City Hall, Holyoke Mass

City Hall in Holyoke, seen looking up Dwight Street in 1892. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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City Hall in 2015:


It almost resembles a Medieval cathedral, and in fact the original caption of the 1892 photo misidentified it as a church, but this building is actually Holyoke City Hall.  Opened in 1876, it bears some resemblance to the Hampden County Courthouse.  Both were made out of the same material, granite from Monson, Massachusetts, and with similar neo-Gothic and Romanesque style architecture, which was common in late 19th century public buildings.  Curiously, it had two architects: Charles B. Atwood, who designed most of the exterior, and Henry F. Kilburn, who took over after Atwood failed to produce his work in a timely manner.  Kilburn ended up designing the interior and the 220 foot tower.  Today, the exterior is well-preserved; it continues to be used as City Hall, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

High Street, Holyoke Mass (2)

Looking north on High Street from Suffolk Street in Holyoke, around 1903-1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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High Street in 2015:


These photos show a scene similar to the ones in this post, just a half a block further south, at the corner of High and Suffolk Streets.  This area is also part of the North High Street Historic District, and all of the buildings on the left-hand side date to between 1880 and 1920.  The first photo was taken at a good time to show some of the changes that happened in the early 19th century.  Had this photo been taken less than 10 years later, we would see almost no change today; all of the present-day buildings in the foreground were built by about 1912.  Starting on the far left side and heading down High Street, the first five buildings in the present-day photo are:

  • An unnamed commercial block, which was built in 1910 and replaced two earlier buildings, including the ornate Naumkeag Clothiers building in the first photo.
  • Bishop Block, which was built around 1890 and has had a few alterations over the years, especially the facade on the second floor.
  • Taber Block, which was built around 1884 and is architecturally very similar to the Russell-Osborne Building further down the street
  • Childs Building, which was built around 1912
  • Steiger’s Building, which was built around 1900 and was home to one of Albert Steiger’s department stores

Overall, the changes in the two photos reflect the prosperity of Holyoke at the turn of the last century; its paper mills were bringing jobs and wealth to the city, and this was seen on High Street, where relatively new buildings from the 1880s and 1890s were being taken down and replaced by larger commercial buildings.  However, just as new construction on this part of High Street seemed to stagnate by the mid 20th century, Holyoke’s economy also stagnated with the closing of the paper mills.  Today,  parts of Holyoke are filled with historic buildings, but sadly this is not necessarily because of careful attention to historic preservation, but rather from a lack of new economic development in the city.

High Street, Holyoke Mass (1)

Looking north on High Street between Suffolk and Dwight Streets, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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High Street in 2015:


Holyoke has a number of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but these photos show the only Historic District located within the city.  The two photos show a number of changes in the past 100 years, but even the most of the “new” buildings seen in the 2015 photo date to the 1920s or earlier.  Several notable buildings from the first photo have survived, though.  On the left-hand side, starting closest to the foreground, they are:

  • Mayberry Building (narrow red brick building) – Built in 1881, although it had a fourth story added at some point after the 1908 photo.
  • Russell-Osborne Building (the next red brick building) – Built in 1885, this building’s ornate facade contrasts with most of the other more reserved architectural styles, but it has lost some of its decoration over the years, including the gargoyle-like carvings that can be seen in the 1908 photo.
  • Ball Block (yellow brick, in center of the photos) – Built in 1898 and located at the corner of High and Dwight Streets, this was an office building but was later converted into a bank.  However, most of the modifications were made to the interior, so from the outside it hasn’t changed much in appearance since the first photo was taken.
  • Caledonia Building (in the distance, flying an American flag) – Built in 1874, its Second Empire architectural style with a mansard roof is very different from most of the other buildings along this part of High Street, but its exterior hasn’t changed much since it was built.

Willimansett Y, Chicopee Mass

The “Y” intersection of Chicopee Street and Meadow Street in the Chicopee village of Willimansett, around 1917. Image courtesy of the Chicopee Public Library, Russ H. Gilbert Photographic Collection.

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The “Y” in 2015:


In the early 20th century, the city of Chicopee experienced a large population growth, much of which was made up of Polish and French Canadian immigrants.  Each group settled in particular neighborhoods, and Willimansett became home for many French-Canadian immigrants, including my great-great-grandparents, who lived a block away from here in the 1920s.  From here, workers could commute a short distance by trolley to either the Holyoke mills across the river, or the mills along the Chicopee River a few miles to the south.

This intersection of Chicopee and Meadow Streets became known as the “Y”, so-named because of the angle at which the streets merge.  This is the primary commercial center of Willimansett, but in the early 1900s it was still fairly undeveloped.  The commercial blocks on the right weren’t there yet, nor were the houses to the left.  The only prominent building that appears in both photos is the Chapin School, which can be seen in the distance in the middle of the fork.  It opened in 1898, and had several additions put on as Willimansett grew in population.  Today it is vacant, but it is currently planned to be converted into apartments for veterans.

Probably the most interesting thing about the “Y”, however, is something that does not appear in either photo.  In the 1930s, a grocery store opened here, called the Y Cash Market.  They are no longer in Willimansett, but the name lives on – today the company is Big Y, one of the largest grocery store chains in New England.

Center Street, Chicopee

Center Street in Chicopee, probably in 1918. Image courtesy of the Chicopee Public Library, Russ H. Gilbert Photographic Collection.

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Center Street in 2015:



One of the busiest sections of road in Chicopee is completely void of traffic in the 1918 scene, but it wasn’t necessarily because people lacked cars.  At this point, cars were becoming more common among the middle class, but this became a problem during World War I.  Because of the war demand for fuel, the federal government implemented programs to help reduce fuel use.  One of these plans was “gasless Sundays,” when people were encouraged to avoid driving on Sundays, thus saving a substantial amount of gasoline.  I don’t know how effective it was overall, but evidently it worked in Chicopee – the first photo was taken during one of these “gasless Sundays,” and sidewalks are full of people, with nary a car in sight.

The only real change in these two views, other than the presence of automobiles, is the building on the far left.  This building at the corner of Center and Exchange Streets was replaced by the Starzyk Building in 1921.  Otherwise, the other buildings are still there: the Spalding factory in the distance, the 1871 Chicopee City Hall to the right, and the old 1911 Chicopee Public Library building.

Starzyk Building, Chicopee Mass

The Starzyk Building at the corner of Center Street and Exchange Street in Chicopee, around 1921. Image courtesy of the Chicopee Public Library, Russ H. Gilbert Photographic Collection.

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The building in 2015:


The Starzyk Building has been a prominent building in downtown Chicopee for nearly a century, and the first photo was taken right around the time that the original building was completed.  It was owned by Paul Peter Starzyk, a Polish immigrant who came to Chicopee in the early 1890s and worked in the mills of Dwight Manufacturing Company, the same place where social reformer Lewis Wickes Hine would later document child labor conditions in the early 1900s.  Starzyk didn’t work in the mills for too long, though, because he later went into business for himself, selling men’s clothing.  His business was successful enough that he was able to build this building in 1921, and a year later he expanded it on the right-hand side.  The first photo was taken before this wing was added.  Today, the storefront windows have been altered, but otherwise its exterior appearance hasn’t changed much.  It is still used for retail and office space, and is still one of the main commercial buildings in downtown Chicopee.