Richard S. Johnson House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 174 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1883 for Richard S. Johnson, although he did not live here for very long, and there seems to be very little information about who he was. By 1887, the house was the home of Dexter P. Lillie, his wife Alice, and their three children. At the time, Dexter worked as a clerk for the Springfield-based Olmsted and Tuttle Company, which manufactured cotton waste. However, like his predecessor in the house, he only lived here for a few years, and had moved out by 1893. The following year, he opened his own company, the Dexter P. Lillie Company, which produced cotton waste and railroad supplies from its facility in Indian Orchard.

Around 1893, the house was purchased by James H. Rice, a retired army officer who had served as a captain and brevet lieutenant colonel in the Civil War. The 1893 city directory lists his profession as “special pension agent,” while the 1900 census indicates only that he was a “capitalist.” During this census, he was 60 years old, and he lived here with his wife Margaret, who was 40 at the time. She had a son from a previous marriage, 20-year-old Franklin G. Brown, and the family also rented a room to a boarder and hired a live-in servant.

After James’s death in 1907, the house was put up for sale. It seems to have stayed on the market for several years, because by 1910 Margaret still owned the house, but by 1912 it was owned by Dr. Eoline C. Dubois. A graduate of Vassar College and Tufts Medical College, she opened up her own practice here in Springfield in the early 1900s. In 1917, at the start of World War I, she formed a Military Drill Corps for girls here in Springfield, where, according to that year’s municipal register, they “received military drill once a week, and were instructed by different lieutenants from the Armory, furnished by the courtesy of the Commandant.”

Dr. Dubois’s drill corps eventually included 77 girls, but later in the year she left Springfield for France, to take part in the war effort with the Medical Corps. Working with the Secretariat of the Bureau of Liberated French Villages, she provided medical care near the front lines, and remained there until the end of the war a year later, when she returned to her home here in Springfield and resumed her private practice.

The first photo was taken about 20 years later, and Dr. Dubois was still living in this house, along with a servant, Helen Dorman, and Helen’s son Frederick. She sold the house a few years later, in 1943, and since then it has only had two different owners. The house was restored to its original appearance in the early 1970s, shortly before this part of the neighborhood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, as the McKnight Historic District. Today, there is hardly any difference between the two photos, and even the large trees on either side of the house appear to be the same ones that were there in the late 1930s.

C. C. Abbey House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 170-172 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Most of the 19th century homes in the McKnight neighborhood were built as single-family homes, but many were later converted into multiple units. Some, however, were built as duplexes, such as this Queen Anne-style home on Buckingham Street. Both the 1899 and 1910 city atlases show that the property was owned by a C. C. Abbey, who does not appear to have personally lived here. Instead, both units were rented to a variety of tenants, most of whom were employed at local industries.

During the 1890s, the unit on the left, number 170, was rented by James A. Turnbull, who worked nearby at the Armory. By the turn of the 20th century, it was being rented by another firearms employee, this time James Gilbreth, who worked as a watchman at Smith & Wesson. In the meantime, unit 172 on the right had tenants such as William J. Cooper, the paymaster for Deane Steam Pump Company in Holyoke, as well as traveling salesman Francis W. Cole.

The unit on the right appears to have been further subdivided in the 1910s, because by the 1920 census there were three different families living here, in addition to a fourth in the unit on the left. A decade later, though, only one family appears to be listed in the census, with Frederick G. Platt as the owner. He lived in number 170 on the left, along with his wife Ethel and their five children, and he worked for the Y.M.C.A. Ethel was also employed, working as a nurse, and their only son, 18-year-old Graydon, worked as a pressman for a printing company.

