Forest Park Lily Ponds, Springfield, Mass

The lily ponds in Forest Park in Springfield, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

Forest Park is the largest public park in Springfield, encompassing 735 acres of land in the southwestern corner of the city. The origins of the park date back to 1884, and over the years it has been steadily expanded through various donations and land purchases. One of the most significant of these donors was Everett H. Barney, a local ice skate manufacturer who owned much of what is now the western section of the park. He built his house, Pecousic Villa, on the property in 1883, and he subsequently landscaped the grounds with ponds, fountains, a waterfall, bridges, and a network of paths.

Barney had intended to construct a house here for his only child, George. However, George died in 1889, and Barney instead built a mausoleum for his son on the site of what would have been his house. With no other heirs, Barney donated his entire estate to the city, including the house and the meticulously-maintained grounds. His only stipulation was that he and his wife Eliza would be able to reside in the house for the rest of their lives, and they went on to live here until her death in 1905 and his in 1916.

The first photo was taken sometime around 1907, showing the lily ponds that Barney had constructed. It was taken from the path between the lily ponds and the Pecousic Brook, and the view faces north, with Pecousic Villa just out of view on the far left side, on the other side of the hill. Unlike the other sections of Forest Park, which were left in more or less a natural state, this scene was mostly artificial, and the plan was not necessarily admired by all. For example, in 1901 the Springfield Republican published a lengthy commentary on the park, in which it lamented that “Not all the changes of recent years have been for the better.” The article went on to explain:

Everyone must admire the enthusiasm with which Mr. Barney has cultivated the extensive grounds which he has generously added to the park, and criticism of the results would be a most ungrateful task, yet it must be clear from the principles which have been indicated, that a somewhat difficult problem is raised by the conflicting ideals which have been pursued. The rare beauty of the lotus and lily ponds is undeniable, but the general scheme of the park and that of Mr. Barney’s very valuable addition are incongruous. In the park the effort has been to keep as much of nature as is possible in a city park. Mr. Barney’s plan, carried out with diligent personal attention through many years, has involved a design which, though not conventional, is at least artificial.

This criticism notwithstanding, Forest Park proved to be a popular recreation area, with most visitors evidently remaining unfazed by the inconsistencies between the more natural eastern half of the park and the carefully-manicured areas here in the western half. One of the city’s other newspapers, the Springfield Union, praised Barney for his landscaping work in his obituary in 1916, writing:

Forest Park is Springfield’s great breathing ground, and a trip there always includes a visit to “Barney’s front yard.” There he showed his passionate love for nature and that he was an expert horticulturalist. He planted there rare shrubs and trees from Europe, Egypt, China, Japan and India, and there he planned and maintained lily ponds containing nearly all varieties of lilies. There, too, he maintained a lotus pond. Mr. Barney’s nature was a restless, untiring one, and he changed his lawns and flower gardens frequently. His taste ran strongly to mathematical arrangement of flower beds and shrubs, and one is constantly startled by coming suddenly on a stone deer or other piece of statuary.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, Forest Park has undergone some significant changes, including the demolition of the Barney house in the late 1950s to make way for Interstate 91. However, many other scenes in the park, including this one, have remained largely the same. Forest Park is actually much more forested now than it was when it acquired its name, and there are far more trees in the present-day photo, including in the foreground and on the distant hillside. Overall, though, Barney’s lily ponds still look as they did when he first laid them out in the late 19th century, and much of his other landscaping work remains intact after having been enjoyed by many generations of Springfield residents.


290-294 Sumner Avenue, Springfield, Mass

The apartment building at 290-294 Sumner Avenue in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This four-story apartment block was constructed in 1917, in a desirable location across Sumner Avenue from the main entrance to Forest Park. According to newspaper advertisements of the late 1910s, the building consisted of four and five-room apartments, and by the 1920 census there were 15 families living here, with a total of 46 residents. These families were generally upper middle class, and included occupations such as a wholesale merchant of automobile supplies, a physician, an insurance agent, a bakery manager, a civil engineer, and a furniture store manager.

