423-427 State Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 423-427 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

It seems difficult to determine exactly when this building was constructed. City maps show buildings on this lot as early as 1851, although this particular building clearly does not date that far back, at least not in its current form. This property was sold at auction in 1890, and the classified ad for it described the building as a “Good two-tenement brick house, 12 rooms, also a small barn.” The current building seems much larger than just two units with 12 rooms total, so it was likely either built shortly after this sale, or significantly expanded. Either way, it had largely assumed its present appearance by 1892, as it is visible in the background of a photo taken of the neighboring Olivet Church. At the time, though, the building had a three-story porch on the right side, and there was no storefront here on the ground floor.

By this point, the building was owned by Frederick B. Taylor, a merchant who sold building materials such as doors, windows, blinds, and paint in his shop on Market Street. It does not seem clear as to how many apartments were in this building, but the 1900 census shows at least two different families living here, and contemporary classified ads suggest that there were least two other units that were vacant at the time of the census. Of the two tenants listed on the census, one was Dr. Delia L. Chapin, a physician who lived here and also had her medical practice in the building. She was 45 years old at the time, and lived with her younger sister Sarah, who worked as a nurse. The other tenant was Louisa E. Madison, a 48-year-old African-American woman who worked as a laundress. She lived here with her two teenaged sons, Walter and Lawrence.

The first photo was taken almost 40 years later in the late 1930s, and by then the porch on the right side had been removed, and two storefronts were added to the ground floor. The business on the left was the tailor shop of Joseph D’Aversa, and the one on the right was a shoe repair shop owned by Saverio Gozzi. During the 1940 census, there were at least four different families living on the upper floors, and they paid between $22 and $33 per month in rent. These residents held a variety of jobs, including a maintenance man at an apartment complex, a salesman, a waitress, and a milling machine operator and an assemblyman at Indian Motocycle. They all worked full-time, and their wages ranged from $480 per year for the waitress, to $1,200 per year for the salesman.

More than 80 years after the first photo was taken, this building is still standing. According to city records, it currently has five apartment units, and on the ground floor it currently houses a barbershop. It has seen some changes over the years, including the removal of the early 20th century storefronts, and the brick exterior has been covered in stucco. Overall, though, it is still easily recognizable from the first photo, and it stands as one of several historic 19th century commercial buildings along this section of State Street.

429-435 State Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 429-435 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

This building was probably constructed sometime around the 1870s or 1880s, on the south side of State Street opposite the Springfield Armory. At the time, this block of State Street included a number of similar brick, three-story commercial buildings, and these generally had retail tenants on the ground floor, with apartments on the upper two floors. It is difficult to precisely date the building, but it was definitely here by the turn of the 29th century, when it appears in the city atlas as the property of Oscar F. Swift. At the time, it had at least three businesses on the ground floor, with grocer Charles H. Montgomery on the right, boot and shoe dealer Arthur O. Etienne in the middle, and locksmith Charles C. Spencer on the left.

The first photo was taken about 40 years later, in the late 1930s. By this point its tenants included launderer Charles Murphy on the right, barber Michael M. Sheehan in the middle, and antique dealer Harrison H. Bovee on the left. On the upper floors, the building had at least four families renting apartments, including Bovee, who lived here with his wife Agnes and their son Gerald. According to the 1940 census, they paid $17 per month in rent, and the other three families paid between $16 and $18.

The building was still standing here for at least a few decades after the first photo was taken, and perhaps its last retail tenant was DeMarco’s Wholesale Toy & Novelty, which was located here in the late 1950s and 1960s. It was ultimately demolished sometime around the 1970s, and the property subsequently became a parking lot adjacent to the now-vacant Kavanagh Furniture Company building, which stands on the left side of the scene in the present-day photo.

Kavanagh Furniture, Springfield, Mass

The Kavanagh Furniture store on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

Until it closed in 2009, Kavanagh Furniture was one of the oldest businesses in Springfield, with a history that dated back to 1873. It began as the furniture company of Dennis Nelen, an Irish immigrant who had come to the United States only a few years earlier. He later formed a partnership with fellow Irishman William Kavanagh, and by the 1890s the two men were running the business at this location on State Street.

