Town Green, Longmeadow, Mass

Facing north on the Town Green in Longmeadow, on July 5, 1903. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The Green in 2016:

Longmeadow’s Town Green is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is surrounded by a number of buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. There have been some changes since the first photo was taken, particularly to the church and its parsonage. The church, surprisingly, is the same one from the first photo, just with some significant alterations, and the parsonage is the same building, just in a different location. It is located in about the center of the 1903 photo, just north of Williams Street, but it was moved to the other side of the church around 1921, where it is visible on the far right in the 2016 photo. The large Colonial Revial-style Community House, which was built on the old site of the parsonage in 1921, is the newest building in this scene and the only one that does not appear in the 1903 photo.

Simon Colton House, Longmeadow, Mass

The Simon Colton House, as seen from the Longmeadow town green on September 21, 1918. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

When the first photo was taken almost a century ago, this house was already a historic building, as one of the oldest surviving houses in the town. It was built in 1735 by Simon Colton, who married Abigail Burt a year later. They raised their 12 children in this house, and after Abigail’s death in 1760, Colton married Rebekah Hale. Colton was a prominent resident of Longmeadow, and in addition to serving as a town selectman for nine years and as a captain in the French and Indian War, he also operated a tavern out of the house.

He lived here until his death in 1796, and his son Luther lived here with his wife Thankful and their eight children. Thankful died only a year later, though, and in 1799 Luther remarried to Mehitable Deming, a widow who had four children of her own. She accepted his proposal under the condition that he build her an addition to the house, seen on the right side in this view, where she could go if she needed time away from the 12 children. Luther and Mehitable ended up having two more children of their own, making their household an 18th century version of Yours, Mine and Ours. Luther died in 1804 at the age of 47, but Mehitable lived nearly twice as long, remaining in the house until her death in 1856 at the age of 93.

The house remained in the Colton family for 200 years, until it was transferred to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in 1935. The organization, which is now Historic New England, has since sold the house, but with the stipulations that the front facade not be changed, and that it remains painted red. Today, the house has not changed much since the first photo was taken 98 years ago, and it is flanked by two other historic buildings. The Justin Colton House on the right, and the 1857 church parsonage, which does not appear in the 1918 scene because it was moved here around 1921, is on the left. All three buildings, along with the rest of the historic buildings around the town green, are part of the Longmeadow Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Incidentally, the Colton House is not the oldest object in the first photo. According to photographer Paesiello Emerson, the elm tree that is partially blocking the view of the house was 300 years old, which, if accurate, would mean that the tree predated even the arrival of the Mayflower. However, it is unlikely to have survived more than a couple decades after the photo was taken, as both the 1938 hurricane and Dutch Elm Disease took a heavy toll on the large elms that once lined the streets of New England.

Thomas Bliss House, Longmeadow, Mass

The Thomas Bliss House on Longmeadow Street, on May 5, 1910. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The house in 2023:

This house is so old that it was actually built in Springfield, years before Longmeadow became a separate town. It is one of many historic 18th century homes still standing in Longmeadow, and although its exact date of construction is uncertain, it was built sometime between 1714 and 1758 for Thomas Bliss, on the opposite side of the street. When Bliss died in 1758, his son Henry sold it to Nathaniel Ely, who operated a tavern out of here. It was used as a tavern until 1833 , and was later moved across the street to its present location.

One of the subsequent owners was Dr. Lester Noble, a dentist who played a role in the high-profile 1849 murder of Dr. George Parkman. Along with fellow Longmeadow dentist Dr. Nathan Keep, Noble used dental records to identify Parkman’s badly mutilated body, making it one of the first trials to use dental evidence. Dr. Noble died a few years before the first photo was taken in 1910. At this point, the house was owned by Cora M. Page, and it featured a porch on the front and side, along with several outbuildings behind it. The porch is partially gone now, as are the barns/sheds in the background, but the historic house is still standing, and at possibly 300 years old it is one of the oldest buildings in Longmeadow.

William May House, Springfield, Mass

The William May House on Sumner Avenue in Springfield, on April 8, 1911. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The house in 2016:

This house on Sumner Avenue in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood was built in 1911, around the time that the first photo was taken. It was built as a two-family home, with Springfield Public Market executives William May and Herman Isenberg each owning half of it. May was the president of the grocery store, and in 1920 he was living here with his wife Helen, their daughter Hilda, and an Irish servant named Catherine O’Connor. Isenberg was the treasurer of the company, and he was a German immigrant who lived here with his wife Ida, their children Alice and Joel, and a cousin.

By the 1940 census, both families were still living here, but William and Ida both died sometime between 1930 and 1940. Herman, 64 ears old at this point, was listed as the company president, and his 29 year old son Joel was still living here and working as a manager in the store. The two men were each listed as earning over $5,000 per year, which was the highest income category on the census, equivalent to over $85,000 today. They also employed three servants who earned between $350 and $780 per year, or about $6,000 to $13,000 today.

Today, the historic house is still a two-family building, and very little has changed on the exterior. Like the nearby Lathrop House, it is an excellent example of classical revival architecture from the turn of the last century, and it is part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

F.W. Lathrop House, Springfield, Mass

The F.W. Lathrop House on Sumner Avenue in the Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield, on April 8, 1911. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The house in 2016:

This mansion at 188 Sumner Avenue was built in 1899 for real estate dealer Frederick W. Lathrop and his wife Flora. At the time, Forest Park was becoming a fashionable neighborhood, and many large, elegant homes were built along Sumner Avenue and other streets in the area. The photo in this earlier post shows the house on the left side of the tree-lined street in around the same time period. Lathrop died in 1917 and Flora in 1933, and since then the home has gone through a variety of uses, including as a Jewish temple, a Jewish school, an art school, and a bed and breakfast. Today, the house is a well-preserved example of Springfield’s historic mansions, and it is part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Corner of Belmont and Sumner Avenues, Springfield, Mass

A commercial building on Belmont Avenue, just north of Sumner Avenue at the “X” in Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood, photographed on April 8, 1911. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The view in 2016:

When the first photo was taken, this section of the Forest Park neighborhood was still in the process of being developed, and the “X”, the six-way intersection of Sumner Avenue, Belmont Avenue, and Dickinson Street, would soon become its focal point. Completed in 1908, this building was among the first commercial buildings in the area, and it was in an ideal location on the north side of Sumner Avenue, wedged between Belmont Avenue and Dickinson Street. In 1911 its tenants included, from left to right, Drown’s Bakery, Chin Sam Laundry, Joseph Novrack First Class Shoe Repairing, and Joseph E. Hartt Meat Market. Over the years, other similar buildings were added around it, and the original facade has been altered, but it is still standing today.