High School of Commerce, Springfield, Mass

The High School of Commerce on State Street in Springfield, around 1915-1920. Image from the Russ Birchall Collection at ImageMuseum.

The school in 2019:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Springfield saw dramatic growth as the city became an important regional center for business and industry. For example, in a 40 year span from 1880 to 1920, the city nearly quadrupled in size from 33,000 to nearly 130,000. However, during this same period the city’s public school system grew even more rapidly, particularly with high school students. During the 1878-1879 school year, the city had one high school with nine teachers and a total enrollment of 417. But, 40 years later the number of high school students had increased by more than eightfold to 3,437 in three different schools.

Much of this growth was because of the changing nature of high school. During the 19th century, a high school education was by no means universal, and these schools often focused primarily on preparing students for college. However, this began to change by the turn of the 20th century, particularly here in Springfield, where there was a high demand for well-educated workers. This led to the establishment of a technical high school, which focused on preparing students for careers in science, technology, and skilled trades, and a high school of commerce, which prepared students for business careers. Given that the city had a wide variety of manufacturers, insurance companies, banks, and other large corporations, graduates from these schools would not have to look far in order to find job opportunities.

The city’s first public technical high school was the Mechanical Arts High School, which opened at Winchester Square in 1898, but in 1906 it became the Technical High School and moved into a new building on Elliot Street. Four years later, the city established the High School of Commerce. It was originally located in Central High School, which was later renamed Classical High, but in 1915 Commerce moved into a building of its own, located here on State Street opposite the Springfield Armory, and within easy walking distance of the other two high schools.

The High School of Commerce building was designed by local architect Guy Kirkham, with a Tudor Revival-style exterior of red brick and limestone. Upon completion, it featured over 60,000 square feet of floor space, and it had a capacity of 1,500 students. It opened on September 7, 1915 with a dedication ceremony in the auditorium, which included speeches by principal Carlos B. Ellis, superintendent James H. Van Sickle, and mayor Frank E. Stacy. This was followed by a flag raising ceremony here in front of the building, accompanied by a 21-gun salute from the Armory.

When this building opened, it had 1,058 students and 44 teachers, but it steadily grew over the next few decades, requiring some reconfiguration of the interior in order to accommodate more students. By 1933 it had 2,292 students—including my grandmother, who graduated with the class of 1935—and 83 teachers. These numbers would drop during World War II, reaching as low as 1,250 students in 1943, although enrollment would rise again after the end of the war.

The first photo was taken shortly after the school opened, but very little has changed in this scene in more than a century since then. The building stands as the oldest of the city’s five high schools, and it currently has an enrollment of just over a thousand students. It is still called the High School of Commerce, although this name is largely vestigial, because its curriculum no longer specifically focuses on preparing students for business careers. Overall, though, its exterior appearance is essentially the same as it was when it opened in 1915. The only significant difference is a large addition, which was completed in the late 1990s. It is not visible from this angle, but it is located behind and to the left of the main school, and connected to it by a covered walkway.

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.

Westfield Normal School, Westfield, Mass

The Westfield Normal School on Court Street in Westfield, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1891).

The building in 2018, which is now used as Westfield City Hall:

The mid-19th century saw the development of public normal schools, which were colleges that focused on training public school teachers. Here in Massachusetts, a system of normal schools was pioneered by education reformer Horace Mann, who opened ones in Lexington and Barre in 1839, and in Bridgewater a year later. The Bridgewater school has remained there ever since, and it is now Bridgewater State University, but the other two schools soon relocated. The Lexington Normal School moved to Newton in 1843 and later to Framingham, becoming the precursor to Framingham State University, and the Barre Normal School came to Westfield in 1844, eventually becoming Westfield State University.

Here in Westfield, the school’s first long-term home was a building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, which was completed in 1846. This building was used throughout much of the 19th century, but by the late 1880s it had become too small for the school’s growing programs. As a result, in 1889 the state purchased this lot on Court Street, and later that year construction began on a new, much larger building. It was originally expected to be completed in time for the fall of 1891, but construction delays postponed its opening until April 1892. The first photo was probably taken around this same time, as the small leaves on the trees seem to suggest that it is either late April or early May.

