Overlook, Hartford, Vermont

The Overlook house in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The scene in 2018:

This house, which was known as Overlook, was built at some point during the 19th century, probably around the 1870s based on its Second Empire-style architecture. For many years it was the home of Alfred E. Watson, a noted businessman and local politician. He was born in 1857 and he grew up in Hartford, where his father, Edwin C. Watson, manufactured agricultural tools in the firm of French, Watson & Co. Alfred attended nearby Dartmouth College, graduating in 1883, and that same year he married Mary Maude Carr of Montpelier.

Alfred Watson was primarily involved in the insurance business, but he was also a director and treasurer of the White River Savings Bank, director of Hartford National Bank, and director of the Chicago, Kalamazoo & Saginaw Railway. In addition, he was involved in politics, holding a number of different offices. He served as Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs during the administration of fellow Hartford native Governor Samuel E. Pingree, and he was subsequently elected to both houses of the state legislature, along with serving on the state’s Board of Railway Commissioners.

Alfred and Mary Watson had two children. Their son Cedric died in 1890 before his first birthday, but their daughter Margery lived to adulthood. The first photo was taken sometime around the turn of the 20th century, and the 1900 census shows that they were living here with Margery, who was 12 years old at the time, Mary’s father Walter S. Carr, and Alfred’s nephew, Carl W. Cameron. The latter moved out sometime before the 1910 census, but the rest of the family was still here during that year. Walter subsequently died in 1915 at the age of 82, and Margery evidently moved out of the house by the time of her marriage in 1917.

Mary died in 1948 at the age of 83, and Alfred continued to live here until his death in 1950 at the age of 93. They both outlived their daughter Margery, who died in 1940. With no surviving heirs, and with little demand for such a large single-family home during the mid-20th century, the house was ultimately divided into apartments. At some point, the house underwent some significant changes, including the removal of the barn on the left side and the large front porch. Many of its other Victorian-era exterior details are similarly lost, having been replaced by modern siding. Overall, though, the house, which is now known as Hillcrest Manor, is still standing, and it is still recognizable from the first photo. It recently underwent a major renovation shortly before the present-day photo was taken, and it now consists of nine affordable housing units.

 

Mary d.1948, age 83

Pease Hotel, Hartford, Vermont

The Pease Hotel on Main Street (now Maple Street) in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Gateway of Vermont: Hartford and its Villages (1903).

The scene in 2018:

During the first half of the 19th century, this village was the main commercial center of the town of Hartford. The village is located along the banks of the White River, about a mile and a half north of its confluence with the Connecticut River, and it was the site of several early hotels. One of these was opened on this spot in 1801 by Asa Richardson, and during its early years it was known as the Richardson Hotel. However, over the next few decades it went through a number of ownership changes, before eventually being acquired by Luther Pease.

Around this same time, the town of Hartford was undergoing a transformation with the arrival of the railroads. Given its strategic location at the meeting place of two major rivers, the previously sparsely-developed eastern side of the town would soon become one of the most important railroad hubs in the state, with four different rail lines meeting there by 1850. White River Junction, as the newly-developed village came to be known, soon eclipsed the traditional town center in economic importance, and it was also the site of a new hotel, the Junction House.

Despite these changes, though, Luther Pease continued to run his hotel here, along with a nearby hardware, paint, tinware, and stove store. After his death in 1876, his son Charles W. Pease took over the hotel. Charles retired from active management of the hotel in the mid-1880s and began leasing it to a different landlord, but he retained ownership of the building until January 24, 1889, when the hotel was destroyed by a fire that began in the livery stable.

The fire left nothing standing except for the chimneys, but Charles Pease was undeterred. He began using his own house as a temporary hotel, and he soon started planning a new building. He died in 1890, but his family completed the new Pease Hotel in 1893, at a cost of about $22,000. Its exterior design was a late example of Second Empire-style architecture, featuring a mansard roof and a tower at the southeast corner of the building, as shown in the first photo.

As it turned out, though, the new hotel was not particularly successful, perhaps as a result of the continued importance of White River Junction over the old town center. It ultimately closed around 1906, and in 1908 the Pease family sold the building to Addison Ely, a New Jersey resident who reopened it as the White River Tavern.

