Hanging Around the Saloon, Chicopee Mass

A group of workers hanging around outside of the Cyran & Gierlasinski Cafe on Grove Street in Chicopee, on June 29, 1916. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

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The scene in 2014:


Social reformer and photographer Lewis Wickes Hine visited Chicopee several times in the 1910s, documenting child labor conditions in some of the city’s factories.  The first photo here shows a group of workers hanging around a saloon at the end of the workday.  It’s probably safe to assume that the cafe was Polish; the names of Cyran & Gierlasinski leave little room for doubt.  By the late 1800s, Chicopee had become an industrial center, and many of the workers were immigrants, either French-Canadian or Polish.  To this day, many Chicopee residents are of French-Canadian and Polish ancestry, some of whom are probably the descendants of the men in the 1916 photo.  Today, the Cyran & Gierlasinski Cafe might be gone, but the Polish influence is still present; the site is now the parking lot for the main offices of the Polish National Credit Union.

Homestead Building, Springfield Mass

The Homestead Building, at 82-86 Worthington Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust

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The building in 2014:


According to the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, this building on Worthington Street was built in 1903, although its architectural style makes it look more like something built in the 1880s, like a scaled-down version of the Chicopee Bank Building.  The building was the home of Phelps Publishing Company, which produced the Springfield Homestead newspaper as well as several other weekly publications.  In 1932, the building was sold to Blue Line Transportation Company, as seen in the first photo.  From here, passengers could take buses to cities around New England and beyond; the Worthington Street side lists Hartford, New York, and Boston as destinations.  Most recently, the building was used as a nightclub, which closed in 2014 following a shooting outside the building.

There’s another building that appears in both photos, although it isn’t as obvious.  The tall, “L” shaped building that seems to loom over the Homestead Building was built in 190, and in the first photo it was home to the Springfield Photo Engraving Company.  The building is still there today, although in 1949 it was trimmed down to three floors and now blends in with the Homestead Building.

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

The Mt. Washington Cog Railway, near the summit, probably in the early 1870s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.


The scene in 2013:


The first photo was probably taken within a few years of the opening of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway.  By the mid 19th century, the White Mountains had become a popular summer destination, and Mount Washington in particular became a favorite destination.  The only problem was getting to the top; this was first solved by the Mount Washington Carriage Road (today the Auto Road), but even before the road opened, another man had an even more ambitious idea – to build a railroad to the top.

Railroads were still in their infancy in America in 1852, and many major cities still did not have rail connections, but Sylvester Marsh had a plan to build a cog railway to the top, something that had never been done up the side of a mountain before.  The New Hampshire legislature gave him a charter in 1858, with one legislator reportedly remarking that they should give him a charter to make a railway to the moon, indicating how impossible it seemed to build a railroad to the top of the tallest peak in the Northeast.

The railroad was completed to the summit in July 1869, only a couple months after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.  It is about 3 miles long, with an average grade of about 25%, and it set the stage for future mountain-climbing railroads such as the one up Pikes Peak.  The locomotives in the first photo indicate that it is an early photo of the railroad; they appear to be the George Stephenson and the Hercules, which entered service in 1869 and were replaced in 1878 and 1874, respectively.

The present-day scene here is remarkably similar; the trains are still operating (most of the locomotives are modern biodiesel ones, but several date back to the 1870s), and there seems to be as many people riding in the 2013 photo as there were nearly 150 years earlier, although clothing styles have changed a bit.  It’s not visible from here, but the road to the top is also still there, although it is no longer the Carriage Road but the Auto Road.  There are a lot more buildings at the top than there were in the 1870s, although the Tip Top House is still there; it is older than either the Auto Road or the railroad.

White Church, West Springfield, Mass

The old White Church in West Springfield, around 1905. Photo from Springfield: Present and Prospective (1905).

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The church in 2014:


The old church at the corner of Elm Street and Kings Highway in West Springfield is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in the Pioneer Valley.  It was built in 1802, making it 17 years older than Springfield’s Old First Church.  It’s in a rather odd location, though; it’s on the outskirts of downtown West Springfield, on a hill overlooking the Connecticut River.  This was due to an agreement that the town made with John Ashley, who paid for the construction under the conditions that: 1) he choose the location, and 2) that it remain in use as a church for 100 years.  He got his wish, but almost as soon as the 100 years was up the congregation merged with Park Street Congregational Church, moving to the center of West Springfield in 1909 and vacating the building.  The building was later used as a Masonic lodge, and today it is privately owned.  One curious historical item is the cost of the church; the contract called for $1,400 plus “ten gallons of St. Croix rum.”  Based on the fact that the church is still standing over 200 years later, I think one can assume the rum was not delivered until after it was completed.

Court Street, Springfield, Mass

Court Street in Springfield, sometime before 1905. Photo from author’s collection.


Court Street in 2014:


I came across the first photo in a 3-for-$1 bin at an antique store, and despite the odd coloring it provides an interesting view along Court Street from around the turn of the last century.  It is an albumen print, mounted on thick paper, and evidently colorized after processing.  There are no identifying marks on the photo, and the only way I was able to figure out the location was because I recognized the old police station and City Hall as being in Springfield.  My guess is that it was probably taken sometime in the 1890s, but it could’ve been anytime before 1905, when the old City Hall burned down.

To the left of City Hall, in the foreground of the first photo, is the old police department headquarters, which was later demolished to make way for the Springfield Municipal Group.  The new City Hall, which was completed in 1913, is still there, on roughly the same spot that its predecessor stood in the first photo.  The site of the former police station is now the area between City Hall and Symphony Hall, where the campanile tower is.  In the background, One Financial Plaza building looms over City Hall, between City Hall Plaza and Main Street.  The only building in the present-day scene that would’ve even existed when the first photo was taken is the former Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank building at the corner of Main and Court Streets, although its Main Street facade has been altered beyond recognition.