Rock Street from Pine Street, Fall River, Mass

Looking north on Rock Street from the corner of Pine Street in Fall River, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

The first photo shows a street scene in Fall River with an interesting assortment of commercial storefronts, single-family homes, and multi-family homes, along with a church and a school. The buildings also vary widely in age; some date back to the 1840s, while others were built just a few years before the photo was taken. Remarkably, though, all of the buildings from the first photo are still standing today, and this scene does not look substantially different from its appearance more than a century ago.

The city of Fall River developed into a major textile manufacturing center during the early 19th century, and some of the oldest buildings in this scene were built during that time. In the distance, on the left side of the street, is a group of four houses, located at 222, 232, 242, and 254 Rock Street. The oldest of these, number 222, is hidden from view by the building in the foreground, but it was built around 1815. Just beyond it, and also hidden here, is number 232, built around 1848. Both of these buildings have had significant exterior alterations, but the two that are visible in the distance of this scene, at 242 and 254 Rock Street, were built in the mid-1840s and have remained well-preserved over the years. In particular, 254 Rock Street survives as an excellent example of Carpenter Gothic architecture.

On the right side of the street, the oldest building here is at 223 Rock Street, which is the three-story building just beneath the clock tower. It was built around 1845, but it was originally located at 151 Rock Street. It was moved to its current location in 1913, so its presence here in the first photo establishes the earliest possible date for the photo.

Closer to the foreground, on the far right side of the scene, is 201-203 Rock Street. It was built around 1861, and its original owner was Albert Winslow, a former New Bedford whaling ship captain who retired to Fall River. According to the 1861 city directory he ran a grocery store here at the house, presumably in the basement storefront, and the 1870 census shows him living here with his wife Permela, their five children, and his sister Rowena. By 1900 both Albert and Permela were still living here, as were their three daughters: Hope, Amelia, and Ella. Permela died in 1902, and Albert in 1908, but the three sisters were still here when the first photo was taken. They evidently rented a portion of the house, because both the 1910 and 1920 censuses show a second family living here.

Until the late 19th century, this section of Rock Street primarily consisted of small wood-frame houses. However, in 1886 the city constructed the B.M.C. Durfee High School a block to the north of here. Most of the building is hidden from view in this scene, but its prominent clock tower is visible in the distance on the right side of the photos.  Another major addition to this scene is the First Congregational Church, which stands opposite the high school building in the distance on the left side of Rock Street. The church was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, and it was dedicated in January 1913, probably only a few years before the first photo was taken. Aside from the school and church, the other new building in the first photo was the Gee Building, the two-story commercial building in the foreground on the left side. It was built in 1910, at the northeast corner of Rock and Pine Streets.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, some of the buildings here have undergone changes, but overall this section of Rock Street remains well-preserved. In the foreground, probably the most visible difference is the ground floor of the Gee Building, which has been completely altered from its early 20th century appearance. The storefront on the Winslow house across the street has also changed, but not to the same extent. Further in the distance, both the church and the high school are still standing, although the high school has since been converted into a probate and family courthouse. The only building in this scene that was constructed after the first photo was taken is the house in the distance at 253-255 Rock Street, which was built in 1923. Because of their preservation and historic significance, all of the buildings on this block of Rock Street are now part of the Lower Highlands Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Alexander House Staircase, Springfield, Mass

The main staircase of the Alexander House in Springfield, on December 2, 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, the Alexander House is one of the oldest and most architecturally-significant houses in Springfield. It was built in 1811 by local contractor Simon Sanborn, based on designs by prominent architect Asher Benjamin, and it features an unusual floor plan with no front door. Instead, the house has two side doors, with a hallway running the width of the house between them. On one end of this hallway, at what was once the east entrance, is the main staircase, which is shown here. It is curved, with an elliptical appearance when viewed from the top, and it is perhaps the house’s single most striking interior feature.

The house had several important owners over the years, including famed portrait artist Chester Harding, who lived here in the early 1830s, and Mayor Henry Alexander, Jr., who lived here from 1857 until his death in 1878. The Alexander family remained here for many years, until his surviving child, Amy B. Alexander, died in 1938. The first photo was taken less than a year after her death, at a time when the house’s future was still uncertain. It was nearly moved to Storrowton Village on the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield, but instead it was purchased in 1939 by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, which restored and preserved the house.