Under new ownership, the hotel marketed itself as a place for tourists, with advertisements describing it as “An ideal Health and Rest resort. Modern improvements. Newly furnished. Excellent Cuisine. Select patronage. Moderate prices. Open all the year.” However, it continued to struggle, and even closed for a period of time during the winter of 1911-1912 because of financial difficulties. The hotel finally closed in 1919, and the building was subsequently demolished, although a portion of it evidently survived and stood here until 1941, when it was destroyed by a fire.

Today, there is nothing left here in this scene from the first photo. The site of the hotel is now a gas station and convenience store, which was constructed around 1950. Directly behind it is a house, which is partially visible in the present-day photo. Aside from the loss of the hotel, though, many of the other historic 19th century buildings here in the center of Hartford are still standing today, and they form the Hartford Village Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hotel Rockingham, Bellows Falls, Vermont (2)

The Hotel Rockingham on Rockingham Street in Bellows Falls, around 1895-1904. Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this building dates back to 1883, when it was constructed by local businessman Leverett T. Lovell. Initially, it was used for retail and office space, but in 1895 it opened as the Hotel Rockingham. In these early years, much of the hotel’s business was from railroad travelers, as Bellows Falls was a busy railroad junction, and the hotel was located just a short walk from the passenger depot. However, the hotel also served long-term guests and boarders, with perhaps the most famous being Wall Street financier and Bellows Falls resident Hetty Green, who spent three or four weeks here during the summer of 1907.

Over time, the Hotel Rockingham eventually became primarily a rooming house, and it fell into decline by the mid-20th century. It finally closed in the 1960s, but it was later rehabilitated as the Canal House, with commercial storefronts on the ground floor and low-income elderly housing on the upper floors. This project included the restoration of the original hotel building, along with a large, six-story addition on the rear of the building, facing Canal Street.

Today, around 120 years after the first photo was taken, not much has changed here on the Rockingham Street side of the hotel. It has survived a number of major fires that destroyed nearby buildings, and it remains a well-preserved example of a late 19th century hotel building. Several of its neighbors are also still standing further in the distance, including two wood-frame commercial buildings that were constructed around 1870. The only major addition to this scene since the first photo was taken is the fire station on the far right side of the present-day photo, which was built in 1904. All of these buildings, including the Hotel Rockingham itself, are now part of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Hotel Rockingham, Bellows Falls, Vermont (1)

The Hotel Rockingham, on Rockingham Street in Bellows Falls, around 1900-1920.  Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The building in 2018:

This building was constructed in 1883 by Leverett T. Lovell, a local businessman whose name is still visible in the slate shingles of the mansard roof. It originally housed a mix of commercial tenants, and an 1885 map shows that it was occupied by a harness shop, a print shop, two millinery shops, and a dentist’s office. However, in 1895 the building became the Hotel Rockingham, as shown in the first photo, which was probably taken within about a decade or two after the hotel opened.

Not long after the hotel opened, manager Lewis T. Moseley, faced legal trouble as a result of the state’s prohibition laws. Long before nationwide Prohibition, Vermont became one of the first states to outlaw the sale of liquor in 1853, and these laws remained in effect throughout the rest of the 19th century. They were not often consistently enforced, though, and violations were evidently common. Here at the Hotel Rockingham, Moseley sold illicit liquor, but in December 1895 he was charged after several students at nearby Vermont Academy admitted to drinking here. The hotel was raided again just two weeks later, and officers discovered and seized several gallons of whiskey. However, Moseley argued that this was the same liquor that he had before the previous incident, and that he had not sold any since then and was planning on returning it to his supplier. This defense was apparently persuasive, because the court subsequently ordered the whiskey to be returned to him.

Aside from selling illegal alcohol to local students, the Hotel Rockingham was also popular as a railroad hotel. At the time, Bellows Falls was an important railroad junction, and many travelers stayed here, thanks to its proximity to the railroad station on the other side of the canal behind the hotel. However, the hotel also had some long-term guests, with the 1900 census showing six boarders who resided here. All were either single or divorced, and their occupations included two barbers, a veterinary surgeon, a dressmaker, and a railroad brakeman. In addition, eleven hotel employees lived here in the building, including a clerk, porter, chef, pastry cook, kitchen worker, three waitresses, two laundrywomen, and a young man who did “general work,” presumably as some sort of handyman.

