83-89 Walnut Street, Springfield, Mass

The apartment building at 83-89 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

This apartment building was constructed in 1906 on the east side of Walnut Street, about halfway between the corners of Union and Oak Streets. Its design was typical for Springfield apartment blocks of the period, with four stories and a Classical Revival exterior that featured elements such as an ornate cornice, along with bows that projected from the building’s facade.

According to current city records, the building has 16 units, and this was likely the case throughout its history, with census records showing anywhere from 9 to 16 families living here during the first half of the 20th century. The 1910 census, for example, lists 13 different families. Some of these families had roomers living with them in their units, and there were a total of 42 residents here at the time. A few were employed at the nearby Springfield Armory, but most worked for private companies or individuals. These included several clerks and traveling salesmen, a physician, a dressmaker, a silk winder, a manicurist, a chauffeur, a real estate broker, and a locomotive inspector. However, the youngest employed resident here was nine-year-old Chester H. Scott, who worked as a newsboy in the days before child labor laws.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the building was evidently filled to capacity, with the 1940 census showing 16 families and a total of 56 residents. Most paid between $30 and $40 per month in rent (about $550 to $750 today), and as was the case 30 years earlier, many took in roomers, presumably to help offset the cost of the rent. Despite the significant increase in the number of residents from 1910, though, there were actually fewer people here who were employed, with only 24 having an occupation listed on the census.

Most of those in the 1940 census who did work earned between $1,000 and $1,500 per year (about $18,500 to $27,700 today), and the highest-paid residents were railroad conductor William R. Braney and factory foreman Joseph Webber, who each earned $2,000. Other workers here included several machinists, a bartender, a truck driver, a radio repairman, a laundress, and a bookkeeper. Only two residents worked at the Armory, although this would likely have changed within a few years, as the Armory dramatically increased its workforce in order to meet wartime demand during World War II.

Today, around 80 years after the first photo was taken, remarkably little has changed in this scene. The house on the far right side is gone, and there are no longer any horse-drawn wagons parked here on the street, but the building looks essentially the same, and it survives as a well-preserved example of an early 20th century apartment block.

Dennison O. Lombard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 69-71 Walnut Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house was apparently built around 1900 by Dennison O. Lombard, an iron foundry foreman who had previously lived in an earlier house on this lot. Lombard had acquired the property around 1889, after the death of its prior owner, Elisha D. Stocking. He lived there for about a decade before building the current house, which features a Queen Anne-style exterior that was popular for Springfield homes during the late 19th century. The lot also includes a smaller house, visible behind and to the left of the main house. This may have been built at the same time, but it is also possible that it is actually the original house, which could have been moved to the rear of the property when the new one was built.

During the 1900 census, Lombard was 54 years old, and he was living here with four of his children and his father. He was listed as being married at the time, but his wife was evidently not living here. They may have been separated for some time, because Lombard’s name appears in the newspaper archives in 1895, when his wife Nellie sued him for support. The census also shows butcher Alonzo A. Baker living on the property, presumably in the rear house. A year earlier, he had married his wife Ida, and by 1900 he was living here with his wife Ida and her 16-year-old daughter Elsie B. Kennedy. It was the second marriage for both Alonzo and Ida, as they had each been previously divorced, which was unusual for the late 19th century.

Lombard moves out of Springfield by 1903, and he died a year later. By the 1910 census, there were two different families living here, evidently with one in the main house and the other in the rear house. The first family was headed by Mary E. Murphy, a 48-year-old widow who lived here with nine of her ten children. They ranged in age from 7 to 24, and the five oldest were all employed. Alice was a stenographer for an ice company, Edward was a salesman for a baker wagon, Grace did office work for an art company, Samuel was a stenographer for a blank book company, and Ruth did office work for a publishing company.

The other residents on this property in 1910 were Charles and Catherine Wright, who were 48 and 37 years old, respectively. They lived here with five children, ranging from their 16-year-old daughter Grace to their three-year-old son William. The Wrights had a sixth living child who had presumably moved out already, and they also had three other children who had died young. Charles was the only person in the household who was employed, and he worked down the hill from here at Smith & Wesson.

By the early 1910s, this property was sold to Mary C. Gerrard, an Irish immigrant whose husband James had recently died. She lived here for several years until her death in 1915, but the house would remain in Gerrard family for many decades afterward. The 1920 census shows two of her children, Raymond and Catherine, living here, with Raymond working as an assembler at the nearby Armory.

