Varillas L. Owen House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 383 Union Street, at the corner of Mulberry Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, many of Springfield’s upper class residents built fine Italianate homes such as this one, which is located at the corner of Union and Mulberry Streets, on a hill overlooking downtown Springfield. It was built around 1864 for Dr. Varillas L. Owen, a Harvard-educated physician who moved to Springfield in the early 1850s and opened his practice in the rapidly-growing city. He lived here with his wife, Maria Tallant Owen, a Nantucket-born botanist who would go on to achieve fame in the scientific community, particularly with her 1888 work Catalogue of Plants Growing Without Cultivation in the County of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Here in Springfield, she worked at several different schools, teaching botany, French, astronomy, and geography. Along with this, she also served for many years as the president of both the Springfield Women’s Club and the Springfield Botanical Society.

The Owens had two children, Walter and Amelia, who grew up in this house. Walter attended M.I.T. and went on to become an architect, and later moved to New York, where he joined the firm of Renwick, Aspinwall & Russell. Among his works was the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, which was completed here in Springfield in 1896. That same year, he became a partner in the firm, which was renamed Renwick, Aspinwall & Owen, but he died only a few years later in 1902, at the age of 38. In the meantime, Walter’s parents continued living here at this house, long after Walter moved to New York. Varillas died in 1897, and Maria went on to live here for the next 10 years, before moving to Long Island to live with Amelia and her husband, Dr. James Sullivan.

By 1910, the house was owned by Charles H. Barrows, a lawyer and author who lived next door at 375 Union Street, just across Mulberry Street from here. He apparently used this house as a rental property, because during the 1910 census he was renting the house to Cheney H. Calkins, a dentist who lived here with his wife Alice, their son William, and two servants. The family was still living here in 1920, but by the middle of the decade this house was the home of Frederick H. Clodgo, a salesman who lived here with his wife, Charlotte. They were living here as late as 1927, but by 1930 the city directory listed this house as being vacant.

This house appears to have only been sporadically occupied during the 1930s, but around 1936-1937 it was the home of George and Bertha Rand. During this time, they rented rooms to several other people, but they had moved out of here by 1938. The house appears to have been vacant around the time that the first photo was taken, but it has since been restored, and still stands here at the corner of Union and Mulberry Streets. It is probably the best-preserved example of residential Italianate architecture in Springfield, and it forms part of the city’s Ridgewood Local Historic District.

John P. Wilcox House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 17 Ingraham Terrace in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Born in Springfield in 1836, John P. Wilcox was the son of Philip Wilcox, a tinware and stove merchant. Likewise, John became a stove merchant, and in 1861 he married his first wife, Harriet Russell. She died of tuberculosis in 1866, though, and two years later he remarried to Henrietta Willis. By 1870, they were living in this elegant Second Empire-style house at the corner of Ingraham Terrace and Union Street. The location of this house would have afforded them with excellent views of downtown Springfield and the Connecticut River valley, and the value of the property was listed as $40,000 in the 1870 census, equal to over $770,000 today.

John died 1897, and his widow Henrietta lived here until her death in 1912. His only child was Hattie, the daughter of his first wife. She never married, and lived here her entire life, until she died in 1930. By the time the first photo was taken, the house was being rented by Bernard F. Gilchriest, a physician who lived here with his wife Odette and their two children, who were also named Bernard and Odette. They lived here until at least the early 1940s, and the house itself was still standing over a decade later. However, the property last appears in the Springfield Republican, and the house was probably demolished sometime in the 1950s or 1960s. Today, the site of the house is a parking lot for the former Wesson Memorial Hospital, which is visible in the distant left of both photos.

Henry S. Lee House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 254 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

The house in the first photo was once the home of Henry S. Lee, a prominent city banker. He was born in Springfield in 1834, and first entered the banking business as a clerk for Chicopee Bank. In 1858, he became treasurer of the Springfield Institution for Savings, and he held the position for over 40 years, until 1899, when he became the bank’s president. Aside from banking, Lee was also involved in city government, and served as president of the common council in 1865, 1868-1871, and 1875, before spending three years on the board of aldermen. In 1885, he was one of the founders of the School for Christian Workers, and was the president of the International YMCA Training School, now Springfield College, from 1891 to 1893.