The Alexander House has been moved twice in its history. It was originally located on the north side of State Street, between Elliot and Spring Streets, but it was moved a few hundred feet on this lot in 1874 in order to remove drainage issues. The second move came in 2003, when it was moved around the corner to its current location on the east side of Elliot Street, in order to make room for the new federal courthouse on State Street. Because of this, these two photos were not taken in the same physical location, even though they show the same scene inside the house.

Today, the Alexander House is no longer owned by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. The organization, now known as Historic New England, sold the property soon after its 2004 move. It is now privately owned and used for office space, but it has retained its historic appearance on both the interior and exterior, including its distinctive staircase, which has hardly changed since the first photo was taken more than 80 years ago.

Alexander House Interior, Springfield, Mass

The east room on the first floor of the Alexander House in Springfield, on December 2, 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.

The room in 2019:

The Alexander House is one of the oldest surviving houses in Springfield, and perhaps the city’s best example of Federal style architecture. It was built in 1811, and it originally stood on the north side of State Street, between Elliot and Spring Streets. However, it has been moved twice over the years, first in 1874 when it was moved a few hundred feet because of drainage issues. Then, a more substantial move occurred in 2003, when it was moved around the corner to Elliot Street so that its old lot could be redeveloped as a federal courthouse. As a result, while these two photos show the same room, they were taken at different locations, with the first one on State Street and the second one at the house’s current lot on Elliot Street.

The original owner of this house was merchant James Byers, who lived here from 1811 until 1820, when he sold it to Colonel Israel Trask. The house was briefly owned by prominent portrait artist Chester Harding, but he sold it back to Trask in 1832. Trask died three years later, but his family owned it until 1857. The next owner, and current namesake of the house, was banker and local politician Henry Alexander, Jr. He was the president of Springfield Bank, and he also held a number of elected offices, including city alderman from 1857 to 1858, mayor from 1864 to 1865, and state senator from 1865 to 1868. Alexander named the house Linden Hall, and it was during his ownership that the house was moved for the first time. He lived here until his death in 1878, and the house remained in the Alexander family for the next 60 years, until the death of his last surviving child, Amy B. Alexander, in 1938.

The Alexander House was designed by prominent architect Asher Benjamin, and it was built by local contractor Simon Sanborn, who was responsible for many of the fine early 19th century homes in Springfield. In a rather unusual arrangement for a New England home, the house lacks a front door. Instead, it has two side entrances, which are connected by a hallway that runs the width of the house. At the front of the house are two parlors, one of which is shown here in these two photos. This particular room—located on the right side of the house when viewing it from the street—originally faced southeast towards the corner of State and Spring Streets, although in the house’s current orientation it faces southwest.

The first photo was taken less than a year after Amy Alexander’s death, as part of an effort to document the house for the Historic American Buildings Survey. At the time, the future of the house was still uncertain. One proposal would have involved moving it across the river to Storrowton Village at the Big E fairgrounds, but this was ultimately abandoned because of the challenges involved in such a move. Instead, in 1939 the house was acquired by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Now known as Historic New England, this organization has restored and maintained many historic houses across the region, and it owned the Alexander House until shortly after the 2003 relocation. Since then, it has been privately owned and rented out for office space, but it retains its historic appearance on both the exterior and interior, and it stands as one of the city’s most historic and architecturally-significant houses.

Walter Maranville House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 59-61 Cass Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

As of the 2020 season, at least 25 Major League Baseball players have been born in Springfield. Of those, few had particularly remarkable careers, with only three playing in the majors for more than ten years. However, one Springfield native, Walter “Rabbit” Maranville, became one of the most successful shortstops of the early 20th century. He played 23 seasons with the Boston Braves and several other National League teams between 1912 and 1935, and in 1954 he became the only Springfield-born player to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Walter Maranville was born on November 11, 1891, and he was the son of Ward E. Maranville and Catherine E. Nolan. He grew up here in this house at 59-61 Cass Street, at the corner of Franklin Street in Springfield’s Liberty Heights neighborhood. It seems unclear as to exactly when he and his family moved in here, though. Ward Maranville and Catherine’s father James Nolan jointly purchased this property in 1891, but for most of the 1890s the city directories list the Maranvilles at 64 Cass Street, which is diagonally across the intersection. This may have been an error, though, or the street numbers may have changed in the late 1890s, because the present-day site of 64 Cass Street was not developed until the 1910s.

