Simeon E. Walton House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 80 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house is known locally as the “Peter Proud House” for its role in the 1975 film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, but the house was already nearly a century old when it made its brief Hollywood appearance. It was built in 1888, and was originally the home of Simeon E. Walton, a carpenter and builder who, according to an 1892 advertisement in the city directory, specialized in hardwood mosaic floors. This likely explains the interior of the house, which is still covered in fine hardwood floors, as well as wood paneling on the walls. He and his wife Ella had previously lived in a different house in the McKnight neighborhood, at 77 Clarendon Street, but they moved here after this house was completed and lived here until around 1910, when they moved to Agawam.

During the 1910 census, the house was owned by William Patton, a real estate developer whose properties included the Patton Building, which still stands at 15-19 Hampden Street. He was 52 years old and unmarried, and he rented part of this large house to Frederick and Mary Simmons, who were in their late 60s at the time. They lived here with their son, Frederick Jr., but both Frederick and Mary died of pneumonia in January 1914, less than a week apart. Their son continued to live here for a few more years, but he died in 1918 at the age of 50.

After Frederick’s death, his sister Emma and her husband, George B. Church, moved into this house, along with their two teenaged daughters, Dorothea and Mary. William Patton continued to live here during this time, and George worked as a secretary for his real estate company. However, William died in 1925, and George and Emma subsequently moved to their own house on Morningside Park, in the Forest Park neighborhood.

This house stood vacant throughout the late 1920s, and was not occupied again until the early 1930s, when it was the home of Philip Decoteau, a French-Canadian immigrant who owned a shoe repair business on Oak Street in Indian Orchard. He and his wife Emily were in their 60s at the time, and they lived here with their sizable family, which included at least six of their adult children, plus a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. They were still living here into the late 1930s, but by 1939 the house was vacant and for sale, as indicated by the sign in the front yard of the first photo.

The house’s moment of fame came in 1975, when it was featured in the supernatural film The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. The movie was an adaptation of the 1973 novel of the same name, which was written by Springfield native Max Ehrlich, and much it was filmed here in Springfield. In the movie, the title character (played by Michael Sarrazin) is a college professor in California who suffers from recurring nightmares that, as it turns out, are flashbacks from a previous life. Seeking answers, he travels to Springfield, where he discovers many of the landmarks from his dreams, including this house, which had been his home in his previous life.

Today, the house still stands on Cornell Street, and still retains much of its Victorian-era elegance, although it has undergone some significant changes over the years. Even before the first photo was taken, the original clapboard exterior was replaced with stucco, and during the 1940s the interior was divided into several different apartments. The original tin roof, visible in the first photo, is also gone, except for the top of the spire. However, it remains a prominent house in a neighborhood that is filled with fine Victorian homes, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

John McFethries House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 52 Cornell Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This elegant home was built in 1888 for John McFethries, a Scottish-born mechanical engineer who was in his late 50s at the time. He had come to America as a young man, where he married his first wife, Juliette McLean, in 1864 in Ludlow, Massachusetts. However, they subsequently moved to Russia, where John worked for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railroad. Juliette died there in 1886, and three years later, while still in Russia, John remarried to Emily Pudan, who was originally from England.

By the early 1880s, John had moved back to the Springfield area along with Emily, and he became a prominent resident in the city. For several years they lived in a house nearby at 69 Clarendon Street, but around 1888 they moved into this house on Cornell Street, along the northwestern edge of the McKnight neighborhood. John was involved in several different local businesses, including serving as treasurer of the Waltham Watch Tool Company. He was also involved with the Highland Extension Company, which developed much of the land in the Upper Hill neighborhood of Springfield, and from 1890 to 1891 he served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Emily died in 1900, and that year’s census shows John living here with his daughter Olga, her husband John E. Cowan, their infant daughter Martha, and Emily’s brother Frank. The Cowans subsequently moved to California, and John McFethries lived here in this house until his death in 1907 at the age of 76. His heirs owned the house for a few more years, and rented it to several different tenants, including Frank W. Watkins, who lived here from about 1910 to 1912. He lived here with his wife Mary and their daughter Lila, and he worked as a designer for the Taber-Prang Art Company, a Springfield-based firm that was a leading producer of fine art prints in the early 20th century.

