Loomis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 220 Maple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

Since the 1880s, Springfield has been known as the “City of Homes,” and features hundreds of historic late 19th and early 20th century houses with a variety of architectural styles. Despite this, though, very few of these were designed by nationally-recognized architects. One of the exceptions was this house on Maple Street, which was designed by the Boston firm of Ware & Van Brunt. Their works were primarily Gothic in style, and the two men had previously designed Harvard’s Memorial Hall, which is considered one of the finest examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture in the country.

While Memorial Hall was still under construction in Cambridge, Ware & Van Brunt was hired by Frances Loomis to design a house for her on Maple Street, near the top of the hill that overlooks downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River. The actual construction was done by Chauncey Shepard, an architect and builder who, nearly a half century earlier, had designed and built the nearby David Ames, Jr. House. Shepard built the Loomis house from 1873 to 1874, and he died the following year, at the age of 78.

Frances Loomis was the widow of Calvin Loomis, a cigar manufacturer who had moved from Vermont to Springfield in 1853 and opened a business along with W.H. Wright, who later took over the company. Calvin Loomis died in 1866, and Frances died in 1877, just three years after moving into this house. The house was subsequently owned by Frank L. Wesson, the son of Smith & Wesson co-founder Daniel B. Wesson. He lived here with his wife Sarah and their children, but he was killed in a railroad accident  in Hartford, Vermont on February 5, 1887. He was 34 at the time, and was one of about 37 people who were killed when his train stuck a broken rail and fell off a bridge over the White River.

The house remained in the Wesson family for many years, although it does not appear to have been occupied in either the 1900 or 1910 censuses. By 1920, though, it was the home of Frank’s oldest son Harold, who was living here with his wife Helen along with a servant. The couple’s only child, also named Helen, was born in 1908, but died when she was just three days old. Harold eventually became the president of Smith & Wesson, and was still living here in 1930, although by the 1940 census he and Helen had moved to Longmeadow.

The house appears to have been vacant again in 1940, but was later owned by Joseph Loeffler, who added the two-car garage to the front of the house in 1946. Otherwise, the exterior has seen few changes. Like most of the neighboring homes, it sustained heavy damage from the June 1, 2011 tornado, but it was restored. It is an excellent surviving example of the city’s grand 19th century mansions, and is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Central Street and Madison Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The corner of Central Street and Madison Avenue in Springfield, with the Goodhue House in the distance, around 1905. Image from Springfield, Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in 2017:

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This neighborhood of Springfield, variously referred to as Maple Hill and Ames Hill, was the city’s most fashionable residential area of the city in the 19th century. Here on Central Street, this site was once the home of Henry Sterns, a merchant who built his house here in 1827. By the late 1860s, though, his property was subdivided and two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were built here. The old house was moved to the back of the lot around 1870, and can be seen in the distant right of both photos.

The original location of the house later became the site of a new mansion, which was completed in 1894 for Charles L. Goodhue. He was a contractor and businessman who, among other things, served as president of Chicopee National Bank and the Knox Automobile Company, and he was still living here when the first photo was taken. His house was among the largest ever built in the city, and offered commanding views of downtown Springfield from atop the hill.

By the 1940s, the mansion was owned by Mayor Roger L. Putnam, but in the second half of the 20th century it was owned by several different schools, before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. Despite a 1950s classroom wing on the left side of the house, its exterior is otherwise unaltered from the first photo. Similarly, the other houses on Madison Avenue have also survived, and the entire street is part of the Maple Hill Local Historic District. The Goodhue House, however, is also part of the Ames/Crescent Hill Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles L. Goodhue House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 216 Central Street in Springfield, at the corner of Madison Avenue, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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This site near the top of the hill on Central Street had been the home of merchant Henry Sterns since 1827. Around 1870, his house was moved to the back of the lot, where it still stands on Madison Avenue, and several decades later Charles L. Goodhue purchased the property. A contractor who specialized in building municipal water systems, he had done work across the country, including here in Springfield. He built the city’s reservoir in Ludlow, and also served as the chairman of the Water Commission for many years.