In any case, the Maranvilles and Nolans were definitely living here at 59-61 Cass Street by 1899. The following year’s census shows James and Mary Nolan—Catherine’s parents—living in the unit at 59 Cass Street, along with their adult children, Mary and John. In the other unit at 61 Cass Street, the Maranville household consisted of Ward and Catherine, who were 39 and 32 respectively, and their five children. Ward had previously worked as a brakeman for the Boston & Albany Railroad, but in the mid-1890s he began a long career as a police officer with the Springfield Police Department. Walter was eight years old at the time of the census, and the second oldest of the children. His older brother Ward was ten, and his younger siblings, May, John, and Frances, ranged in age from six to one.

As a child, Walter Maranville attended the Charles Street School, which was located about a quarter mile down Franklin Street from here, at the corner of Franklin and Charles Streets. He subsequently attended Chestnut Junior High School, and then spent a year at Technical High School, where he played catcher on the school’s baseball team. He left school at the age of 15 in order to take an apprenticeship as a pipefitter and tinsmith, but he was more interested in baseball. By 1909 he was playing semi-pro baseball at Forest Park for the Blue Labels of the local City Baseball League.

With Maranville as shortstop and team captain, the Blue Labels won the league pennant in 1910, and the following year he began playing professionally for the minor league New Bedford Whalers. He was recruited by the Whaler’s manager, Tommy Dowd, a Holyoke native who had been impressed by his performance with the Blue Labels. Maranville went on to have a successful year with the Whalers, despite a paltry .227 batting average with just two home runs. During that season, the Springfield Union published a description that of him had originally appeared in the Lawrence Eagle: “Maranville, New Bedford’s short fielder, is a nifty ball player. He handles himself well and if the small little youngster could only pick up a few notches in his stick work he would be a good man for the enterprising scouts to keep their eye on.”

Maranville was indeed small—at 5’5″ he was among the shortest players in major league history—but he did improve his hitting in 1912, and in September he was promoted to the Boston Braves. He joined a team that was hopelessly out of contention, in last place with a 39-90 win-loss record, and the Braves were also overshadowed by the far more successful Boston Red Sox, who were on their way to their second World Series championship at the time. He took over as starting shortstop for Frank O’Rourke, a rookie who had been abysmal as both a hitter and a fielder. Although Maranville continued to struggle at the plate, he was an above-average fielder, and a vast improvement over O’Rourke in both areas. As a result, he went on to start all 26 of the team’s remaining games in the fall of 1912.

Maranville retained the role of starting shortstop for the 1913 season, and he established himself as one of the best players in the league, finishing third in the MVP voting at the end of the year. Then, in 1914, he played an important role in the success of the Miracle Braves, as the team came to be known that year. At the time, the Braves had not had a winning season in over a decade, and they were not expected to be competitive in 1914 either.

The 1914 season began in predictable fashion, and by July 4 the Braves had a 26-40 record and were in last place, 15 games behind the league-leading Giants. However, the Braves then went on an improbable run for the rest of the season, winning 68 of their remaining 87 games. By the end of the year, they lead the league by 10.5, and they went on to win the World Series, sweeping the heavily-favored Philadelphia Athletics. It was the only World Series title that the Braves won while in Boston, and Maranville finished second in the MVP voting, behind his teammate and fellow infielder Johnny Evers.

Throughout these early years with the Braves, Walter Maranville continued to live here in this house during the off-season. In November 1914, less than a month after winning the World Series, he married his wife Elizabeth Shea, who lived just down the street from here at 25 Cass Street. They were married at Sacred Heart Church on Chestnut Street, and the reception was held at Elizabeth’s house, with over 100 guests present. The couple left for their honeymoon after the reception, and when they returned to Springfield they lived here in the Maranville family home.

