Birthplace of Basketball, Springfield, Mass (2)

The interior of the gymnasium at the School For Christian Workers in Springfield, Mass, around 1887. Photo courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.

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The approximate area in 2014:

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These two photos don’t line up perfectly – I don’t know exactly what direction the 1887 photo was oriented, but the 2014 photo shows approximately what the scene now looks like.  Regardless, the 1887 photo is of significance, as it shows the gymnasium where, around four years later, the first basketball game was played. Originally developed as a way for athletes to stay in shape during the winter, it quickly became a popular sport around the world. And today, on the spot where 19th century athletes stayed in shape throughout the winter, modern Springfielders now go there to get Big Macs, year round.

Birthplace of Basketball, Springfield, Mass (1)

The School for Christian Workers Building, located at the corner of State Street and Sherman Street in Springfield, Mass, in 1886. Photo courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.

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The scene in 2014:

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Built in 1886 as the home of the School for Christian Workers, it also became home to the YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in 1890.  Although both organizations moved out by 1897, it was during this time period that James Naismith invented the game of basketball in the building’s gymnasium. The building was later expanded to the east (right-hand side of the photo), and was demolished in 1965. However, it was not demolished to build the McDonald’s in the present-day photo; the site was used was a parking lot for about 30 years before McDonald’s was built in 1995.

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.

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.

Arcade Theatre, Springfield

The Arcade Theatre on State Street in Springfield, around 1933. Photo courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

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The same scene in 2012:

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The building in the foreground of the 1933 photo is the Arcade Theatre, which opened two years earlier.  The marquee advertises the film College Humor, a Bing Crosby comedy that was released in July of 1933, hence giving the approximate date of the photo.  The theater closed in 1971, and was demolished a year later to allow for Dwight Street to be extended up the hill to Maple Street.  This enabled Dwight Street and Maple/Chestnut Streets to function as a one-way pair to help with traffic around the newly-built Civic Center (now the MassMutual Center, barely visible on the far right of the 2012 photo).  The building in the center of the photo is the Epiphany Tower, which is being renovated to become a Holiday Inn Express.  Several other buildings that still exist are the c.1893 old Masonic Building at the corner of State and Main (with the green tower) and 1200 Main Street just beyond it, which was built in 1908.

Notice also the road itself – 1933 seems like a rather late date for a major road in Springfield – at the time it was part of Route 20 – to be paved with cobblestone, but apparently that was the case.  Notice the trolley tracks as well, and the trolley in the distance – very different from the PVTA buses that now navigate the streets of Springfield.

Springfield High School, Springfield, Mass

Springfield’s old high school, located on State Street, sometime in the 1870s or 1880s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The scene in 2019:

Built in 1874, the building in the top photo was once Springfield’s high school building. It was used as the high school until 1898, when the older part (left-hand side) of Classical High School was completed.  After that, the building was used as a grammar school until 1922, when it was demolished to allow for the expansion of Classical High School.  It was used as a high school until 1986, and has since been converted into condominiums.