it was primarily used by teamsters in the early part of the 19th century.  Long before railroads and Jimmy Hoffa, teamsters were the primary means of overland transportation from Springfield to Boston.  It was common for them to bring loads from riverboats up the hill.  The inn was conveniently located right at the top of the hill, so they would often stay overnight there before heading out the next morning.

Once the railroads linked Springfield to Boston in 1839, this part of the inn’s business declined, and it began to be used instead as a boarding house.  As mentioned in the 1884 King’s Handbook of Springfield, “It ceased to be a stopping-place for transient guests some time ago, but is still a pleasant home for some residents who do not care to keep house.”

Obviously, the Rockingham House no longer exists, although it wasn’t demolished to build a Burger King.  Rather, it was replaced by a gas station – a 1974 article from the Springfield Republican indicates that it was demolished “several years ago.”

Corner of State & Dwight Streets, Springfield Mass

The view looking at the northeast corner of Dwight Street and State Street, sometime in the 1870s.  Photo from Springfield: Present and Prospective, published in 1905.

The same scene in 2014:


The church on State Street in the first photo is the old Episcopalian Christ Church, which was built in 1839. When the congregation outgrew the building, the present-day church was constructed just up the hill (visible just to the right of the old church in the distance). I don’t know when the old church was demolished, but the location is now home to Springfield’s tallest apartment building.

State Street from Elliot Street, Springfield Mass

The view looking east on State Street from near the intersection of State & Elliot, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The view in 2015:


As with the previous post, State Street in Springfield looks very different before and after Dutch Elm Disease.  However, far more has changed than just that.  This stretch of State Street, leading up the hill to the Armory, was once predominantly residential, mostly single-family homes.  Some of these historic homes are still here, and for the most part have been converted to commercial use.

The present-day photo actually appears to be a few steps ahead of where the 1908 photo was taken; the pillars on the extreme left-hand side of the 1908 photo appear to be those of the rectory of St. Michael’s Cathedral, which is directly across Elliot Street from the courthouse.  Barely visible through the trees in the left-center of the photo appears to be the Alexander House, which was built in 1811.  It is one of Springfield’s oldest existing buildings, although the construction of the federal courthouse, which now occupies the space along State Street between Elliot and Spring Streets, required it to be moved around the corner to a new location on Elliot.  However, the architect of the courthouse designed the building around the two massive trees that once stood next to the Alexander House, and one of the trees is visible on the left-hand side of the 2015 photo.  The trees are almost certainly there in the 1908 photo as well, but it’s hard to pick them out among all of the other foliage.  One other landmark that exists in both photos is the entrance to the Armory grounds at Byers Street; the gates are barely visible in the distance on the left-hand side of State Street.

State Street from Walnut Street, Springfield Mass

The view looking east on State Street from the corner of State & Walnut, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same view in 2014:


This was once a common scene in the towns and cities of New England: streets lined with stately elms that formed almost a tunnel over the road with their branches.  However, within a few decades of the first photo being taken, most of the large elms in the northeast, and eventually the entire country, were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease.  Today, flora aside, a trip down State Street is very different from a century ago; instead of single-family homes, the road is fronted primarily by apartment buildings and commercial developments, although the buildings on the far left that once made up part of the Springfield Armory are still there.

Springfield Public Library, Springfield Mass (3)

The newly-completed Springfield Public Library, around 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2014:


Springfield’s current main branch of the public library system was opened on January 10, 1912, which is probably around the time that the first photo was taken. The Library of Congress data indicates that it was taken between 1900 and 1910, but obviously that is not the case. Regardless, not much has changed with this view, although the foreground is now a parking lot; in 1912, it was the front lawn of the Church of the Unity.

Springfield Public Library, Springfield Mass (2)

Springfield Public Library, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same view in 2014:


Another view of the old library, which was built in 1871 and moved around 1910 in preparation for the construction of the new library, which sits on the same spot today.