However, 1914 was also marked by personal tragedy for the Maranvilles when, on July 11, Walter’s 17-year-old brother John died of chronic nephritis. Unfortunately, this was not the first untimely death in the family; his mother Catherine had died in 1900 at the age of 32, as a result of complications from a pregnancy, and his uncle John Nolan died in 1911 at the age of 38, after falling off an embankment at the east side of the South End Bridge.

Walter and Elizabeth were still living here in this house on Cass Street in 1915, but by the 1916 city directory they were at 45 Underwood Street, located on the spot where the westbound lanes of Interstate 291 now pass through the neighborhood. Their daughter, who was also named Elizabeth, was born in 1916, and by the 1917 directory they were at 318 Franklin Street, in a house that still stands a block away from here, at the corner of Leonard Street. However, Elizabeth Maranville died in March 1917, at the age of 22, from what contemporary newspapers only described as a “short illness.” Her funeral was subsequently held in the same church where where they had been married less than two and a half years earlier.

Walter continued to play shortstop for the Braves throughout this time, although he missed almost the entire 1918 season because of World War I. That year, he served in the navy as a gunner’s mate aboard the battleship USS Pennsylvania, and his only appearances on the field for the Braves came in July, when he played in 11 games while on leave for two weeks.

The 1920 census shows Walter still living at 318 Franklin Street, along with his daughter Elizabeth, his father Ward, and his sister Frances. However, this appears to have been his last year in Springfield, because he is not listed in the 1921 or subsequent directories. The rest of the family remained in the city, though, and Ward continued to live at 318 Franklin Street for the next few years before moving back here to this house at 61 Cass Street in 1923.

By the 1930 census, Ward was living here on Cass Street with his daughter Frances, her husband John Sheehan, and their two young children, Eleanor and John. He owned the entire building, which was valued at $7,000, and at the time he was renting the unit at 59 Cass Street for $30 per month to telephone company worker Edmond Ross and his sister Clemence. At 71 years of age, Ward was still working as a police officer, but he died a few months later in July 1930, just an hour after returning home from his shift at the police station.

John and Frances apparently moved out of the house shortly after Ward’s death, but the house would continue to be owned by the family as a rental property for many years. The first photo was taken around the late 1930s, by which point the exterior of the house appears to have been covered in asbestos siding. This would not have been original to the house, and it was probably added sometime in the 1930s, when it became a common building material in place of wood clapboards.

The 1940 census, which was conducted shortly after the photo was taken, shows two different families living here at the time. At 59 Cass Street was a young couple, John and Helen Kawalec. In an unusual reversal of gender expectations for the period, John worked as a sales clerk for a florist shop, while Helen was an inspector for a chemical company. She was also paid at a much higher rate than he was; in 1939 she was earned $554 for 18 weeks of work, while John earned $1,040 in 52 weeks. The other unit, at 61 Cass Street, was occupied by Joseph and Mary Sobolewski. They were both immigrants from Poland, and they lived here with their children Joseph Jr., Adam, Edwin, and Regina. Joseph worked as a roofer, earning $1,500 in 1939, and paid $22 per month in rent.

By the time the first photo was taken, Walter Maranville was still involved in professional baseball. He had remained with the Braves through the 1920 season, and then spent the next four years with the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the Chicago Cubs in 1925. The Cubs got off to a poor start that year, so midway through the season Maranville was appointed manager. He continued to play shortstop in addition to managing, but the team did not fare much better under his leadership, and he was dismissed as manager before the end of the year.

Maranville next went to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1926. He started the year as their shortstop, but his relatively poor performance on the field led to his release from the team in August. By this point he was 33 years old and his career seemed to be winding down. He spent almost the entire 1927 season in the minor leagues, before earning a September call-up to the St. Louis Cardinals. However, he became the Cardinals’ primary shortstop in 1928, and he was able to re-establish himself as one of the league’s best shortstops, finishing tenth in that year’s MVP Award voting. Then, in 1929 Maranville returned to the Boston Braves, where he spent three years as shortstop before moving to second base for the 1932 and 1933 seasons. He did not play at all in 1934, and his last season in the majors came in 1935, when he played 23 games for the Braves at the age of 43.

