Mary A. Chapman House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 127 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1894, and it is located where Mulberry Street makes a sharp turn next to Springfield Cemetery. It was originally the home of Mary A. Chapman, a widow who was in her late 40s at the time. She lived here with her three children, Temple, Grenville, and Heloise. All three were in their 20s during the 1900 census, and Temple worked as a mine manager while Grenville worked as a bank bookkeeper. Mary was living here as late as the 1909 city directory, but by 1910 the house was owned by George D. Chamberlain, an accountant who lived here with his wife Ellie and their four children, Emily, Sydney, Eleanor, and Rodger.

Chamberlain was originally from Troy, New York, but later came to Springfield. Here, he held a number of different positions, including working in the paymaster’s office at the Armory, as an auditor for the Connecticut River Railroad, and as treasurer of the Warwick Cycle Manufacturing Company. He also worked in the publishing industry, and from 1898 to 1901 he was the publisher and editor of Good Housekeeping. By the time he moved into this house, he was just beginning a career in politics. From 1907 to 1908 he served on the city council, and from 1909 to 1912 he was on the board of aldermen. He then entered state politics, serving as a state representative from 1913 to 1916, as a state senator from 1917 to 1928, and as a member of the governor’s council from 1929 to 1933.

George and Ellie lived in this house until the late 1920s, and by 1929 it was the home of James G. Gilkey, the pastor of the South Congregational Church. A graduate of Harvard and Union Theological Seminary, Gilkey became the pastor of the church in 1917 and went on to serve in that role for the next 38 years, until his retirement in 1955. During this time, he also wrote a number of books, mostly on theology, along with a 1942 book commemorating the 100th anniversary of the South Congregational Church.

James Gilkey was living in this house when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, along with his wife Calma and their children, Gordon, Margaret, and Edith. They remained here until the early 1950s, and the exterior of the house has been essentially unchanged since then. The surroundings have also remained the same, including the cemetery fence on the left and the house on the right, and even the tree in the front is still there. The rest of the neighborhood is also well-preserved, and today it forms the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

William H. Chapin House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 127 School Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This lot at the corner of School and Mulberry Streets had been the site of a house since at least 1850, when Congressman George Ashmun moved into a house that once stood here. He lived here until his death in 1870, and the property was sold to William W. Colburn, who lived here for almost 30 years, until his death in 1899. In 1906, Colburn’s widow sold it to patent attorney William H. Chapin, who appears to have demolished the old house and built the one seen in the first photo. Its Colonial Revival-style architecture is consistent with early 20th century mansions, and city atlases also indicate that it was built during this time, because the footprint of the house on this spot in the 1910 atlas looks very different from the one in the 1899 atlas.

William Chapin lived here with his wife Charlotte and their three sons, Maurice, Henry, and Stuart, and they also employed two live-in servants. The children had all moved out by the 1930 census, but William and Charlotte lived here for the rest of their lives. Charlotte died in 1935, and William in 1941, only a few years after the first photo was taken. After his death, his former mansion became a rooming house before finally being demolished in 1960 to build an apartment complex. This building, in turn, was eventually abandoned by its owners, taken by the city for nonpayment of taxes, and demolished in the 1990s to make additional parking for the nearby Milton Bradley School.

Robert G. Shumway House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 34 Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2017:

This house was one of many in Springfield that were designed and built by Simon Sanborn in the first half of the 19th century. Although not as grand in size or appearance as some of his other homes, such as the Alexander House, this house is one of his few surviving works. It was built in 1840, and features prominent Greek Revival-style portico, complete with four columns. The rear section of the house, with its Second Empire-style mansard roof, appears to have been added later, probably around the 1870s.

The original owner was John Bunker, who was a former ship captain. There is little available information about him or his time at this house, and by the late 1850s the house was owned by Robert G. Shumway, a jewelry manufacturer. He lived here with his wife Julia and their four daughters, Julia, Lucy, Helen, and Abby, until his death in 1880. However, the house remained in his family for many decades. His two younger daughters, Helen and Abby, never married, and they lived here together until Helen’s death in 1930. Abby was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and she remained here until her death in 1947 at the age of 87, some 90 years after her father had first purchased the home.

In the years since the first photo was taken, most of the surrounding homes have since been demolished, and the Milton Bradley School now takes up much of the block. The school’s parking lot surrounds the former Shumway property on three sides, but the old house still stands. Its exterior has not changed much in the past 80 years, and it still retains its unusual combination of a Greek Rrvival columned portico and a mansard roof. As the sign in the 2017 photo indicates, though, it is no longer a single-family home, and is instead used as a law office.

Rose Cottage, Springfield, Mass (2)

Another view of the Rose Cottage, this time taken at its new location on Mulberry Street, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.


The house in 2016:

This house, once known as Rose Cottage, is the same as the one in the previous post, but in a different location. As mentioned in the other post, it was originally built in 1824 on Chestnut Street as the home of Elisha and Eunice Edwards. After Eunice’s death in 1875, Edwards Street was developed through the property, but the house was preserved. It was moved to 57 Mulberry Street, and her daughter, Charlotte Edwards Warner, lived here until her death in 1916.

Warner was an author who wrote A Chronicle of Ancient Chestnut Street, a short book that gives historical accounts of the old houses on Chestnut Street, including Rose Cottage. She also wrote a poem, “The Old House,” which was published in 1907 in The Poets and Poetry of Springfield in Massachusetts. Although the house is not specifically identified, it seems unmistakable that Warner was referring to the home where she and her nine siblings were born and raised:

“The Old House”

          Still the sun shines
Shines luminously bright
          On the white wall.
Deserted is the home:
Strangers will hither come,
Still will the sun give light
          Alike to all.

          Many thoughts rise
As my memory glides
          Over the past;
Bringing the dead to life,
Now freed from mortal strife;
Passed o’er the surging tides
          Peaceful at last.

          Children I see,
Lovely they were to me
          As the May morn;
But soon the angel Death
Received their parting breath;
They to Eternity
          Onward were borne

          Matron and maid
Passed through the valley’s shade
          In the deep sea:
Strong was the maiden’s heart
Loving the better part;
In God her hope was staid
          So trustingly.

          Still the sun shines
Through the wide open blinds
          On the white wall:
No shadow passes near,
No friendly voice I hear,
No one the beggar finds
          Answers his call.

          On each fair morn
I raise my eyes to see
          The vision bright
And, as the glad sunshine
Enters this heart of mine,
Spirits there seem to me
          Bathed in its light.

By the time the first photo was taken, the house was no longer in the Edwards family. However, just as the home had likely inspired Warner’s poem, Mulberry Street also found itself memorialized in literature. In 1937, a year or two before the first photo was taken, Springfield native Theodor Geisel published his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, written under his pen name of Dr. Seuss.

Today, the old Rose Cottage home is still standing on Mulberry Street. With simple Greek Revival architecture, it is very different from the more elaborate homes on the street, which date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its significance, though, seems to have gone mostly unnoticed. Aside from a single article in the Springfield Republican a century ago, I have found little about this house. Having been built in 1824, it is among the oldest buildings in the downtown area, and it is the last of the original Chestnut Street homes still standing in the city, yet information about the house is fairly scarce. However, its exterior nonetheless remains well preserved. Aside from the loss of the porch, very little has changed from the 1930s view, and as the photo in the previous post shows, it looks essentially the same as it did when it stood on Chestnut Street.