Completed in 1894, this house had few rivals among the Gilded Age mansions in Springfield, and remains one of the largest private residences ever built in the city. Goodhue lived here with his wife Harriet and their daughter Grace, and during this time he expanded his business activities. Along with building water works, he also served as president of the Chicopee National Bank, and as the president of the Knox Automobile Company, an early Springfield-based car manufacturer.

Harriet Goodhue died in 1903, and Charles in 1912. After his death, Grace inherited the property and rented out the house. By the 1920 census, she was renting it to Arthur T. Murray. Just 29 at the time, he was the president of the American Bosch Magneto Corporation, and had previously been the president of the Bethlehem Motor Corporation. He lived here with his wife Anna, their daughter Ruth, and five servants, which included a butler, maid, chambermaid, cook, and a governess for young Ruth.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was owned Roger L. Putnam, who served three terms as Springfield’s mayor, from 1937 to 1943. His political career subsequently included serving in the Truman administration as the director of the Economic Stabilization Administration from 1951 to 1952. In the 1940 census, soon after the first photo was taken, he and his wife Caroline were living here with their six children, along with a lodger and three servants. They remained here until 1956, when he sold the massive home to the Ursuline Order.

The house became Ursuline Academy, and was expanded to include a classroom wing on the west side of the building, which is partially visible on the far left of the photo. It has since changed hands several times, becoming Springfield Christian School in 1980 before being sold to the Holyoke-Chicopee-Springfield Head Start in 1997. The building is still in use by Head Start, and retains much of its historic appearance. Despite the changes in use, it survives as one of the city’s finest 19th century mansions, and it is part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Henry Sterns House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 48 Madison Avenue in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house in 2017:

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Henry Sterns was born in 1794 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but came to Springfield as a young child. He went on to become a prosperous merchant, and in 1826 he married into the prominent Dwight family. His wife, Sophia, was the daughter of the late James Scutt Dwight, who himself had been a wealthy merchant. The following year, the couple moved into this house, which at the time was located closer to Central Street.

The house is built of brick, with a relatively simple Federal-style design that was typical for the time. It was designed by Simon Sanborn, a prolific master builder who constructed a number of buildings in early 19th century Springfield, including the Alexander House. At the time, the Maple Hill section of Springfield was lightly developed, and Sterns’s home was situated on a large lot on the north side of Central Street. Covered in trees, the land became known as Sterns’s Woods, and abutted the land that would later become Springfield Cemetery.

Sterns lived in this house for the rest of his life, during which time he continued to be a successful businessman, and eventually served as treasurer for the Springfield Institution for Savings from 1849 to 1858. He died in 1859, and within the next decade Springfield experienced a rapid population growth. With increasing demand for new houses, the property was subdivided. Two new streets, Sterns Terrace and Madison Avenue, were developed, with one on either side of the house. Around 1870, the house itself was moved to the back of the lot, and became 48 Madison Avenue. The Charles L. Goodhue House, which still stands at 216 Central Street, was later built on the original site of the Sterns House.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was in its new location, and was the home of jeweler William W. White and his wife Ellen. He died in the 1890s, and by the 1900 census Ellen was living here with her daughter and granddaughter. She also rented to boarders, and four were living here at the time. Among them was a newspaper editor, a proofreader, and an inspector at the Armory.

The old house has since seen a number of other owners, but it is still standing, nearly two centuries after Henry and Sophia Sterns moved in. Very little has changed with the exterior, and its plain design stands out in a neighborhood otherwise dominated by far more elaborate homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city has very clearly grown up around the house, but it survives as a reminder of a long-lost time when Springfield’s wealthy residents lived on large, wooded estates on the outskirts of the downtown area. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and it is part of the city’s Maple Hill Local Historic District.

Buckwheat Hall, Springfield, Mass

The house at 224 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1893. Image from Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield (1893).

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The house around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

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James W. Crooks was a lawyer and a prominent Springfield resident of the early 19th century. He was from Blandford, Massachusetts, and had graduated from Yale in 1818. Initially he worked as a teacher, before studying law here in Springfield, under George Bliss, Sr. Aside from his legal work, he also served Springfield in different capacities, including as a member of the school committee, the board of selectmen, and the county commission.

