Burbank House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 330 Park Drive in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house is located in Colony Hills, an upscale residential neighborhood that was developed starting in the 1920s. The area is located just to the south of Forest Park, where it straddles the border of Springfield and Longmeadow. The Springfield side, where this house is located, is unusual in that it consists of two separate sections that are effectively enclaves of the city. They are surrounded on three sides by Forest Park, and on the fourth side by the Longmeadow border, so there is no direct road connection between Colony Hills and the rest of Springfield without passing through Longmeadow. As a result, the neighborhood is quiet and isolated from the rest of the city, making it a particularly desirable place to live.

About half of the houses on the Springfield side of the neighborhood are on Park Drive, which runs along part of the perimeter of Forest Park. Of these, this house has perhaps the most desirable location. The property lies in the center of a horseshoe-shaped curve, so it is almost entirely surrounded by wooded parkland, with no other homes visible from the front yard. The house itself was built in 1929, and it features a Tudor Revival design that was typical for upscale homes of this period. It was the work of Max Westhoff, a local architect who also designed similar homes on Maple Street and Longhill Street.

The original owner of this house was Daniel E. Burbank, a real estate investor whose properties included the Hotel Worthy in downtown Springfield. He ran a real estate business here in Springfield, but in 1932 he also became the real estate consultant for the Bickford’s restaurant chain, along with serving as one of the company’s directors.

Burbank was not living in this house during the 1930 census, but he and his family evidently moved in soon afterward. The first photo was taken sometime around the late 1930s, and the 1940 census shows Burbank living here with his wife Helen and their children Daniel Jr., Lyman, Barbara, and David. At the time, the house was valued at $50,000, or nearly $1 million today, and Burbank’s income was listed at over $5,000, which was the highest income level on the census.

Helen Burbank died in 1948, but Daniel continued to live here until his own death in 1960, at the age of 77. Later that year, the house was sold to Joseph J. Deliso, an industrialist who was, at the time, president and treasurer of the Hampden Brass & Aluminum Company, and president of the Hampden Pattern & Sales Company. Deliso has previously lived in a different Westhoff-designed house at 352 Longhill Street, and he went on to live here in this house on Park Drive for the rest of his life.

During this time, Deliso was instrumental in establishing Springfield Technical Community College after the closure of the Armory, and he was the first chairman of the STCC Advisory Board, serving from 1967 to 1981. He subsequently became the first chairman of the STCC Board of Trustees, and in 1992 one of the buildings on the campus was named Deliso Hall in his honor.

Deliso died in 1996, and a year later the house was sold to the Picknelly family, owners of the Peter Pan Bus Lines. The property is still owned by the Picknellys today, and the house remains well-preserved, with few exterior changes from this view aside from an addition on the far left side. It is now the centerpiece of the Colony Hills Local Historic District, which was established in 2016 and encompasses all of the historic homes on the Springfield side of the neighborhood.

Neil’s Bakery, Springfield, Mass

Neil’s Bakery, at 531 Main Street in Indian Orchard, around the 1930s. Author’s collection, gift of Linda Thayer.

The scene in 2019:

This photo shows one of the five storefronts that are located on the ground floor of a two-story building at the corner of Main and Parker Streets, in the Springfield neighborhood of Indian Orchard. The building was constructed in 1924, and the photo was probably taken within about a decade afterward. At the time, this particular storefront was the home of Neil’s Bakery, and the photo shows a variety of muffins, cookies, pies, cakes, and other baked goods on display behind the front windows.

According to a handwritten caption on the photo, the woman in the doorway is Caroline Neils. She was the daughter of Ludwig Neils, the owner of the bakery. Ludwig and his wife Aniela were both Polish immigrants, and they came to the United States as teenagers in the early 20th century. Caroline, their oldest child, was born in Springfield in 1912, and they had six other children, the youngest of whom was born around 1930.

The 1920 census shows Ludwig—who also went by the name Louis—working as a polisher in a machine shop, but by 1930 he had opened his bakery. It was still in business a decade later, during the 1940 census, and both Aniela and one of their sons were also listed as employees there. In both 1930 and 1940, the family was living just around the corner from here at 34 Parker Street, where they paid $17 per month in rent.

However, the bakery evidently closed soon after the 1940 census, and Ludwig returned to working as a machinist. According to the 1941 city directory, he was employed by the Van Norman Machine Company, and he subsequently worked there for many years. In the meantime, Caroline Neils married William Bak, and by the 1950s they were in Pittsfield. She lived there until her death in 2002, at the age of 90.

Today, the building where the Neils family once had their bakery is still standing. The storefront has been altered, and the interior was badly damaged by a fire in 1974, but there are still some subtle hints from the first photo. The bricks are the same in both photos, and as a result the building has the same arrangement of light- and dark-colored bricks, which is particularly noticeable in the vertical course directly above the storefront.