By the time the first photo was taken, the entire house was owned by Hamilton Torrey, a teacher who lived in 170 Buckingham with his wife Marjorie, who was also a teacher, and their daughter Barbara. The 1940 census lists their incomes and number of weeks worked, and it indicates that, while Hamilton earned $1,000 for 52 weeks of work, Marjorie earned $880 for just 28 weeks. They also supplemented this income by renting out the unit on the right for $35 per month, to William G. Edwards, a photographic manager at an optical store. His wife Alma was a secretary for Forbes and Wallace, and in the 1940 census their incomes were much higher than that of their landlords, earning $2080 and $1040, respectively.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, this building remains a two-family home. Although the surrounding neighborhood entered a decline in the second half of the 20th century, many of the historic homes in the area have since been restored to their original appearance, including this duplex. Like these other homes, 170-172 Buckingham now forms part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

George H. Clark House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 156 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1881 for George H. Clark, who moved from Palmer to Springfield along with his wife, Juliet. George worked in the textile industry, and during the 1880s he was a superintendent for the Tucker & Cook Manufacturing Company, which produced cotton yarn. Both he and Juliet were about 50 when they moved in, but she died only a few years later, in 1888. About two years later, George married his second wife Patience, and he apparently left the textile industry, because by the 1890s he is listed as a probation officer for the police court. He and Patience lived here until his death in 1921 at the age of 90, and the house was sold soon after.

After George’s death, the house was purchased by John A. Manley, who rented it in the early 1920s to Stanley F. Blomfield, the pastor of the North Congregational Church. By 1927, John and his wife Stella were living here themselves, but John died a year later, and by the 1930 census Stella was living here alone. She moved out sometime in the early 1930s, but rented the property to Justin W. Russell. A bond salesman, Russell lived here with his wife Madeline and their two children, Ann and Bennett, and by the time the first photo was taken they were paying Stella $40 per month in rent.

Stella finally sold the house in 1951, and the house has since been well-restored, with hardly any difference between the two photos aside from the shutters. Along with the other houses in the neighborhood, it is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Samuel L. Merrell House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 144 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This large Stick-Style home was built in 1882 for Samuel L. Merrell, a Congregational minister who was originally from New York. Born in Utica in 1822, he graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1848 and served a number of different churches in upstate New York. He also served two years in the Civil War, as chaplain for the 35th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, before returning to civilian ministry.

Reverend Merrell, along with his wife Cornelia and their son Samuel, came to Springfield in 1882 and moved into this house around the same time. When the School for Christian Workers was established three years later, Merrell joined the faculty, and also served as the organization’s secretary and a trustee. During this time, the younger Samuel also lived here, working as a traveling salesman for Cutler and Porter, a Springfield-based wholesale firm that sold boots, shoes, and rubber goods.

After Reverend Merrell’s death in 1900, the house remained in his family for several more years, but by 1906 it was purchased by Marcus M. Goodell, who worked as vice president of the Springfield Lumber Company. He and his wife Emma lived here with two of their children, Alfred and Edward, and both were also employed with the lumber company, working as a foreman and a bookkeeper, respectively.

During the 1910 census, 39 year old Alfred was still single, but his younger brother was recently married and living here with his wife Carrie. That same year, this house was the scene of a rather bizarre religious event that made newspaper headlines across the state. Marcus was the leader of a Pentecostal sect that believed, given recent calamities around the globe, that the end of the world was imminent. With this in mind, about 30 or 40 of his followers, including his family, barricaded themselves in the house, believing it to be their “ark” through which they would survive the end of the world.

The end of the world turned out to be slow in coming, and in the meantime the directors of the lumber company became concerned about the fact that Marcus, Alfred, and Edward had stopped coming to work. Finally, several weeks into the seclusion, they threatened to fire Marcus as vice president if he did not come to the next board meeting. The impending apocalypse notwithstanding, Marcus and Edward decided to temporarily leave the house in order to attend the meeting, but they returned a few hours later.

Newspapers across the state had a field day with this story, comparing the large barricaded house to Noah’s ark, and Marcus and his three sons to Noah, Ham, Shem, and Japheth. After the board meeting, the Boston Globe subtly pointed to the absurdity in it all, remarking that “although Mr. Goodell may place the utmost credence in the prediction that the end of the world is near at hand, it is evident that he does not believe it good policy to neglect his business affairs when there is danger of their becoming seriously involved.”

Aside from the board meeting, the Goodells and their followers remained here for most of the summer of 1910, although most of the newspapers seemed to have lost interest by the time they finally emerged from their seclusion. Following this event, they carried on life as usual, until Edward’s death in 1918 and Marcus’s two years later. Their widows, though, would both outlive them by many years, and when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s Emma, at this point in her late 80s, was still living here, along with Alfred and her other son, Irving.