Crooks also owned a significant amount of land in Springfield, and in 1835 he moved into this house on Walnut Street. At the time, Walnut Street marked the eastern extent of Springfield’s development, and beyond here was largely open land, with occasional scattered farms. On the eastern side of Walnut Street, opposite his house, Crooks owned a sizable tract of land, which extended to Eastern Avenue and was later developed as part of the Old Hill neighborhood. In the 1830s, though, it consisted of open fields of buckwheat, providing the name Buckwheat Hall for his house.

In 1849, Crooks married Ann Chapin, who was the daughter of Colonel Harvey Chapin, another prominent Springfield resident. Two years later, the couple left Buckwheat Hall, and by 1870 it was owned by Joseph and Mary Atwood. Joseph was a carpenter, and probably had plenty of work to do in this neighborhood. In the post-Civil War era, Springfield saw a significant housing boom, resulting in widespread development in the previously vacant land to the east of here.

Both Joseph and Mary died in 1889, and the property was subsequently developed. Atwood Place, seen in the foreground of the 2017 photo, was built just south of the house, subdividing the lot into six new houses. Buckwheat Hall remained, but was used as a rental property. In the 1900 census, it was rented by Francis C. Croy, a teacher who lived here with his wife Ella, their two children, and their daughter-in-law. In 1910, it was the home of carpenter Harry L. Putnam, his wife Bertha, and their two children. By 1920, Arthur M. Tales, who worked as a guard at the Armory, lived here with his wife Billie and their four children.

At the start of the 1920s, the large house was still serving as a single-family residence, but it was soon divided into four different units, and the rear section was reconstructed to match the height of the front. Along with this, as seen in the second photo, a one-story storefront was built on the front of the building. By the time this photo was taken, a convenience store was located here, and advertised a variety of soft drinks, including Nehi, Royal Crown, and Springfield’s own Country Club Soda.

More than 180 years after it was built, Buckwheat Hall is still standing. In 1893, it had been one of over 40 houses featured in Sketches of the old inhabitants and other citizens of old Springfield. Most of these homes dated to the late 18th and early 19th century, and only four remain today, including Buckwheat Hall. The storefront, which had long been vacant and neglected, was demolished around 2012-2013, revealing the house’s original appearance. From the outside, it looks to be in rough shape, though, and the front windows are still bricked up from when the storefront had been built. The windows at southeast corner of the building, seen here, are boarded up, but the rest of the units appear to still be occupied, and hopefully the house can eventually be restored to its former grandeur.

Ebenezer Gay Manse, Suffield, Connecticut

The Ebenezer Gay Manse on North Main Street in Suffield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

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The house in 2017:

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Ebenezer Gay was 23 years old when he was ordained as the pastor of the church in Suffield in 1742. The Hingham, Massachusetts native had recently graduated from Harvard, and he arrived in the midst of the Great Awakening, which was already sweeping across New England and had resulted in a number of revivals here in Suffield. That same year, he married Hannah Angier, and the following year they moved into this elegant, gambrel-roofed Georgian home in the center of town.

At the time, it was not uncommon for pastors to be hired directly out of college and remain in the same church for the rest of his life. Ebenezer Gay was no exception, and served here for 54 years, until his death in 1796. Towards the end of his ministry, his son, Ebenezer Gay, Jr., became the assistant pastor, and took over the full duties upon his father’s death. Like his father, the younger Ebenezer lived in this house. He also had a remarkable tenure as the pastor here, serving until his death in 1837, for a total of 95 years between father and son.

When the first photo was taken, the house was already about 200 years old, and its historical significance was well-recognized. It was owned by the Suffield School for Boys, which would become Suffield Academy. At the time, it was vacant, but would eventually be put to use as faculty housing for the school. It is still used for the same purpose, and in the early 2000s it was repaired and restored to its original appearance. Along with the other buildings in the area, it is part of the Suffield Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.