Nelson C. Newell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 57 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2017:


Nelson C. Newell was a button manufacturer who entered the business in 1849 with his father-in-law Diamond Chandler, who had a factory in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Soon after, his older brother Samuel joined the firm, and the two took over the company upon Chandler’s retirement in 1855. By the 1860s, they had moved their factory to Springfield, and were operating as the Newell Brothers’ Manufacturing Company. They made buttons from a variety of materials, including cloth, rubber, and vegetable ivory. Nelson served as president and oversaw production, while Samuel was the treasurer and worked primarily with the company’s finances.

Around 1873, the brothers moved into matching, newly-built Second Empire-style homes in adjoining lots here on Bowdoin Street. Samuel’s house at 69 Bowdoin Street is partially visible to the left in the first photo, and the two houses shared a driveway as well as a carriage house, which straddled the property line on the far right of both photos. Samuel died only a few years later, but Nelson would go on to live here for many years. He was a widower when he moved in, having lost his first wife Mary to typhoid fever in 1856 and his second wife, also named Mary, in 1871. In 1880, though, he married his third wife, Helen Grant.

Nelson and Helen remained at this house for the rest of their lives. At the time of their marriage, they lived here with two of Nelson’s adult sons from his first marriage, Howard and Charles. A third son, William, moved into a nearby house at 103 Bowdoin Street by the early 1880s. By 1900, Nelson and Helen were living here alone except for two servants. Although he was 14 years older than her, Nelson ended up outliving Helen, although only by a few months; she died in May 1915, and he died he following November at the age of 91.

By the 1920 census, William Newell had sold his home and was living here along with his wife Martha and two children, plus a boarder. A decade later, it was being rented by a middle-aged couple for $100 per month. By 1940, only a year or two after the first photo was taken, it was a lodging house, and the census indicates 13 such residents, predominantly young men in their late teens and early 20s. Many other large homes in the neighborhood had been put to similar use around this time, but for this house the decline continued even further in the following decades.

In the late 1960s, this former mansion of a Gilded Age industrialist became a halfway house for juvenile offenders, and was known as the Dexter House. It sustained considerable damage during this time, including a fire, and was subsequently abandoned. It finally collapsed in 1988, and the lot remains vacant ever since. The matching house at 69 Bowdoin Street is also gone, after having been destroyed in a fire in 2010. Today, the only remnant of these two houses is the carriage house, which in partially visible on the far right of the second photo, still straddling the property line nearly 150 years after the Newell brothers moved here.

James C. Ingersoll House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 79 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

The Ingersoll family has a long history here in the McKnight neighborhood, which predates the large-scale development of the area by many decades. In the mid-1840s, Major Edward Ingersoll purchased property on the north side of Worthington Street as his estate. He landscaped the property, which became known as Ingersoll’s Grove, and owned it for about 20 years. During this time, Major Ingersoll was the paymaster and storekeeper of the U.S. Armory, a position he held from 1841 to 1882. Near the end of his life, long after he had sold his estate on Worthington Street, the property was purchased and developed by William and John McKnight, and the street Ingersoll Grove was named in his honor.

Major Ingersoll and his wife Harriet had six children, including James C. Ingersoll, who moved into this house when it was built around 1874. It was only a short walk from his father’s old estate, although at this point the neighborhood was changing rapidly from what it would have looked like during his childhood at Ingersoll’s Grove. James Ingersoll’s house was part of the first wave of large-scale development in the neighborhood, and as a result its architecture is significantly different from most of the later homes. Unlike the highly ornamented Queen Anne homes that would follow, Ingersoll’s house had simpler Italianate architecture, and was built near the end of this style’s popularity.

James and Ellen Ingersoll moved into this house soon after their marriage in 1873, and they raised three children here, Robert, Elizabeth, and Raymond. They lived here for many years, and during this time James worked as a bookkeeper. Robert married Florence Bradley, the daughter of toy manufacturer Milton Bradley, and the couple later moved into the neighboring house at 69 Bowdoin Street. Raymond never married, and lived with his parents for the rest of their lives. According to the census records, he worked as a lithographer for a toy company, presumably Milton Bradley. Ellen died in 1925, and James in 1937, more than 60 years after he moved in.