Catherine was still living here when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s. She evidently rented rooms to lodgers, based on classified ads that frequently appeared in the newspaper during the mid-20th century, but during the 1940 census she only had one lodger, 67-year-old Florence Barker. Otherwise, she appears to have lived in the house without any other family members during this time, and she resided here until her death in 1976 at the age of 83.

Today, about 80 years after the first photo was taken, the house does not look significantly different. The buildings on the far left and far right sides of the first photo are now gone, but both the main house and the building in the rear of the property are still standing, with only minor exterior changes such as the removal of the shutters and the replacement of the porch railing.

James W. Kirkham House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 265 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2019:

This house was completed in 1883 as the home of James W. Kirkham, a banker who, at the time, worked as the assistant cashier for the First National Bank. It was built at a cost of $13,000, and he moved into the house in January 1883 along with his wife Fanny and their infant son William. They went on to live here for the next 15 years or so, before moving to Maple Street in the late 1890s. Kirkham remained involved with the First National Bank throughout this time, and eventually became its president in 1905. By then, the family had moved into the former home of Orick H. Greenleaf on Maple Street, where Kirkham lived until his death in 1927.

In the meantime, this house on State Street was sold to Robert W. Day, the treasurer of the Morgan Envelope Company. Day had been with the company since its early years, starting as a 20-year-old office boy before steadily moving up in the ranks. In fact, it was the company founder, Elisha Morgan, who suggested that Day purchase this property, as it was located directly adjacent to his own home at 273 State Street. Day followed this advice, and he made some alterations to the house, which originally had a very different roof. The front gable, for example, is not original to the house, and it was likely added as part of these renovations.

In 1898, around the same time that Day moved into this house, the Morgan Envelope Company merged with nine other manufacturers to form the United States Envelope Company. Headquartered in nearby Holyoke, this company controlled about 90 percent of the nation’s envelope production, and Day retained his position as treasurer of the company, although he would later become vice president. In addition, he was involved in other area businesses, serving as vice president of the Springfield National Bank and president of the United Electric Company and the Indian Orchard Company.

During the 1900 census, Robert W. Day was 48 years old, and he was living here with his wife Ida and their children Pauline, Robert, Winsor, and Morgan, who ranged in age from seven to 21. The family also employed four servants who lived here with them, including one who was a coachman. A decade later, only the two youngest children were still living here with Robert and Ida, but they still had four servants, who were listed in the census as a waitress, a cook, a chambermaid, and a butler. Robert lived here until his death in 1926, and Ida remained here until at least the mid-1930s, although she subsequently moved to a house on Maple Street.

The first photo was taken around 1938 or 1939, and the house was apparently vacant by this point. However, within a few years it would be converted into commercial use, and for most of the 1940s it was the home of the Wesmas Candy Corporation. Starting in 1949, Western Mass Theaters, Inc. was located here, and both the house and carriage house on the property had several other commercial tenants during the second half of the 20th century.

Both buildings were vacant by the 1990s and were badly deteriorated, but they were ultimately restored in an extensive project that was completed in 2006. Since then, the house has been used as law offices, and today there are few noticeable differences from the first photo. The house is one of the few surviving 19th century homes on this section of State Street, where it serves as a reminder of the days when this area was home to some of the city’s most affluent residents.

423-427 State Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 423-427 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

It seems difficult to determine exactly when this building was constructed. City maps show buildings on this lot as early as 1851, although this particular building clearly does not date that far back, at least not in its current form. This property was sold at auction in 1890, and the classified ad for it described the building as a “Good two-tenement brick house, 12 rooms, also a small barn.” The current building seems much larger than just two units with 12 rooms total, so it was likely either built shortly after this sale, or significantly expanded. Either way, it had largely assumed its present appearance by 1892, as it is visible in the background of a photo taken of the neighboring Olivet Church. At the time, though, the building had a three-story porch on the right side, and there was no storefront here on the ground floor.