Around 1913, the house was sold to Augustus C. Lamb, who lived here with his wife Effie and their three sons. He was a salesman for the American Writing Paper Company in Holyoke, and in 1917 he was promoted to sales manager. However, he resigned two years later to become factory manager of the Russ Gelatin Company, although he only stayed there for a few years before returning to American Writing Paper in 1922. Around the same time, he and his family also moved out of this house, and into an apartment in Forest Park at 143 Belmont Avenue.

This house then became the home of George S. Lewis, a firearms manufacturer who had previously worked for J. Stevens Arms of Chicopee. By the time he and his wife Fannie moved into this house around 1922, George had left Stevens and was in business for himself, starting the Page-Lewis Arms Company. He was vice president, general manager, and designer for this company, and he was also the general manager of the affiliated Page Needle Company, both of which were located in the same factory in Chicopee. However, in 1926, Page-Lewis was purchased by J. Stevens Arms, and George later began working for Winchester Repeating Arms in New Haven, Connecticut.

George and Fannie appear in city directories here as late as 1934, but by the end of the decade the house had been divided into several different apartments. During the 1940 census, which was done shortly after the first photo was taken, the house was owned by Robert W. Leduc, an accountant who lived here and rented out two other units in the home. One was rented by Edward J. Sawyer, a supervisor at Westinghouse who lived here with his wife Jean and their son, Edward Jr., and the other unit was rented by Nellie M. Allen, a widow who was 74 years old at the time.

In subsequent years, the city directories show a number of different residents living in this house, and it appears to have frequently changed owners in the mid-20th century. However, it is now a single-family home again, and it is one of the hundreds of historic 19th century homes in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Frederick A. North House, Springfield, Mass

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

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1895, and was originally the home of Frederick A. North. He only lived here for a few years, though, because by 1898 he had moved to New York, and by the following year the house was owned by James M. Van Deusen. He was a graduate of Rutgers and the Hartford Theological Seminary, but never entered the ministry, and instead worked in the four and grain business, with the firm of Van Deusen & Foley. He and his wife Isabel lived here with their five children for about a decade, but in 1908 they sold the house and moved to Pasadena, California, where James died in 1921.

The house subsequently became the home of Henry L. Thomas, a Canadian-born mason who is also listed in city directories as being a building supervisor. He and his wife Eleanor had seven children, whose ages ranged from 6 to 26 at the time of the 1910 census. The oldest, William, was listed in the census as working as a stage electrician for an opera company, although city directories from the same period list his occupation as an actor. Either way, he later married and moved to a house on Winthrop Street in the South End, where he was living in 1917 while working for Poli’s Palace Theatre. Several of William’s younger siblings also moved out of this house during the 1910s, and around 1920 Henry and Eleanor moved to an apartment at 663 State Street, where they lived with their three youngest daughters.

This house would remain in Henry’s family, though, because during the 1920 census his daughter Mary was living here with her husband, John E. Keefe, and her daughter Patricia. John was a dentist and oral surgeon who was originally from Fall River, and in the aftermath of World War I he traveled to Romania with the American Red Cross. He was featured in several photographs taken by the Red Cross in 1919, including the one below, which shows him at work in his clinic in Bucharest.

The caption of this photo explains that he performs around 400 major dental operations each month, while one of the other captions explains how “The war has wrought many changes in the life of the people of southwestern Europe and has brought them in contact with many people they had never seen before. Here is Capt. John Keefe of N.Y. who has charge of the A.R.C. dental hut at Bucharest which is the mecca for native dental experts anxious to learn the mysteries of modern dental surgery.”

Dr. Keefe returned to Springfield after his time overseas, and for many years he worked out of an office at 1490 Main Street, where Tower Square now stands. He and Mary were still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and they would remain here until Mary sold the house in 1953, a few years before John’s death in 1957.

In the second half of the 20th century, the McKnight neighborhood entered a decline, and many properties were abandoned or taken by the city for tax delinquency. This particular house became part of the McKnight Historic District when it was established in 1976, but several years later the city took the property, and it stood empty for many years until it was finally destroyed in a fire in 1999.

