18-20 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 18-20 School Street, at the corner of Temple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This two-family, Second Empire-style home was constructed sometime around the 1860s, probably about the same time as an architecturally-similar house on nearby High Street. It appears on the 1870 city map, which shows Roderick Burt as the owner of the left side, and Charles W. Clark on the right. Both men had stores on Main Street, with Burt selling books, while Clark sold stationery. However, they apparently did not live here for very long, because by late 1870 they both resided in a house on Union Street.

The 1880 census shows that the left side, at 20 School Street, was the home of real estate agent Justin D. Parks, who lived here with his wife Hattie, their two children, his sister Lilla, and a servant. On the right side, at 18 School Street, was electrotyper Charles Van Vlack, his wife Mary, plus a son, three nieces, and a servant. Both of these families had also short stays here, though, because by the mid-1880s they were both living elsewhere.

Subsequent residents here included city auditor George H. Deane, who lived at 18 School Street in the late 1880s. However, by the 1890s both halves of the property had evidently been converted into boarding houses. According to city directories of this period, many of the boarders were railroad employees, but they also included Thomas M. Balliet, who lived here in 1892 and 1893. At the time, he was the superintendent of schools, and he later became the namesake of an elementary school and a middle school in the Pine Point neighborhood.

The 1900 census shows a total of 26 residents in this building. Most of the boarders were single young women, although there were several married couples here as well. Six of the residents were teachers, four were salespeople, three were bookkeepers, and other occupations included a tailor, a machinist, a jeweler, and a proofreader.

By the time the first photo was taken nearly 40 years later, the building was still in use as a boarding house. Its tenants still held a wide range of working-class jobs, with the 1940 census showing several teachers and clerks, plus a foreman, a watchman, a bartender, a bricklayer, and a machinist. Most of their salaries were around $1,000 per year (a little under $19,000 today), but they ranged from the bartender, who made just $276 in the previous year, to an art teacher, who made $2,408.

This house was still standing here until at least the late 1970s, but it was evidently demolished by the early 1980s. The lot has remained vacant ever since, along with the neighboring land to the right at 14 School Street. Both are now owned by Open Pantry Community Services, and the corner lot appears to be in use as a community garden, as shown in the 2018 photo.

Apollos Marsh House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 276 Union Street, at the corner of School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2018:

This house was built around 1822, as the home of Apollos Marsh. He was in his late 20s at the time, and he moved in to the house within a few years after his 1819 marriage to Catharine Warner. The house was constructed by Simon Sanborn, a master builder who was responsible for many of Springfield’s early 19th century homes, although the exterior would have looked significantly different than its appearance in these two photos. Marsh would go on to become the first superintendent of Springfield Cemetery, a position that he held from 1841 until his death in 1869, but it seems unclear as to how long he lived here in this house. The 1835 map of Springfield shows that this property was owned by a Charles Ball, and the first Springfield directory, published in 1846, lists Marsh as living on Elm Street.

In the absence of street numbers during the mid-19th century, the subsequent ownership of this house is difficult to trace. However, by 1854 it was the home of Abijah W. Chapin, the city’s postmaster. He lived here with his wife Sarah, although she died in 1857 at the age of 39. The 1860 census shows him living here with his young sons Frederick and Edmund, and it lists the value of his real estate at $4,000, plus another $5,000 for his personal estate, for a combined total equivalent to about $260,000 today.

Chapin was still living here a decade later, and by then he had remarried to his second wife, Elizabeth, and had another child. No longer the postmaster, Chapin was instead an insurance agent in the firm of Chapin & Lee. His net worth had substantially increased during this period, with the 1870 census assessing his real estate at $40,000, and his personal estate at $7,000. Together, this was equivalent to nearly $1 million today. He and Elizabeth had one more child, who was born later in 1870, but within a few years the family would move out of this house and relocate to Deerfield, Massachusetts.

