Elizabeth Adams House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 28 Ingersoll Grove in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house on Ingersoll Grove in Springfield was built for Dr. Nathan Adams, a physician who died in 1888, shortly before the house was completed. However, his widow Elizabeth moved into the house and lived here for nearly 20 years, until her own death in 1908 at the age of 90. During this time, she was hardly alone in this big house, though. The 1900 census shows her living here with her son Lathom, daughter Ellen, Ellen’s husband John Egbert, and their four children. John was an Episcopalian minister who had, many years earlier, served as a curate at Christ Church in Springfield, where Dr. and Mrs. Adams were prominent members.

John Egbert died in 1905 at the age of 60, with the death certificate indicating “general paresis” as the cause of death. This condition is a psychiatric disorder usually caused by late-stage syphilis, and seems like a rather unusual cause of death for a clergyman. Two of John and Ellen’s children also died relatively young; William died of tuberculosis in 1901 at the age of 18, and Nathan died of an intestinal obstruction in 1913, at the age of 35. Ellen lived here along with her brother Nathan and daughter Ellen, until her death in 1917.

After being owned by the Adams family for over 30 years, the house was finally sold in the early 1920s, to James M. Gill. He was the son of James D. Gill, a prominent publisher and art dealer who later moved into the house across the street from here. The younger James was a businessman who started his career in the paper industry. He then entered the ice business, eventually becoming the president of the Springfield Ice Company. From 1913 to 1916 he served as the city’s police commissioner, and this experience gave him insight into yet another business opportunity. Recognizing the need for better handcuffs, he started the Peerless Handcuff Company in 1914 and served as the company president for many years. The company quickly became a leader in the industry, and is still in business over a century later.

James M. Gill lived in this house with his wife Josephine and their three children, Barbara, Clyde, and Marjorie. The two older children moved out in the 1930s, but Marjorie was still living here along with her parents when the first photo was taken. After James’s death in 1949, though, the house was sold. Like many other large homes in the neighborhood, it was divided up into multiple units in the early 1950s, and it later became a group home for deinstitutionalized patients from the Belchertown State School. However, it was subsequently restored as a single-family home, and today it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

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