St. Jerome’s Church, Holyoke, Mass

St. Jerome’s Church and Rectory on Hampden Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Holyoke was developed into a major industrial center. Many factories were built along the city’s network of canals, and were powered by water from the Connecticut River, which drops 58 feet at the falls between Holyoke and South Hadley. The factories led to a dramatic population growth, particularly with immigrant groups such as the Irish and the French Canadians, who came to Holyoke in search of work, and this led to an abundance of Catholic churches to serve these two predominantly Roman Catholic communities.

The first of these Catholic churches was St. Jerome’s Church, which was established in 1856. The church building, seen here in the center of both photos, was constructed two years later, diagonally opposite Hampden Park at the corner of Hampden and Chestnut Streets. It features a brick, Gothic Revival-style design and, like many other Catholic churches of the era, was designed by prominent Irish-born architect Patrick Keely.

As the Catholic population of Holyoke continued to grow, a number of additional buildings were added around St. Jerome’s Church. The St. Jerome Institute was established as a school for boys in 1872, and was located in a building just to the left of the church, on the far left side of the first photo. Then, in 1879, a Second Empire-style church rectory was built to the right of the church, on the opposite side of Chestnut Street, and is visible on the right side of both photos. Other buildings constructed during this time included the Sisters of Notre Dame Convent (1870), the Convent of the Sisters of Providence  (1886), and the School of the Immaculate Conception (1883), all of which were located across Hampden Street opposite the church, just out of view to the left.

St. Jerome’s Church was significantly damaged by a fire in 1934 that left only the exterior brick walls still standing. However, the building was reconstructed a year later, and it remains in use today as an active Roman Catholic parish. Most of the other 19th century buildings nearby are still standing, aside from the St. Jerome Institute, which was demolished in the late 20th century. Today, these remaining buildings, including St. Jerome’s Church, now form part of the Hampden Park Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

Elm Street, Holyoke Mass

Looking north on Elm Street toward Appleton Street in Holyoke, around 1908:

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Elm Street in 2015:


The contrast in these two scenes illustrates what has happened in Holyoke over the past century.  When the first photo was taken, the city was rapidly growing in population; by the 1910 census, it had over 57,000 residents, and the city was one of the world’s leading paper manufacturing centers.  However, by the middle of the 20th century the factories began closing, and the population dropped.  The 2010 census showed fewer than 40,000 residents, and Holyoke currently has the second lowest median household income level out of all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns.  The house and the apartment building on the left-hand side of Elm Street are still there from the 1908 photo, but otherwise it is a very different scene today.

Civil War Monument, Holyoke Mass

The Civil War Monument in Veterans’ Memorial Park in Holyoke, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The statue in 2015:


Civil War monuments are a common feature in communities across the country, and Holyoke is no exception with their monument to the city’s 55 residents who died in the war.  What is rather unusual about this one, though, is the sculptor: former Confederate soldier Henry Jackson Ellicott.  It is also unusual in that most Civil War monuments feature the figure of a soldier, while Ellicott’s creation has Liberty holding a wreath atop the monument.  It was dedicated on America’s centennial, July 4, 1876, and today it remains at the center of Veterans Park, which now includes monuments for veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Not much of the surrounding neighborhood is visible in the first photo, but St. Jerome’s Church is clearly visible in the 2015 view.  Although mostly obscured by leaves, the church is there in the first photo; in fact, not only is it older than the monument, but it is older than the war itself.  The church was completed in 1860 to serve the growing population of mill workers, and was the first of many Catholic churches in Holyoke.  The statue includes a list of the 55 Holyoke men killed in the war, and among these are Irish names like Sullivan, McDonald, Cronan, and Donahue, so they very well could have been parishioners across the street at St. Jerome’s Church before they enlisted.

City Hall, Holyoke Mass

City Hall in Holyoke, seen looking up Dwight Street in 1892. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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City Hall in 2015:


It almost resembles a Medieval cathedral, and in fact the original caption of the 1892 photo misidentified it as a church, but this building is actually Holyoke City Hall.  Opened in 1876, it bears some resemblance to the Hampden County Courthouse.  Both were made out of the same material, granite from Monson, Massachusetts, and with similar neo-Gothic and Romanesque style architecture, which was common in late 19th century public buildings.  Curiously, it had two architects: Charles B. Atwood, who designed most of the exterior, and Henry F. Kilburn, who took over after Atwood failed to produce his work in a timely manner.  Kilburn ended up designing the interior and the 220 foot tower.  Today, the exterior is well-preserved; it continues to be used as City Hall, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

High Street, Holyoke Mass (2)

Looking north on High Street from Suffolk Street in Holyoke, around 1903-1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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High Street in 2015:


These photos show a scene similar to the ones in this post, just a half a block further south, at the corner of High and Suffolk Streets.  This area is also part of the North High Street Historic District, and all of the buildings on the left-hand side date to between 1880 and 1920.  The first photo was taken at a good time to show some of the changes that happened in the early 19th century.  Had this photo been taken less than 10 years later, we would see almost no change today; all of the present-day buildings in the foreground were built by about 1912.  Starting on the far left side and heading down High Street, the first five buildings in the present-day photo are:

  • An unnamed commercial block, which was built in 1910 and replaced two earlier buildings, including the ornate Naumkeag Clothiers building in the first photo.
  • Bishop Block, which was built around 1890 and has had a few alterations over the years, especially the facade on the second floor.
  • Taber Block, which was built around 1884 and is architecturally very similar to the Russell-Osborne Building further down the street
  • Childs Building, which was built around 1912
  • Steiger’s Building, which was built around 1900 and was home to one of Albert Steiger’s department stores

Overall, the changes in the two photos reflect the prosperity of Holyoke at the turn of the last century; its paper mills were bringing jobs and wealth to the city, and this was seen on High Street, where relatively new buildings from the 1880s and 1890s were being taken down and replaced by larger commercial buildings.  However, just as new construction on this part of High Street seemed to stagnate by the mid 20th century, Holyoke’s economy also stagnated with the closing of the paper mills.  Today,  parts of Holyoke are filled with historic buildings, but sadly this is not necessarily because of careful attention to historic preservation, but rather from a lack of new economic development in the city.

High Street, Holyoke Mass (1)

Looking north on High Street between Suffolk and Dwight Streets, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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High Street in 2015:


Holyoke has a number of buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but these photos show the only Historic District located within the city.  The two photos show a number of changes in the past 100 years, but even the most of the “new” buildings seen in the 2015 photo date to the 1920s or earlier.  Several notable buildings from the first photo have survived, though.  On the left-hand side, starting closest to the foreground, they are:

  • Mayberry Building (narrow red brick building) – Built in 1881, although it had a fourth story added at some point after the 1908 photo.
  • Russell-Osborne Building (the next red brick building) – Built in 1885, this building’s ornate facade contrasts with most of the other more reserved architectural styles, but it has lost some of its decoration over the years, including the gargoyle-like carvings that can be seen in the 1908 photo.
  • Ball Block (yellow brick, in center of the photos) – Built in 1898 and located at the corner of High and Dwight Streets, this was an office building but was later converted into a bank.  However, most of the modifications were made to the interior, so from the outside it hasn’t changed much in appearance since the first photo was taken.
  • Caledonia Building (in the distance, flying an American flag) – Built in 1874, its Second Empire architectural style with a mansard roof is very different from most of the other buildings along this part of High Street, but its exterior hasn’t changed much since it was built.