At some point in the 1850s, probably during Chapin’s ownership, this house underwent a major expansion with an addition to the rear. The third floor may have been added during this project as well; the Italianate-style rounded arches on the windows were almost certainly not part of the original 1822 design of the house, but they were fashionable by mid-century when this renovation occurred. The house was further expanded around the 1870s, with a narrow addition on the right side that brought the house almost all the way to the sidewalk on School Street.

By the mid-1870s, this house was owned by George H. Deane, a steam pump manufacturer in the firm of G. H. Deane & Co. The 1880 census shows him living here with his wife Maria, their children Charles and Isabella, Charles’s wife Mary, and two granddaughters, along with two servants. By this point, George had become the city auditor, but Charles was still involved in the family’s steam pump business. The Dean family would continue to live in this house until around 1885, and by the following year Charles was residing at 78 Maple Street, while George was at 18 School Street.

This house was subsequently owned by John A. Murphy, a partner in the stationery firm of Taylor, Nichols & Co. He was living here by the late 1880s, along with his wife Henrietta – who was known as Etta – and their daughter Ritta. He lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1915 at the age of 65. During this time, he had a successful career in the paper manufacturing business. Taylor, Nichols & Co. became the Murphy-Souther Company, and then he eventually purchased the entire business, which was renamed the John A. Murphy Company. In addition to this, he served on the city’s board of aldermen from 1889 to 1891, and he was the board’s president in 1891.

Following Murphy’s death, Ritta’s husband, Joseph L. Pitman, succeeded his father-in-law as president of John A. Murphy Company. During the 1920 census, they were living in a nearby house at 43 School Street, along with their daughter Henrietta and Ritta’s mother Etta. However, this house on Union Street remained in the family, and by 1922 they were all living here again. Etta Murphy died in 1934, but the Pitmans were still in this house when the first photo was taken about five years later. Joseph was still in the paper business, but by this point he was the president and treasurer of Colonial Papeteries Inc.

Ritta died in 1950, and Joseph in 1952, but their daughter Henrietta continued to live here for many years while working as a secretary for a patent and trademark law firm. Her husband, David E. Hoxie, died in 1973, and by the end of the decade she was retired. She sold the house in 1980, nearly a century after her grandfather had purchased it, and she moved to Vermont, where she died in 2004.

Today, the exterior of the house is not very different from its appearance when the first photo was taken some 80 years ago. At some point after the first photo was taken, the house was covered in asbestos siding, but this was removed during a 1980s restoration. Along with the other nearby homes, it is now part of the Lower Maple Local Historic District, and, at nearly 200 years old, it stands as one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.

130 School Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 130 School Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2018:

This lot, at the corner of Mulberry and School Streets, was originally numbered as 60 Mulberry Street, and it was the site of a house since at least the mid-19th century. However, the property was subsequently re-numbered as 130 School Street around 1918, and the house itself does not appear to be the same one that originally stood here. Based on its architecture, it looks like it was probably built sometime in the early 20th century, although it is possible that the old house underwent a major renovation instead of complete demolition and reconstruction.

In any case, by about 1917 this house was being rented by James Gordon Gilkey, pastor of the nearby South Congregational Church. Reverend Gilkey was about 28 years old at the time, and he had just begun what would become a long pastorate at the church, after several years as a teacher and chaplain at Amherst College. The 1920 census shows him living here with his wife Calma, their two young children, and a servant, and the family would remain here until around 1928, when they moved up the street to a house at 127 Mulberry Street.

By 1929, the house was owned by Carrie J. Emory, who was in her late 60s at the time. She was unmarried, and during the 1930 census she lived here alone except for a cook. She was still here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, and she continued to live in this house until her death in 1942, at the age of 79. Her funeral was held here at the house, and, as she was a member of South Congregational Church, it was officiated by Reverend Gilkey.

