President Taft at Springfield, Mass (2)

Another scene of William Howard Taft at Court Square in Springfield on April 25, 1912. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).

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The scene in 2014:

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These were taken from the same spot as the photos in this post, just facing toward the Connecticut River instead of toward Old First Church.  The 1912 photo shows President Taft arriving in Springfield, with a crowd of onlookers waiting for him.  The photo also shows the extension of Court Square, which once went all the way down to the Connecticut River.  Today, Interstate 91 passes across here, with a parking garage underneath.

President Taft at Springfield, Mass (1)

President William Howard Taft, giving a speech on Court Square in Springfield, on April 25, 1912. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).

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The scene in 2014:

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The 1912 photo was taken on the same day as the photo in this post, which shows a close-up of President Taft speaking on the platform.  Here, the platform can be seen behind Old First Church on the left-hand side, and it shows the massive crowd that had assembled to see him during his 1912 presidential campaign, which would end with him earning the Republican nomination but losing to Woodrow Wilson in the November election.  Today, three of the buildings from the first photo are still there: Old First Church, the Court Square Hotel, and the old Hampden County Courthouse.  There are also some remnants of this part of Court Square, which once stretched from the back of Old First Church to the Connecticut River (which can be seen in this post).  Today, the Hampden County Hall of Justice covers part of the land, and East Columbus Avenue passes diagonally across it.

State Street, Springfield, Mass

State Street in Springfield, around 1910-1913. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).

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State Street in 2014:

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It will be interesting to do another “now” photo in a couple years, because this scene will be changing soon.  Taken looking east on State Street from in front of the Hampden County Hall of Justice, this scene shows several buildings that will be demolished or substantially altered when the casino is built.  The building on the right-hand side of the 2014 photo is the United Electric Company building, which had just been built shortly before the first photo was taken, and will be (mostly) demolished in the near future, with the casino retaining only the facade.  A few other buildings along State Street will also either be demolished or have just he facade saved.

Other buildings in the photos include the Court Square Hotel, which extends across the block from Elm Street to State Street, and the Nayasset Club building, on the far right of the first photo.  The Nayasset Club was a social organization that at the time included many of Springfield’s prominent citizens.  The building is now gone, and in its place is a parking lot across from the old Hampden County Courthouse, which is barely visible on the left-hand side of the 2014 photo.

Parsons Tavern, Springfield, Mass

Parsons Tavern on Court Street in Springfield, sometime in the 1800s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The scene in 2014:

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When Springfield was first settled in 1636, it was at a strategic location along several different transportation routes.  As the years went by, the modes of transportation changed, but Springfield remained an important crossroads.  By the late 1700s, there were three major routes from New York to Boston, the northernmost of which went through Boston.  Although a less direct route than the other two, the Springfield route reportedly offered the best taverns, and in Springfield the best was Parsons Tavern.

The tavern was originally built on what is today the southeastern corner of Court Square, and was operated by Zenas Parsons.  During its time in operation, it hosted at least two presidents, the first of whom was George Washington in October, 1789.  Washington was on his way to Boston, and made a stop in Springfield to inspect the Armory.  He stayed overnight at Parsons Tavern, and wrote in his diary that “A Colo. Worthington, Colo. Williams (Adjutant General of the State of Massachusetts), Genl. Shepherd, Mr. Lyman and many other Gentleman sat an hour or two with me in the evening at Parson’s Tavern where I lodged and which is a good House.”  Years later, in 1817, President James Monroe also visited the tavern, not long before it was moved in order to make way for Court Square.

The tavern survived until at least the 1890s, but it was gone by the early 1900s, but today its former location is a parking lot at the G.A.R. Hall across East Columbus Avenue from Symphony Hall.  Springfield is still a major transportation hub, although as the 2014 photo shows, we’ve come a long way from stagecoach routes and taverns.  Interstate 91 now passes through this scene, and probably has more people travel on it in one day than Parsons Tavern had during its entire existence.

State Armory, Springfield, Mass

The Armory on Howard Street in Springfield, around 1910. Photo from View Book of Springfield (1910).

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The building in 2014:

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The State Armory in Springfield (not to be confused with the much larger, more prominent federal Springfield Armory) was built in 1895 for the Massachusetts Militia, and later the Massachusetts National Guard.  The building included both the castle-like structure facing Howard Street, as well as a massive drill shed that extended the width of the block to Union Street.  After the National Guard left, it became the South End Community Center, but it sustained significant damage from the June 1, 2011 tornado, which completely destroyed the former drill shed.  Like the former YWCA Building, the old Armory is right in the middle of the planned casino development, and the current plan is to demolish all but the facade, which will be incorporated into the casino.

YWCA Building, Springfield, Mass

The YWCA building on Howard Street in Springfield, around 1910. Photo from View Book of Springfield (1910).

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The building in 2014:

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The building’s appearance hasn’t changed much over the past century, but its use has.  It was built in 1907 as a residential building for the YWCA, after the organization moved from its old location a block away on Bliss Street.  It continued to be used by the YWCA until at least the 1980s, but today it is the Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center, a minimum security facility for alcohol-related offenders.  However, it probably won’t be for long – Howard Street is right in the middle of the planned casino development, so the days appear to be numbered for the historic building.