Mary McKnight House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 2 Glen Road in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

The McKnight neighborhood was developed in the late 19th century, with hundreds of upscale homes in the area, but some of the finest of these homes were built in the vicinity of the McKnight Glen, a wooded ravine in between Dartmouth Terrace and Ingersoll Grove. This particular house was built in 1899 for Mary E. McKnight, the widow of John McKnight, who had been one of the area’s developers along with his brother William. Like the McKnight brothers, Mary was originally from western New York, but she later moved to Springfield, where she married John in 1864. About six years later, John and William entered the real estate business, transforming a sparsely-settled section of Springfield into one of its most fashionable residential areas.

After John’s death in 1890, Mary had lived in several different homes in the neighborhood, including a house on Ingersoll Grove on the opposite side of the glen, but by the end of the century she was living in this large, elegant home on Glen Road, right at the corner of Dartmouth Terrace and Cornell Street. The 1900 census shows Mary living here with two of her children, Marion and Robert, along with her sister Ada. She went on to live here for the rest of her life, until her death in 1906 at the age of 64.

The house was subsequently sold to Mark Aitken, a florist who was living here during the 1910 census, along with his wife Effie and their three young daughters. However, they did not live here fore very long, because by 1915 this house was owned by John D. Plummer, the publisher and treasurer of the Springfield Union newspaper. He was about 45 years old at the time, and five years later he was still living here, along with his wife Alice, their two teenaged children, and Alice’s parents, Albert and Ada Belden. Like the two previous owners, though, the Plummers lived here for less than a decade, and moved out by 1924.

The next owner of this house was Emmett H. Naylor, a lawyer who was originally from Minnesota. He was educated at three Ivy League schools, earning degrees from Dartmouth, Harvard, and Columbia, before moving to Springfield. Here, he was involved in the paper industry, working in a variety of roles, including as secretary and treasurer of the Writing Paper Manufacturers Association, Cover Paper Manufacturers Association, and Tissue Paper Manufacturers Association. In addition, Naylor served as secretary of the Springfield Board of Trade and as the editor of the Western New England Magazine, along with involvement in a variety of other trade organizations.

In 1914, Emmett Naylor married his wife Ruth, and they had three children before divorcing in 1925, shortly after moving into this house. Two years later, Emmett remarried to his second wife, Janet, and by the 1930 census they were living here along with his children from his first marriage: Genevieve, Winford, and Cynthia. They were still living here as late as the 1934 city directory, but by this point Emmett’s second marriage had also ended in divorce, and he subsequently moved to New York City, where he lived on East 64th Street in the Upper East Side. However, he continued to own this house in Springfield, and he also maintained a summer home in Cummington, Massachusetts, where, at the age of 52, he suffered a heart attack and drowned in the swimming pool in 1938.

In the meantime, Emmett’s daughter Genevieve would go on to become a prominent photographer. In the early 1930s, she attended the Music Box, an art school in the Berkshires, where she fell in love with, and subsequently married, one of her teachers, Ukranian painter Misha Reznikoff. Later in the decade, she worked as a photographer for the WPA and the Associated Press, and from 1940 to 1943 she and Reznikoff traveled to Brazil, where she documented Brazilian culture as part of a State Department program to strengthen wartime ties between the United States and Brazil. Following the war, she was given a one-woman show at the Museum of Modern Art, and subsequently worked as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar and as the personal photographer for Eleanor Roosevelt.

Here in Springfield, Genevieve Naylor’s childhood home stood vacant for several years after Emmett’s departure. Around the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, though, it was sold to Lewis L. McShane, who lived here with his wife Lorena and their daughters, Doris and Marjorie. Originally from Illinois, Lewis worked in the publishing industry, and since 1927 he had worked as the manager of the subscription department for G. & C. Merriam, the famous Springfield-based publishers of Webster’s Dictionary. He later became the vice president of the company, and he lived in this house until the early 1950s, when he moved to Pennsylvania.

Since then, this house has remained well-preserved, and has hardly changed in the nearly 80 years since the first photo was taken. The house still occupies one of the most desirable lots in the neighborhood, and it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and encompasses most of the land that Mary McKnight’s husband had developed in the late 19th century.