83-89 Walnut Street, Springfield, Mass

The apartment building at 83-89 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

This apartment building was constructed in 1906 on the east side of Walnut Street, about halfway between the corners of Union and Oak Streets. Its design was typical for Springfield apartment blocks of the period, with four stories and a Classical Revival exterior that featured elements such as an ornate cornice, along with bows that projected from the building’s facade.

According to current city records, the building has 16 units, and this was likely the case throughout its history, with census records showing anywhere from 9 to 16 families living here during the first half of the 20th century. The 1910 census, for example, lists 13 different families. Some of these families had roomers living with them in their units, and there were a total of 42 residents here at the time. A few were employed at the nearby Springfield Armory, but most worked for private companies or individuals. These included several clerks and traveling salesmen, a physician, a dressmaker, a silk winder, a manicurist, a chauffeur, a real estate broker, and a locomotive inspector. However, the youngest employed resident here was nine-year-old Chester H. Scott, who worked as a newsboy in the days before child labor laws.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the building was evidently filled to capacity, with the 1940 census showing 16 families and a total of 56 residents. Most paid between $30 and $40 per month in rent (about $550 to $750 today), and as was the case 30 years earlier, many took in roomers, presumably to help offset the cost of the rent. Despite the significant increase in the number of residents from 1910, though, there were actually fewer people here who were employed, with only 24 having an occupation listed on the census.

Most of those in the 1940 census who did work earned between $1,000 and $1,500 per year (about $18,500 to $27,700 today), and the highest-paid residents were railroad conductor William R. Braney and factory foreman Joseph Webber, who each earned $2,000. Other workers here included several machinists, a bartender, a truck driver, a radio repairman, a laundress, and a bookkeeper. Only two residents worked at the Armory, although this would likely have changed within a few years, as the Armory dramatically increased its workforce in order to meet wartime demand during World War II.

Today, around 80 years after the first photo was taken, remarkably little has changed in this scene. The house on the far right side is gone, and there are no longer any horse-drawn wagons parked here on the street, but the building looks essentially the same, and it survives as a well-preserved example of an early 20th century apartment block.

Dennison O. Lombard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 69-71 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house was apparently built around 1900 by Dennison O. Lombard, an iron foundry foreman who had previously lived in an earlier house on this lot. Lombard had acquired the property around 1889, after the death of its prior owner, Elisha D. Stocking. He lived there for about a decade before building the current house, which features a Queen Anne-style exterior that was popular for Springfield homes during the late 19th century. The lot also includes a smaller house, visible behind and to the left of the main house. This may have been built at the same time, but it is also possible that it is actually the original house, which could have been moved to the rear of the property when the new one was built.

During the 1900 census, Lombard was 54 years old, and he was living here with four of his children and his father. He was listed as being married at the time, but his wife was evidently not living here. They may have been separated for some time, because Lombard’s name appears in the newspaper archives in 1895, when his wife Nellie sued him for support. The census also shows butcher Alonzo A. Baker living on the property, presumably in the rear house. A year earlier, he had married his wife Ida, and by 1900 he was living here with his wife Ida and her 16-year-old daughter Elsie B. Kennedy. It was the second marriage for both Alonzo and Ida, as they had each been previously divorced, which was unusual for the late 19th century.

Lombard moves out of Springfield by 1903, and he died a year later. By the 1910 census, there were two different families living here, evidently with one in the main house and the other in the rear house. The first family was headed by Mary E. Murphy, a 48-year-old widow who lived here with nine of her ten children. They ranged in age from 7 to 24, and the five oldest were all employed. Alice was a stenographer for an ice company, Edward was a salesman for a baker wagon, Grace did office work for an art company, Samuel was a stenographer for a blank book company, and Ruth did office work for a publishing company.

The other residents on this property in 1910 were Charles and Catherine Wright, who were 48 and 37 years old, respectively. They lived here with five children, ranging from their 16-year-old daughter Grace to their three-year-old son William. The Wrights had a sixth living child who had presumably moved out already, and they also had three other children who had died young. Charles was the only person in the household who was employed, and he worked down the hill from here at Smith & Wesson.

By the early 1910s, this property was sold to Mary C. Gerrard, an Irish immigrant whose husband James had recently died. She lived here for several years until her death in 1915, but the house would remain in Gerrard family for many decades afterward. The 1920 census shows two of her children, Raymond and Catherine, living here, with Raymond working as an assembler at the nearby Armory.

Catherine was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. She evidently rented rooms to lodgers, based on classified ads that frequently appeared in the newspaper during the mid-20th century, but during the 1940 census she only had one lodger, 67-year-old Florence Barker. Otherwise, she appears to have lived in the house without any other family members during this time, and she resided here until her death in 1976 at the age of 83.

Today, about 80 years after the first photo was taken, the house does not look significantly different. The buildings on the far left and far right sides of the first photo are now gone, but both the main house and the building in the rear of the property are still standing, with only minor exterior changes such as the removal of the shutters and the replacement of the porch railing.

