Smith & Wesson Factory, Springfield, Mass

The Smith & Wesson factory in Springfield, Mass., as it appeared around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:


Originally built in 1860, the Smith & Wesson factory on Stockbridge Street was its corporate headquarters for many years. The company is still headquartered in Springfield, although they have long since moved to their current location on Roosevelt Avenue. In 1972, Dwight Street was extended across much of the land that was once the factory, although I don’t know if the buildings were demolished at that point, or sometime before then.  The building in the background to the right in the 2014 photo was actually around when the first photo was taken; it was at the time the factory for Milton Bradley; it has since, along with several other former industrial buildings in the area, been converted into apartments. At least one of the former Smith & Wesson buildings still exists, just to the right and outside the frame of the 2014 photo, although it wasn’t built until after the 1908 photo was taken. It is also part of the apartment complex.

Emerson Wight Playground, Springfield, Mass, June 27, 1916 (2)

Another view of boys playing baseball at Emerson Wight Playground in Springfield, Mass. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The park in 2014:


As was the previous photo, this was taken by Lewis W. Hine during his documentation of child labor conditions for the National Child Labor Relations Committee. Between the two scenes, 98 years apart, remarkably little has changed, down to the houses on Acushnet Avenue in the background, and it is possible that the two large trees near the center of the 2014 photo are also in the 1916 one – there are several saplings along the fence, two of which are in the exact same locations as the present-day trees.

Emerson Wight Playground, Springfield, Mass (1)

The Emerson Wight Playground in Springfield, Mass, June 27, 1916. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

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The park in 2014:


It’s kind of eerie – in 98 years, almost nothing has changed about this scene. The baseball field is still in the same spot, along with all five of the houses in the distance, and (I believe) even a couple of the trees that are small saplings in front of the fence in the 1916 photo.  The only difference is the young boys, who are almost certainly all dead by now. The photo was taken by Lewis W. Hine as part of his documentation for the National Child Labor Relations Committee, and likely many, if not all, of these boys were working full time in a factory or other industry in Springfield.

Birthplace of Basketball, Springfield, Mass (2)

The interior of the gymnasium at the School For Christian Workers in Springfield, Mass, around 1887. Photo courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.

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The approximate area in 2014:


These two photos don’t line up perfectly – I don’t know exactly what direction the 1887 photo was oriented, but the 2014 photo shows approximately what the scene now looks like.  Regardless, the 1887 photo is of significance, as it shows the gymnasium where, around four years later, the first basketball game was played. Originally developed as a way for athletes to stay in shape during the winter, it quickly became a popular sport around the world. And today, on the spot where 19th century athletes stayed in shape throughout the winter, modern Springfielders now go there to get Big Macs, year round.

Birthplace of Basketball, Springfield, Mass (1)

The School for Christian Workers Building, located at the corner of State Street and Sherman Street in Springfield, Mass, in 1886. Photo courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.

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The scene in 2023:

This building was completed in 1886 as the School for Christian Workers, with the goal of training Sunday school superintendent and YMCA administrators. The YMCA program ended up being particularly successful, and in 1890 it became a separate organization here in this building, the YMCA Training School. The school would only be located in the building for several years, before moving to the modern-day Springfield College campus, but it was here that the school became famous as the birthplace of basketball.

Among the instructors here was Canadian graduate student James Naismith. During the fall of 1891 he was teaching a physical education class, but was having difficulty keeping the students engaged in an indoor sport during the colder months. At the time, the two most popular sports were baseball and football, but neither could realistically be played in a sixty- by thirty-foot gymnasium. Naismith initially tried to modify these sports for indoor play, but he found little success. So, he instead developed a completely new sport, which involved throwing a soccer ball into peach baskets that were mounted to the gallery that was located 10 feet above the gymnasium.

The first game of basketball was played here in this building on December 21, 1891, with a final score of 1-0. It proved to be popular, and not only among the YMCA students here, but also among the women who taught across the street at the Buckingham School. This new sport soon began to draw spectators, including one game in March 1892 that drew over 200 spectators to watch the faculty play against the students. This is generally considered to be the first public basketball game, and it is one of only two basketball games that James Naismith every personally played in. He and the other teachers ultimately lost 5-1 against the students, with former Yale football star Amos Alonzo Stagg scoring the only basket for the faculty.

Basketball would continue to grow in popularity around the country over the next few years, and in the meantime the YMCA Training School was outgrowing its original facility here on State Street. By 1896 the school had relocated to a new campus along the edge of the Watershops Pond, and it was eventually renamed Springfield College in 1954. The older building here on State Street eventually became a rooming house by 1910, but it closed in 1961 and was heavily damaged by a fire later in the year. It was subsequently demolished to make way for a parking lot for a shopping plaza, and a McDonald’s was later constructed on the site in 1995, as shown in the present-day photo.

SS Dorothy Bradford, Boston, Mass

The steamer Dorothy Bradford leaving Boston, with the Custom House Tower in the background, in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The scene in 2013:


The SS Dorothy Bradford was built in 1889 for the Cape Cod Steamship Company, and brought passengers to and from Provincetown on Cape Cod.  The company shut down in 1937, and the Dorothy Bradford was sold for scrap.

The Boston Public Library estimates the date of this photo as 1930, but it had to have been earlier than that, because the steamer behind the Dorothy Bradford, the SS Mary Chilton, burned in a fire along with almost the entire rest of its company’s fleet in a fire in November 1929.