President Taft at Springfield, Mass (2)

Another scene of William Howard Taft at Court Square in Springfield on April 25, 1912. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).


The scene in 2014:


These were taken from the same spot as the photos in this post, just facing toward the Connecticut River instead of toward Old First Church.  The 1912 photo shows President Taft arriving in Springfield, with a crowd of onlookers waiting for him.  The photo also shows the extension of Court Square, which once went all the way down to the Connecticut River.  Today, Interstate 91 passes across here, with a parking garage underneath.

President Taft at Springfield, Mass (1)

President William Howard Taft, giving a speech on Court Square in Springfield, on April 25, 1912. Photo from Progressive Springfield, Massachusetts (1913).


The scene in 2014:


The 1912 photo was taken on the same day as the photo in this post, which shows a close-up of President Taft speaking on the platform.  Here, the platform can be seen behind Old First Church on the left-hand side, and it shows the massive crowd that had assembled to see him during his 1912 presidential campaign, which would end with him earning the Republican nomination but losing to Woodrow Wilson in the November election.  Today, three of the buildings from the first photo are still there: Old First Church, the Court Square Hotel, and the old Hampden County Courthouse.  There are also some remnants of this part of Court Square, which once stretched from the back of Old First Church to the Connecticut River (which can be seen in this post).  Today, the Hampden County Hall of Justice covers part of the land, and East Columbus Avenue passes diagonally across it.

Springfield Municipal Group, Springfield, Mass

The Springfield Municipal Group in Springfield, Mass., around 1913. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


Springfield’s former City Hall burned down in 1905, allegedly after a monkey overturned a kerosene lamp.  The site remained vacant for a few years, as seen in this c.1908 photo, but by 1909 construction began on the Noe-Renaissance complex, which consisted of not just a new City Hall (located on the left-hand side), but also an auditorium, known as Symphony Hall, and 300 foot bell tower in between.  Construction was still ongoing in the first photo, as evidenced by the fencing around the building.  It was dedicated on December 8, 1913, probably soon after the photo was taken, with former president William Howard Taft presiding over the ceremonies. Taft had previously visited Springfield just a year and a half earlier, to campaign in an ultimately unsuccessful re-election effort.

When they opened 101 years ago, the buildings of the Municipal Group symbolized the prosperity of the city.  Today, its surroundings have changed, as has the rest of the city, but the three buildings are still there.  One of the major changes has been the skyline – the bell tower was the tallest in the city from the time of its construction until 1973.  This was due to a 1908 state law that limited Springfield’s buildings to under 125 feet in height – the height of the steeple of Old First Church.  It wasn’t until 1970 that the law was repealed, which is one of the reasons why Springfield has a comparatively smaller skyline than other major cities in New England.

Another major change is the Court Square extension, which opened not long before the first photo was taken.  It extended from the back of Old First Church all the way to the railroad tracks along the Connecticut River, and appears in the foreground of the first photo.  Today, not much is left of the western extension of the square; I-91 now passes over it, and East Columbus Avenue, seen in the foreground, now cuts diagonally through it.