Chicopee Bank Building, Springfield

The Chicopee Bank Building, at the corner of Main and Elm, sometime before 1889.  Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, between 1889 and 1895. Photo courtesy of James Ward Birchall Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The original building was built in 1835, at the same time as the other three-story commercial buildings on and around Court Square. It was demolished in 1889 and replaced by the current structure, which survives with minimal changes. The building to the left, however, has been trimmed down in height. On the other side, along Elm Street, the 1835 Byers Block survives as a remnant of what the old Chicopee Bank building once looked like.

Court Square, Springfield (6)

Springfield’s Court Square, sometime in the 1880s or earlier. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in the 1890s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The scene in 2014:119_2014

The three photos show the progression of the appearance of Court Square in the past 125+ years. In the first photo, the buildings along Elm Street are all 1830’s-era three story commercial buildings, most of which were replaced by the Court Square Theater in 1892, which can be seen in the second photo, a rare view of the building before the 1900 expansion on the right side. That is essentially the only change between the second photo and today’s scene – not much has changed with the four major buildings in this angle. One notable survivor on the far left is the Byers Block, which was built in 1835 and is the last remaining part of the Elm Street commercial blocks from the first photo. Wedged in between two much larger late 19th century building, it is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, although not the oldest building in the photo – Old First Church on the far right dates to 1819.

Corner of Dwight and Sanford Streets, Springfield

The building that once stood at the corner of Dwight and Sanford Streets. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The location in 2014:

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As seen in today’s photo, the buildings in the first photo don’t exist anymore, and in fact neither does the street on the right, Sanford Street. The first photo shows two different 17th century houses: the old Nathaniel Ely Tavern in the foreground, built in 1660, and the Margaret Bliss House just beyond it, built around 1695. Obviously both buildings are long gone. I don’t know when they were demolished, but it is safe to say they were gone before the MassMutual Center was built in the 1970’s.

Monson Academy, Monson, Mass.

The old Monson Academy building, prior to the 1880s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The second Monson Academy building, probably around 1900. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The same site in 2010:

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And one year later, following the June 1, 2011 tornado:

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Monson Academy was founded in 1804, when the building in the first photo was built. It served as the main building until 1886, when it was destroyed in a fire. It was replaced by the building in the second photo, which also burned, in 1953. Finally, in 1961, the building in the last two photos, Harper Gumnasium, was built on the site. Barely visible to the right of the Harper Gymnasium is the much-older Holmes Gymnasium, which was built in 1900. Both buildings were destroyed by the June 1, 2011 tornado, and were demolished the following year.

Holmes Gymnasium, Monson, Mass.

The Holmes Gymnasium, part of Monson Academy, taken between 1900 and 1902. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The building in 2006:

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The building in 2011, in the immediate aftermath of the June 1 tornado:

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Holmes Gymnasium was built as part of Monson Academy in 1900, on the hill overlooking downtown Monson.  Although the academy moved to Wilbraham in 1971 to merge with Wilbraham Academy, the building survived until 2011, when it had its entire upper floor sheared off by the June 1 tornado that devastated West Springfied, Springfield, Monson, Brimfield, and other Western Mass towns. The remains of the building were demolished the following year.

Old City Hall, Springfield, Mass

Springfield’s old City Hall, sometime before 1905. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The view in 2014:

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Although settled in 1636, Springfield wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1852. Four years later, the first city hall was built here, on the north side of Court Square. It was dedicated with much fanfare on January 1, 1856, and stood here for nearly 50 years. During this time, the city offices were housed on the first floor, with the police department in the basement and a 2,300-seat auditorium on the upper floor. The auditorium was used for a variety of events, including one that resulted in the destruction of the building. On January 6, 1905, a fire started in the auditorium, allegedly caused when a monkey overturned a kerosene lantern. Regardless of the cause, though, the building was a total loss, and eight years later the present-day Springfield Municipal Group was dedicated, with new City Hall, Symphony Hall, and campanile tower in between.