Old Methodist Meeting House, Wilbraham Mass

The Old Methodist Meeting House at the corner of Main Street and Mountain Road in Wilbraham, probably around 1913. Photo from The History of Wilbraham, Massachusetts (1913).

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The building in 2015:


The old Methodist meeting house in Wilbraham hasn’t been used as a church for over 180 years, but some of its defining architectural features are still visible, including the long windows on the Main Street side of first floor.  It was built in 1793, as the first home of Wilbraham’s Methodist congregation.  It was used for 40 years, before being sold and renovated into a house.  As built, the church only had one floor, with windows that extended all the way up the side of the building.  When it was converted to a house, the second floor was added, and the windows were split, although the pattern is still noticeable here.

At the time that the church was built, Methodism was still in its infancy in New England.  Several important figures in Methodist history visited this church in the late 1700s and early 1800s, including Francis Asbury, who was one of the first bishops appointed by founder John Wesley, and Jesse Lee, who later became Chaplain of the US House of Representatives from 1809 to 1814, and Chaplain of the US Senate from 1814-1815.  During the first years of this church, the interior was rather spartan; the pews were just wooden benches, and a stove was not installed until 1815, after some 22 cold New England winters without any heat.  Something as novel as an organ would take even longer; the congregation didn’t purchase one until 1850, long after they had moved to a newer church building.

The Methodists built a new church across Mountain Road in 1833, and this was in turn replaced in 1870 by the stone church visible behind and to the left of the church in this photo.  Today, the building is one of the oldest existing church buildings in Western Massachusetts, and according to the 1963 History of Wilbraham book, it is the oldest existing Methodist church in New England.  Today, it is maintained as a museum by the Wilbraham Atheneum Society.

Soldiers’ Monument, Wilbraham Mass

The Soldiers’ Monument in Wilbraham, on Main Street opposite Springfield Street, in an undated photograph probably taken in the early 20th century.  Photo courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The monument in 2015:


As mentioned in this post, the Soldiers’ Monument in Wilbraham was dedicated in 1894, in honor of the 228 men from Wilbraham who served in the Civil War.  According to the inscription on the monument, it is dedicated “To the men of Wilbraham who served their country in the war which preserved the Union and destroyed slavery.  This monument is erected to perpetuate the memory of their patriotic service.”  According to the records in the town clerk’s office, 29 Wilbraham men died in the war.  However, of those 29, only six were killed on the battlefield, a statistic that is not at all unusual for the Civil War, given that around two thirds of all deaths were a result of disease rather than battle.  One particularly notable Wilbraham veteran was Watson W. Bridge, who was the captain of Company F in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, an African-American unit that was depicted in the 1989 film Glory.

The monument was built on the site of the birthplace of Lucinda Brewer, the wife of paper manufacturer Zenas Crane, founder of Crane & Co. in Dalton, Massachusetts.  Their grandson, Winthrop M. Crane, attended the dedication ceremony in 1894.  Several decades earlier, he had secured a contract to produce the paper for US currency, something that the company continues to do today.  He would later go on to serve as Governor from 1900 to 1903, and represented Massachusetts in the US Senate from 1904 to 1913.

In the years since the first photo was taken, the land behind the monument has been developed, as seen in the 2015 view.  To the left is the former Wilbraham Post Office building, and directly behind the monument is the Wilbraham Public Library.  To the right, just outside of the view of the photo, is a commercial development.

Kibbe House, Wilbraham Mass

The Gideon Kibbe House on Main Street in Wilbraham, seen in an undated photo probably taken in the late 19th century.  Photo courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The house in 2015:


This historic farmhouse on Main Street in Wilbraham was originally owned by Gideon Kibbe, a Revolutionary War officer who built the house in 1810 for his son, who was also named Gideon.  The younger Gideon married his first wife, Fidelia Munn, in 1809, so the house was likely a wedding gift for the young couple.  Gideon was a doctor, and practiced medicine in Wilbraham for neary 50 years.  He died in 1859 at the age of 80, but the genealogical record indicates that he experienced plenty of tragedies along the way.  Gideon and Fidelia’s first son was born in 1810, probably in this house, but died just over a month later.  Their other son was born and died in 1814, the same year that Fidelia died, possibly a result of childbirth complications.  In between, they had two daughters, both of whom died before their mid-30s.  Dr. Kibbe outlived all four of his children, and he also outlived his second wife Chloe.  They were married in 1815 and apparently had no children, and she died in 1858, around six months before Dr. Kibbe died.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house had gone through several owners since Dr. Kibbe’s son-in-law William Gilbert inherited it, but it probably looked very much the same then as it did when the young country doctor and his wife first moved in nearly a century earlier.  Today,  the exterior of the house remains nearly unchanged, and it is one of many historic 18th and early 19th century farmhouses along Main Street in Wilbraham.

Old High School, Springfield Mass

The old Springfield High School, on Court Street in Springfield, probably in the 1880s or early 1890s. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:


Springfield’s first public high school was established in 1828, and it was in several different location before this building on Court Street opened in 1848.  It served as the high school until 1874, when a new high school opened on the current location of Classical High School.  The old building was used as a primary school until at least the 1880s.  However, before the end of the century it was demolished and replaced by the Springfield Police Department headquarters, which can be seen in the first photo of this post.  However, the police station wasn’t there for too long, because the site is now occupied by the 1913 campanile tower between Symphony Hall and City Hall.

Looking North From The Empire State Building

The view looking north toward Central Park from the Empire State Building on September 11, 1933. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection.

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The view in 2011:


When the Empire State Building was completed in 1931, it stood far above any of its Midtown neighbors.  However, in the past 80 years the other buildings between the Empire State Building and Central Park have begun creeping upward.  The Empire State Building was still the tallest when the 2011 photo was taken, but the skyscrapers are noticeably taller.  The Rockefeller Center, which blocks out part of the view of Central Park in the 1933 photo, stands out in the first photo, but now the 70-story building seems to blend in with its surroundings.  Today, the Empire State Building is no longer the tallest in the city, or even in Midtown – it has since been displaced by 432 Park Avenue, with two even taller residential skyscrapers on West 57th Street in the works.

Looking South From the Empire State Building

The view looking south from the Empire State Building around 1931.  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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The view in 2011:


For all of the changes that have taken place in New York City over the past 80 years, these two photos really don’t look all that different.  The buildings in lower Manhattan have certainly become taller, but even many of the skyscrapers from the 1931 photo are still there.  In the center foreground, many of the buildings along Fifth Avenue are still there, including the Flatiron Building, which was old even when the first photo was taken.  The Statue of Liberty is still there on the right in the distance, although the far left side has one major change: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Both views give an idea of the massive scale of the Empire State Building; the first was taken around the time the building was completed, and it towered over everything else in Midtown – even the 21-story Flatiron Building looks diminutive when viewed from here.  When the second photo was taken in 2011, the Empire State Building was still the tallest in the city, although it had been surpassed by both World Trade Center towers from 1972 to 2001, and in 2013 it would again be surpassed by the new World Trade Center building, which is visible under construction in this 2011 view.