First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church, Springfield, Mass

The First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church at 57 Bay Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The church in 2017:

During the 19th century, Springfield experienced significant population growth as it developed into a major industrial and commercial center. From its 1800 population of 2,312, it grew to over 62,000 by 1900, and with many new residents bringing new languages, cultures, and religious beliefs to the city. At the start of the 19th century, Springfield’s only religious institution was a single Congregational church, but over time Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, and other denominations would all establish churches in the city.

By the turn of the 20th century, many of these churches served specific ethnic groups, particularly recent immigrants. The early Catholic churches were predominantly Irish, but other parishes were later established for French, Italian, and Polish Catholics. In addition, there were six Protestant churches that held their services in a language other than English, including one German, one Italian, one French, and three Swedish churches. Of the Swedish churches, there was one Congregational church, one Lutheran church, and a Methodist church, which was located here on Bay Street.

The First Swedish Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1893, and in its early years it held services in a hall above the First National Bank on Main Street, opposite Court Square. However, in 1901 the congregation built this church building, near the corner of Bay and Pleasant Streets in Springfield’s McKnight neighborhood. Its Shingle-style design reflected architectural tastes of the era, although its windows, with their pointed arches, give it somewhat of a Gothic appearance as well.

In the late 1930s, around the time that the first photo was taken, the church was renamed the Bay Street Methodist Church. The congregation continued to use this building for the next decade or so, until it merged with the Asbury First Methodist Church in 1952. The new church held its services in the Asbury church building at the corner of Hancock and Florence Streets, and this property on Bay Street was sold in 1953 to the Church of the Nazarene. This church would remain here for the next 13 years, until moving to a new building on Wilbraham Road in Sixteen Acres in 1966.

Later in 1966, the building was sold to the Holy Trinity Church of God in Christ, which remains an active congregation here more than 50 years later. During this time, the exterior of the building has remained well-preserved, and the only significant change in this scene has been the addition of a wheelchair ramp on the right side of the building. It stands as a good example of Shingle-style church architecture, and it is a contributing property in the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Robert Breck House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 134 Buckingham Street, at the corner of Bay Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house, located at the corner of Buckingham and Bay Streets, was built 1881 for Robert Breck, a dry goods merchant who was originally from New Hampshire. He was about 60 years old at the time, though, and he only lived here for a few years until his death in 1885. His widow was still living here in 1887, but by the following year it was the home of James W. White, a bookkeeper for the Springfield Institute for Savings. However, he did not live here for very long either, nor did James McKeon, who was listed here in the 1895 city directory.

The first long-term owner of this house was Albert W. Lincoln, a real estate broker who was living here by 1898, along with his wife Jeannette, their daughter Florence, and Albert’s elderly mother Mary. He died in 1905, and a decade later Florence inherited the house after Jeannette’s death. At this point she was married and living elsewhere, so although she owned the house she did not live here, and apparently neither did anyone else. The city directories do not list any residents here after 1913, nor does the address appear in the Springfield Republican archives for decades.

The house evidently sat vacant for decades after Jeannette’s death, with the first photo showing boarded up windows on the first floor, shuttered windows on the second, and an apparent broken window on the third floor. Some 15 years later, after Florence’s death in 1953, the house was still vacant, with the Republican referring to the “mystery of the ‘abandoned’ boarded-up house” here.

Florence’s son Albert sold the property in 1953, ending more than 50 years of ownership by the family and, apparently, nearly 40 years of vacancy. However, the situation did not improve much for the house. It was abandoned again around 1976, sat vacant for another five years, before being purchased by the Springfield Preservation Trust. It was completely gutted and badly vandalized at this point, but it was successfully restored by the Preservation Trust. More than 30 years later, it remains in use as a two-family home, and it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

George H. Olds House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 146 Bay Street, at the corner of Westminster Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Bay Street is one of the oldest roads in Springfield, dating back to the early colonial era when it formed part of the Bay Path, connecting Springfield to Boston. However, it later fell into disuse when the route was straightened and the present State Street was opened. State Street would become one of the city’s principal east-west roads, but Bay Street remained sparsely settled until the late 19th century, when large-scale development began on what would become the McKnight neighborhood.

Most of the homes in McKnight have Queen Anne-style designs from the 1880s and 1890s, but some of the earlier homes featured an Italianate design, including this house at the corner of Bay and Westminster Streets. It was completed around 1874, and was described in the 1873-1874 city directory, which wrote that:

E. W. Shattuck is building for George H. Olds a two-story house, in the Grecian style, 24 by 30 feet, besides wing and ell. It has a two-story bay window, piazza and porch, and costing about $5,000 besides lot.

George H. Olds was an employee at Smith & Wesson, and was living here in the 1875 city directory. However, he moved out of the house just a year later, and by 1876 it was the home of Alfred G. Osgood. Described as a manufacturer of “asphaltum side-walks,” Osgood lived here with his wife Sarah and their son Roy, who was born around the same time that they moved into this house.

By the early 1880s, Osgood had apparently entered the soapstone business, because in the 1882 directory he was listed as the superintendent of the Springfield Soapstone Conpany. He and his family were still living here in 1890, at which point Osgood was working as agent for the Athol-based Pequoig Soapstone Quarry Company. However, the following year the family moved to Athol, and the house was sold.

At the turn of the 20th century, the house was being used as a rental property, and lumber dealer Edward C. Pease was living here with his wife Ella and a servant, who was also named Ella. A decade later, the house was rented by Seelye Bryant, the pastor of Springfield’s Olivet Church. He lived here from about 1908 to 1910, and by 1911 he had moved to Winthrop, Massachusetts to become pastor of a church there.

By 1920, the house was once again owner-occupied, with John Monroe living here. An elderly widower, Monroe had immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the 1850s, and worked for many years as a coachman for private families in Springfield. He lived here with his daughter, Annie Greeley, who was also a widow. She inherited the house after his death in 1921, and she was still living here by the 1930 census, along with her adopted daughter Josephine and a lodger, Gertrude McKoan.

Annie moved out of this house sometime before 1940, and the house appears to have been vacant during that year’s census. The first photo was taken around this time, as part of a WPA survey of all of the buildings in the city. Very little has changed since then, with the house retaining its original architectural details. It is one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood, and it is part of the McKnight Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tapley School, Springfield, Mass

The Tapley School, at the corner of Bay and Sherman Streets in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The building in 2015:

This historic building is located within the McKnight neighborhood of Springfield, which covers the area to the east of the Armory and north of State Street. As the city’s population grew in the 1870s, this area was developed by brothers John and William McKnight, who built around 300 houses here, most of which are still standing today.

To serve the growing population here, this school opened in 1887 at the corner of Bay and Sherman Streets, right at the heart of the neighborhood. It was expanded around 1910 with a large wing to the south, which is not visible in the present view, and it remained in use as a school well into the 1970s. After it closed, it was vacant for over a decade, but it was sold converted into apartments in 1993. Aside from the 1910 addition, the exterior is largely the same as it was when the first photo was taken, and today it is one of the oldest school buildings still standing in the city.