The building was designed by the noted Boston firm of Hartwell and Richardson, and it featured a Romanesque-style exterior of brick with brownstone trim. Its footprint was L-shaped, with the main section facing Court Street and a wing extending back in the direction of King Street, as seen on the right side of the photo. This wing originally housed the training school, with classrooms for the various grade levels that were taught by the student teachers here. These were accessed via the basement-level doors of the wing, while the main entrances for the normal school itself were at the front of the building.

The state Board of Education, in its annual report published several months before the building opened, provided the following description of the interior:

To the left of the south-west entrance are the zoölogical, botanical, mineralogical and geological laboratories, fitted with appropriate appliances; and to the right of this entrance is the reception room, and beyond a large room for the critic, while across the corridor, which traverses the centre of the L-shaped building, are the large cloak room for women, with toilet room and a teacher’s room.

There are three stairways which carry from the basement up through the building. Two of them are next the entrances for the normal school on the south side. The third is in the L, and leads directly from one of the basement entrances. There is a lift near this staircase.

On the second floor there are three rooms: toward the east there are recitation rooms, with a women’s retiring and toilet room, and a book store-room; toward the west a recitation room, the principal’s room, the reading-room and book alcove; and in the center part of the building the large school-room sixty feet square.

On the third floor is a completely fitted chemical laboratory, with a teachers’ room, weighing-room, and a supply room opening out of it; the apparatus room and physical laboratory, fully equipped; and between these two laboratories, so that it can be used from either, a lecture room with raised tiers of seats.

Over the large school-room is a series of studios, and at the western end of the building are a recitation room, a cast room and a drawing room. Above the two end portions there are unfinished attics.

In the basement are the janitor’s room, men’s coat-room and toilet; the gymnasium with the men’s dressing-room and baths on the one side, and on the other women’s bath-rooms, with a staircase leading up to the women’s toilet room above; space for coal and boilers, and toward the east, play and toilet rooms for girls and boys, and a large work room.

Overall, the building was designed with a capacity of 175 normal school students, plus 125 children in the training school. A subsequent Board of Education annual report, covering the 1892-1893 school year – this building’s first full year in use – indicates that it was not quite at capacity, but it was close. During that year, it had a total of 155 students, including 27 who graduated at the end of the year. At the time, the student body was still overwhelmingly female, with only six men enrolled in the school and just one in the graduating class.

The report also provides interesting demographic information about the students. Of the 155 students, 26 had prior teaching experience, and 78 were receiving some sort of financial aid from the state. The vast majority were from Massachusetts, mostly from the four western counties of Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties, but there were also some out-of-state students, including five from Vermont, four from Connecticut, two each from New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island, and one each from Washington D.C., Virginia, Tennessee, and Nebraska.

Another table in the report classified students based on their fathers’ occupations. The most common was farmer (26), followed by skilled workmen (15), factory officials (8), merchants (8), unskilled workmen (4), manufacturers (2), and professional men (2). However, perhaps the most surprising information, to modern audiences, might be the prior education of students here at the normal school. Of 112 students recorded on the table, only 32 had graduated from a high school or academy. Another 40 attended high school without graduating, and 17 had attended either district or grammar schools, evidently without any high school education at all.

At the time, the school had nine faculty members, in addition to four elementary teachers in the training school, and many of them taught a rather eclectic mix of courses. For example, Elvira Carter taught geography, English literature, and algebra; Frances C. Gaylord taught geometry, grammar, history, and composition; and Laura C. Harding was evidently a sort of Renaissance woman, teaching geometry, astronomy, bookkeeping, reading, vocal music, French, and composition. The principal, James C. Greenough, was also a classroom teacher, and his courses consisted of psychology, didactics, civil polity, and rhetoric.

Over the next decade, the school would continue to grow with several new buildings. In 1900, the training school was relocated to a newly-completed building at the corner of Washington and School Streets, on the site of the original 1846 normal school building. With about 650 elementary-aged students, this meant a substantial increase in the size of the training school, and it also opened up space here in the main building on Court Street. Then, in 1903, the school opened a new dormitory, Dickinson Hall. It was located in the rear of the Court Street property, along King Street, and it could house up to 75 students.

