The house at 1154 Worthington Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.
The house in 2016:
The McKnight neighborhood was developed in the late 19th century, with hundreds of elegant homes that attracted some of the city’s wealthiest residents. This particular house was built in 1889 at the corner of Worthington and Clarendon Streets, opposite Thompson Triangle. Its design reflects the Queen Anne architecture of the day, and includes asymmetrical facades, an ornate chimney, and a variety of exterior materials.
Its original owner was Eleanor S. Woods, a wealthy widow whose father, Charles Merriam, had been the co-founder of the present-day Merriam-Webster company. Although a Springfield native, Woods had lived in California before moving into this house. Her husband, Colonel Samuel Woods, had been a West Point graduate and career military officer, serving in the Mexican-American War as well as the Civil War. After his retirement in 1881, the couple lived in Oakland, California until his death in 1887.
Eleanor Woods was about 50 when the house was completed. She and Samuel had no children together, but in the 1900 census she was living here with her 38 year old nephew Charles Kirkham and her 84 year old aunt Elizabeth Warriner, along with two servants. Both Charles and Elizabeth died in 1901, and Eleanor died in 1906 at the age of 66.
After her death, the house was owned by the Episcopalian diocese, and was used as the residence for the bishop. The diocese’s first bishop, Alexander Hamilton Vinton, lived here until his death in 1911. During this time, he added a chapel to the house. His successor, Thomas F. Davies, also lived here, remaining here for 20 years until the diocese sold the house in 1931.
The house subsequently underwent significant alterations, and was at one point even used as a doctor’s office. However, it has since been restored to its original splendor as a single-family home. Like the hundreds of other Victorian-era homes in the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight District on the National Register of Historic Places.