Nelen died in 1904, and it was around this time that Kavanagh acquired control of the company. Then, at some point in the early 20th century he constructed the two-story building that currently stands here on this site. He continued to run the store for the rest of his life, until his death in 1930. He left an estate of nearly $300,000, equivalent to over $4.5 million today, which included 1,987 of the 2,000 shares of the furniture company. Kavanagh apparently had no children, so he bequeathed these shares to his employees. The single largest beneficiary among the employees was Frank Nelen, the son of his former business partner, and he subsequently became the company president and treasurer.

The first photo was taken less than a decade later, showing the building as it appeared during the Great Depression. Nelen was still running the company at the time, but he died only a few years later in 1942. However, the company remained in the Nelen family for many years, with his son John D. Nelen carrying on the business into the 21st century. During this time, the building underwent some changes, including covering the second story windows, but Kavanagh Furniture continued to operate here until it went out of business in 2009. Since then, the building has remained vacant and boarded up, but it still stands here on State Street.

 

447-455 State Street, Springfield, Mass

The buildings at 447-455 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These three commercial buildings were constructed around 1875 on the south side of State Street, a little west of Walnut Street and directly across from the Springfield Armory. As was typical for these types of buildings, they were built with retail space on the ground floor and apartments on the upper floors, many of which were likely rented to Armory workers. The businesses here would have also served the workers across the street, and at the turn of the 20th century these included the tailor shop of Edward G Kopp, the billiards room and tobacco shop of Louis Herchowitz, and the grocery store of W. C. Belding Jr.

Of these establishments, Herchowitz’s shop had a remarkably long tenure here in this building. Along with his brothers Abraham and Henry, Louis immigrated to the United States from Lithuania as teenagers around 1890. They originally lived in New Haven, but came to Springfield in 1900, where they opened their store here in this building. For a time they rented space in the building on the left, but by 1920 they had purchased the property and were living above the store, along with their mother Bessie. In that year’s census, Abraham was listed as the owner of the shop, while Louis and Henry were operating a bowling alley around the corner on Walnut Street.

Although only partially visible on the far left side of the scene, Abraham Herchowitz was still running the tobacco shop here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. However, by this point the other two storefronts had become the Armory Auto Supply. The storefront on the right side had apparently been converted into a garage, and there was a Socony gas pump in front of the building. A variety of signs indicated that they offered brake service, motor tune-ups, and lubrication, along with advertising for Firestone and Fisk tires. The business had been here since the mid-1920s, and throughout this time it was owned by Peter J. Gray.

Both the tobacco shop and auto store were here for many years after the first photo was taken. Abraham Herchowitz continued to run his store here until his death in 1959 at the age of 84, and Peter Gray died a year later, after suffering a heart attack here in front of the building. Since then, the storefronts have had a variety of tenants, and in 1999 the upper floors of the building on the right were damaged by a fire, as shown by the smoke marks above two of the windows. Otherwise, though, the buildings look much the same as they did when the first photo was taken, aside from alterations to the ground floor, and they stand as some of the oldest surviving commercial buildings on State Street.

Masonic Temple, Springfield, Mass

The Masonic Temple on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2019:

The first Masonic organization in Springfield was the Hampden Lodge, which was established in 1817. The lodge originally met at the Hampden Coffee House on Court Square, and throughout most of the 19th century Springfield’s Freemasons met in a succession of rented quarters in the downtown area. However, in 1893 they moved into a building of their own, at the corner of Main and State Streets. This was used for the first few decades of the 20th century, but by the early 1920s the Freemasons were looking to construct a new building, located on this site further up State Street, opposite the Armory.

The new Masonic Temple was designed by local architects Edward McClintock and Charles Craig, both of whom were Freemasons, and it featured a Classical Revival-style design with an exterior of Indiana limestone. The architects also borrowed from ancient Egyptian and Assyrian designs, which was done, according to a contemporary article in the Springfield Republican, in order to “symbolically link the mythology of the past to the reality of the present and represent the earliest beginnings of Freemasonry.” On the interior, the building included lodge rooms on the first and second floors, and the third floor consisted of a large auditorium that could seat up to 1,500 people.

