Orrin L. Cowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 108 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2018:

This house was built around 1886, and it was originally owned by Orrin L. Cowles, an insurance agent who worked for the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company. This company was based out of Newark, New Jersey, but Cowles was the general agent for their Springfield office. Cowles had previously lived on Jefferson Avenue in the city’s North End, but in 1886 he purchased this property from John D. McKnight, a real estate developer who was best known for creating the McKnight neighborhood about a mile to the east of here. This house, with its Queen Anne-style architecture, bears a strong resemblance to the many of the homes that were built in McKnight during this same period.

The 1900 census shows Orrin Cowles living here with his wife Harriet, their 26-year-old daughter Carolyn M. Rice, her five-year-old son Robert C. Rice, and a servant. Carolyn was listed as married on the census, but her husband was not living here, and subsequent censuses list her as divorced, so she and her husband were probably separated by this point. The four family members were still living here a decade later during the 1910 census, and Orrin was still working for the same insurance company, but he died the following year, at the age of 71.

Both Harriet and Carolyn continued to live in this house for the rest of their lives. Carolyn died in 1934, at the age of 61, and her funeral was held here in the house, with Rev. James Gordon Gilkey of South Congregational Church officiating the ceremony. Her mother Harriet outlived her by about five years, before her own death in 1939, around the same time that the first photo was taken.

The 1939 city directory shows that, by this point, Robert Rice had returned here to his childhood home, perhaps in order to care for his aging grandmother. After she died, he inherited the property, and the 1940 census lists him here with his wife Marie. No occupation is given for Robert in the census, and it notes that he did not earn any income during the previous year, but he is consistently listed as an author in city directories of the 1940s and 1950s.

Robert Rice lived in this house until around 1963, when he finally sold it more than 75 years after his grandfather had purchased it from John McKnight. He then moved to an apartment nearby at 286 Union Street, where he lived until his death in 1975 at the age of 81. In the meantime, at some point during the mid-20th century the exterior of this house was covered in shingles, obscuring many of the Victorian-era details that are evident in the first photo. Part of the front porch was also removed, and the rest of it was altered with the replacement of the original balustrade and columns. However, the house is still standing, unlike its former neighbor to the right at 102 School Street, and it is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Benjamin Day House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 102 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

Like the neighboring house at 100 School Street, this house was originally located on the east side of Maple Street. It was constructed in 1820, and like its neighbor it was built by Simon Sanborn, a master builder who was responsible for many fine homes in early 19th century Springfield. Architecturally, these two homes do not have much in common, but this house bore a strong resemblance to one that once stood at 55 Chestnut Street, which may have also been built by Sanborn.

The original owner of the house here in the first photo was Benjamin Day, a prosperous merchant and banker. In 1820, at the age of 30, he married Frances Dwight, the daughter of merchant James Scutt Dwight. The house was completed around the same time as their marriage, and it was situated on a large lot that extended from Maple to School Streets. At the time, the lower part of Maple Street was one of the most desirable residential areas in the city, and the Days were among the many affluent families that built homes on the street, which runs along a bluff overlooking downtown Springfield.

Benjamin Day went on to have a successful business career, which included serving first as cashier and later as president of the Springfield Bank. In 1822, he became a partner in the merchant firm of Day, Brewer & Dwight, which included his brother-in-law, James Sanford Dwight. Day and Brewer would eventually sell their shares of the business to Dwight, and Day subsequently formed the dry goods firm of Day & Willard. He was also involved in other business ventures, serving as a trustee of the Springfield Institution for Savings, president of the Old Springfield Bridge Company, treasurer of the Holyoke Water Power Company.

Both Benjamin and Frances Day died in 1872, but they apparently lived here in this house for a comparatively short period of time. By the early 1830s, this property was owned by Frances’s brother, George Dwight. Following his brother James Sanford Dwight’s untimely death in 1831, George and his business partner, Homer Foot, had acquired James’s company, which was renamed Homer Foot & Co. In 1833, George married Homer’s sister, Mary Skinner Foot, and the family connection was further strengthened a year later, when Homer married George’s sister, Delia Dwight.

