Wells Block, Springfield, Mass

The building at 250-264 Worthington Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This brick, four-story Italianate building was built in 1876 by Abner B. Abbey, a coal and lumber dealer. However, the expense of the building ended up being too much for him, and the following year it was sold at a foreclosure auction to Jerome Wells, a merchant from Chicopee who was also the president of the First National Bank. He rented the building to both commercial and residential tenants, with two storefronts on the first floor and apartments on the three upper floors.

During the 20th century, the upper floors were used primarily as a boarding house, which in 1916 was named the Avon Hotel. By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the hotel was being run by Clara LeDuc, who rented rooms to 10 boarders. Based on the 1940 census records, they held a range of working-class jobs, including several restaurant workers, a theater custodian, a machinist, a painter, a cotton mill knitter, a boiler maker’s helper, and a photographer. Of those who were employed full-time, their salaries ranged from the machinist, who made $740 per year ($13,400 today), to the painter, who made $1,400 ($25,300 today). Along with the boarders, Clara also lived here with her father Adalard Demers and her husband, William, who earned $1,450 as a steamfitter at the Armory.

The 1940 census also shows at least one other boarding house that was located here in the building. It was run by Nettie Laurance, a 56-year-old widow whose niece, Dorathy Bickford, lived here with her and worked as the housekeeper. They had eight tenants at the time, most of whom had jobs similar to those in the Avon Hotel. Below these two boarding houses, the two ground floor storefronts were occupied by linoleum dealers Cunningham & O’Shaughnessy on the left, and paint dealer A.E. Hale & Co. on the right. Other nearby stores included the Reliable Shoe Repairing Company in the one-story building on the left, and the Wells & Wells gift shop on the far right.

In 1946, the upper floors were badly damaged by a fire, and they were largely vacant for many years. However, the ground floor remained in use during this time, and for much of the late 20th century the storefront on the left was the home of the Budget Box thrift store. More recently, though, this section of Worthington Street has been reinvented as downtown Springfield’s dining district, and both of the storefronts in this building now house restaurants. Overall, the building’s exterior appearance has not changed much since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago, and both it and the neighboring building to the right are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Abel Howe House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 45 Pearl Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

The mid-19th century was a time of considerable growth for Springfield, which nearly tripled in population between 1820 and 1840. This led to the opening of a number of new streets in the downtown area, including Pearl Street, which originally extended one block from Chestnut Street west to Spring Street. This particular house, located at what would eventually become the corner of Mattoon Street, was the first to be built on the new street. It was completed in 1847, and was originally the home of Abel Howe, a mason who evidently designed and built the house himself. The exterior was built of brick, and it featured a square, Italianate-style design, with a flat roof and wide overhanging eaves above the third floor.

Howe lived here until at least the early 1850s, but by the end of the decade he had moved to a house nearby on Salem Street. By about 1868, this house on Pearl Street was owned by Dr. Nathan L. Buck, a physician who, during the 1870 census, was living here with his wife Elmira and their two children, Fred and Nellie. At the time, his real estate was valued at $15,000 ($300,000 today), and his personal estate at $11,000 ($220,000 today). This wealth would have put him well within Springfield’s middle class, although these figures were lower than those of most of his neighbors.

The Buck family was living here as late as 1877, and Dr. Buck also had his medical practice here in the house. He was still listed as the owner of the property in the 1882 city atlas, but he evidently rented it, because he does not appear in the 1880 census or in any subsequent city directories. Instead, another physician, Dr. John Blackmer, was living here from about 1878 to 1883. Like Dr. Buck, he had his offices in the house, and during the 1880 census he was living here with his wife Ellen, daughter Nellie, son John, and a servant.

By 1885, the house was owned by Mary Shaw, a widow who was about 60 years old at the time. A native of Coventry, England, she and her husband Joseph immigrated to the United States in 1860, and by 1866 they were living in Springfield, where Joseph established himself as a brewer. He died in 1875, but Mary outlived him by more than 30 years. The 1900 census shows her living alone at this house on Pearl Street, but she evidently moved out soon after, because the subsequent city directories list her at a variety of different addresses until her death in 1906, at the age of 83.

