Elm Street Grammar School, Springfield Mass

Looking west on Elm Street from in front of the Hampden County Courthouse, around 1892.  Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892)

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Elm Street in 2015:

The Elm Street Grammar School was built in 1867, and it stood on Elm Street just to the west of the old Hampden County Courthouse and across the street from Old First Church.  It served as the modern-day equivalent of a middle school for the children in the downtown and South End area until around the turn of the century; it appears in the 1899 atlas but was demolished sometime in the first decade of the 20th century and replaced with the Springfield Institution for Savings building by 1910.  Today, the Hampden County Hall of Justice is located on the site.  One of the school buildings that replaced Elm Street Grammar School was the Howard Street School, which opened in 1905 as a primary and grammar school, and covered part of what was once Elm Street’s territory.  The Howard Street School is still around, but not for long; the vacant, tornado-damaged building is going to be demolished soon to make way for the MGM Springfield casino.

These two photos were taken from nearly the opposite direction as the ones in this post, which show Elm Street facing east.  As mentioned in that post, the massive elm tree in front of the school (seen here on the far right of the 1892 photo) is believed to be the one referenced by Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, in which he writes “Beautiful and stately she is beyond all praise.”  The tree was later cut down, and a cross-section of it is now on display in the Springfield Science Museum.

Elm Street, Springfield Mass

Looking east on Elm Street in Springfield, around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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Elm Street in 2015:


Elm Street still appears on city maps, although today it isn’t much of a street.  While it used to extend from Main Street to the Connecticut River, today it is a pedestrian walkway and parking lot for courthouse employees that dead-ends in front of the Hampden County Courthouse.  This area has gone through several major changes, the first of which came soon after the first photo was taken.  In the first decade of the 1900s, all of the buildings between Elm Street and Court Street were demolished in order to extend Court Square down to the river; only Old First Church was spared.  Later on, Columbus Avenue was built across this area, and in the 1970s the Hampden County Hall of Justice was built, with part of the building’s footprint covering what used to be Elm Street.

Despite all of the changes, several important buildings have survived from the first photo.  On the left, the steeple of Old First Church is still there, although the brick addition behind it was extensively modified in the 1940s.  To the right, the old Hampden County Courthouse is still there, although it isn’t visible from this angle.  Beyond it, the Court Square Theater was under construction in the first photo, and was added on to in 1900.  It can still be seen in the distance, along with the adjacent Byers Block and Chicopee Bank Building, which existed in the first photo although they aren’t really visible.  One prominent landmark, however, that has not survived is the massive elm tree on the right side of the street.  It was located in front of the Elm Street Grammar School (barely visible on the far right), and is believed to be the tree referred to by Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.  Referring to notable elm trees that he has seen, he writes that,The queen of them all is that glorious tree near one of the churches in Springfield. Beautiful and stately she is beyond all praise.”  When the tree was finally cut down, a cross-section of it was saved and is now on display at the Springfield Science Museum.

Old High School, Springfield Mass

The old Springfield High School, on Court Street in Springfield, probably in the 1880s or early 1890s. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:


Springfield’s first public high school was established in 1828, and it was in several different location before this building on Court Street opened in 1848.  It served as the high school until 1874, when a new high school opened on the current location of Classical High School.  The old building was used as a primary school until at least the 1880s.  However, before the end of the century it was demolished and replaced by the Springfield Police Department headquarters, which can be seen in the first photo of this post.  However, the police station wasn’t there for too long, because the site is now occupied by the 1913 campanile tower between Symphony Hall and City Hall.

Court Street, Springfield, Mass

Court Street in Springfield, sometime before 1905. Photo from author’s collection.


Court Street in 2014:


I came across the first photo in a 3-for-$1 bin at an antique store, and despite the odd coloring it provides an interesting view along Court Street from around the turn of the last century.  It is an albumen print, mounted on thick paper, and evidently colorized after processing.  There are no identifying marks on the photo, and the only way I was able to figure out the location was because I recognized the old police station and City Hall as being in Springfield.  My guess is that it was probably taken sometime in the 1890s, but it could’ve been anytime before 1905, when the old City Hall burned down.

To the left of City Hall, in the foreground of the first photo, is the old police department headquarters, which was later demolished to make way for the Springfield Municipal Group.  The new City Hall, which was completed in 1913, is still there, on roughly the same spot that its predecessor stood in the first photo.  The site of the former police station is now the area between City Hall and Symphony Hall, where the campanile tower is.  In the background, One Financial Plaza building looms over City Hall, between City Hall Plaza and Main Street.  The only building in the present-day scene that would’ve even existed when the first photo was taken is the former Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank building at the corner of Main and Court Streets, although its Main Street facade has been altered beyond recognition.

Springfield Municipal Group, Springfield, Mass

The Springfield Municipal Group from across Court Square, probably around 1913.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The Municipal Group in 2014:


The first photo was taken shortly before the Springfield Municipal Group was completed, perhaps even on the same day as the first photo in this post.  In this photo, the buildings are still surrounded by a fence, and a sign for A.E. Stephens Co, the contractors, can be seen on a temporary shed on the right-hand side of the photo. In the ensuing 100 or so years in between the two photos, not much has changed in this scene.  City Hall, Symphony Hall, and Campanile tower are all still there, as is the Civil War monument and the Miles Morgan statue, which is barely visible in the distance in front of the bell tower.  One thing that has changed, though, is the way people get to City Hall.  In the first photo, a trolley can be seen on the far left, and no automobiles are visible anywhere in the scene.  Today, there are no trolleys to be found in Springfield, and instead Court Square is surrounded by cars, as seen in the 2014 photo.

Court Square, Springfield, Mass

Court Square in Springfield, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated (1882).


Court Square in 2014:


The 1882 photo clearly shows Springfield’s old City Hall, which burned down in 1905 and was replaced in 1913 by the present City Hall, Symphony Hall, and Campanile tower.  On the far left of the old photo is the former Hampden County Courthouse, which by 1882 was being used by the Odd Fellows.  Today, the only constant between the two photos is Court Square itself; none of the buildings seen in the 1882 view are still there.  Even the Miles Morgan statue hadn’t yet been brought to Court Square, although it would within a year or so.