Today, some 80 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of this house has remained remarkably unchanged, and the only significant differences between these photos are the trees. The house is one of a number of well-preserved homes along Mulberry Street, and it is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Orrin L. Cowles House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 108 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2018:

This house was built around 1886, and it was originally owned by Orrin L. Cowles, an insurance agent who worked for the Mutual Benefit Life Insurance Company. This company was based out of Newark, New Jersey, but Cowles was the general agent for their Springfield office. Cowles had previously lived on Jefferson Avenue in the city’s North End, but in 1886 he purchased this property from John D. McKnight, a real estate developer who was best known for creating the McKnight neighborhood about a mile to the east of here. This house, with its Queen Anne-style architecture, bears a strong resemblance to the many of the homes that were built in McKnight during this same period.

The 1900 census shows Orrin Cowles living here with his wife Harriet, their 26-year-old daughter Carolyn M. Rice, her five-year-old son Robert C. Rice, and a servant. Carolyn was listed as married on the census, but her husband was not living here, and subsequent censuses list her as divorced, so she and her husband were probably separated by this point. The four family members were still living here a decade later during the 1910 census, and Orrin was still working for the same insurance company, but he died the following year, at the age of 71.

Both Harriet and Carolyn continued to live in this house for the rest of their lives. Carolyn died in 1934, at the age of 61, and her funeral was held here in the house, with Rev. James Gordon Gilkey of South Congregational Church officiating the ceremony. Her mother Harriet outlived her by about five years, before her own death in 1939, around the same time that the first photo was taken.

The 1939 city directory shows that, by this point, Robert Rice had returned here to his childhood home, perhaps in order to care for his aging grandmother. After she died, he inherited the property, and the 1940 census lists him here with his wife Marie. No occupation is given for Robert in the census, and it notes that he did not earn any income during the previous year, but he is consistently listed as an author in city directories of the 1940s and 1950s.

Robert Rice lived in this house until around 1963, when he finally sold it more than 75 years after his grandfather had purchased it from John McKnight. He then moved to an apartment nearby at 286 Union Street, where he lived until his death in 1975 at the age of 81. In the meantime, at some point during the mid-20th century the exterior of this house was covered in shingles, obscuring many of the Victorian-era details that are evident in the first photo. Part of the front porch was also removed, and the rest of it was altered with the replacement of the original balustrade and columns. However, the house is still standing, unlike its former neighbor to the right at 102 School Street, and it is now part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

Benjamin Day House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 102 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

Like the neighboring house at 100 School Street, this house was originally located on the east side of Maple Street. It was constructed in 1820, and like its neighbor it was built by Simon Sanborn, a master builder who was responsible for many fine homes in early 19th century Springfield. Architecturally, these two homes do not have much in common, but this house bore a strong resemblance to one that once stood at 55 Chestnut Street, which may have also been built by Sanborn.

The original owner of the house here in the first photo was Benjamin Day, a prosperous merchant and banker. In 1820, at the age of 30, he married Frances Dwight, the daughter of merchant James Scutt Dwight. The house was completed around the same time as their marriage, and it was situated on a large lot that extended from Maple to School Streets. At the time, the lower part of Maple Street was one of the most desirable residential areas in the city, and the Days were among the many affluent families that built homes on the street, which runs along a bluff overlooking downtown Springfield.

Benjamin Day went on to have a successful business career, which included serving first as cashier and later as president of the Springfield Bank. In 1822, he became a partner in the merchant firm of Day, Brewer & Dwight, which included his brother-in-law, James Sanford Dwight. Day and Brewer would eventually sell their shares of the business to Dwight, and Day subsequently formed the dry goods firm of Day & Willard. He was also involved in other business ventures, serving as a trustee of the Springfield Institution for Savings, president of the Old Springfield Bridge Company, treasurer of the Holyoke Water Power Company.

Both Benjamin and Frances Day died in 1872, but they apparently lived here in this house for a comparatively short period of time. By the early 1830s, this property was owned by Frances’s brother, George Dwight. Following his brother James Sanford Dwight’s untimely death in 1831, George and his business partner, Homer Foot, had acquired James’s company, which was renamed Homer Foot & Co. In 1833, George married Homer’s sister, Mary Skinner Foot, and the family connection was further strengthened a year later, when Homer married George’s sister, Delia Dwight.