The house was still owned by the Shaw family by 1910, but by this point it had been converted into a boarding house. Although there was just one resident in this large house during the 1900 census, the 1910 census showed 24 boarders living here. Nearly all were unmarried men in their 30s and 40s, and most held working-class jobs such as a carpenter, plumber, painter, tile layer, bookkeeper, and several chauffeurs, salesmen, and machinists. Six of them were immigrants, and most of the other boarders had previously lived in a different state before moving to Springfield.

By the 1920 census, the house was still in use as a boarding house. It was run by James and Mary Alexander, and they rented rooms to 24 boarders. James was an immigrant from Greece, and Mary from England, and many of their tenants were also immigrants, including people from Canada, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Holland, and Switzerland. The Alexanders would continue to keep a boarding house here until as late as 1939, around the time that the first photo was taken, but they are not listed on the following year’s census. Instead, the 1940 census shows Thomas and Katherine Van Heusen living here and running the boarding house. They paid $85 per month in rent, and in turn they rented rooms to 19 boarders.

Up until this point, the exterior of the house had retained much of its original appearance, despite having been used as a boarding house throughout the first half of the 20th century. However, in 1948 it underwent a major renovation to convert it into a commercial property. The porch was replaced by a new storefront, the overhanging waves were removed, a third story was added to the rear section, and many of the first floor windows were bricked up, among other alterations. The building is still standing today, but because of these changes its exterior bears little resemblance to its original appearance. Despite this, though, it survives as one of the oldest buildings in the area, and it is a remnant of the many upscale homes that once lined this block of Pearl Street.

94-98 Elliot Street, Springfield, Mass

The houses at 94-98 Elliot Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

These three brick townhouses were constructed around 1870, at the corner of Elliot and Salem Streets. The lot had been purchased by Benjamin F. Farrar, a local mason who built the houses and then sold them to new owners. The one on the far left, at 94 Elliot Street, became the home of William Mattoon, who would soon develop Mattoon Street, located just around the corner from here. In the middle, 96 Elliot Street was sold to Harriet Wright, a widow who was in her mid-40s at the time. On the right side, at the corner of Salem Street, 98 Elliot Street was sold to William H. Wright, a wealthy tobacco dealer who had no apparent relation to Harriet Wright.

As it turned out, none of these three original residents would live here for very long, and by the 1880 census all three homes had new owners. On the left side was Hiram C. Moore, one of the city’s leading studio photographers. He previously had a partnership with his brother Chauncey, but by 1880 he was in business for himself, with a studio at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets. That year’s city directory included an advertisement for his business, which was proclaimed as “the place to get all the latest novelties in the Photographic Art, being the largest and best appointed gallery in the county. The only place where those beautiful crystal pictures are made, and also the only place where instantaneous pictures are made of the little ones.”

Moore’s neighbor to the right, in the middle house, was Zenas C. Rennie, who was living here in 1880 with his wife Margaret, their two children, a boarder, and a servant. He had been an officer during the Civil War, eventually earning the rank of major, and after the war he entered the insurance business. By 1880 he had moved to Springfield, where he worked as the city’s general agent for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York, with his office in the same building as Moore’s studio.

Also during the 1880 census, the house furthest to the right was the home of druggist William H. Gray. He was a partner in the H. & J. Brewer pharmacy, located at the corner of Main and Sanford Streets, and he would later become the vice president of the Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank. In 1880, he was living here with his wife Sarah and their three-year-old son Harry, in addition to two boarders and a servant. The family would live here for at least a few more years, but by 1883 they had moved into a newly-built house on Madison Avenue.