George and Mary Dwight lived in this house on Maple Street until around 1860. He remained a partner in Homer Foot & Co. until 1854, and he was also involved in the Springfield Gas Light Company, serving as treasurer for many years, and later as superintendent. Aside from business, his other roles included serving as fire chief in 1848, and from 1856 to 1859, and he was elected to the state House of Representatives once and the state Senate twice. However, perhaps his most important position was as superintendent of the Springfield Armory, which he held during the early months of the Civil War, from April to August 1861, before the Armory switched from civilian to military leadership.

By the late 1860s, this house – which was still located on Maple Street at the time – was owned by Willis Phelps, a railroad contractor who was responsible for building many railroads, both here in New England and in other parts of the country. He had been a contractor for the Western Railroad in 1839, and his subsequent projects included the rail line from Springfield to Hartford, portions of the New London Northern Railroad, and the branch line from Springfield to Athol. Further west, he built the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph Railroad, the Missouri Valley Railroad, and the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad, among other lines.

In addition to his railroad work, Phelps was involved in local politics, serving at various times as a county commissioner, state representative, state senator, city councilor, and alderman. He was also a director of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, the Mutual Fire Assurance Company of Springfield, and the Pynchon National Bank, and he was the president of the Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank from 1854 to 1858.

Willis Phelps died in 1883, and his property was subsequently acquired by Eunice Brewer Smith, whose brother, James D. Brewer, owned the adjacent house at 95 Maple Street. She was the widow of Dr. David P. Smith, a local physician who had died in 1880. He had been a surgeon during the Civil War, including serving as chief surgeon at the Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Alexandria, and he later became a professor of surgery at Yale.

After Eunice’s brother James died in 1886, his daughter Harriet inherited his property. She and her husband, Dr. Luke Corcoran, soon began building a new house, and in 1889 they moved the old house to the back of the lot, where it became 100 School Street. At around the same time, Eunice did the same thing to her house. It was moved to 102 School Street, as shown in the first photo, and it sat side-by-side with its longtime neighbor. Eunice then constructed a new house on the Maple Street end of the lot, which was completed in 1890.

In a way, the relocation of these two houses reflected the changes that Springfield had undergone in the 70 years since they were built. At the time of their completion, they were among the finest homes in a town that still numbered under 4,000 people. However, by 1890 Springfield had become a city, and its population had grown more than tenfold, to over 44,000 people. The old merchant families that once lived in these homes, such as the Days, Dwights, Brewers, and Howards, no longer dominated the city’s political and economic life, and their homes had become relics of a distant era, replaced by new, larger homes and relegated to a side street.

By the end of the 19th century, Eunice Smith still lived in her new house at 111 Maple Street, but she had evidently transferred ownership of 102 School Street to her niece Harriet, who owned both it and 100 School Street. Both houses became rental properties, and for many years she rented this house at 102 School Street to Charles E. Stickney, a fire insurance agent in the firm of Pynchon & Stickney. He was living here as early as 1890, shortly after the house was relocated here, and he remained here until around 1908. The 1900 census shows him at this house with his wife Mary and their two children, and they also employed two live-in servants.

Starting around 1909, Harriet Corcoran began renting the house to Ralph K. Safford, a banker and broker who was the manager of Darr & Moore. He and his wife Lillian had an infant son when they moved in, and the 1910 census also shows them living here with two servants. They would reside here until the late 1910s, when they moved into an apartment building nearby at 328 Union Street.

The last tenant of this house appears to have been Morgan G. Day, who coincidentally shared the same last name as its first resident, although he and Benjamin Day were not directly related. Morgan Day was the assistant agent for the Indian Orchard Company, and he lived here with his wife Ruth, their young son, and a maid. They appear here in city directories until at least 1927, although they moved out by 1929. Like the Saffords, though, they remained in the neighborhood, living in a home at 41 Mulberry Street.

The first photo was taken about ten years after the Day family moved out, and the house was evidently vacant for this entire time. By this point, its neighbor at 100 School Street was also vacant, and they would remain empty for nearly 10 more years before they were both demolished in the spring of 1946. Both house lots are now owned by the city, and they serve as a parking area for the Milton Bradley School, which is visible in the distance of the 2018 photo.