After the end of his playing career, Maranville transitioned to managing. His brief tenure with the Cubs in 1925 was the only time that he would manage in the majors, but he spent the rest of the 1930s as manager of several different minor league teams. In 1936 he was the player-manager of the Elmira Pioneers, and then he managed the Montreal Royals in 1937 and 1938, followed by the Albany Senators in 1939. His career ultimately came full circle in 1941, when he managed the Springfield Nationals here in his hometown. However, the Nationals finished with a dismal 50-85 record that year, and this proved to be his final role in professional baseball.

In his later years, Maranville was involved in youth baseball programs in several different cities, including in New York. He lived in New York City until his death on January 5, 1954, and his body was returned to Springfield for his funeral at Sacred Heart Church, followed by burial in St. Michael’s Cemetery. Then, just a few weeks later, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the class of 1954. He was the only player elected posthumously that year, but his Springfield family was well-represented at the subsequent induction ceremony in Cooperstown, including his second wife Helena, his daughter Elizabeth McGinnis, and his siblings Ward Maranville and Frances Sheehan.

The Maranvilles still owned this house on Cass Street at the time, and they would continue to own it until 1963, when Frances sold it more than 70 years after her father had purchased the property. Since then, the exterior of the house has not seen many changes, aside from some alterations to the front porch. The house appears to still have the same 1930s-era siding from the first photo, and it has retained some of what appear to be original 1890s decorative features, including the brackets under the eaves and the scalloped shingles on the sides of the porch. Overall, the house closely resembles the rest of the historic houses on Cass Street, which were all built around the same time with similar designs, and there are no plaques or other markings to indicate its significance. Regardless, though, the house is an important historic resource in Springfield, as the childhood home of one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of western Massachusetts.

Thomas Wason House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 270 Liberty Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This brick Italianate-style house was built sometime around the early 1850s, and it was the home of Thomas Wason, the founder of the Wason Manufacturing Company. At the time, this area of Springfield to the east of Chestnut Street and north of the railroad tracks was sparsely developed, consisting primarily of upscale homes that were modeled on rural Italian villas. A number of these houses are visible in the first photo of an earlier post, which shows the view around 1882, before the area was transformed into the working-class Liberty Heights neighborhood at the turn of the 20th century.

Thomas Wason was born in New Hampshire in 1811, and he grew up in a family with 15 children. His father was a carpenter, so Thomas worked in the shop when he was young, and gained valuable skills that he would put to use after he and his younger brother Charles moved to Springfield in the 1830s. At the time, Springfield was a small but rapidly-growing manufacturing center, and it was also an important transportation hub that would soon become the crossroads of several important railroads.

The Wason brothers took advantage of this new method of transportation, and they started out by preparing timbers for railroad bridges and repairing railroad cars before starting a railroad car manufacturing business in 1845. The company started small, with the Wasons producing cars in a shed that was not even large enough for a single car. However, the rapid growth of the nation’s railroad system resulted in high demand for railroad cars, so the Wasons soon moved to a larger facility. Then, in 1848, they moved again, to the factory of the former Springfield Car and Engine Company, which was located in the block between Lyman and Taylor Streets in downtown Springfield.

Charles Wason ultimately left Springfield in 1851 and moved to Cleveland, where he established his own railroad car company. Thomas purchased his brother’s interest in their partnership here in Springfield, and he carried on the business for many years, turning it into one of the nation’s leading railroad car manufacturers. During that time, the Wason Manufacturing Company produced cars for most major railroads, and also had several overseas contracts, including a 161-car order that was sent to Egypt in 1860. The company also produced the nation’s first sleeping car in 1857, predating the more famous Pullman sleeping cars by several years.

The Wason company was one of the most important industries in Springfield during the second half of the 19th century, and the 1884 book King’s Handbook of Springfield declared that “no manufactory in Springfield has been more world-famed; and none has, during the past twenty years, handled so much money.” Thomas Wason himself also handled plenty of money, and by the mid-1860s he ranked among the city’s top earners, with an 1864 income of $17,944, equivalent to over $300,000 today.

Thomas Wason was around 40 years old when moved into this house in the early 1850s. He and his wife Sarah had two children, Jane and George, who would have been adolescents at the time. Like most affluent families of the period, they also employed servants who lived here in the house; the 1860 census lists 19-year-old servant Edwin Mehan, who was an Irish immigrant. A decade later, the family employed 18-year-old Annie Harris and 16-year-old Ellen Davis. Both were originally from Virginia, and Harris was listed as mulatto and Davis as black, so it is possible that the two may have previously been enslaved in Virginia.