Twenty years later, the 1900 census shows that Hiram Moore was still living here in the house on the left, along with his wife Jennie, three children, and a servant. He was still working as a photographer, but the city directory also listed his occupation as “patent rights and novelties.” Next door, the middle house was owned by real estate agent Orson F. Swift, who lived here with his wife Cornelia and their daughter Kate. However, in a sign of things to come, the house on the right had become a rooming house, with the 1900 census showing five residents living here.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, all three of these houses – along with many of the 19th century townhouses around the corner on Mattoon Street – had been converted into either apartments or rooming houses. The 1940 census shows that Hiram Moore’s former house on the left had been divided into four units, with a total of nine residents. The other two houses were used as rooming houses, with seven people living in the middle house and nine in the house on the right. Curiously, one of these tenants in the latter house was Herbert Wilson, who was listed as being employed by the WPA Building Survey. This almost certainly referred to the Depression-era project that documented and photographed every building in the city. The first photo was taken as part of this survey, and perhaps may have even been taken by Wilson himself.

Today, this scene is not significantly different from when the first photo was taken some 80 years earlier. After having gone from upper middle class single-family homes to Depression-era rooming houses, these three houses are still standing today, with exteriors that have been well-preserved. The nearby townhouses on Mattoon Street have similarly been restored, and collectively these houses – along with a number of other historic properties in the area – are now part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Church Street Houses, New Haven, Connecticut

A group of houses and other buildings on Church Street, looking north toward the corner of Elm Street in New Haven, probably around 1904. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Herbert Randall Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows a group of mid-19th century buildings that once lined the east side of Church Street, directly opposite the New Haven Green. Starting on the far right, at 179 Church Street, is a three-story building that was known as the Law Chambers. Located directly adjacent to the county courthouse, which stood just out of view to the right, this building housed offices for a number of lawyers. Their names were listed on placards on either side of the front door, and some are legible in the photo, including Frederick L. Averill, William L. Bennett, John A. Doolittle, Hobart L. Hotchkiss, and Charles F. Mitchell. These names help to provide the likely date of the first photo; according to city directories, 1904 appears to be the only year that all five of these men had offices here.

To the left of the Law Chambers, in the center of the photo, is an elegant Italianate-style home at 185 Church Street. By the turn of the 20th century, New Haven was undergoing rapid population growth, and most of the old mansions along the Green were giving way to new commercial and governmental buildings. However, this house was still standing when the first photo was taken. Based on its architecture, it was probably built sometime around the 1850s, as it features many Italianate details that were common during this era, including brackets under the eaves, quoins on the corners, and a tower with tall, narrow windows on the top floor. By the time the first photo was taken, it was the home of James English, a businessman who served for many years as president of the United Illuminating Company. The 1900 census shows him living here with his wife Clementina, along with a lodger and three servants.

Further to the left is a group of attached rowhouses. Only two are visible in the photo, but there were a total of four, which extended as far as the corner of Elm Street. The one closer to the camera was 187 Church Street, and during the 1900 census it was the home of Dr. Henry W. Ring, a physician who lived here with his wife Maud and two servants. To the left of his house was another physician, Dr. William G. Daggett, who lived in 189 Church Street and also had his medical practice there. Curiously, this house is missing the exterior wall of the top two floors in the first photo. This may have been renovation work, as later photographs suggest that the building’s facade was rebuilt at some point in the early 20th century.

Daggett, Ring, and English were all still living here on Church Street during the 1910 census, but this would soon change. Daggett died later in the year, and by 1911 his widow was living on Orange Street. English also moved out of his house by 1911, and was living in a house on St. Ronan Street. His house was demolished soon after, because by 1913 the 10-story Chamber of Commerce building had been constructed on the site. Ring was the last to relocate; the 1913 city directory shows him living here and practicing medicine out of the house, but by 1914 he had moved to the Hotel Taft, although he continued to have his office here in his former house.

Today, all of the buildings from the first photo have since been demolished, along with the Chamber of Commerce building that had replaced the English house. Much of the scene is now occupied by the northern part of City Hall, which was constructed in the 1980s. Its alternating pattern of light and dark bands was designed to match the exterior of the old City Hall building, which had been mostly demolished except for its brownstone facade. On the left side of the present-day scene is an 18-story office building that had originally been constructed in the mid-1970s, as the home of the New Haven Savings Bank.