John Howard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 100 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This house was built in 1819, and it originally stood a block to the west of here, at 95 Maple Street. At the time, the lower part of Maple Street was becoming a fashionable residential area, and many wealthy families in Springfield built homes here during the first half of the 19th century. Many of these homes, including this one, were the work of Simon Sanborn, a master builder who was responsible for a number of important buildings in Springfield during this period, such as the Alexander House, Byers Block, and the old Unitarian Church.

The original owner of this house was John Howard, the son of the retired First Church pastor Bezaleel Howard. John was a lawyer, having graduated from Yale in 1810, and in 1818 he married Mary Stoddard Dwight, from the prominent Dwight family. Her father, Colonel Thomas Dwight, was a lawyer and politician, serving in both houses of the state legislature, the governor’s council, and even one term in the U. S. House of Representatives. John and Mary Howard moved into this house soon after their marriage, and they raised their four daughters here: Hannah, Margaret, Frances, and Eliza.

John Howard enjoyed a successful career as both a politician and a banker. He served as a fire warden in 1829, a town selectman from 1830 to 1831, and a member of the governor’s council from 1837 to 1838. In addition, he was the cashier of the Springfield Bank from 1823 to 1836, where he earned a salary of $1,000 per year, and in 1827 he became the first treasurer of the Springfield Institution for Savings. Howard subsequently became the president of Springfield Bank in 1836, and he served in that capacity until his death in 1849.

During this time, Howard continued to live in this house, although his wife Mary died in 1836, when she was just 44 years old. The house, which was still located on Maple Street at the time, stayed in his family for at least a few years after his own death. The 1851 city map shows that the property lines extended the width of the block, all the way from Maple to School Streets, and Howard also owned land on the other side of Maple Street, which stretched down the hill to what is now Dale Street.

In 1857, the property was sold to James D. Brewer, a hardware dealer whose store was located at the corner of Main and State Streets. Along with this business, Brewer was also involved in a number of other local companies, serving as a director and later the president of Chicopee Bank, treasurer of the Indian Orchard Canal Company, and a director of the Agawam Canal Company, the Springfield Car and Engine Company, and the Hampden Watch Company. However, he was perhaps best known for his involvement in the Springfield Gas Light Company, serving as its treasurer for 26 years.

James and his wife Sarah had six children, although only two survived to adulthood. Their only surviving son, Edward, later moved to Hartford, and their daughter, Harriet, married Dr. Luke Corcoran and remained here in Springfield. By the mid-1880s, the Corcorans were living here with James and Sarah, who were both in their 60s at this point. James died in 1886, and his widow died just nine weeks later, leaving the family home on Maple Street to Harriet.

The Corcorans soon began major changes here, and in 1889 they began construction on a new house on Maple Street. The old house was moved to the back of the lot, becoming 100 School Street, as shown here in the first photo. They lived in the new house for the rest of their lives, until their deaths in the 1920s, However, they maintained ownership of the old one, and used it as a rental property. During the 1900 census, it was the home of Charles E. Galacar, the vice president of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company. At the time, he was living here with his wife Minerva, two of their daughters, and two servants, and he would remain here until his death in 1916.

The house was subsequently rented by Harold G. Meadows, the president of the New England Steel Casting Company. He was living here during the 1920 census, along with his wife Frances, their six children, and two servants. They lived here until 1934, when Harold died, and by the following year the house was vacant. The house was still listed as vacant in city directories by the end of the decade, when the first photo was taken, and it does not appear to have had any further tenants. Along with the neighboring early 19th century house at 102 School Street, which had also been empty for many years, it was ultimately demolished in 1946. The site is now a parking lot for the Milton Bradley School, which stands in the distance of the 2018 photo.