Frederick H. Stebbins House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 86 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1911, at the very end of the development of the McKnight neighborhood. As such, its design is very different from most of the other homes in the area, with a symmetrical Colonial Revival-style design and brick exterior that contrasts with the eclectic wood-frame Queen Anne-style homes that dominate the neighborhood. It was originally built for Frederick H. Stebbins, a Harvard-educated lawyer who served on the city council and the school committee in the early 20th century. He lived here with his wife Martha and their son Frederick, who was born around the same time that they moved into this house.

The Stebbins family was still living here nearly 30 years later, when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Frederick died in 1939, but Martha and Frederick Jr. were still living here during the 1940 census. Like his father, the younger Frederick became a lawyer, and later moved to Longmeadow. However, Martha continued to live in this house for many years, and was later joined by her widowed sister, Bessie Lyford. Both women lived well into their 90s, and Bessie was still living even after Martha’s death in 1964. She later moved into a nursing home, where she died in 1974 at the age of 99, and in the meantime Frederick sold the house in 1972, more than 60 years after his father had purchased it.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, and over a century after the house was built, very little has changed in this scene. In 1976, only a few years after Frederick sold the house, it became part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and today the house still stands as a well-preserved example of Colonial Revival architecture in the McKnight neighborhood.

Josiah Wright House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 78 Bowdoin Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Josiah Wright was originally from Plympton, Massachusetts, but in 1849 he moved to Springfield, along with his wife Sarah and their young children. Here, Josiah formed a partnership with Henry Webster and began manufacturing axles for railroad cars. They later sold the firm to Norman W. Talcott, who continued to operate it for many years, but Josiah Wright remained in the metallurgy business, eventually purchasing the Agawam Foundry on Liberty Street (present-day Frank B. Murray Street), where the current Union Station is now located. He and his business partner, Warren Emerson, formed the firm of Wright & Emerson, which was described in the 1871 city directory as manufacturing “Cast Iron Fences for Cemetery Lots, Balconies and Verandas, also Machinery and Building Castings of all descriptions.”

Josiah’s son Andrew also had a successful business career, becoming treasurer of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company in 1872. Three years later, Andrew moved into a new house here on Bowdoin Street in the fashionable McKnight neighborhood, and Josiah followed soon after. This house was completed around 1877, and was located just up the street from Andrew’s house. Josiah retired a few years after moving here, and in 1882 he sold his business to the Springfield Foundry Company. He and Sarah continued to live in this house for the rest of their lives, until his death in 1890 and her death three years later.

By the end of the 19th century, the house was owned by Andrew’s son Fred, who lived here with his wife Emily. Fred followed his father into the insurance industry, working as an agent for the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and by the 1900 census he and Emily had two young children living here, along with two nurses and a servant. However, they did not live here for very long, because by 1905 they had moved closer to the center of Springfield, to an apartment at 97 Spring Street.

Around 1905, this house was sold to Fred S. Morse, a lumber dealer who was originally from Maine. He came to Springfield in 1889, and over the next decade he worked for several different wholesale lumber companies before going into business for himself in 1899. A year later, he married his wife, Nellie Gloyd, and in 1905 he established the Fred S. Morse Lumber Company. He and Nellie had one child, Samuel, who was born in 1907, and the family lived here until around 1915, when they moved to a house nearby on Bay Street.

By 1918, this house was the home of Ellen T. Hyde, the widow of prominent local businessman and politician Henry S. Hyde. He had, for many years, served as treasurer of the Wason Manufacturing Company, and held positions in a variety of other companies, along with serving as a city councilor, alderman, state senator, and delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1884 and 1888. Ellen was also from a prominent family, with her father, Eliphalet Trask, having served as mayor of Springfield and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. She moved into this house shortly after Henry’s death in 1917, and she lived here until her death in 1923.

The house was subsequently owned by Fred C. Brigham, a physician who lived here with his wife Emma and their three children. They moved in around 1924, and by the 1930 census they were living here with their daughter Alice, her husband James McClelland, and their two young children. By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, James and Alice had moved out, but Fred and Emma were still living here, although he died in 1940.

Emma would go on to live here until the mid-1940s, when she moved to State Street, but the house has remained well-preserved over the years, with few changes from the first photo nearly 80 years ago. It stands as a good example of one of the older homes in the McKnight neighborhood, and it now forms part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.