Sheffield Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Sheffield Hall, at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets, on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1894. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

The scene in 2018:

This building had been heavily altered by the time the first photo was taken around 1894, but it was built in the early 19th century by James Hillhouse, a prominent politician who served in both the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate. It was originally intended as a hotel, but in 1812 Hillhouse – who also served as the treasurer of Yale from 1782 to 1832 – began renting the building to Yale, as the first location of the newly-established Yale School of Medicine. The building was smaller at the time, lacking the central tower and the wings, but it included lecture rooms, study rooms, and dormitory rooms for the medical students. Two years later, Yale purchased the property for $12,500, and the School of Medicine remained here until the late 1850s, when it moved to a new facility on York Street.

The property here on Grove Street was subsequently purchased by Joseph E. Sheffield, a wealthy railroad executive who renovated and expanded the building before donating it to the Yale Scientific School. Established in 1847, this school focused on scientific education, as opposed to the more classical curriculum of Yale itself. As a result, many of the Yale students looked down on the students at the scientific school, viewing it as essentially a trade school, and for many years it was only loosely affiliated with Yale.

The renovations on this building were completed in 1860, and it housed recitation rooms, a library, and the offices of the school director. As a result of his sizable donation, the school was renamed the Sheffield Scientific School in honor of Joseph E. Sheffield, and this building became Sheffield Hall. Over the years, more buildings were added to the school, but Sheffield Hall remained here until 1931, when it was demolished in order to build Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall. The Sheffield Scientific School would eventually be fully merged with Yale University in 1956, and today this building is still standing as part of the Yale campus, as seen in the 2018 photo.

Cunningham Building, Holyoke, Mass

The building at the corner of High and Suffolk Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The scene in 2017:

This four-story commercial block was built sometime in the late 19th century, probably after 1884, since it does not appear on the city atlas for that year. However, by the early 20th century it was owned by Margaret Cunningham, whose husband Charles was a liquor dealer. Charles was an immigrant from Canada who came to the United States as a teenager, and he operated Cunningham & Co. Liquors out of the storefront on the right side of the building. The first photo was taken sometime around 1910-1915, and was featured in Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts, which includes a glowing description of Cunningham’s business:

To those who are acquainted with the standing of the principal mercantile establishments of Holyoke, the leading position of this house in its line is a matter of common knowledge. To others who are not so well informed a visit to the place of business and an inspection of the fine stock of goods handled here will convey a good idea of its importance. Cunningham and Company are extensive importers of wines, gins and brandies, and are also wholesale and retail dealers in whiskeys, ales and liquors of the best brands. They have been engaged successfully in this business ever since the date of its establishment, twenty years ago. A specialty of supplying fine goods to clubs, restaurants, hotels, and other first-class consumers, in which branch of the business they are known to excel. They also have a handsomely appointed bar, where they supply an active trade at retail. Competent assistants are employed and courtesy and consideration is extended to all.

The first photo also shows The Toggery Shop, which was located in the corner storefront on the left side of the building. This men’s clothing store was similarly lauded in  Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts, which notes that:

This company is one of the hustlers in the haberdashery and gents’ furnishing goods line in the city of Holyoke. Its flourishing business has been in operation here for the past ten years and in that time it has made a host of friends who by their staunch and loyal patronage have contributed largely to its success. These ten years of strenuous and lively competition with stores of its class have made this one wide-awake and very much alive to up-to-date lines of goods and progressive methods. Eternal vigilance is exercised by Mr. Murray in the selection of his stock and discrimination buyers may feel assured that any goods purchased at this store will be up-to-date in styles and patterns and the prices are right. The leading makes of hats, neckwear, hosiery, gloves, underwear, etc. are well represented here in a choice and varied assortment. The store is in a good location for business and presents a neat and attractive appearance at all times, with its complete equipment of modern fixtures and furniture.

Today, many of Holyoke’s historic commercial blocks are still standing along High Street, but the Cunningham Building is not one of them. Its exact fate seems unclear, but it was evidently gone by the mid-1970s. The current building was completed around this time, and features a Brutalist-style brick and concrete exterior that contrasts sharply with the ornate Italianate-style design of its predecessor. Both the haberdashery and the liquor wholesaler are also long gone from this location, and the current building is now occupied by Peoples Bank.