66 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 66 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

According to city records, this house was built in 1851, and its Italianate-style architecture seems to suggest that this date is accurate. However, the house does not appear on the 1851, 1870, or 1882 city maps, suggesting that it may have been moved to this site during the late 19th century. If it was in fact moved, this most likely occurred in 1888, when the 66 School Street address first appears in city directories. The ornate turret was probably added to the right side around this same time, creating an unusual blend of Italianate and Queen Anne architectural styles.

The 1888 directory shows that this house was the home of Sarah Hurd, a high school teacher who lived here for about two years. By 1893, it was owned by Atkins E. Blair, a pork dealer in the firm of A. C. Hunt & Co. The 1900 census shows him living here with his wife Harriet, their daughter Rachel, Harriet’s father Charles Simons, and two servants.

The Blair family would continue to live here for many years. Rachel married her husband, Charles D. Bowers, in 1924, in a ceremony that was held here at the house. The couple moved into his house, which was up the hill from here on Union Street. However, by the 1930 census, Rachel was again living here on School Street, while Bowers was listed as living at the YMCA on Chestnut Street. They were still married at the time, but they would subsequently divorce.

In the meantime, Atkins Blair died in 1927, leaving an estate that was valued at around $180,000, or nearly $2.7 million today. However, Harriet was still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and the 1940 census shows her and Rachel as the only two residents of the house. Harriet lived here until her death in 1951, at the age of 90, and Rachel moved out and remarried soon afterward.

Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, with few changes since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago. The neighboring house at 62 School Street was demolished sometime around the 1960s or 1970s, but otherwise many of the surrounding buildings are still standing from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These properties, along with this house, are now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District.

Samuel Bowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 62 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows a modest Greek Revival-style house that once stood here on the west side of School Street, just north of the corner of Union Street. It had been here at 62 School Street since the early 1870s, but its architectural style, along with circumstantial evidence, suggests that it is actually much older than this. It appears to have been the house that Samuel Bowles II – founder of the Springfield Republican newspaper – built around the early 1820s, across the street from here at the northeast corner of Union and School Streets. He would have likely been residing in this house when he established the Republican in 1824, and he remained here until his death in 1851, at the age of 54.

His son, Benjamin F. Bowles, subsequently inherited the house, which was still on Union Street at the time, but in 1873 he hired prominent architect Henry H. Richardson to design a new house for him on the same lot. The old house was moved to School Street around this same time, although historical records do not seem to indicate where on School Street it was moved. However, Bowles was listed as living here at 62 School Street in 1874, before moving into his newly-completed house later that year, so this evidence strongly suggests that he moved his old house here, lived in it during the construction, and then moved out when his new house was finished.

By the fall of 1874, Bowles had listed this house for sale or rent, with a classified ad in the Springfield Republican that included the following description:

The dwelling-house, No. 62 School Street, near the corner of Union Street, lately occupied by me. The lot os 50 feet front by 128 deep. On the first floor are a wide hall, parlor, library, dining-room, kitchen, front and back stairs, large pantries, etc. Second floor — four chambers in the main part and two in the L. A laundry in the basement, and dry cellar under the whole. The walls of the house are brick-lined, it is provided with double windows, and it is economically heated. The house will be shown on application to me.

Benjamin Bowles was the younger brother of Samuel Bowles III, who had taken over as editor of the Republican after their father’s death. Benjamin also worked for the newspaper, but, like their father, they both died relatively young. Benjamin was only 43 when he died in 1876 in Paris, only two years after his new house was completed, and Samuel died two years later at the age of 51, after having been in poor health for many years.

Despite his efforts to sell this School Street property, Benjamin still owned the house at the time of his death, and it would remain in his family until at least the early 1880s. However, it was used as a rental property during this time. Starting around 1876, it was the home of Henry C. Bixby, a clerk for the Boston & Albany Railroad. The 1880 census shows him living here with his wife Selena, their two young sons, and a servant, and they would remain here for several more years before moving down the street to 25 School Street by the mid-1880s.

