Red Men’s Wigwam, Springfield, Mass

The Improved Order of Red Men building at the corner of Main and Stockbridge Streets in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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The scene in 2015:

The caption from Picturesque Hampden does not provide any additional details beyond “Red Men’s Wigwam,” but this was evidently a lodge for the Improved Order of Red Men, a nationwide fraternal organization that was particularly popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The group had a structure and rituals similar to Freemasons and other similar societies, but used a number of pseudo-Native American rituals and terminology, including calling their local chapters “tribes,” which met in “wigwams” such as this one here in Springfield. However, at the time, the Improved Order of Red Men was only open to white men, an irony that was probably lost on most of its membership.

The organization still exists today, although in much smaller numbers than a century ago, but the building that once stood here is long gone. It was demolished by about 1902, when the present-day Colonial Block was built here. In 1905, the building was expanded to the right, where the old colonial-era George Bliss, Sr. house once stood. When the first photo was taken, the house was owned by McGregory & Casman Marble Works, which explains the many gravestones in front of it.

Willow Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Willow Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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Willow Street in 2015:

When the first photo was taken, the building on the right was the headquarters of the Milton Bradley Company, which had been founded in Springfield in 1860 as a lithograph company. Its owner, Milton Bradley, soon switched to board games, beginning with The Checkered Game of Life in 1860. By around 1880-1881, the company built this factory on Willow Street, as seen on the right side of the photo. This is the oldest part of the facility, which was soon expanded as demand increased. By the early 1900s, the company owned the entire block between Park, Willow, and Cross Streets, with its buildings almost completely surrounding a central courtyard.

Aside from Milton Bradley, this section of downtown Springfield was once home to several other factories. On the other side of Cross Street from the Milton Bradley factory was Smith & Wesson, whose factory also occupied an entire block. None of the buildings are visible in the first photo, but the brick and concrete building just beyond the Milton Bradley building was built by Smith & Wesson in the early 1900s.

Today, all of the houses on the left side of the photo are gone, and the lots are now used for parking. Smith & Wesson moved its factory to a different location in Springfield in the mid-1900s, and around the same time Milton Bradley moved to nearby East Longmeadow. Most of the Smith & Wesson buildings are gone now, except for the one in the distance of the 2015 scene. The Milton Bradley buildings are still standing, though, and along with the Smith & Wesson building they have since been converted into apartments.

Elliot Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking down Elliot Street from Edwards Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The view in 2015:

Most of the views of Springfield featured in Picturesque Hampden almost 125 years ago are now drastically changed, but thankfully very little is different about this view of Elliot Street. Aside from the one on the far left, all of the other buildings in this scene are still standing. The most prominent is the North Congregational Church, which was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1873. It was one of his earlier works, and is one of two of his buildings, along with the Hampden County Courthouse, that is still standing in Springfield. To the left is the William Mattoon House, which was built around 1870 and is the oldest building in the scene. It was owned by William Mattoon, who also owned the land behind it that was later developed as Mattoon Street. To the right in both photos is the duplex at 95-99 Elliot Street, which was built in 1887, only a few years before the first photo was taken. Today, all of these buildings have been restored and are part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Olivet Church, Springfield, Mass

The Olivet Congregational Church on State Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2015:

For the first two centuries of Springfield’s history, most of the development was confined to the downtown area along Main Street, and it was not until the first half of the 19th century that other parts of the town began to see significant growth. Here on the “Hill” section of town, expansion of the Armory had spurred development along this part of State Street, and by the 1830s there was sufficient demand for a church.

The Fourth Congregational Church was established in 1833, and a year later they built this church here on State Street, directly opposite the Armory.  The building was extensively remodeled in 1854-1855, giving it the appearance as shown in the first photo, and it was renamed Olivet Congregational Church. By 1884, King’s Handbook of Springfield records that the church membership was up to 340, with plans to further expand the building. I don’t know whether the additions were ever carried out, but the church remained here for about 30 more years, until it was demolished to build Commerce High School around 1915.