In addition to manufacturing railroad cars, Thomas Wason’s business interests included being involved with several local banks. He was vice president of the Hampden Savings Bank, and he was also one of the directors of the First National Bank of Springfield. Wason was also active in local politics, serving at various times on the city council, the board of aldermen, and in the state legislature.

Thomas Wason died in 1870 at the age of 58, and he left behind an estate that was valued at nearly $450,000, or more than $9 million today. By far his largest asset was his ownership interest in Wason Manufacturing, which amounted to 760 shares worth a total of $200,000. He also held more than $60,000 in shares of companies like the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, the First National Bank, the Boston and Albany Railroad, and the Michigan Central Railroad. Most of his remaining personal estate was in the form of bonds and promissory notes, which were valued at more than $112,000. Wason also owned $58,500 in real estate, including his house here on Liberty Street, which was assessed at $20,000.

Sarah Wason continued to live here in this house for at least five years after her husband’s death, but she had evidently moved out by 1876. The 1880 census shows her living next door at 284 Liberty Street, at the home of her daughter Jane and son-in-law Henry S. Hyde. However, her old house here at 270 Liberty Street would remain in the family for many years, although it appears to have been used primarily as a rental property. Starting around 1877, it was the home of Aaron Wight, a sawyer who sold wood to railroads. He was also the brother of Emerson Wight, the mayor of Springfield from 1875 to 1878. Aaron lived here in this house for the rest of his life, until his death in 1885 from typhoid malaria at the age of 63.

By the late 19th century, this part of Springfield had begun to change. As the city grew, the old estates here were steadily subdivided into new residential streets, and the neighborhood became predominantly working class, with a number of immigrants and second-generation Americans. The area also became more industrialized during this period, thanks to its proximity to the railroad tracks. The 1899 city atlas shows a rail yard directly across the street from the house, and nearby industries included a stone yard, a coal yard, and a boiler and iron works.

The house was still used as a residence in 1900, although it was apparently divided into multiple units. One of the residents in that year’s census was George K. Geiger, superintendent at the Springfield Steam Power Company. He was an immigrant from Germany, and he lived here with his wife Rosa and their two sons, George and Arthur. The other family living here at the time was Hector and Nell Davis, who lived here with their children Mabel, Fred, and Eugene. Hector was a conductor for the Boston and Maine Railroad, and Mabel and Fred both worked as clerks.

This property underwent a dramatic transformation around 1909, when the Central Storage Warehouse purchased it and built a brick warehouse behind and to the right of the old house. The building evidently functioned much in the same way as modern storage units, with the company advertising, “Storage rooms to let. For furniture and other goods in separate locked compartments.” The warehouse was subsequently expanded in the early 1910s, with a new wing that extended all the way to Liberty Street, as shown on the right side of both photos here.

George Geiger was involved with the company in its early years, working as mechanical engineer and superintendent. By the 1910 census, both he and the Davis family were still living here in the house, although the Davises moved out soon after, and the Geigers left in 1912, when George resigned from his position with the company. After the Geigers, the last long-term resident of this house appears to have been Linda Daniels, who was here from around 1912 until her death in 1921. During the 1920 census she was 60 years old, widowed, and lived in the house with three of her children.

By the mid-1920s, the property seems to have been exclusively commercial in use. During this period, the company frequently listed advertisements in local newspapers, which reflected an expansion of its services beyond just storage. One 1925 ad offered “Local and long distance moving, packing, crating, storage of household furniture, pianos, office effects, merchandise.” Another ad from the same year assured potential customers, “Don’t worry on moving day. Call R. 98 and your moving problems will be solved to your complete satisfaction; storage for household, personal and office effects in strictly fireproof building; skilled workmen, competent to pack and crate any article safely.” In addition to these ads, the company also frequently posted classified ads for auctions and other sales of furniture, antiques, and similar items.