The enrollment at the normal school continued to grow in the early 20th century, and by the 1920s it had about 200 students. By this point, a high school diploma was required for admission, and applicants also had to be in good physical condition, at least 16 years of age, and of good moral character. Starting in 1912, only women were admitted to the school, and it would not become coeducational again until 1938. At the time, tuition and textbooks were free for Massachusetts residents, but out-of-state students had to pay $25 per semester, equivalent to about $380 today. Students who lived on campus in Dickinson Hall had to pay $250 per year for room and board, or about $3,800 today.

For most of its early history, the school offered a two-year program for future teachers, but in 1928 it was expanded to three years, and then in 1931 to four years for those who would teach in junior high schools. In 1932, the school was renamed the Westfield State Teachers College, and two years later it began conferring bachelor of science degrees in education. By the early 1940s, though, the school was no longer free for in-state students. Tuition for Massachusetts residents was $75 for the 1941-1942 school year, and $300 for out-of-state students. Textbooks were $35 per year, and a dormitory room was $60 per year, plus about $4.50 per week for meals. In total, an in-state student who lived on campus paid about $300 per year, or nearly $5,300 today.

This building here on Court Street remained in use until 1956, when the growing college moved to its present-day campus on Western Avenue, about two miles to the west of here. It subsequently expanded its programs beyond just training teachers, and it has since gone through several more name changes, becoming the State College at Westfield, Westfield State College, and finally Westfield State University in 2010. Its enrollment has also grown significantly during this time, with nearly 4,900 undergraduate students in 31 different programs.

In the meantime, the old building here on Court Street was sold to the city of Westfield, and it was converted into a new city hall. It replaced an older building on Broad Street, which had been in use by the municipal government since 1837. This project included major renovations to the interior of the old school, but the exterior remained largely unaltered. From this angle, the only visible change to the building was the addition of a brick vault on the right side. It is three stories in height and measures about 16 feet by 17 feet, but it is mostly hidden from view behind the trees in the present-day photo.

The building was renovated at a cost of $150,000, and the work was completed by 1959. Along with housing the city government, the building was also occupied by the Westfield District Court, which was located on the left side. The court later moved into its own facilities, but this building continues to be used as city hall, with hardly any difference in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken more than 125 years ago. In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2013 it also became a contributing property in the Westfield Center Historic District.

Broadway School, Chicopee, Mass

The school at the corner of Broadway and Walnut Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

This school was completed in 1876, in the factory village of Chicopee Falls. At the time, Chicopee was developing into an important manufacturing center, and many of the students at this school would have been the children of French Canadian immigrants who worked in the nearby factories. The school itself was located just up the hill from the river, on the southern edge of the village. At the time, the surrounding land was still sparsely developed, but this soon changed as Chicopee continued to grow. By 1882, the land just to the north of the school had become the home of the Overman Wheel Company, whose bicycle factory is visible on the right side of the photo.

The Overman Wheel Company was perhaps most significant for being the first American manufacturer of safety bicycles. Unlike the older penny-farthing bicycles, safety bicycles had identically-sized wheels, much like modern bicycles. They were, comparatively speaking, safer than the older bicycles, which required riders to sit much higher and further forward. Along with this innovation, Overman also produced bicycles with interchangeable parts, pneumatic tires, and all-steel parts. These features gave Overman bicycles a higher price tag than most of their competitors, but they enjoyed widespread popularity, and at its peak this factory was producing some 80,000 bicycles per year.

All of this was good news for the owners and employees at Overman, but it made things more difficult for the teachers and students next door at the school. The constant noise from the bicycle factory proved to be a serious distraction here in the school, and the Chicopee School Committee closed the school in 1893, only about a year after the first photo was taken. The building was subsequently purchased by Overman and converted into a factory, and the teachers and students moved into the newly-completed Alvord School, located just a little further south of here on Broadway.

