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.

Old Masonic Building, Springfield, Mass

The old Masonic Building in Springfield, around 1910, from The View Book of Springfield (1910).

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The same building in 2012:

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The old Masonic Building at the corner of State and Main was built around 1893, and was used by the Masons until 1924, when they built a new temple further up State Street. At some point, the ornate sandstone facade was replaced with a more bland brick appearance, and the clock tower was either moved back or replaced entirely. However, there is a small surviving part of the original facade – the sandstone arch above the doorway on the left-hand side is still there, complete with a Masonic symbol above it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Visits Springfield

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s car travels down Elm Street past the Court Square Theater in 1940. Image courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

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The same scene in 2014:

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On October 30, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a stop in Springfield on his way to Boston to give a campaign speech. Just six days before the election, he stopped to inspect the Springfield Armory and give a speech. The top photo shows him passing by Court Square along Elm Street, with the Court Square Theater in the background. The building is still there today, but the theater section itself is gone – it was demolished in 1957, and is now a parking lot. The main entrance for the theater, which is seen in the background of the 1940 photo, is now the entrance to the parking lot.

Roosevelt, however, is far from the only past, present, or future president to visit Court Square. George Washington once lodged at Parsons Tavern, which occupied part of what is now Court Square. According to one 19th century account, Washington “tasted liquid refreshments of a strong flavor” at the tavern. In addition, President William Howard Taft, several months after leaving office, presided over the dedication ceremonies for City Hall and Symphony Hall. On the day before the 1960 election, then-Senator John F. Kennedy spoke from the steps of City Hall to a crowd gathered in Court Square. More recently, just two days before the 1996 election, President Clinton also gave a speech in front of City Hall, in support of Senator John Kerry.