When the first photo was taken, Raymond was still living here, and the 1940 census indicates that he also rented space in the house to two lodgers. He lived in this house for his entire life, until his death in 1960 at the age of 79. At some point in the mid-20th century, the house was covered in asbestos siding, but it otherwise retained most of its Italianate design, including the bracketed cornice. It was restored in the 1980s, though, and today it looks essentially the same as it did when the Ingersoll family lived here. Along with the other houses in the area, it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Charles D. Rood House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 93 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1883, around the same time as the neighboring house at 103 Bowdoin Street, and has a very similar Queen Anne-style design. It was the longtime home of businessman Charles D. Rood and his wife Caroline, who were living here by the late 1880s if not earlier. Charles Rood was born in Ludlow in 1840, and got his start in business as a teenager, working as a clerk at the Indian Orchard Mills. He subsequently worked for a New York City jewelry company, eventually becoming a partner in the firm. This, in turn, led to Rood entering the watchmaking industry, and in 1877 he was one of the founders of the Hampden Watch Company. He later purchased the Aurora Watch Company in Illinois and the Lancaster Watch Company in Pennsylvania, and consolidated them into the Hamilton Watch Company.

In the midst of his watch business, Rood made a brief foray into the burgeoning bicycle industry in the 1890s, becoming the president and treasurer of the Keating Wheel Company. This Holyoke-based company was run by inventor and onetime major league baseball player Robert Keating, whose inventions included baseball’s first rubber home plate. His bicycle company had been floundering, until Rood bailed it out with a sizable investment in 1894. It proved to be a poor decision for Rood, though,with the company later suffering yet another financial crisis.

After losing money in the bicycle industry, Rood returned to the Hamilton Watch Company, and also invested in commercial real estate, building up a significant fortune in the process. However, he made another financial blunder in 1911, when he sold his interest in the company and entered the communications business. He invested in the American Telegraphone Company, becoming its president and general manager. The telegraphone, which was patented in 1898, was an audio recording device that used magnetic wire to record sound, and was intended to compete with the older phonograph, which used etched grooves to play back sound. In the long run, magnetic data storage would prove successful, such as in modern computer hard drives, but in the short run the company failed, and Rood faced serious accusations from disgruntled shareholders over his management of the company. Ultimately, Rood returned to watchmaking and real estate, and in 1924, at the age of 83, he again became president of the Hampden Watch Company.

Throughout these many ups and downs in his career, Rood remained here at his home on Bowdoin Street, where he and Caroline raised their three children, Madeline, Gladys, and Charles Dexter. Caroline died in 1930, and things only got worse after that. The Great Depression was hurting the value of his real estate holdings, and at the same time his son took him to court, trying to have him declared senile in order to take control of his business. The judge denied the request, though, and the elder Rood retaliated by contesting Caroline’s will, which had left most of her estate to the children. However, the original will was upheld, with Rood receiving only a fraction of his wife’s estate.

Charles D. Rood’s business career spanned from the beginning of the Gilded Age to the depths of the Great Depression, and he lived in this house for most of that time. Around a half century after he first moved in, died here at his home in 1934, at the age of 93, only a few years before the first photo was taken. The house remained in the family afterwards, and during the 1940 census his daughter Madeline was still living here. However, it was subsequently sold, and the house that had once been the mansion of a Gilded Age capitalist was covered in cheap asphalt siding and converted into a rooming house. It was heavily damaged by a fire in the early 1980s, and was nearly demolished. However, it was restored instead, and today it is virtually indistinguishable from its appearance when the Rood family lived here some 80 years earlier. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

William C. Newell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 103 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

In a neighborhood with hundreds of excellent Queen Anne-style homes, this house on Bowdoin Street is probably one of the finest. It was built in the early 1880s as the home of William C. Newell, the son of button manufacturer Nelson C. Newell. Nelson and his brother Samuel had co-founded the Newell Brothers’ Manufacturing Company, where they made buttons from their Howard Street facility. Around 1873 the brothers built adjacent, nearly identical homes just a few lots south of here on Bowdoin Street, and about a decade later William built this house.

William and his wife Martha were married around 1879, and within a few years they were living in this elegant home. He became the secretary of his father’s company, which was eventually acquired by United Button Company in 1902. In the meantime, he and Martha lived here for many years, and they raised their five children here. They moved out of the house in the early 1910s, but they remained in the McKnight neighborhood until William’s death in 1936 and Martha’s in 1943.