George and Mary Dwight lived in this house on Maple Street until around 1860. He remained a partner in Homer Foot & Co. until 1854, and he was also involved in the Springfield Gas Light Company, serving as treasurer for many years, and later as superintendent. Aside from business, his other roles included serving as fire chief in 1848, and from 1856 to 1859, and he was elected to the state House of Representatives once and the state Senate twice. However, perhaps his most important position was as superintendent of the Springfield Armory, which he held during the early months of the Civil War, from April to August 1861, before the Armory switched from civilian to military leadership.

By the late 1860s, this house – which was still located on Maple Street at the time – was owned by Willis Phelps, a railroad contractor who was responsible for building many railroads, both here in New England and in other parts of the country. He had been a contractor for the Western Railroad in 1839, and his subsequent projects included the rail line from Springfield to Hartford, portions of the New London Northern Railroad, and the branch line from Springfield to Athol. Further west, he built the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph Railroad, the Missouri Valley Railroad, and the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad, among other lines.

In addition to his railroad work, Phelps was involved in local politics, serving at various times as a county commissioner, state representative, state senator, city councilor, and alderman. He was also a director of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company, the Mutual Fire Assurance Company of Springfield, and the Pynchon National Bank, and he was the president of the Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank from 1854 to 1858.

Willis Phelps died in 1883, and his property was subsequently acquired by Eunice Brewer Smith, whose brother, James D. Brewer, owned the adjacent house at 95 Maple Street. She was the widow of Dr. David P. Smith, a local physician who had died in 1880. He had been a surgeon during the Civil War, including serving as chief surgeon at the Fairfax Seminary Hospital in Alexandria, and he later became a professor of surgery at Yale.

After Eunice’s brother James died in 1886, his daughter Harriet inherited his property. She and her husband, Dr. Luke Corcoran, soon began building a new house, and in 1889 they moved the old house to the back of the lot, where it became 100 School Street. At around the same time, Eunice did the same thing to her house. It was moved to 102 School Street, as shown in the first photo, and it sat side-by-side with its longtime neighbor. Eunice then constructed a new house on the Maple Street end of the lot, which was completed in 1890.

In a way, the relocation of these two houses reflected the changes that Springfield had undergone in the 70 years since they were built. At the time of their completion, they were among the finest homes in a town that still numbered under 4,000 people. However, by 1890 Springfield had become a city, and its population had grown more than tenfold, to over 44,000 people. The old merchant families that once lived in these homes, such as the Days, Dwights, Brewers, and Howards, no longer dominated the city’s political and economic life, and their homes had become relics of a distant era, replaced by new, larger homes and relegated to a side street.

By the end of the 19th century, Eunice Smith still lived in her new house at 111 Maple Street, but she had evidently transferred ownership of 102 School Street to her niece Harriet, who owned both it and 100 School Street. Both houses became rental properties, and for many years she rented this house at 102 School Street to Charles E. Stickney, a fire insurance agent in the firm of Pynchon & Stickney. He was living here as early as 1890, shortly after the house was relocated here, and he remained here until around 1908. The 1900 census shows him at this house with his wife Mary and their two children, and they also employed two live-in servants.

Starting around 1909, Harriet Corcoran began renting the house to Ralph K. Safford, a banker and broker who was the manager of Darr & Moore. He and his wife Lillian had an infant son when they moved in, and the 1910 census also shows them living here with two servants. They would reside here until the late 1910s, when they moved into an apartment building nearby at 328 Union Street.

The last tenant of this house appears to have been Morgan G. Day, who coincidentally shared the same last name as its first resident, although he and Benjamin Day were not directly related. Morgan Day was the assistant agent for the Indian Orchard Company, and he lived here with his wife Ruth, their young son, and a maid. They appear here in city directories until at least 1927, although they moved out by 1929. Like the Saffords, though, they remained in the neighborhood, living in a home at 41 Mulberry Street.