The first photo was taken almost 20 years later, in the late 1930s. The 1940 census shows that there were 18 different families living here, with rents that ranged from $39 to $49 per month. Based on their occupations, these residents appear to have been somewhat less affluent than the tenants here in 1920, but they were still solidly middle class. These included a lumber mill engineer, a die sinker at a tool factory, an electrician, a stenographer, a pharmacist, a nurse, an accountant, a librarian, and several teachers. Many of these workers earned over $2,000 per year (about $37,000 today), and the highest-paid resident was the die sinker, Emil J. Hedeen, who earned $3,000 (about $55,000 today) working for the Moore Drop Forging Company.

Interestingly, the majority of the residents were not natives of Springfield, with only 17 of 47 having been born in Massachusetts. Few were immigrants, though; instead, most were out of state, with quite a number of states represented here. The residents were also a mix of those who were single, married, and widowed, but most households were small, with only 2 children under the age of 18 who lived here. However, some of the tenants did sublet space in their apartments to one or two lodgers, who would have helped to offset the cost of the rent.

Today, some 80 years after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. The exterior of the building has remained well-preserved during this time, and it serves as a good example of the many upscale apartment blocks that were built in Springfield during the early 20th century. The building continues to be used as apartments, with city records indicating that it has a total of 20 units.

Ernest D. Bugbee House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 68 Washington Road in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2023:

This house was built in 1910 as the home of Ernest D. Bugbee, the treasurer of the D. H. Brigham clothing company on Main Street. He was about 36 years old at the time, and had already lived in several different homes in the Forest Park neighborhood. Until about 1907 he lived in the house next door to the right, a 64 Washington Road. Then, from about 1908 to 1910 he lived at 116 Fort Pleasant Avenue, before returning to Washington Road and moving into this house around 1910. He was living here with his wife Maud and two servants during the 1910 census, but they did not remain here for very long, and by 1913 they were living in another newly-built house at 208 Longhill Street.

This house on Washington Road was subsequently purchased by Harry L. Hawes, a businessman who owned a sporting goods store on Main Street. He and his wife Mary were both in their 40s at the time, and they continued to live here for many years. Harry died in January 1939, probably right around the same time that the first photo was taken. During the 1940 census, Mary was living here alone except for a servant, and she remained here until her death a decade later in 1950.

Today, this elegant Colonial Revival-style home has hardly changed in more than 8- years since the first photo was taken. The second-floor shutters are gone, and there is a different design in the pediment above the front entrance, but overall the house has remained very well-preserved, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Jesse M. Marsh House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 44 Washington Road in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1901, and was originally the home of Jesse M. Marsh, the secretary and manager of the Commonwealth Securities Company. He lived here with his wife, who was, curiously enough, also named Jessie, and they lived here with their son Walter. During the 1910 census, they also lived here with Jessie’s widowed sister, M. Louise Dorsey, and her 26-year-old daughter, Agnes. However, around 1913 the family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and this house was subsequently sold.

The house was purchased in 1913 by Henry and Mary T. Beach. Mary died a few years later in 1918, but Henry was still living here during the 1920 census, along with his daughter Della, his son Philip, his sisters-in-law Anne Brosnan and Josephine Holian, and Josephine’s two sons, John and Bernard. Henry died in 1928, followed by Anne two years later, and by the 1930 census only Josephine and Bernard were still living in this house. They were paying $50 per month to rent the property, and 21-year-old Bernard was working as a clerk in a broker’s office at the time.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was being rented by Edward S. Chase, an insurance agent for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. He and his wife Dora were both in their mid-50s at the time, and they lived here with their son Phillip, Edward’s mother Emma, and a lodger. They remained here into the 1940s, and Emma died in 1943, but about a year later they left and moved into a house on Claremont Street in Springfield. Since then, the exterior appearance of the house has remained essentially unchanged, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Francis R. Richmond House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 20 Greenleaf Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1893, and was originally the home of Francis R. Richmond, a prominent local architect. He was born in Shelburne Falls, but he later came to Springfield, where he began his architectural career with the firm of Gardner & Gardner. He later partnered with B. Hammett Seabury to form Richmond & Seabury, and their firm’s works in the 1880s included the Tapley School, the Jefferson Avenue School, and the chapel and gate for Oak Grove Cemetery. However, in 1890 they dissolved the partnership, and Richmond went into business for himself. Over the next 17 years, he designed buildings such as the South Main Street School, the North Main Street Fire Station, the Memorial Church Parish House, and several downtown commercial blocks, including the Homestead Building on Worthington Street.