Today, the 101 year old Commerce High School building is still used as a school.  The only building still standing from the first photo is the three story brick one on the left. It is visible just beyond the church in the first photo, with a three-story porch on the side.

First Baptist Church, Springfield, Mass

First Baptist Church at the corner of State and Spring Streets in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

For several centuries, Congregationalism was the dominant religion in Massachusetts, including here in Springfield. It was the official state religion until 1780, and well into the 19th century the Congregational church was still publicly funded (this did not violate the First Amendment, which at the time only restricted Congress from establishing a religion, not the individual states). Minority churches such as Methodists and Baptists were permitted, but were generally small, as was the case in Springfield.

The First Baptist Church was officially organized in 1811 with 19 members, and for the first ten years of its existence the congregation met in homes or schoolhouses. Their first permanent meeting house was built on Central Street in 1821, and later in the decade they moved to a larger building at the corner of Maple and Mulberry Streets. At the time, these locations were on the outskirts of the town, which reflected their still somewhat marginalized status in a town still dominated by Congregationalism. This changed in 1847, though, when the growing church opened a new building right in the middle of downtown, at the corner of Main Street and Harrison Avenue. This building, which was in use until around 1888, can be seen in the distance of the photo in this earlier post.

By the late 1880s, Springfield had nearly quadrupled in size from its population when the old Baptist church was built, and Main Street had by then become primarily commercial. However, State Street was becoming the city’s cultural center, with a number of churches including Christ Church Cathedral, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Church of the Unity, and the State Street Methodist Episcopal Church. All of these churches were located within a quarter mile of each other, and around 1888 the First Baptist Church joined them by relocating to a new building at the corner of State and Spring Streets, as seen in the first photo. Built in the Romanesque style that was popular at the time, its architecture featured gratuitous use of arches and turrets, and later photos of the building show ivy covering the walls, giving the building an almost medieval appearance. Part of the church can be seen in the photo in this post, which was taken about 20 years later from the opposite direction.

Despite the grand architecture of their new building, First Baptist Church  remained here for only about 20 years. Around 1907 they merged with Highland Baptist Church, and this building was sold to St. Paul’s Universalist Church. It was still standing in the late 1930s, but at some point after that it was demolished and replaced by a two-story parking garage that stands on the site now. Interestingly, though, a part of one of the walls appears to have been incorporated into the parking garage; from Spring Street, a part of the rear wall (the side opposite State Street) is made of stone that matches the church’s rough-hewn stone exterior.

50-52 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The twin houses at 50-52 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The houses in 2015:

These two houses are among the earlier ones built on Mattoon Street, and their architecture is among the finest on the street. The one on the right, number 52, was built first, around 1872, for furniture dealer Julius A. Eldredge and his wife Catherine. A year later, the matching house on the left was completed, giving the front of the building its symmetrical design. By the 1900 census, the house on the left was owned by Thomas and Margaret Keating, two Irish immigrants who lived here with their three children. The one on the right was rented by Horace and Martha Eddy, their son Arthur, his wife Florence, and their infant son Lawrence.

By the 1940 census, just after the first photo was taken, the situation here was very different. I could not find any available data on the house on the left, but the one on the right was, like many other on the street at the time, used as a rooming house. It was rented for $65 a month by Alice LeBlanc, a French-Canadian immigrant who sublet the house to 11 lodgers, as the census described them. The census also lists their occupations, which included a baker, machinist, waitress, janitor, and a department store clerk. Their salaries are also listed, which reflected an economy that was still recovering from the Great Depression; they ranged from the waitress’s $440 annual income to the baker’s comparatively princely $1540 earnings (in 2016 dollars these equate to about $7,500 and $26,000, respectively).

When the Massachusetts Historical Commission filed reports on the historic Mattoon Street houses in the early 1970s, most were in a state of disrepair, except for the house on the right here. In their report on it, they remarked that “It is the only existing structure on the street to be rehabilitated and stands as an example of excellence for other owners to strive for.” Thankfully, in the years since, the other owners have followed suit, and today the entire street has been restored to its former elegance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.