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.

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.

Unitarian Church, Springfield, Mass

The Unitarian church at the corner of State and Willow Streets in Springfield, probably sometime in the 1860s. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:


For nearly 200 years, the Congregational Church was essentially the only church in Springfield. Aside from small groups of religious minorities such as Baptists and Methodists, who arrived at the turn of the 19th century, nearly all of Springfield’s residents were affiliated with the First Church. However, this hegemony began to break apart in the early 19th century, when the New England Congregationalists saw a schism between the traditional Trinitarians and the newer, theologically-liberal Unitarians.

Here in Springfield, the First Church had two fairly liberal pastors throughout much of the 18th century, beginning with Robert Breck, who served from 1736 to 1784. Breck’s ordination had been highly controversial, due to the perceived unorthodox beliefs of the young clergyman. He was popular among the Springfield congregants, but many of the pastors of surrounding towns – including Jonathan Edwards of Northampton – had advised against him, and some of his opponents had Breck arrested for heresy on the day of his scheduled ordination.

The charges against Breck were ultimately dropped, and he was duly ordained, serving the church for nearly 50 years. After his death, he was replaced by another young liberal pastor, Bezaleel Howard, who served for 18 years before announcing his resignation in 1803, due to poor health. He agreed to remain with the church until his replacement was found, but this process likely took longer than Howard had anticipated. By this point, the Unitarian-Trinitarian controversy had become the dominant issue in New England churches, and it took six years – and 37 candidates – before Samuel Osgood was selected as pastor in 1809.

Osgood, a 24-year-old Dartmouth graduate, had been the unanimous choice of the congregation, who had viewed him as being theologically liberal. However, as the divide grew between the two factions, Osgood ultimately favored the orthodox Trinitarian theology, alienating some of the most influential citizens of Springfield in the process. The majority of the church sided with Osgood, but the Unitarians were both vocal and wealthy, and included prominent businessmen such as merchant Jonathan Dwight, Sr. As a result, around 117 Unitarians separated from the First Church in 1819, forming the Third Congregational Society of Springfield. This name came from the fact that Chicopee, home of the Second Congregational Church, was still a part of Springfield at the time.

Later in 1819, the Unitarians moved into this newly-completed church building at the corner of State and Willow Streets. Both the land and the building had been donated by Jonathan Dwight, and the building was designed by local architect Simon Sanborn. It bore a strong resemblance to the new First Church building, which had been completed several weeks earlier at Court Square, and it reflected the Greek Revival style of architecture, which was becoming popular for churches and other public buildings during this era.

The first pastor of the Unitarian church was William B. O. Peabody, who was just 21 years old when he was ordained in October 1820. He served the church for the next 27 years, until his death in 1847, and during this time he also had a successful career as an author. He wrote several books, plus a number of poems and hymns, and he was also a regular contributor to the North American Review literary magazine. None of Peabody’s 19th century successors were able to match his longevity with the congregation, but the second-longest pastorate here in this church building was that of Francis Tiffany, who served from 1852 until 1864, when he left to accept a position as professor of English and rhetoric at Antioch College in Ohio. Like Peabody, he also became a published author, writing a biography of social reformer Dorothea Dix in 1890.

The Unitarians worshiped here in this building for nearby 50 years, but by the 1860s they had begun planning the construction of a new building further up the hill, opposite where the Springfield City Library now stands. In the process, they helped to start the career of Henry H. Richardson, who would become one of the most influential architects in American history. Although he did not have any major commissions at the time, Richardson was allowed to enter the design competition thanks to Chester W. Chapin, a railroad and bank executive who was a prominent member of the Unitarian church. Chapin’s son-in-law had attended college with Richardson, and this connection enabled the young architect to submit his plans for a new church, which were ultimately the ones chosen in the competition. The new building, known as the Church of the Unity, was completed in 1869, and Richardson’s work helped to establish his reputation as an architect.

The other building in the first photo, just to the right of the church, is the Springfield Bank. This brick, two-story Greek Revival structure was built around in 1814, the same year that the Springfield Bank was established as the first bank here in Springfield. It was one of the many business interests of Jonathan Dwight, who was one of its founders and its first president, serving from 1814 to 1817. The building was also the first home of the Springfield Institution for Savings, which was established in 1827. It was the first savings bank in Springfield, and it shared this building with the Springfield Bank until 1849, when it moved into the newly-completed Foot Block at the corner of Main and State Streets. In the meantime, the Springfield Bank remained here in this building until 1863, when it was reorganized as the Second National Bank. This new bank relocated three years later, and the old building later became a store owned by grain merchant John W. Wilder.

Only four years after the Unitarians moved up the hill to their new building, the old church burned down on the night of October 12, 1873. The site was later redeveloped with a large brick commercial building known as the Kirkham and Olmstead Block, which was in turn replaced by the two-story building that is now standing here. However, the old bank building survived well into the 20th century, despite being converted to other commercial use. The 1920 atlas shows it still standing, but it was demolished sometime before 1933, when the Art Deco-style Springfield Safe Deposit and Trust Company building was completed on the site. This building, now the Community Music School, is still here today, and is visible on the far right side of the 2017 photo.