Looking east on Elm Street in Springfield, around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).
Elm Street in 2015:
Elm Street still appears on city maps, although today it isn’t much of a street. While it used to extend from Main Street to the Connecticut River, today it is a pedestrian walkway and parking lot for courthouse employees that dead-ends in front of the Hampden County Courthouse. This area has gone through several major changes, the first of which came soon after the first photo was taken. In the first decade of the 1900s, all of the buildings between Elm Street and Court Street were demolished in order to extend Court Square down to the river; only Old First Church was spared. Later on, Columbus Avenue was built across this area, and in the 1970s the Hampden County Hall of Justice was built, with part of the building’s footprint covering what used to be Elm Street.
Despite all of the changes, several important buildings have survived from the first photo. On the left, the steeple of Old First Church is still there, although the brick addition behind it was extensively modified in the 1940s. To the right, the old Hampden County Courthouse is still there, although it isn’t visible from this angle. Beyond it, the Court Square Theater was under construction in the first photo, and was added on to in 1900. It can still be seen in the distance, along with the adjacent Byers Block and Chicopee Bank Building, which existed in the first photo although they aren’t really visible. One prominent landmark, however, that has not survived is the massive elm tree on the right side of the street. It was located in front of the Elm Street Grammar School (barely visible on the far right), and is believed to be the tree referred to by Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. Referring to notable elm trees that he has seen, he writes that, “The queen of them all is that glorious tree near one of the churches in Springfield. Beautiful and stately she is beyond all praise.” When the tree was finally cut down, a cross-section of it was saved and is now on display at the Springfield Science Museum.