The first photo was taken about ten years after the Day family moved out, and the house was evidently vacant for this entire time. By this point, its neighbor at 100 School Street was also vacant, and they would remain empty for nearly 10 more years before they were both demolished in the spring of 1946. Both house lots are now owned by the city, and they serve as a parking area for the Milton Bradley School, which is visible in the distance of the 2018 photo.

John Howard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 100 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This house was built in 1819, and it originally stood a block to the west of here, at 95 Maple Street. At the time, the lower part of Maple Street was becoming a fashionable residential area, and many wealthy families in Springfield built homes here during the first half of the 19th century. Many of these homes, including this one, were the work of Simon Sanborn, a master builder who was responsible for a number of important buildings in Springfield during this period, such as the Alexander House, Byers Block, and the old Unitarian Church.

The original owner of this house was John Howard, the son of the retired First Church pastor Bezaleel Howard. John was a lawyer, having graduated from Yale in 1810, and in 1818 he married Mary Stoddard Dwight, from the prominent Dwight family. Her father, Colonel Thomas Dwight, was a lawyer and politician, serving in both houses of the state legislature, the governor’s council, and even one term in the U. S. House of Representatives. John and Mary Howard moved into this house soon after their marriage, and they raised their four daughters here: Hannah, Margaret, Frances, and Eliza.

John Howard enjoyed a successful career as both a politician and a banker. He served as a fire warden in 1829, a town selectman from 1830 to 1831, and a member of the governor’s council from 1837 to 1838. In addition, he was the cashier of the Springfield Bank from 1823 to 1836, where he earned a salary of $1,000 per year, and in 1827 he became the first treasurer of the Springfield Institution for Savings. Howard subsequently became the president of Springfield Bank in 1836, and he served in that capacity until his death in 1849.

During this time, Howard continued to live in this house, although his wife Mary died in 1836, when she was just 44 years old. The house, which was still located on Maple Street at the time, stayed in his family for at least a few years after his own death. The 1851 city map shows that the property lines extended the width of the block, all the way from Maple to School Streets, and Howard also owned land on the other side of Maple Street, which stretched down the hill to what is now Dale Street.

In 1857, the property was sold to James D. Brewer, a hardware dealer whose store was located at the corner of Main and State Streets. Along with this business, Brewer was also involved in a number of other local companies, serving as a director and later the president of Chicopee Bank, treasurer of the Indian Orchard Canal Company, and a director of the Agawam Canal Company, the Springfield Car and Engine Company, and the Hampden Watch Company. However, he was perhaps best known for his involvement in the Springfield Gas Light Company, serving as its treasurer for 26 years.

James and his wife Sarah had six children, although only two survived to adulthood. Their only surviving son, Edward, later moved to Hartford, and their daughter, Harriet, married Dr. Luke Corcoran and remained here in Springfield. By the mid-1880s, the Corcorans were living here with James and Sarah, who were both in their 60s at this point. James died in 1886, and his widow died just nine weeks later, leaving the family home on Maple Street to Harriet.

The Corcorans soon began major changes here, and in 1889 they began construction on a new house on Maple Street. The old house was moved to the back of the lot, becoming 100 School Street, as shown here in the first photo. They lived in the new house for the rest of their lives, until their deaths in the 1920s, However, they maintained ownership of the old one, and used it as a rental property. During the 1900 census, it was the home of Charles E. Galacar, the vice president of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company. At the time, he was living here with his wife Minerva, two of their daughters, and two servants, and he would remain here until his death in 1916.

The house was subsequently rented by Harold G. Meadows, the president of the New England Steel Casting Company. He was living here during the 1920 census, along with his wife Frances, their six children, and two servants. They lived here until 1934, when Harold died, and by the following year the house was vacant. The house was still listed as vacant in city directories by the end of the decade, when the first photo was taken, and it does not appear to have had any further tenants. Along with the neighboring early 19th century house at 102 School Street, which had also been empty for many years, it was ultimately demolished in 1946. The site is now a parking lot for the Milton Bradley School, which stands in the distance of the 2018 photo.