The house at 50 Spruceland Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.
The house in 2017:
This Colonial Revival-style home was built in 1895 for Arthur Parks Smith, a Springfield native and engineer who, in 1890, had graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He married his wife Jennie around the same time that this house was built, and also during the 1890s he established the Springfield Cornice Works, which manufactured steel products. However, at the turn of the 20th century he joined with his younger brother Hinsdale and put his metallurgical skills to use in making steel and aluminum automobile bodies. Taking advantage of the skyrocketing demand for cars, the brothers established the Springfield Metal Body Company, with Arthur serving as treasurer and secretary.
Arthur died in 1927, a few years before the company closed in the midst of the Great Depression. However, he and his family had moved out of this house sometime before 1910, because during that year’s census it was the home of Frank and Grace Merrick, along with their two daughters, Frank’s aunt, and a servant. Frank was a clergyman who, prior to coming to Springfield, had served as a pastor in Utica, New York, and in the Boston neighborhoods of Neponset and West Roxbury. In 1908, he became the pastor of the Faith Congregational Church, located a block away from here at the corner of Sumner and Fort Pleasant Avenues. It was during his pastorate that the current stone Gothic-style church was built, and he served until 1914, when he accepted a position at a church in Danvers.
Following Merrick’s departure, this house was purchased by Frank and Edith Storms, who, during the 1920 census, were living here with their daughter Mildred, her husband Ralph Whittle, and their infant son, Ralph Jr. Like the first owner of this house, Frank Storms was an industrialist who was involved in metalworking. He was the president of the Page-Storms Drop Forge Company, which he and Edward C. Page established in 1902. With plants in Chicopee and the Brightwood neighborhood of Springfield, the company specialized in wrenches, but also manufactured a variety of products ranging from crank handles to golf club heads.
By the 1930 census, Ralph and Mildred had moved out of this house, but Frank and Edith were still living here, along with a servant. They finally sold the house in the late 1930s, around the same time that the first photo was taken, and by 1940 it was owned by Myron and Gladys Ryder. Myron was a dance master who, for many years, operated Ryder’s School of Dancing here in this house. At some point during this time, the exterior of the house was altered. A one-story addition was built in the back of the house, and the clapboards were replaced with asbestos siding. In the process, much of the original Colonial Revival-style detail was lost, including the pilasters in the corners and the balustrades above the bay windows and the porch. However, it has otherwise been well-maintained, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.