Construction began in October 1923, although the cornerstone was not laid until June 24, 1924. The building was completed by early 1926, and it was formally dedicated on February 16, 1926. The ceremony was attended by a variety of state and local Masonic leaders, including Frank L. Simpson, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. After the ceremony, over 500 people gathered in the basement for a banquet, before moving upstairs to the auditorium for speeches by Simpson and other Masonic dignitaries.

The building was used by the Freemasons for far longer than any of their previous locations in Springfield, but they ultimately sold the building in 2007, amid high maintenance costs and declining membership. It was sold to a church organization and renamed the Basilica of the Holy Apostles, but the new owners faced similar financial challenges in trying to maintain and improve the building, so it was sold again just a few years later. Since then, the building has undergone a major renovation to convert it into the new home of the Springfield Conservatory of the Arts School. This work was still ongoing when the first photo was taken during the spring of 2019, but it was completed later in the year, with the building reopening in the fall of 2019.

William B. Walker House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 305 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

It is difficult to determine exactly when this house was built. There is a building here on this site as early as the 1835 map of Springfield, but it was unlikely to have been this on. Based on its architectural features, the current building probably dates to around the 1880s, with later Tudor Revival-style details added to the front facade around the early 20th century. It has grown in size too, as the wings on the front and rear of the building in the first photo are also not original.

As early as 1870, this property was owned by Timothy M. Walker, a prominent oil and paint merchant. He lived next door to here, in a house that once stood at the corner of State and Spring Streets, but he owned a significant amount of real estate, which was valued at $200,000 in the 1870 census, or over $4 million today. This particular house at 305 State Street was likely built sometime around 1882, when Timothy’s son William B. Walker married Florence L. Jenks and moved into the house.

Along with his father and his brother Edward, William was involved in the family business, which was located on Market Street, on the present-day site of the MassMutual Center. In addition, he served for a term on the city council in 1881, and he was a director of the Chicopee National Bank. Both his father and brother died in the early 20th century, leaving William as the sole owner of the company, until his own death in 1911 at the age of 62. Throughout this time, William and Florence lived here in this house. They had no children, and the only other residents here in this house in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses were two servants.

After William’s death, Florence moved to a house on Maple Street, and this property was sold to the Dickinson-Streeter Company, undertakers who were previously located down the street from here at 190 State Street. Its origins dated back to 1861, with the formation of Pomeroy & Fiske. It was subsequently acquired by Elijah W. Dickinson, with his son Francke W. Dickinson later joining the firm. Then, in 1910 Francke formed a partnership with George W. Streeter, and a year later they purchased the former Walker residence and converted it into their new funeral home.

At the time, it was common for funerals to be held in private homes; for example, William Walker’s funeral was here at his house, officiated by the Reverend Augustus P. Reccord of the Church of the Unity. Dickinson-Streeter recognized the demand for a home-like funeral parlor, and this large house served their purpose well. Although such funeral homes would later become common, they were rare at the time, with a 1911 Springfield Republican article describing it as “a modern mortuary establishment of a style hitherto unknown in this vicinity.”

Dickinson-Streeter aimed to keep the house relatively unaltered on both the interior and exterior, although at some point in the early 20th century the house underwent some changes, including the addition of a one-story wing at the front. The original Queen Anne-style exterior was also altered around the same time, giving the front of the house a Tudor Revival appearance.

In 1919, George Streeter purchased Francke Dickinson’s half of the partnership, and Dickinson died three years later. However, Streeter retained the Dickinson-Streeter name, and he was still running the funeral home when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. He would ultimately outlive his former business partner by nearly half a century, before his own death in 1968 at the age of 94.

The funeral home remained in business here throughout the 20th century. During this time, the building did see some changes, including an addition on the right side. The gable on the right side of the original house has also changed since the first photo was taken, but overall the building is still easily recognizable from its 1930s appearance. Dickinson-Streeter ultimately closed at some point around 2013, more than a century after its founders had moved here, and the building is now used as offices, as shown in the present-day view.