Overman continued to produce bicycles here until 1900, when the company went out of business amid increased competition and decreased prices for bicycles. The former school became a chocolate factory, and later the home of the Page Paper Box Company, while the rest of the Overman plant was sold to J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. This company was a leading producer of sporting firearms, and in 1920 it was acquired by Savage Arms, although Stevens continued to manufacture guns here as a subsidiary.

The factory was finally demolished in 1960, after Savage Arms moved production to Westfield, Massachusetts, and the old school may have been demolished around the same time. The site of the factory and school, along with several other adjacent blocks here in Chicopee Falls, were subsequently redeveloped as part of an urban renewal project. It is now an affordable housing complex, and it is named MacArthur Terrace after Chicopee Falls native Arthur MacArthur, a prominent Army general who was also the father of Douglas MacArthur.

Connecticut Hall, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

Connecticut Hall, seen from across the quadrangle on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1901-1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Connecticut Hall was among the earliest buildings to be constructed on the Yale campus. It was completed in 1752, and it originally featured a Georgian-style design that was modeled after Massachusetts Hall at Harvard. At the time, there were only a few buildings here at Yale, so Connecticut Hall served many different purposes in its early years. There was space for a dining room, library, recitation hall, chapel, and dormitory rooms, and the ground floor also housed the buttery, where students could purchase beer, tobacco, and other products not available in the dining hall.

Over the years, as Yale steadily expanded, Connecticut Hall was joined by a group of similar buildings that all stood in a line parallel to College Street. Collectively known as the Old Brick Row, these buildings alternated between long dormitories and shorter academic buildings. Connecticut Hall eventually became exclusively a dormitory, and was known as South Middle College. In the midst of this expansion, Connecticut Hall was altered around the turn of the 19th century, and the original gambrel roof was replaced with a peaked roof, as seen in the first photo.

The Old Brick Row was at the center of Yale for much of the 19th century, but by 1870 the school had adopted a new plan that called for new Gothic-style buildings along the perimeter of the campus, with a large open quadrangle in the middle, where the Old Brick Row stood. The buildings around the quadrangle were largely completed by the mid-1890s, and demolition of the old buildings began around the same time. By the turn of the 20th century, only three remained, and two of these – North College and the Lyceum – would be demolished in 1901. This left South Middle College as the sole survivor of the Old Brick Row, and at this point it was almost entirely walled in behind modern buildings, including Welch Hall on the left, Osborn Hall in the distant center, and Vanderbilt Hall on the right side of the first photo.

The old building was nearly demolished, but this threat sparked an outcry in favor of its preservation. As a result, it was instead renovated, soon after the first photo was taken. The most noticeable change on the exterior was the reconstruction of the gambrel roof, and the building was renamed Connecticut Hall. It would continue to be used as a dormitory throughout the first half of the 20th century, but it underwent another major renovation in 1952-1954, when the interior was gutted and converted into office space. Today, the building still stands, and it currently houses the offices of the Department of Philosophy. Now over 250 years old, it is the oldest surviving building on the Yale campus, along with being one of the oldest college buildings in the United States.

Farnam Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Farnam Hall on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1894. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

Farnam Hall in 2018:

For much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Yale campus was dominated by the Old Brick Row, a group of buildings than ran parallel to College Street between Chapel and Elm Streets. However, in 1870 the school began converting the campus into a quadrangle, surrounded by new buildings along the perimeter. The first of these new buildings was Farnam Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1870 near the northeastern corner of the campus. Like the older buildings, its exterior was constructed of brick, but it featured a Gothic-style design that was very different from the comparatively plan buildings of the Old Brick Row. It was the work of Russell Sturgis, a prominent architect who would go on to design the other nearby buildings, including the Battell Chapel, Durfee Hall, and Lawrance Hall.

The first photo was taken less than 25 years after its completion, but very little has changed since then. Farnam Hall is now the oldest dormitory in use at Yale, and it currently houses freshmen students of Jonathan Edwards College. The only noticeable difference between the two photos is the loss of the two cupolas on the roof, but otherwise the building has remained well-preserved. The adjacent buildings – Battell Chapel on the left and Lawrance Hall on the right – are also still standing, and together these they form the northeast corner of the quadrangle, which is now known as the Old Campus.