Parsons Tavern, Springfield, Mass

Parsons Tavern on Court Street in Springfield, sometime in the 1800s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

Taverns

The scene in 2014:

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When Springfield was first settled in 1636, it was at a strategic location along several different transportation routes.  As the years went by, the modes of transportation changed, but Springfield remained an important crossroads.  By the late 1700s, there were three major routes from New York to Boston, the northernmost of which went through Boston.  Although a less direct route than the other two, the Springfield route reportedly offered the best taverns, and in Springfield the best was Parsons Tavern.

The tavern was originally built on what is today the southeastern corner of Court Square, and was operated by Zenas Parsons.  During its time in operation, it hosted at least two presidents, the first of whom was George Washington in October, 1789.  Washington was on his way to Boston, and made a stop in Springfield to inspect the Armory.  He stayed overnight at Parsons Tavern, and wrote in his diary that “A Colo. Worthington, Colo. Williams (Adjutant General of the State of Massachusetts), Genl. Shepherd, Mr. Lyman and many other Gentleman sat an hour or two with me in the evening at Parson’s Tavern where I lodged and which is a good House.”  Years later, in 1817, President James Monroe also visited the tavern, not long before it was moved in order to make way for Court Square.

The tavern survived until at least the 1890s, but it was gone by the early 1900s, but today its former location is a parking lot at the G.A.R. Hall across East Columbus Avenue from Symphony Hall.  Springfield is still a major transportation hub, although as the 2014 photo shows, we’ve come a long way from stagecoach routes and taverns.  Interstate 91 now passes through this scene, and probably has more people travel on it in one day than Parsons Tavern had during its entire existence.

State Armory, Springfield, Mass

The Armory on Howard Street in Springfield, around 1910. Photo from View Book of Springfield (1910).

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The building in 2014:

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The State Armory in Springfield (not to be confused with the much larger, more prominent federal Springfield Armory) was built in 1895 for the Massachusetts Militia, and later the Massachusetts National Guard.  The building included both the castle-like structure facing Howard Street, as well as a massive drill shed that extended the width of the block to Union Street.  After the National Guard left, it became the South End Community Center, but it sustained significant damage from the June 1, 2011 tornado, which completely destroyed the former drill shed.  Like the former YWCA Building, the old Armory is right in the middle of the planned casino development, and the current plan is to demolish all but the facade, which will be incorporated into the casino.

YWCA Building, Springfield, Mass

The YWCA building on Howard Street in Springfield, around 1910. Photo from View Book of Springfield (1910).

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The building in 2014:

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The building’s appearance hasn’t changed much over the past century, but its use has.  It was built in 1907 as a residential building for the YWCA, after the organization moved from its old location a block away on Bliss Street.  It continued to be used by the YWCA until at least the 1980s, but today it is the Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center, a minimum security facility for alcohol-related offenders.  However, it probably won’t be for long – Howard Street is right in the middle of the planned casino development, so the days appear to be numbered for the historic building.

Springfield Hospital, Springfield, Mass

Springfield Hospital, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The site in 2014, now the home of Baystate Medical Center:

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From its humble beginnings as Springfield Hospital in 1883, this location has grown into one of the largest hospitals in the state.  The first major expansion happened within 20-30 years of when the first photo was taken, when the building in the 2014 photo opened.  Since then, the hospital has significantly expanded the area behind this building, and the large, grassy area in front of the hospital is now a parking lot.

Mercy Hospital, Springfield, Mass

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

Hospitals

The scene in 2014:

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Mercy Hospital has been at this location on Carew Street since 1898, and treated a number of soldiers returning home from the Spanish-American War.  However, the building on the left-hand side is older than that; it was built as the residence of Haitsill Hastings Allis, a businessman who owned a brick company in Springfield.  The building was sold to the Catholic Church in 1896, and the hospital began working out of the building two years later.  The addition on the right was opened a year later, significantly expanding the number of patients that the hospital could treat.

Today, all of the buildings in the first photo are gone.  The addition was demolished in 1974, and the Allis Mansion itself survived until 2013.  It had been vacant since 2001, and its restoration was unfeasible, so it was taken down to make way for the parking lot in the foreground of the 2014 photo.

Chestnut Junior High School, Springfield, Mass

The Chestnut Junior High School in Springfield, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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Chestnut Junior High School opened in 1903, at the corner of Chestnut and Prospect Streets in the North End of Springfield.  The building was used as a school for 101 years, before closing in 2004.  In the years after its closing, several redevelopment proposals were floated, including a seemingly promising plan to convert the school into condominiums, much like what was done with Classical High School on State Street in 1986.  Built only a few years before Chestnut, the school was successfully converted into condos, but that would not be the case with this school in the North End.  The building suffered from water damage and other deterioration, so the renovation costs, combined with a less than desirable neighborhood, meant that the proposal went nowhere.  It was vacant until September 2013, when it was destroyed by a fire.  The site has since been cleared, and nothing remains of the historic school building.