Robert Breck House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 134 Buckingham Street, at the corner of Bay Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house, located at the corner of Buckingham and Bay Streets, was built 1881 for Robert Breck, a dry goods merchant who was originally from New Hampshire. He was about 60 years old at the time, though, and he only lived here for a few years until his death in 1885. His widow was still living here in 1887, but by the following year it was the home of James W. White, a bookkeeper for the Springfield Institute for Savings. However, he did not live here for very long either, nor did James McKeon, who was listed here in the 1895 city directory.

The first long-term owner of this house was Albert W. Lincoln, a real estate broker who was living here by 1898, along with his wife Jeannette, their daughter Florence, and Albert’s elderly mother Mary. He died in 1905, and a decade later Florence inherited the house after Jeannette’s death. At this point she was married and living elsewhere, so although she owned the house she did not live here, and apparently neither did anyone else. The city directories do not list any residents here after 1913, nor does the address appear in the Springfield Republican archives for decades.

The house evidently sat vacant for decades after Jeannette’s death, with the first photo showing boarded up windows on the first floor, shuttered windows on the second, and an apparent broken window on the third floor. Some 15 years later, after Florence’s death in 1953, the house was still vacant, with the Republican referring to the “mystery of the ‘abandoned’ boarded-up house” here.

Florence’s son Albert sold the property in 1953, ending more than 50 years of ownership by the family and, apparently, nearly 40 years of vacancy. However, the situation did not improve much for the house. It was abandoned again around 1976, sat vacant for another five years, before being purchased by the Springfield Preservation Trust. It was completely gutted and badly vandalized at this point, but it was successfully restored by the Preservation Trust. More than 30 years later, it remains in use as a two-family home, and it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

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