Alfred Goodell evidently inherited his mother’s longevity, because he continued living here in this house for about 60 years, until his death in 1966 at the age of 93. Since then, the house has remained mostly the same, although it is now a two-family home. The exterior retains its decorative Stick-style design, and the house is now part of the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

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.

Samuel J. Filer House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 92 Buckingham Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built around 1880, only about a year after its neighbor to the left, but it represents a significant shift in architectural taste. By the early 1880s, the related Stick and Queen Anne styles of architecture had become fashionable, and many of the homes here on Buckingham Street are modest examples of these trends. Most of the people who moved into these homes were middle class professionals such as Samuel J. Filer, who was living in this house by around 1888. A veteran of the Civil War, Filer later worked as a clerk for James D. Gill, a prominent publisher and art dealer in late 19th century Springfield.

Samuel Filer lived here until around 1891, when the house was purchased by Caroline M. Sherman, a widow who had previously lived nearby at 212 Bay Street. Like many of the other residents of the McKnight neighborhood, she supplemented her income by renting rooms to boarders, one of whom was James Naismith, a Canadian student and instructor at the nearby YMCA Training School. He had originally lived with Caroline and her two daughters, Maude and Florence, in the house on Bay Street, but he joined them when they moved to this house on Buckingham Street, and lived here from 1892 to 1894.

Naismith, of course, is best known for having invented the game of basketball during his time at the YMCA Training School. He invented the game in December 1891, so he was probably still living on Bay Street at the time, but his move to Buckingham Street coincided with the meteoric rise in basketball’s popularity, from an improvised physical education game to a widely popular team sport. The game was popular at the YMCA Training School, but it did not take long for outsiders to take notice. Among the first were the young women who taught at the nearby Buckingham School, at the corner of Wilbraham Road and Eastern Avenue. They soon began playing basketball too, becoming in the process the sport’s first female players.

One of the teachers who played regularly was Caroline’s daughter Maude, who was 21 years old at the time. It was around this time that she and Naismith, who nearly 10 years older than her, began their courtship, and they were married two years later in 1894. After their marriage, the couple moved out of Caroline’s house and into their own home at 30 Wilbraham Avenue, where they lived for about a year before moving to Denver. The Naismiths would later move to Kansas, where James worked as a teacher, basketball coach, and ultimately the school’s athletic director. He would never again live in Springfield, but his legacy is still here, in the name of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In the meantime, by 1895 Caroline had sold this house on Buckingham Street. Several different people lived here in the following years, including George H. Phelps in 1895 and pharmacy owner Fred N. Wheeler in 1897. Not until the end of the decade, though, did the house have a long term resident, when George and Alice Lyman purchased it. They were living here by 1899, along with their daughter Blanche, and like previous owners they also housed several boarders. George worked as a carpenter and builder, and he likely found plenty of work to do here in Springfield, with the city in the midst of a massive building boom that has given it he nickname of “The City of Homes.”

The Lymans lived here until around 1916, when they moved to a house on Wilbraham Road. In subsequent years, their old house here had a variety of residents, including physician Robert E. Seibels in 1917, and Christian Science practitioner William C. Loar in the late 1910s and early 1920s. By 1932, it was the home of Weaver H. Stanton, who was living here with his wife Florence and their daughter Marjorie when the first photo was taken. Although they lived here for many years, the Stantons were actually renting the house, paying $50 per month. However, this expense was reduced even further by the fact that they, in turn, rented rooms to boarders, with the 1940 census showing four mostly elderly people living here with them.

The Stantons were still living in this house as late as the early 1950s, but they appear to have moved out around 1951 when the house was sold. Since then, the house has remained relatively unchanged, although the exterior has deteriorated somewhat, especially the collapsing front porch. Otherwise, though, the house is still standing, and has historical significance both for its architecture and, more importantly, for having been the residence of James Naismith. The actual building where he invented the sport is long gone, and the site is now a McDonalds, but this house remains as perhaps Springfield’s most important existing connection to the invention of basketball.