Judging by the few advertisements that appeared in the newspaper for Central Storage Warehouse in the 1930s, the business was probably hurt by the Great Depression. The first photo was taken during this time, probably around 1938 or 1939, and the company’s only appearance in the newspapers in those years seems to have been a December 1939 classified ad listing female canaries for sale, which were “guaranteed singers.”

The company remained here as late as 1940, but its business license was revoked in the fall of that year, and in February 1941 the property was sold at a foreclosure sale to the moving and storage company Lindell & Benson. Within a few years Lindell & Benson became Anderson & Benson, and this moving company would go on to operate here for many years before it was acquired by Sitterly Movers in 1975.

Today, the house has come a long way since being the home of one of Springfield’s most prosperous 19th century industrialists, and it has seen some exterior changes since the first photo was taken, including the loss of the porches on the left and right sides of the house. It is now almost entirely surrounded by larger industrial and commercial buildings, and the vacant lot on the left side of the first photo is now a building that partially blocks the view of the house from this angle.

Otherwise, though, remarkably little has changed in this scene over the past 80 years. Despite the exterior alterations, the house is still standing as one of the few survivors of the once-numerous Italian villas in this area. The early 20th century warehouse next to it is also still standing, with the same “Furniture Storage” advertisement still visible at the top, although it is more faded than in the 1930s. This property is still owned by Sitterly Movers, which continues to use this location as its Springfield branch, and in 2016 both buildings were designated as a local historic district.

Highland Ice Company, Springfield, Mass

The Highland Ice Company on Coleman Street in Springfield, around the turn of the 20th century. Photo from author’s collection.

The scene on October 4, 1938. Image courtesy of the Springfield Building Department.

The scene in 2019:

The first photo here is from my family’s old photos, and it shows the ice business of my great-great uncle, George M. Lyman. It is actually a composite image; it appears to have been two separate images that were developed on the same sheet of photo paper, with a gap in the middle. I digitally eliminated the gap, and stitched the two images together to form a single panoramic view of the scene. The photo is undated, but the writing on the back, which reads “For Uncle Arthur from Leslie,” suggests that it was probably taken sometime between 1908 and 1912. The Leslie who wrote it is probably Leslie Page, who married George Lyman’s stepdaughter in 1908, and Uncle Arthur appears to have been Arthur W. Lyman, George’s older brother. Arthur worked as a teamster for the ice business, but he died in 1912, so the photo must have been taken before then.

The people in the photo are unidentified; it is possible that the man carrying the block of ice in the foreground might have been either Arthur or George, but I have never seen photos of either of them before. In any case, though, the photo was definitely taken on Coleman Street, right next to George Lyman’s house at 34 Coleman Street. The house is directly behind the photographer and not visible in the scene, but the photo shows several outbuildings on the property that were used by the ice business, including a large shed in the center, an ice bin on the right, and part of another shed on the far left. The photo is facing north, and the house in the distance on the left is at 153 Boston Road, which stood directly opposite Jasper Street.

George Lyman was originally from Wilbraham, and he grew up on the family farm on Springfield Street, just east of the Springfield boundary. His family was relatively prosperous, and he attended the town’s private high school, Wesleyan Academy, which is now Wilbraham-Monson Academy. Most of his siblings also attended the school, as did both of his parents, and both of his grandfathers had been trustees of the school. George’s father died when he was 13, and he subsequently assisted his mother on the farm. However, in the early 1890s, when he was 22, he moved to Springfield and entered the ice business.

At the time, in the days before electric refrigeration, ice was a valuable commodity. Aside from providing cold drinks on hot summer days, it also played an important role in the nation’s food supply by preserving meats and other perishable foods. This allowed food to be stored longer and transported further, and ice was used in large-scale commercial settings and in the iceboxes of individual households.

The commercial ice industry peaked in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was particularly prevalent in the northeast, which had the ideal combination of cold winters and extensive transportation networks to move the ice. The ice was harvested in the winter from lakes, ponds, and occasionally rivers, typically once the ice was about 18 inches thick. It was cut into blocks, and then stored in ice houses, where it could be kept until the following winter. From there, the ice could be used locally during the warm months, or it could be sold to different parts of the country or even overseas.

