Old Town Hall, Springfield Mass

Springfield’s old town hall building on State Street near Main Street, around 1892.  Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

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The building in the first photo once served as Springfield’s town hall before it was incorporated as a city.  It was built in 1828, and Springfield became a city in 1852, at which point a more substantial building was needed for the municipal government.  So, in 1855 Springfield City Hall opened across from Court Square, in approximately the same location as the present-day City Hall.  Meanwhile, this building on State Street continued to be used for a variety of purposes.  The first floor was home to several different businesses, including a meat market and wallpaper store, as seen in the first photo.  By the 1880s, the second floor was still owned by the city, and the third floor by the Masons.  It was demolished around 1937, and today the location where it once stood is now part of the MassMutual Center.

Old Corner Bookstore, Springfield Mass

Springfield’s Old Corner Bookstore at the corner of Main and State Streets, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2015:

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Not to be confused with the more famous Old Corner Bookstore in Boston,this was never a gathering place for prominent 19th century authors, but the building did play a significant role in American literary history.  The building was built in 1834, and a year later George and Charles Merriam opened up a bookstore.  At first, they printed law books, Bibles, and other books, but they gained prominence after 1843, when they purchased the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary.  By the time the first photo was taken, the company had moved directly across Main Street.  Today, the company is still in business, as Merriam-Webster, and their headquarters are still in Springfield, on Federal Street.

As for the building itself, it continued to be used as a bookstore and for publishing, even after the Merriams moved.  Around 1871, James L. Whitney and W. F. Adams took over the bookstore, and sold everything from blank stationery to school textbooks.  In 1884, King’s Hanbook of Springfield gave the business a glowing review, declaring that “The success of this house is largely due to the straightforward and honorable policy by which their affairs ever have been and are now conducted.”  The statement was likely made in all sincerity, too, since King’s Handbook of Springfield was published by one of their Springfield competitors, publisher James D. Gill.

Irrespective of their “straightforward and honorable” nature, however, the bookstore went out of business in 1894, and the building became home to the Old Corner Wall Paper Company.  The old building was demolished sometime between then and 1927, when the Shean Block seen in the present day photo was built.  The only building that can be seen in both photos is the Hampden County Courthouse; the top of the tower can be seen in the distance in the left center, between the chimneys in the 1892 photo and behind the Court Square Hotel today.

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:

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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:

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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.

State & Myrtle Streets, Springfield, Mass

The State Street Methodist Episcopal Church at the corner of State and Myrtle Streets, around 1873-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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The same location, around 1905. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

The scene in 2019:

The first photo shows the State Street Methodist Episcopal Church, which was situated opposite the main entrance to the Armory, and likely served many of the workers there.  The church wasn’t here for too long, however, because in 1899 they merged with another congregation, and this property was sold.  The apartment building seen in the last two photos, identified in Springfield Present and Prospective as the Oxford Apartment House, was built on the site and was completed in 1901.  Given its location, it was probably home to many Armory workers, and today the exterior hasn’t really changed at all.  The only major difference between the last two photos is the massive Masonic Temple, which was built in 1923 and can be seen behind the apartment building.

 

 

Springfield Armory Entrance, Springfield Mass

The entrance to the Springfield Armory at the corner of State Street and Byers Street, around 1907. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The entrance in 2015:

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This gate at the southwestern corner of the Armory grounds was opened in the 1870s, when the grade of State Street was lowered and the previous main entrance became unusable.  This became the main entrance for many years, but the advent of automobiles and trucks made the narrow gate and fairly steep grade impractical.  So, around 10 years after the first photo was taken, a new main entrance was opened on Federal Street; this continues to function as the main entrance for Springfield Technical Community College, which now uses the Armory grounds.  In the distance of both photos is the Arsenal, which was completed in 1851 and is discussed further in this post.