Nora’s Variety Store, Springfield, Mass

A mixed-use commercial and residential building on Boston Road in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood, on October 12, 1938. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

This building is probably best known as the longtime home of Nora’s Variety Store, but on a more personal note it is also where my grandmother was born. It was built sometime between 1899 and 1910, when the Pine Point neighborhood was first being developed, and it was apparently a two-family home. My great grandparents, Frank and Julia Lyman, moved here around 1915, and they lived here for about two years.

Frank was originally from Wilbraham, and he attended Wesleyan Academy before becoming a machinist. He worked for Pratt and Whitney in Hartford, and later for the Otis Elevator Company in Springfield, and he also spent some time in New York City, where he met his wife Julia Brown. She was the daughter of Irish immigrants, and prior to her marriage she worked in the biographical department for the New York World newspaper. By the time they moved to Springfield they had two young children, Elizabeth and Edith, and their third child, my grandmother Evelyn, was born here in 1917. Soon after, the family moved nearby to a house at 37 Coleman Street, where they lived for many years.

During the 1920s the house had a number of different tenants, who rarely seem to have lived here for longer than a year or two. Then, as this section of Boston Road became increasingly commercial, the house was altered with the addition of two storefronts, as shown in the first photo (an earlier photo on a different blog post, taken from a different angle, shows a the front of the house prior to this addition). This photo was taken in 1938, and by this point the storefronts were occupied by the Boston Road Variety Store—which later became Nora’s Variety Store—on the left, and a shoe store on the right.

Today, nearly 80 years after the first photo was taken, much has changed on Boston Road. Many of the late 19th and early 20th century homes have been demolished over the years, including the one on the far right side of this scene, where a car dealership is now located. Nora’s Variety Store was located here in this building for many years, but it ultimately closed in the early 2000s, and the storefront is now vacant. The building itself has also changed, including the addition of artificial siding, which probably occurred sometime during the mid-20th century. However, the building is still easily recognizable from the first photo, and it stands as a reminder of the days when Boston Road was still predominantly a residential street.

153-157 Boston Road, Springfield, Mass

A commercial block on Boston Road in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood was developed in the early 1900s, and consisted primarily of middle class, single-family homes.  This section of Boston Road was the commercial center of the neighborhood, and the first photo shows a variety of businesses here, including two grocery stores, a dry goods store, and a dry cleaners.  Just out of view to the left was the first Friendly’s restaurant, which opened a few years before the photo was taken.  These buildings were probably built around the 1920s or 1930s, and although the stores have changed, the buildings themselves are still standing.

Venezian Monumental Works, Springfield Mass

The Venezian Monumental Works building on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:


This building is located right next to the architecturally similar building at 1579 State Street, which was probably photographed on the same day as this one.  However, while the former Frank’s Service building has long been shuttered, the Venezian Monumental Works is still in business.  The company is actually substantially older than even the first photo; it was established in 1882, when the Pine Point neighborhood was on the remote outskirts of the city.  Since then, the neighborhood has grown, which has presumably increased demand for headstones, and it also doesn’t hurt that they are located right next to St. Michael’s Cemetery.  Today, the building has doubled in size, but the original section is still visible on the left side.

Frank’s Service, Springfield Mass

An automobile service station on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Photo courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:


This building is located in Springfield’s Pine Point neighborhood, a suburban section of the city that rapidly grew in population in the early 1900s.  At first, this growth was facilitated by the trolley line that ran through here, but later on it was automobiles that made this a practical place to live and commute from.  The establishment in the first photo, which appears to be called Frank’s Service, based on the sign above the door, would have been one of the many automobile-related businesses that opened to meet the demand.  I found this one particularly interesting, though, because my grandmother grew up in this neighborhood, and this place was about halfway between her house and where she worked in the late 1930s, at MassMutual.  She would’ve driven past here every day, and perhaps even stopped in to buy a Coca Cola.  According to the city assessor’s records, it was built in 1935, and although I don’t know what the building has been used for since the 1930s, it has clearly been vacant for a while.  The property has been owned by the City of Springfield since 2003, probably for nonpayment of taxes, so it had likely been abandoned long before that.