130 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 130 Union Street, just east of Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

This two-story brick building was built around 1906-1910, on the site of the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Bethesda Church, which had been built here in 1897. Although the church building was short-lived, I suspect that part of the church walls may have been incorporated into this building, because part of the first floor walls are made of stone, the same material as the church. This is also consistent with the church’s footprint as it appeared in the 1899 city atlas, although I do not have any photos of the church to confirm my theory.

In any case, when the first photo was taken the building had a sign that read “Bay State Mattress Company,” which may have occupied the upper floor, because the ground floor appears to have been used as a repair garage. There is a car visible inside the building, with signs on the exterior for “Brake Service & Greasing” and for Exide batteries. Later on, this building was home to Radding Signs, as the vertical neon sign on the left still indicates. Most recently, the building was owned by the Anti-Displacement Project, but it was damaged in the 2011 tornado and now appears to be vacant.

John Avery House, Springfield, Mass

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

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The building in 2015:

This brick commercial building at the corner of Main and Union Streets does not look particularly noteworthy, but it is actually one of the oldest buildings still standing on Main Street, although it hides its age very well. It was built around 1825 as the home of John Avery, a blacksmith who lived here for almost 50 years until his death in 1874.In 1898, as this section of Main Street became more commercial, the building was expanded all the way to the edge of Main Street, with storefronts on the first floor.

When the first photo was taken, the original house was still largely intact and clearly visible. However, the rear section was demolished by around the 1970s, and in 2011 much of the house, including the original roof, was destroyed by the tornado that passed through the South End. Today, the only visible remnant of the old house from this angle is the wall on the Union Street side of the building, which includes a single window and a doorway.

Union and School Streets, Springfield, Mass

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

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The building in 2015:

As the city of Springfield grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this section of Union Street steadily grew from single family homes to duplexes to eventually large apartment buildings such as this one.  It was built in 1926 in the Mission Revival architectural style, and is still standing almost 90 years later, although most of the original Mission Revival design elements along the roofline have since been removed, as seen in the 2015 photo.

263-265 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The duplex at 263-265 Union Street, seen around 1938-1939.  Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

Like its neighbor in the previous post, this duplex was built in the 1870s in the Second Empire style that was popular in the United States during this period.  As this area was developed in the late 1800s, many middle class professionals moved in, including Dr. S.W. Bowles, a physician who, according to the 1882 city atlas, lived in the unit to the right.  The same atlas also indicates that J.H. Appleton lived on the left side; this appears to have been Julius H. Appleton, who was a railroad executive and later became president of the Springfield Institution for Savings and a member of the state Governor’s Council.  Assuming this is the same J.H. Appleton listed on the map, he didn’t live here for too long, though; by the late 1880s he was living in his new mansion at 313 Maple Street.

In the 2015 view, the house is partially hidden by the tree in front, but on the exterior it still retains most of its original features, including the asymmetrical bay windows on the right side and the two-story Victorian over the front doors  From this angle, the only real difference is the minor change to front steps and the addition of handrails.

247-249 Union Street, Springfield, Mass

The duplex at 247-249 Union Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

This Victorian duplex is one of several along this section of Union Street that were built as the city’s population began to spread out from the original downtown area.  Many middle class professionals lived in this area, including music store owner Levi M. Pierce, who lived in the unit on the right side.  He appears to have been the original owner, living here from its construction in 1870 until his death in 1908.  His two children, William and Leona, grew up here, and William went on to become the president of Kenyon College in Ohio, serving from 1896 until 1937.  Leona also distinguished herself in academia; she graduated from Smith College and later received her Ph.D from Yale in 1899, with scintillatingly-titled doctoral thesis: “On Chain-Differentiants of a Ternary Quantics.”  Leona took over her father’s music business after his death, and she was probably still living here when the first photo was taken.  Today’s scene shows a few modifications to the house, especially the front porch and the steps, but otherwise it is a good example of Second Empire architecture from the Victorian era in Springfield.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (2)

Howard Street School in Springfield, seen from Union Street around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:


Another view of the Howard Street School, seen from the Union Street side (see this post for a view from Howard Street).  As mentioned in the other post, the school was built in 1905 and was severely damaged in the 2011 tornado.  It is scheduled to be demolished by MGM Springfield as soon as the Massachusetts Historical Commission gives them the green light, and the MGM parking garage will be built on the site.  It shouldn’t be too controversial, though; even if not for MGM, there would be no saving the building – the tornado left it damaged beyond repair, and it was never seen as a particularly historic structure to begin with.  The second photo was taken on March 24, 2015, the day of the official groundbreaking ceremony that took place on the other side of the school.