Memorial Square, Springfield, Mass

Memorial Square and Memorial Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass., around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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Built in 1869, the former Memorial Congregational Church has been home to St. George Greek Orthodox Church (now Cathedral) since 1940.  In the foreground is a monument to Massachusetts veterans from the Spanish-American War.  Neither the church nor the statue have changed much in appearance, although the quiet elm-lined streets have changed; Memorial Square is now the intersection of Routes 20 (left) and 116 (right), and the on-ramp for Interstate 91 is visible just beyond the church, on Route 20.

Corner of Main & State Streets, Springfield

The northeast corner of Main and State in Springfield, sometime in the 19th century.  Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The same location, around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The corner in 2014:

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Many of these Springfield street scenes follow a predictable pattern over the past 150 years or so – first, a pre-Civil War Federal style commercial block, followed by a larger, more ornate building in the latter part of the 19th century, and finally some sort of modern, 20th century structure.  In this case, we clearly see all three generations of commercial development at the corner of Main and State, culminating with the MassMutual Center of the 1970s.  Of particular interest is the building in the second photo – above the entrance is a sign that reads “G. & C. Merriam & Co Publishers,” the publishers of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Today, the company is still headquartered in Springfield, just up the hill on Federal Street.  See this post and this post for a few other angles of the neighborhood that is now the MassMutual Center.

Chicopee Bank Building, Springfield

The Chicopee Bank Building, at the corner of Main and Elm, sometime before 1889.  Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, between 1889 and 1895. Photo courtesy of James Ward Birchall Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The original building was built in 1835, at the same time as the other three-story commercial buildings on and around Court Square. It was demolished in 1889 and replaced by the current structure, which survives with minimal changes. The building to the left, however, has been trimmed down in height. On the other side, along Elm Street, the 1835 Byers Block survives as a remnant of what the old Chicopee Bank building once looked like.

Court Square, Springfield (6)

Springfield’s Court Square, sometime in the 1880s or earlier. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in the 1890s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The scene in 2014:119_2014

The three photos show the progression of the appearance of Court Square in the past 125+ years. In the first photo, the buildings along Elm Street are all 1830’s-era three story commercial buildings, most of which were replaced by the Court Square Theater in 1892, which can be seen in the second photo, a rare view of the building before the 1900 expansion on the right side. That is essentially the only change between the second photo and today’s scene – not much has changed with the four major buildings in this angle. One notable survivor on the far left is the Byers Block, which was built in 1835 and is the last remaining part of the Elm Street commercial blocks from the first photo. Wedged in between two much larger late 19th century building, it is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, although not the oldest building in the photo – Old First Church on the far right dates to 1819.

Old Masonic Building, Springfield, Mass

The old Masonic Building in Springfield, around 1910, from The View Book of Springfield (1910).

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The same building in 2012:

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The old Masonic Building at the corner of State and Main was built around 1893, and was used by the Masons until 1924, when they built a new temple further up State Street. At some point, the ornate sandstone facade was replaced with a more bland brick appearance, and the clock tower was either moved back or replaced entirely. However, there is a small surviving part of the original facade – the sandstone arch above the doorway on the left-hand side is still there, complete with a Masonic symbol above it.

Court Square, Springfield (5)

Court Square in Springfield, sometime in the 1860s or early 1870s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The same scene in 2013:

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Court Square has been the center of activity in Springfield since its founding.  The first meeting house was built just to the left in the foreground, and all of the subsequent churches have been built on Court Square.  The square was established as a park in 1821, two years after Old First Church was built.

The building on the right-hand side of the photo is the old Hampden County Courthouse, which was built in 1821 and used as a courthouse until the 1874 courthouse was built just to the left of Old First Church. The 1874 structure is still in use as the juvenile and housing court, but the preesent-day courthouse is visible beyond and to the right of the church in the 2013 photo.  The old 1821 courthouse was later used as an Odd Fellows hall, and was demolished at some point in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. The small building in between was the church’s chapel, which was replaced by the present-day brick structure in 1874.