A few years later, in 1907, the hotel had a particularly wealthy boarder in Hetty Green, the famous miser and financier who was the richest woman in America during the early 20th century. She owned a house nearby on Church Street, but during the summer of 1907 she and her daughter Sylvia spent about thee or four weeks living here at the Hotel Rockingham, rather than opening their house for a relatively short stay in town.

The Hotel Rockingham remained in operation throughout the first half of the 20th century. The village of Bellows Falls was hit by a number of catastrophic fires during this period, which destroyed many important downtown buildings, yet the hotel survived these threats. One such fire occurred on February 16, 1911, when a nearby store caught fire. The blaze spread from there, destroying three buildings and damaging two others, including the Rockingham. However, the damage was limited to $1,500, which was fully insured, and the hotel was soon repaired. Another major fire threatened the hotel on January 19, 1920. It began in a laundry at 63 Rockingham Street, and it destroyed two houses and a theater, causing about $75,000 in damage. The Hotel Rockingham was evacuated, but it sustained only minor damage from the flames.

Over time, the hotel fell into a decline, eventually becoming a rooming house before closing in the 1960s. However, the building was subsequently restored and expanded, with a six-story addition on the rear of the building facing Canal Street. Now known as the Canal House, it is a mixed-use property with commercial tenants on the first floor, and affordable housing for the elderly on the upper floors. From this view, very little has changed on the exterior besides the addition, and it stands as an important historic building in the village center, Along with the other nearby buildings, it is now part of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Normal Hall, Westfield, Mass

Normal Hall, the boarding house at the Westfield Normal School, at the corner of Washington and King Streets in Westfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, the Westfield Normal School was established in 1838 as a teacher training school in Barre, Massachusetts, where it operated for several years before relocating to Westfield in 1844. Starting in 1846, the school occupied a building a block away from here, at the northeast corner of Washington and School Streets, but for many years it lacked a residential building for students who did not live locally. This problem was not resolved until 1874, when the state constructed the dormitory building in the first photo, which was located here at the northwest corner of Washington and King Streets.

This Second Empire-style building was the work of noted architect Alexander Rice Esty, and it was constructed at a cost of $10,600. It could accommodate up to 130 students, with two per room, and each student paid $3.75 per week, equivalent to about $86 today. The school furnished the rooms, including providing a mattress, pillows, and coverlet, but students were required to bring their own bedding, towels, napkins, napkin rings, and clothes bags. The recommended bedding, according to the school’s 1874 catalog, was four pillow cases, three sheets, and two blankets. These items all had to be marked with their owner’s name, lest they get lost in the laundry.

Aside from students, some of the school’s faculty also lived here, as did John W. Dickinson, who was the principal when the building was completed. He had served as the head of the school since 1856, and he remained in this position until 1877, when he left to become secretary of the state board of education. He later became the namesake of Dickinson Hall, a new residential building that opened in 1903, and the name lives on today with a second Dickinson Hall, located on the present-day campus of Westfield State University.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, the normal school was undergoing significant changes, with the construction of a new academic building on Court Street. Later in the 1890s, the old school building was demolished, and replaced with a new training school. During this time, though, Normal Hall remained in use as the school’s boarding house. Room rates had remained largely the same in the intervening years, with female students paying $75 for a 20-week term, or just under $2,200 today. They did have an option to live here without a roommate, although it cost an additional 50 cents per week. Male students were also permitted to live here, at the rate of $80 per term, but at this point the school was still overwhelmingly female, with only 6 men enrolled during the 1892-1893 school year, out of 155 total students.

The 1900 census lists all of the students and faculty who lived here in this building at the time. There were 60 students, all of them female, along with nine female teachers. One teacher had an older woman, presumably her mother, who lived here with her, and there were also seven servants who lived here. The building was supervised by 35-year-old Belle Wilson, who resided here with her husband Charles and their teenaged son Carroll. Charles was a noted marine biologist, and he taught at the normal school for many years, including heading the science department from 1897 until 1932. He is remembered today as the namesake of Wilson Hall, the main science building at Westfield State University.