The house was purchased by Dr. Susan P. Seymour, shortly after the death of her husband, Stephen E. Seymour. The couple had been married since 1884, with Stephen working as a lawyer while also serving as a city councilor and state representative. However, Susan also enjoyed a career of her own, becoming a physician shortly before their marriage, and practicing medicine for many years. They did not have any children, and Dr. Seymour lived in this house with her longtime servant, Elizabeth Burt, for nearly 20 years, until her death in 1930.

By the mid-20th century, many of the massive Victorian-era mansions of the McKnight neighborhood had been converted into group homes, nursing homes, or similar uses. In the case of this house, it became a nursing home, the Hilltop Rest Home. However, the property was eventually taken by the city in the early 2000s for nonpayment of taxes, and was subsequently sold to a private owners, who restored it to its original appearance. It is now a single-family home again, and is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Samuel Palmer House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 111 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The scene in 2017:

The large-scale development of Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood began in the early 1870s, and among the first of these houses was this one at the southeast corner of Bowdoin and Worthington Streets. While the bulk of the homes in the neighborhood reflect Queen Anne-style architecture from the 1880s and 1890s, this home was built during the heyday of the Second Empire architecture of the early 1870s. The house was built sometime after 1870 but before 1874, when it was listed in the city directory as the home of Samuel Palmer. According to the same directory, he was a merchant and wholesale dealer “in Flour, Salt, Butter, Cheese and Produce generally.”

Samuel Palmer lived here with his wife, whose name is variously recorded as Azuba, Agabah, Acuba, Azubeth, Arbua, Azabah, and Ayaba. Her gravestone offers yet another spelling, Azubah, which appears to have been the correct version of her name. Orthographic discrepancies aside, the couple lived here with their children, Ellen, Samuel, Henrietta, and Mary, and the 1880 census also shows two servants living here. The next surviving census records, in 1900, indicate that the family had moved to Enfield, Massachusetts, where 76-year-old Samuel was listed as a farmer. He died 11 years later, and Azubah lived well into her 90s, until her death in 1919.

While the Palmers were living in Enfield, their former house in Springfield was the home of John H. Carpenter, a clothing merchant. In the 1900 census, he was living here with his wife Juliet and her parents, Charles and Juliet Cleveland. John died in the 1920s, and sometime in the 1930s Juliet downsized and moved into an apartment just a block away from here. In the meantime, the house was acquired by the American Youth Council, an organization that trained unemployed young people. In the 1940 census, it was the home of the council’s director, Frank W. Barber, as well as a social worker, John Haraty.

Most of the 19th century homes in the McKnight neighborhood are still standing, and form the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. However, this house has not survived. It was still here by the 1950s, when it was in use as the Musical Art Center, but it appears to have been demolished by 1976, because it does not appear in the inventory form for the historic district. The lot has remained vacant ever since, and it is now part of the property of the neighboring home at 103 Bowdoin Street.

William Quinnell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 131 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1886, at the height of the popularity of Queen Anne-style architecture, and the exterior shows a variety of common elements, including a polygonal turret on the corner. It was originally the home of William Quinnell, a merchant who sold “artistic household goods,” including stained glass, brass fixtures, china, pottery, chandeliers, and a variety of other household novelties. He had previously traveled across Europe as a buyer for Tiffany & Co., but in 1884 he opened his store on Main Street in Springfield. It was good timing, because he arrived just as the McKnight neighborhood was being developed, and his merchandise presumably made its way into his home and many other upscale houses that were built here in the following years.

Quinnell died in 1902, and by the 1910 census this house was home to two different families. It was owned by Almon Chapman, a contractor who lived here with his wife Lucy, but they also rented part of the house to Sarah Clark and two of her adult sons, Edwin and George. Both families would remain here for several more decades. Almon died in 1925, but by the 1930 census Lucy was still living in the house. During that year, it was valued at $10,000, and Sarah and Edwin paid $25 in monthly rent. Lucy died in three years later, and by 1940 the Clarks were no longer living here. The house remained a two-family home, though, and today it is essentially unchanged from its original exterior appearance. Like the other houses in the neighborhood, it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.