The house was subsequently occupied by Theodore C. Beebe, a wool waste dealer. He was living here as early as 1886, and by the 1900 census he was 63 years old, and his household included his wife Amanda and three of their children: Jane, Philip, and Alexander. Theodore died in 1910, but the rest of the family continued to live here. By this point, Philip was working as an assistant cashier for the Springfield National Bank, and Alexander was vice president of the Rogers Sporting Goods Company. Philip moves out at some point in the early 1910s, and Amanda died in 1914, but Alexander lived here until 1922, at which point he was secretary and treasurer of the Sterling Textile Company.

When Alexander moved out, this left only Jane still living here in the family home on School Street. She apparently did not work, but she took in lodgers you help supplement her income. The 1930 census shows here living here with three lodgers, and a decade later – around the time that the first photo was taken – she had two lodgers and a housekeeper. Jane continued to live here until the early 1950s, nearly 70 years after she first moved into the house as a child, and she subsequently lived in Longmeadow and Holyoke before her death in 1964 at the age of 87.

The house was still here until at least the mid-1960s, but it was demolished at some point within the next decade or two. The site is now a small parking lot, with a garage in the rear of the property, as shown in the 2018 photo. However, most of the surrounding buildings are still standing, including the Gothic-style house to the right at 60 School Street, and the apartment building in the distance on High Street.

60 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 60 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house is one of the few Carpenter Gothic-style homes in Springfield. The style was most often seen in rural settings, most famously in Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting, but there were several here in Springfield, including one that still stands at 357 Maple Street. This one here on School Street is somewhat more modest in size, but it features many classic Gothic-style details, including board-and-batten siding on the exterior walls and decorative bargeboards under the eaves.

The history of this house does not appear to be well-documented, but it was probably constructed sometime around the 1860s. By the early 1870s it was owned by Robert O. Morris, a prominent local figure who served for many years as clerk of courts. He owned the property until at least the early 1880s, but he likely did not live here much, if at all. The 1873 city directory lists this house as his address, but by the following year he was living nearby on Temple Street. He listed the house for sale in 1875, with a classified ad in the Springfield Republican that described it as “centrally located, nicely fitted up with the modern improvements. Good water and sewerage.” However, it evidently did not sell, because by the following year he was placing classified ads looking to rent the house.

Morris had several different tenants who lived here over the next few years. In 1876 it was the home of Henry M. Burt, a publisher whose company, H. M. Burt & Co., produced the New England Homestead and the Sunday Telegram. Burt would also go on to write several local history and genealogy books, including The First Century of the History of Springfield, which was published in two volumes in 1898. However, he was only in this house for about a year, because by 1877 he was listed at 15 Oak Street.

By the late 1880s, the house was the home of three sisters: Harriet, Flora, and Mary White. Together, they ran a school here in the house, which was listed as the Misses White’s School. However, this school evidently did not last very long, because both it and the White sisters left here by the early 1890s. Starting around 1893, it was occupied by Wallace M. Burt, a lawyer and real estate agent. He was still living here during the 1900 census, along with his wife Bertha, their two daughters, his parents, and a servant. Wallace had his law offices here, while Bertha ran a dance school here in the house as well. They probably lived here longer than any of the other late 19th century residents, remaining until around 1908, when they moved to Woburn.

The house was subsequently owned by Jeremiah J. Haggerty, a violinist who lived here with his wife Susan. For many years he was the leader of the Court Square Orchestra here in Springfield, and he also taught violin lessons. However, he died of pneumonia in 1919, at the age of 45. Susan remained here at this house, though, and the 1920 census shows here living here with her sister, Mary O’Grady. Like her husband, Susan was also an accomplished musician, and she similarly worked as a music teacher.

Susan was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. Mary had died in 1935, but another sister, Eleanor O’Grady, was here during the 1940 census. At the time, the home was valued at $10,000 (equivalent to just under $200,000 today), and Susan had evidently retired, although Eleanor was listed as working as a public school teacher. Susan would go on to live here until her death in 1947, and Eleanor was here until at least the early 1950s.

Today, about 80 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of the house is not dramatically different, aside from the loss of the chimneys. It is now used as the management office for a group of nearby apartment buildings, but it has been well-preserved, and it stands as a good example of residential Gothic architecture. Like the other surrounding buildings in this neighborhood, it is now part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District.