James W. Kirkham House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 265 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house was completed in 1883 as the home of James W. Kirkham, a banker who, at the time, worked as the assistant cashier for the First National Bank. It was built at a cost of $13,000, and he moved into the house in January 1883 along with his wife Fanny and their infant son William. They went on to live here for the next 15 years or so, before moving to Maple Street in the late 1890s. Kirkham remained involved with the First National Bank throughout this time, and eventually became its president in 1905. By then, the family had moved into the former home of Orick H. Greenleaf on Maple Street, where Kirkham lived until his death in 1927.

In the meantime, this house on State Street was sold to Robert W. Day, the treasurer of the Morgan Envelope Company. Day had been with the company since its early years, starting as a 20-year-old office boy before steadily moving up in the ranks. In fact, it was the company founder, Elisha Morgan, who suggested that Day purchase this property, as it was located directly adjacent to his own home at 273 State Street. Day followed this advice, and he made some alterations to the house, which originally had a very different roof. The front gable, for example, is not original to the house, and it was likely added as part of these renovations.

In 1898, around the same time that Day moved into this house, the Morgan Envelope Company merged with nine other manufacturers to form the United States Envelope Company. Headquartered in nearby Holyoke, this company controlled about 90 percent of the nation’s envelope production, and Day retained his position as treasurer of the company, although he would later become vice president. In addition, he was involved in other area businesses, serving as vice president of the Springfield National Bank and president of the United Electric Company and the Indian Orchard Company.

During the 1900 census, Robert W. Day was 48 years old, and he was living here with his wife Ida and their children Pauline, Robert, Winsor, and Morgan, who ranged in age from seven to 21. The family also employed four servants who lived here with them, including one who was a coachman. A decade later, only the two youngest children were still living here with Robert and Ida, but they still had four servants, who were listed in the census as a waitress, a cook, a chambermaid, and a butler. Robert lived here until his death in 1926, and Ida remained here until at least the mid-1930s, although she subsequently moved to a house on Maple Street.

The first photo was taken around 1938 or 1939, and the house was apparently vacant by this point. However, within a few years it would be converted into commercial use, and for most of the 1940s it was the home of the Wesmas Candy Corporation. Starting in 1949, Western Mass Theaters, Inc. was located here, and both the house and carriage house on the property had several other commercial tenants during the second half of the 20th century.

Both buildings were vacant by the 1990s and were badly deteriorated, but they were ultimately restored in an extensive project that was completed in 2006. Since then, the house has been used as law offices, and today there are few noticeable differences from the first photo. The house is one of the few surviving 19th century homes on this section of State Street, where it serves as a reminder of the days when this area was home to some of the city’s most affluent residents.

Monarch Life Insurance Company Building, Springfield, Mass

The offices of the Monarch Life Insurance Company at 365 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2019:

This building was constructed in 1938 as the home of the Monarch Life Insurance Company. Founded in 1901 as the Masonic Mutual Accident Company, it was one of several important insurance companies that were headquartered in Springfield during the early 20th century. The company originally had its offices on Elm Street, but later moved to two different locations on State Street before purchasing a house at 14 Maple Street and converting it into offices in 1924. However, it soon outgrew that building, and in 1937 the company began planning a new headquarters here on State Street, opposite the Springfield Armory.

Work began in June 1937, and the cornerstone was laid in November. The building was completed the following June, and the first photo was probably taken within about a year afterward. It was designed by Hartford architect Carl J. Malmfeldt, with an exterior that was vaguely Art Deco in its appearance. Although rather boxy and with little ornamentation, its appearance was praised by contemporary accounts in the Springfield Republican, which described it as “a building of pleasing proportions and simple lines, devoid of purposeless decoration.” Another article, published shortly before the building opened, provided the following description:

It is a distinct architectural asset to the old street. Its completion, with the outside embellishments of lawns and shrubbery in such excellent taste, dispels all doubt that may have been felt when the structure was but half finished. There may have been those who wondered what the State street of the 20th century was coming to, but it now appears that the Monarch building is the fair queen of the hill.

On the interior, the building included 35,000 square feet of space on three floors. The main floor housed the executive offices on the right side, and on the left side was the sales department, and auditorium, and training rooms. On the upper level was the general office, which extended the entire length of the building and included space for the various departments, private offices for the department managers and medical staff, and the tabulating machine that was used by the statistical department. The ground floor, which is largely hidden from view from the street, included the cafeteria, along with space for shipping, printing, and for supply storage.

Monarch Life Insurance ultimately remained here at this location for just 20 years, before merging with the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company in 1958 and moving into its offices further east on State Street. This building was then sold to the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. This company has owned it ever since, although it has undergone several mergers and name changes, and it is now Verizon New England, as indicated by the sign in the present-day photo. Aside from this change in use, though, the building’s exterior appearance remains largely the same as it looked when it was completed more than 80 years ago. From this angle, the only significant difference is the windows, but otherwise it stands as a well-preserved example of Depression-era architecture in Springfield.