James Cornish House, Simsbury, Connecticut

The house at 26 East Weatogue Street in Simsbury, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

The house in 2017:

The town of Simsbury is situated along the banks of the Farmington River, with most of the town to the west of the river. On the east side, though, is the village of East Weatogue, which is located between the river to the west and the Metacomet Ridge to the east, near the corner of Hartford Road and East Weatogue Street. This area was first settled by Europeans in the 17th century, but it was destroyed by Indians in 1676 during King Philip’s War. It was subsequently rebuilt, though, and this house is one of the oldest existing homes in the village, dating back to around 1720.

Like many other New England homes of the early 18th century, the house has a distinctive saltbox-style design, with two full stories in the front, one story in the back, and a large chimney in the center of the house. The original owner was Captain James Cornish, a farmer who was about 26 years old when he moved in here with his newlywed wife, Amy Butler. He and Amy had ten children, who were born between 1720 and 1740, and he became a prominent citizen in colonial Simsbury, earning the rank of captain in the town militia in 1736. After Amy’s death in 1763, James remarried to Hannah Hickox, who died in 1779. James himself lived long enough to see the end of the American Revolution, and he died in 1784, a few months shy of his 90th birthday.

Over the years, East Weatogue remained a small farming village, and many of the colonial-era homes in the area have been preserved. The first photo was taken around the late 1930s or early 1940s, as part of a WPA architectural survey to document the historic homes in the state, and this was among several homes in the area that were included in the project. At the time, the exterior of the house had been somewhat altered by the addition of porches on the front and right side, but overall its saltbox-style architecture was still readily apparent, and the survey listed the house as being in “good” physical condition.

In the nearly 80 years since the first photo was taken, the house has been expanded with a large addition on the back, and the front of the house has been restored to its original colonial-era appearance, without the porches. Although not visible in this scene, the property also includes James Cornish’s original 1720 barn, and both it and the house are now part of the East Weatogue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

James H. Morton House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 123-125 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This fine Italianate home was built in 1853, and was the home of James H. Morton, a lawyer and judge on the city’s police court. He was born in Taunton in 1825, and was the son of Marcus Morton, a lawyer and judge who served in Congress, on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and as governor of Massachusetts. James attended Brown and Harvard, and subsequently moved to Springfield, where he married his wife, Elizabeth W. Ashmun, in 1852. Her father was George Ashmun, a lawyer and politician who served three terms in Congress from 1845 to 1851, and he lived nearby at the corner of Mulberry and School Streets.

During the 1870 census, James and Elizabeth were living here with their five children, George, Elizabeth, Lucy, Charlotte, and Walter, and they also employed three live-in servants. James was a wealthy man at this point, with the census listing the value of his real estate as $105,000 (over $2 million today), and the value of his personal estate as $60,000 (over $1.1 million today). However, James died six years later, at the age of 51. His cause of death was listed as “congestion of the brain,” a somewhat vague 19th century term that could have included such conditions as meningitis, encephalitis, or a stroke, and was also sometimes used as a euphemism for deaths caused by alcoholism.

By 1880, Elizabeth was living here with four of her children, plus her niece, three boarders, and three servants. The house was far less crowded by the 1900 census, though, when Elizabeth was living here with her daughters Elizabeth and Lucy, along with a single servant. Soon after, the house was divided into a two-family home, with Elizabeth and her family living in one half and renting out the other half. Starting about 1904, this half was rented to Olin H. Smith, who was the president of E. O. Smith Company, a Springfield-based wholesale grocery.

Neither Elizabeth nor Lucy ever married, and Lucy lived here until her death in 1911 at the age of 51. Her mother Elizabeth died five years later, at the age of 86, after having outlived James by 40 years. Olin Smith also died in 1916, and by 1920 the younger Elizabeth was living here with a servant and a roomer. She continued to rent the second unit to a variety of tenants throughout the 1920s, and she was still living here as late as the 1929 city directory. However, by the 1930 census she was living in a boarding house on Union Street, and she died later that year.

In the meantime, by the 1930 census the other half of the house was being rented by Percy W. Long, a dictionary editor for G. & C. Merriam. A Harvard graduate, Long had also served as secretary of the American Dialect Society, and during his time in Springfield he was one of the editors for the second edition of Webster’s International Dictionary. He and his wife Florence lived here in this house for several years, but they moved to New York in the mid-1930s, where he worked as an English professor at New York University and served as the executive director of the Modern Language Association, a position he held from 1935 to 1947.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the house was owned by William B. Remington, who moved into the house around 1933, along with his wife Helen and their son William. Originally from the Rochester area, Remington entered the advertising business, and worked for a number of different companies before coming to Springfield in 1925 as a partner in the J. B. Bates Advertising Agency. Two years later, he started his own advertising firm, William B. Remington, Inc., and was working as the company’s president and treasurer when he moved into this house.

Helen Remington died in 1938, right around the time that the first photo was probably taken, and the following year William remarried to Margaret L. Brown. During the 1940 census, Margaret was working as a copywriter for William’s company, and she was earning $4,000 a year, which was a considerable sum at the time, equal to over $70,000 today. William’s income was listed as $5,000+, which was the highest bracket on the census, and was equal to over $88,000 today.

The Remingtons lived in this house until the early 1940s, but around 1943 they moved to a nearby house on Ridgewood Place. Since then, this house on Mulberry Street has remained well-preserved. The interior is now divided into three units, but the exterior looks essentially the same as it did in the 1930s, aside from the missing shutters and the balustrade above the front porch. Alogn with the rest of the neighborhood, it is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Mary A. Chapman House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 127 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1894, and it is located where Mulberry Street makes a sharp turn next to Springfield Cemetery. It was originally the home of Mary A. Chapman, a widow who was in her late 40s at the time. She lived here with her three children, Temple, Grenville, and Heloise. All three were in their 20s during the 1900 census, and Temple worked as a mine manager while Grenville worked as a bank bookkeeper. Mary was living here as late as the 1909 city directory, but by 1910 the house was owned by George D. Chamberlain, an accountant who lived here with his wife Ellie and their four children, Emily, Sydney, Eleanor, and Rodger.

Chamberlain was originally from Troy, New York, but later came to Springfield. Here, he held a number of different positions, including working in the paymaster’s office at the Armory, as an auditor for the Connecticut River Railroad, and as treasurer of the Warwick Cycle Manufacturing Company. He also worked in the publishing industry, and from 1898 to 1901 he was the publisher and editor of Good Housekeeping. By the time he moved into this house, he was just beginning a career in politics. From 1907 to 1908 he served on the city council, and from 1909 to 1912 he was on the board of aldermen. He then entered state politics, serving as a state representative from 1913 to 1916, as a state senator from 1917 to 1928, and as a member of the governor’s council from 1929 to 1933.

George and Ellie lived in this house until the late 1920s, and by 1929 it was the home of James G. Gilkey, the pastor of the South Congregational Church. A graduate of Harvard and Union Theological Seminary, Gilkey became the pastor of the church in 1917 and went on to serve in that role for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1955. During this time, he also wrote a number of books, mostly on theology, along with a 1942 book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the South Congregational Church.

James Gilkey was living in this house when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, along with his wife Calma and their children, Gordon, Margaret, and Edith. They remained here until the early 1950s, and the exterior of the house has been essentially unchanged since then. The surroundings have also remained the same, including the cemetery fence on the left and the house on the right, and even the tree in the front is still there. The rest of the neighborhood is also well-preserved, and today it forms the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.