After moving to Springfield in the early 1890s, George Lyman lived in several different places before moving to 34 Coleman Street around 1899. At the time, Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood was just beginning to be developed into a residential suburb, and Lyman would have been among its early residents. He was about 30 years old, and he had recently married his wife Laura, a widow six years his senior who had three children from her previous marriage. George and Laura would subsequently have a child of their own together, Ralph, who was born in 1900, but he died at the age of seven.

The 1899 city atlas shows the Lyman home on one parcel, and the outbuildings on the next two parcels to the north. The ice bin on the right side of the first photo was not built yet, but the other two sheds were. Unlike the house, which was listed as belonging to George, these two parcels were owned under Laura’s name. George conducted his ice business here, and the large shed in this photo was apparently used to store the wagons, which were used to deliver the ice to both retail and commercial customers. As indicated by the wagon on the left, it was known as the Highland Ice Company, and the ice was harvested from Loon Pond, about two miles to the east of here on Boston Road. George owned a parcel of land at the southwest corner of the pond, at the corner of Boston and Pasco Roads, and this is apparently where his ice house was located.

The ice business was labor-intensive work, starting with the cutters who worked on frozen ponds in the middle of winter and ending with the teamsters who delivered it to homes and businesses throughout the year. George Lyman occasionally published classified ads looking for workers, including one in 1906 that sought an “ice peddler” and promised “good wages for the right man.” Nearly a decade later, in 1915, he posted another ad looking for two peddlers, and the only requirement listed was that they “must be temperate.” In addition, several of George’s family members worked for him, including the above-mentioned brother Arthur. According to family tradition, his younger brother Frank Lyman—my great grandfather—also worked for him, although this may have been on a temporary basis, because census records and city directories all indicate that Frank’s primary occupation was as a machinist.

During the early 20th century, George Lyman appears to have harvested about 3,000 to 4,000 tons of ice per year, although the particularly cold winter of 1911-1912 was a boon for ice dealers, and by the end of February he had stockpiled about 6,000 tons. That year, an article in the Springfield Republican listed the amount harvested by different local ice companies, and he was tied for the fifth-highest out of the nine dealers on the list. Based on contemporary advertisements in the newspapers, he generally sold his ice for 40 cents per 100 pounds to retail customers, 30 cents to drugstores, and 25 cents to markets.

George Lyman was apparently looking to get out of the ice industry as early as 1913, when he published a classified ad that read, “Having been in business 21 years, would like to sell 3000 tons of ice, house, barn, sheds, wagons, horses, tools, elevator, icehouse, etc.” However, he must not have had any takers, since he continued to run the business for several more years before selling it to the Harder Grain and Coal Company around 1915. He then turned his attention to the family farm in Wilbraham, but he continued to live here on Coleman Street until around 1925, when he and his wife Laura moved to Wilbraham.

The first photo was taken in 1938 as part of a WPA project to document every building in the city of Springfield. By this point the ice bin on the right side had been removed, but the old shed was still standing, although its condition had deteriorated considerably since the days when George Lyman ran his ice business here. The old horse-drawn ice wagons were long gone by then, and the dump truck in one of the bays demonstrates the ways in which transportation had changed over the past few decades.

During this time, the surrounding neighborhood had also changed. By the late 1930s, Pine Point had become much more developed, and Boston Road was now lined with a number of businesses. The house in the distance on the left side of the first photo was gone by this point, and it was replaced by a row of commercial buildings, one of which is partially visible on the far left side of the second photo. Among the retail tenants of these buildings was the first Friendly’s restaurant, which had opened in 1935 in a storefront directly behind the old shed. There, brothers S. Prestley and Curtis Blake got their start in selling ice cream, just yards away from where George Lyman had once sold ice.

Today, more than 80 years after the second photo was taken and over a century after the first one, the old shed is long gone. Lyman’s house at 34 Coleman Street is still standing, but the other two parcels next to the house have been transformed. Around 1954 a house was built on the lot directly adjacent to his old house, and it stands approximately on the spot where the first photo was taken. The other lot, where the shed was once located, is now part of a parking area for the businesses on Boston Road. These early 20th century commercial buildings are still standing today, and they are visible on the left side of the present-day photo. Furthest to the right in the photo, directly behind the telephone pole, is the part of the building that was once occupied by the first Friendly’s restaurant.