Francis and his wife Laura had six children, although two died young, before the family moved into this house. The other four children were still living here during the 1900 census, with 20-year-old Mabel working as a schoolteacher, while 18-year-old Alice was a milliner. The two youngest, Florence and Otis, were 13 and 12, respectively, and both were attending school at the time. Francis died seven years later, from what his death certificate listed as “chronic melancholia & chronic gastritis,” but the rest of the family, plus Alice’s husband George Allen, were still living here in this house during the 1910 census.

The house would remain in the Richmond family until Laura’s death in 1919, and by the following year it was owned by Erving R. Gurney, the chief engineer for the Springfield-based Knox Motor Company. He and his wife Edith were both in their early 40s at the time, and had six children children who were in their teens and early 20s: Georgianna, William, Dorothy, Marguerite, Alice, and Edith. They lived here for several years, but by 1924 they had moved to New York.

The house was subsequently sold to William J. Warner, who was living here by about 1925 along with his wife Minnie and their children, Janet and Allen. At the time, he was the sales manager of the Hampden Glazed Card and Paper Company, but in the late 1920s he became the vice president of the Marvellum Company in Holyoke. Then, in 1931, this company established the Beveridge-Marvellum Company, with Warner as president and general manager. He continued to live here until as late as 1936, but by 1937 the family had moved to a house on Bellevue Avenue, in the northern section of the Forest Park Heights neighborhood.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the house was owned by Homer R. Feltham, the head of the real estate department for the Springfield Safe Deposit and Trust Company. During the 1940 census, he was earning $4,200 for his yearly salary – a considerable sum at the time – and he lived here with his wife Mildred, their daughters Barbara and Virginia, and his father, William H. Feltham, who owned the William H. Feltham & Son real estate and insurance business. Homer later became the vice president and mortgage officer of the Springfield Institution for Savings, and he and Mildred lived in this house until they sold the property in 1957.

Since then, the house has undergone some exterior changes. The second-floor porch has been enclosed, and many of the Queen Anne-style architectural details are gone, including the scalloped shingles on the second floor, the balustrade on the left side, the dentils above the first and second floors, and the balustrade on the third floor. Overall, though, the house has been well-maintained, and it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Charles W. Rannenberg House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 90 Garfield Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1893, and is among the oldest of the homes in the Forest Park neighborhood, which was developed around the turn of the 20th century as an upscale suburb just to the south of downtown Springfield. It was originally owned by Charles W. Rannenberg, a traveling salesman who lived here with his wife Caroline and their two children, Gertrude and Karl. Gertrude died in 1905, at the age of 22, from diabetes, but the rest of the family continued to live in this house for many years.

Karl married his wife Pauline in 1917, and they lived here with his parents and raised four children of their own: Norma, Karl, Paul, and Arlene. Karl’s mother Caroline died in the 1920s, and Charles died in 1936, only a few years before the first photo was taken, but the rest of the family was still living here as late as 1939, along with Pauline’s mother, Lillie Beaune. However, by the 1940 census they had moved across the street and were renting the house at 77 Garfield Street. They would later purchase that house, and lived there until their deaths in the late 1960s.

Nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, this house has remained well-preserved, with only a few minor changes. The small porch on the right side is gone, the second-floor porch is now enclosed, and the chimneys have been altered, but otherwise the house retains its original Queen Anne-style appearance. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, this house is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.