Normal Hall remained in use until 1903, when Dickinson Hall opened nearby on King Street, in the rear of the new Court Street school building. The old boarding house was subsequently sold to a private owner and converted into an apartment building. It stood here until the early 1970s, when it was destroyed by a fire, and the site was subsequently redeveloped as Washington House, a 112-unit apartment building for elderly housing. Although begun by a private developer, it was sold to the Westfield Housing Authority in 1974, shortly before its completion. This building is still standing here today, as shown in the 2018 photo, and it continues to be used as public housing for elderly residents.

Agawam National Bank, Springfield, Mass

The Agawam National Bank building, at the corner of Main and Lyman Streets in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

This building was completed in 1870 to house the Agawam National Bank, which had been established in 1846 and had previously occupied an older building here on this spot. The new building was designed by Henry H. Richardson, a young architect who would go on to become one of the leading American architects of the late 19th century. Although best-known today for Romanesque-style churches, railroad stations, and government buildings, Richardson’s early works included a mix of relatively modest houses and commercial building, many of which bore little resemblance to his later masterpieces.

Richardson’s first commission had been the Church of the Unity here in Springfield, which he had earned in part because of a college classmate, James A. Rumrill, whose father-in-law, Chester W. Chapin, was one of the leading figures within the church. Chapin was also the president of the Western Railroad, and when the railroad needed a new office building, Richardson received the commission without even having to enter a design competition. This building, which stood just a hundred yards to the north of here, was completed in 1867, and two years later he was hired to design a new building for the Agawam National Bank. In what was likely not a coincidence, Chapin had been the founder of this bank, and by the late 1860s, Richardson’s friend James A. Rumrill was sitting on its board of directors.

The design of the Agawam National Bank bears some resemblance to the railroad office buildings. Both were constructed of granite, and they both had raised basements, four stories, and mansard roofs. However, while the railroad building was purely Second Empire in its design, the bank featured a blend of Second Empire and Victorian Gothic elements. Perhaps most interesting were the rounded arches on the ground floor. Although this building could hardly be characterized as Romanesque in its design, these arches bear some resemblance to the ones that he would later incorporate into his more famous works of Romanesque Revival architecture.

Architectural historian and Richardson biographer Henry-Russell Hitchcock did not particularly care for the design of the bank building, criticizing its “square proportions, crude monotonous scale and hybrid detail,” and describing it as a “hodge-podge” that was “pretentious and assertive.” However, he did concede that the building’s virtues “are more conspicuous if one does not look at it so carefully and so hard. To a casual glance, it must have had certain granite qualities of solid mass and strong regular proportions which tend to disappear when it is studied in detail.”

These “qualities of solid mass” likely served the bank well, since 19th century financial institutions often constructed imposing-looking buildings in order to convey a sense of strength and stability. As shown in the first photo, the Agawam National Bank was located on the right side of the first floor, but the building also housed other tenants, including the Hampden Savings Bank, which occupied the basement. These two banks had shared the same building since Hampden Savings was established in 1852, and they would remain here together until 1899, when Hampden Savings moved to the nearby Fort Block.

Agawam National Bank remained here in this building until the bank closed around 1905. By this point, its architecture was outdated, with trends shifting away from thick, heavy exterior masonry walls. The advent of steel frames in the late 19th century had enabled commercial buildings to be taller while simultaneously having thinner walls, and this allowed for large windows with plenty of natural light. The bank building was ultimately demolished around 1923, and it was replaced by a new five-story building that exemplified this next generation of commercial architecture.

Known as the Terminal Building, it was the work of the Springfield-based architectural firm of E. C. and G. C. Gardner, and it was completed around 1924. It was built with four storefronts on the ground floor and offices on the upper floors, and it was designed to support up to seven stories, although these two additional stories were never constructed. Today, the building still stands here, with few exterior changes. It is a good example of early 20th century commercial architecture here in Springfield, and in 1983 it became a contributing property in the Downtown Springfield Railroad District on the National Register of Historic Places.