Lee was living here by at least 1870, and he remained here until his death in 1902. He never married and had no children, so the house was sold to Azel A. Packard, a carpet merchant who was one of the partners in the city’s prominent Meekins, Packard & Wheat department store. Packard lived here with his wife Mary until her death in 1908, and the following year he remarried to Isabel Young, a 35-year-old who was 24 years younger than him. After Azel’s death in 1923, she remained here until at least 1930, but within a few years had remarried and was living in New York City.

By the time the first photo was taken, the mansion had been converted into a boarding house. The 1940 census shows ten lodgers living here, most of whom had middle-class occupations, including two clerks, two salesmen, a teacher, a stenographer, and a tool dresser who worked at the Armory. However, within a decade the house was demolished, and in 1950 this 64-unit apartment building was built on the property.

238-240 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 238-240 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2017:

This building is one of several Second Empire-style duplexes on this section of Union Street, including the similar-looking one directly across the street at 247-249 Union. It was built in 1869, and was owned by Colonel James M. Thompson, a prominent city resident who lived in a nearby mansion a little further up Union Street. Originally, the building had a third unit, which was located on the left side, but this was demolished around the 1930s.

After Colonel Thompson’s death in 1884, his family continued to own this building into the early 20th century. Census records from both 1900 and 1910 show that the units on the left were boarding houses, with tenants that included a bookkeeper, bank clerk, and a clergyman. The unit on the right, though, was rented to a single family, with real estate agent William Dewey living here from at least 1900 to 1910, along with his wife Ella and their three children, Alonzo, Eudocia, and Dorothy.

In subsequent censuses, the building continued to be used as a boarding house for several more decades. The third unit, number 236, was removed sometime before the first photo was taken, and the interior of the building is now divided into six different units. However, very little has changed with the building’s exterior in the past 80 years, and it stands as a good example of the type of elegant townhouses that were built during the city’s post-Civil War housing boom.

Albert H. Hovey House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 234 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This house appears to have been built around the early 1890s, and for many years it was the home of Albert H. Hovey. Born in 1840 in Monson, Massachusetts, Hovey later moved to Toronto, where he worked as a publisher for many years. In 1855, at the age of 44, he returned to Springfield and married his wife, Sarah. The couple had two children, Albert, Jr., and Walter, and they moved into this house in 1895. Albert does not appear to have continued his publishing career while in Springfield, but he was evidently involved in real estate investments, because the Springfield Republican classified ads of the early 20th century are filled with his offers to rent or sell various properties across the city.

Albert died in 1922, but Sarah continued to live here along with their children. Like his father, the younger Albert went into the real estate business, and he and his wife Helen lived here in this house along with their daughter Julie. After Sarah’s death in 1947 at the age of 95, the house remained in the family until 1963, when it was finally sold, nearly 70 years after Albert Hovey had first purchased it. At some point after this, the house was demolished, and for many years his site was a vacant lot. The property is now owned by DevelopSpringfield, who have made it into a parking lot for the recently-restored Merrick-Phelps House, which is just of view to the left. This organization is also in the process of restoring the building at 77 Maple Street, which can be seen on the left side of both photos.

1007-1017 Main Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at the corner of Main and Union Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

866_1938-1939c spt

The scene in 2015:

The section of Main Street south of State Street was once primarily residential, but as the city grew in the second half of the 19th century many of the homes were either demolished or, in many cases, had storefronts built in front of them. Based on its blend of Greek Revival and Italianate architectural styles, this house was probably built around the 1850s, but sometime around 1900-1910 the owners built a one-story commercial building around it, presumably incorporating the first floor of the house into the stores. This is similar to what happened to the John Avery House, a c.1825 house located diagonally across the street from here.

When the first photo was taken, the building had several commercial tenants, including The Linoleum Shoppe on the left and a cigar store on the right. The old house was still clearly visible at the time, but later taken down after a fire. The rest of the building was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, and was subsequently renovated into its current appearance, as seen in the 2015 photo.