Post Office, Monson, Mass

The post office at the corner of Main and State Streets in Monson, around 1893. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The scene in 2015:

The building in the first photo was built in 1855 for the recently-established Monson National Bank.  In 1872, Monson Savings Bank was also created, and the two companies shared the same counter, tellers, and vault within this small building until 1893, when a larger one was completed just a short walk down Main Street from here.  That same year, the nearby Central Block, which housed the post office, was destroyed in a fire, so the post office was moved to the recently-vacated bank building.  It later moved back to the Central Block location when a new building was completed on the site.

I don’t know exactly when it was demolished, but it would have been sometime before 1925, when the original Monson High School was built here.  The school building was converted into the town offices in the early 1990s, but it sustained heavy damage in the une 1, 2011 tornado, and it was demolished in 2013.  A new town office building, seen to the right in the 015 photo, was completed earlier in the year.

Methodist Church, Monson, Mass (2)

Another view of the Methodist Church on Main Street in Monson, around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The church in 2015:

As explained in the previous post, this church at the corner of Main and Cushman Streets was built in 1850, and it is the oldest of Monson’s four church buildings.  The only major change in the church’s appearance between the two photos is the steeple.  The top of the steeple above the belfry was removed in 1952 because of damage caused by the 1938 hurricane, and it was replaced in 2010.  Aside from that, though, the rest of the historic church is essentially unchanged, and it is an excellent example of mid 19th century New England church architecture.

Methodist Church, Monson, Mass (1)

The Methodist Church on Main Street in Monson, probably taken around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The church in 2015:

The Methodist church in Monson was first established in the 1820s, and in 1827 its first permanent church building was built about a mile south of here, at the corner of Main and Maple Streets.  However, the congregation outgrew that building, and in 1850 they moved to this much larger, more centrally-located church in downtown Monson.  As seen in the two photos, it is still standing today, and it is the oldest active church building in town.

Architecturally, the church strongly resembles the traditional New England churches of the early 1800s, but there are also some elements of Gothic Revival architecture, such as the arched windows and the quatrefoil window on the tower.  Since its completion, there have not been many major changes to its appearance.  Aside from an expansion around 1860, the only major change has been the steeple.  The 1938 hurricane weakened its supports, so in 1952 the spire was removed, and was not replaced until 2010.  Just a year later, a tornado caused severe damage to downtown Monson, and destroyed the steeples of two nearby churches, but this church survived largely unscathed.

Monson Savings Bank, Monson, Mass

Monson Savings Bank on Main Street, around 1893-1910. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The building in 2015:

Monson’s first bank was Monson National Bank, which opened in 1854. It was a commercial bank, so it primarily served the business community in town, rather than on individual checking and savings accounts. So, in 1872, Monson Savings Bank was established, which enabled middle class workers in town to open savings accounts.  The two banks were officially separate, but they shared the same building, and the same vault, counter, tellers.

This arrangement continued until 1893, when this building was completed.  Although still located in the same building, they were separated, with Monson National on the left and Monson Savings on the right.  Monson National merged with the Springfield Safe Deposit and Trust Company, which in turn merged with Shawmut Bank.  Shawmut continued to operate a branch in this building until the 1960s, when Monson Savings Bank acquired the entire building.

Over 120 years after this building was completed, Monson Savings Bank is still here, although the building itself has undergone dramatic changes.  The two upper floors were removed at some point, and in the 1960s the front facade was completely rebuilt.  Another renovation in 1985 added office space in the back and a drive-up teller window to the left, so today the only surviving parts of the original exterior are the walls on the left and right.

Nora’s Variety Store, Springfield, Mass

A mixed-use commercial and residential building on Boston Road in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood, on October 12, 1938. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

This building is probably best known as the longtime home of Nora’s Variety Store, but on a more personal note it is also where my grandmother was born. It was built sometime between 1899 and 1910, when the Pine Point neighborhood was first being developed, and it was apparently a two-family home. My great grandparents, Frank and Julia Lyman, moved here around 1915, and they lived here for about two years.

Frank was originally from Wilbraham, and he attended Wesleyan Academy before becoming a machinist. He worked for Pratt and Whitney in Hartford, and later for the Otis Elevator Company in Springfield, and he also spent some time in New York City, where he met his wife Julia Brown. She was the daughter of Irish immigrants, and prior to her marriage she worked in the biographical department for the New York World newspaper. By the time they moved to Springfield they had two young children, Elizabeth and Edith, and their third child, my grandmother Evelyn, was born here in 1917. Soon after, the family moved nearby to a house at 37 Coleman Street, where they lived for many years.

During the 1920s the house had a number of different tenants, who rarely seem to have lived here for longer than a year or two. Then, as this section of Boston Road became increasingly commercial, the house was altered with the addition of two storefronts, as shown in the first photo (an earlier photo on a different blog post, taken from a different angle, shows a the front of the house prior to this addition). This photo was taken in 1938, and by this point the storefronts were occupied by the Boston Road Variety Store—which later became Nora’s Variety Store—on the left, and a shoe store on the right.

Today, nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, much has changed on Boston Road. Many of the late 19th and early 20th century homes have been demolished over the years, including the one on the far right side of this scene, where a car dealership is now located. Nora’s Variety Store was located here in this building for many years, but it ultimately closed in the early 2000s, and the storefront is now vacant. The building itself has also changed, including the addition of artificial siding, which probably occurred sometime during the mid-20th century. However, the building is still easily recognizable from the first photo, and it stands as a reminder of the days when Boston Road was still predominantly a residential street.

153-157 Boston Road, Springfield, Mass

A commercial block on Boston Road in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood was developed in the early 1900s, and consisted primarily of middle class, single-family homes.  This section of Boston Road was the commercial center of the neighborhood, and the first photo shows a variety of businesses here, including two grocery stores, a dry goods store, and a dry cleaners.  Just out of view to the left was the first Friendly’s restaurant, which opened a few years before the photo was taken.  These buildings were probably built around the 1920s or 1930s, and although the stores have changed, the buildings themselves are still standing.