By this point, the building was owned by Frederick B. Taylor, a merchant who sold building materials such as doors, windows, blinds, and paint in his shop on Market Street. It does not seem clear as to how many apartments were in this building, but the 1900 census shows at least two different families living here, and contemporary classified ads suggest that there were least two other units that were vacant at the time of the census. Of the two tenants listed on the census, one was Dr. Delia L. Chapin, a physician who lived here and also had her medical practice in the building. She was 45 years old at the time, and lived with her younger sister Sarah, who worked as a nurse. The other tenant was Louisa E. Madison, a 48-year-old African-American woman who worked as a laundress. She lived here with her two teenaged sons, Walter and Lawrence.

The first photo was taken almost 40 years later in the late 1930s, and by then the porch on the right side had been removed, and two storefronts were added to the ground floor. The business on the left was the tailor shop of Joseph D’Aversa, and the one on the right was a shoe repair shop owned by Saverio Gozzi. During the 1940 census, there were at least four different families living on the upper floors, and they paid between $22 and $33 per month in rent. These residents held a variety of jobs, including a maintenance man at an apartment complex, a salesman, a waitress, and a milling machine operator and an assemblyman at Indian Motocycle. They all worked full-time, and their wages ranged from $480 per year for the waitress, to $1,200 per year for the salesman.

More than 80 years after the first photo was taken, this building is still standing. According to city records, it currently has five apartment units, and on the ground floor it currently houses a barbershop. It has seen some changes over the years, including the removal of the early 20th century storefronts, and the brick exterior has been covered in stucco. Overall, though, it is still easily recognizable from the first photo, and it stands as one of several historic 19th century commercial buildings along this section of State Street.

429-435 State Street, Springfield, Mass

The building at 429-435 State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

This building was probably constructed sometime around the 1870s or 1880s, on the south side of State Street opposite the Springfield Armory. At the time, this block of State Street included a number of similar brick, three-story commercial buildings, and these generally had retail tenants on the ground floor, with apartments on the upper two floors. It is difficult to precisely date the building, but it was definitely here by the turn of the 29th century, when it appears in the city atlas as the property of Oscar F. Swift. At the time, it had at least three businesses on the ground floor, with grocer Charles H. Montgomery on the right, boot and shoe dealer Arthur O. Etienne in the middle, and locksmith Charles C. Spencer on the left.

The first photo was taken about 40 years later, in the late 1930s. By this point its tenants included launderer Charles Murphy on the right, barber Michael M. Sheehan in the middle, and antique dealer Harrison H. Bovee on the left. On the upper floors, the building had at least four families renting apartments, including Bovee, who lived here with his wife Agnes and their son Gerald. According to the 1940 census, they paid $17 per month in rent, and the other three families paid between $16 and $18.

The building was still standing here for at least a few decades after the first photo was taken, and perhaps its last retail tenant was DeMarco’s Wholesale Toy & Novelty, which was located here in the late 1950s and 1960s. It was ultimately demolished sometime around the 1970s, and the property subsequently became a parking lot adjacent to the now-vacant Kavanagh Furniture Company building, which stands on the left side of the scene in the present-day photo.

Kavanagh Furniture, Springfield, Mass

The Kavanagh Furniture store on State Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2019:

Until it closed in 2009, Kavanagh Furniture was one of the oldest businesses in Springfield, with a history that dated back to 1873. It began as the furniture company of Dennis Nelen, an Irish immigrant who had come to the United States only a few years earlier. He later formed a partnership with fellow Irishman William Kavanagh, and by the 1890s the two men were running the business at this location on State Street.

Nelen died in 1904, and it was around this time that Kavanagh acquired control of the company. Then, at some point in the early 20th century he constructed the two-story building that currently stands here on this site. He continued to run the store for the rest of his life, until his death in 1930. He left an estate of nearly $300,000, equivalent to over $4.5 million today, which included 1,987 of the 2,000 shares of the furniture company. Kavanagh apparently had no children, so he bequeathed these shares to his employees. The single largest beneficiary among the employees was Frank Nelen, the son of his former business partner, and he subsequently became the company president and treasurer.

The first photo was taken less than a decade later, showing the building as it appeared during the Great Depression. Nelen was still running the company at the time, but he died only a few years later in 1942. However, the company remained in the Nelen family for many years, with his son John D. Nelen carrying on the business into the 21st century. During this time, the building underwent some changes, including covering the second story windows, but Kavanagh Furniture continued to operate here until it went out of business in 2009. Since then, the building has remained vacant and boarded up, but it still stands here on State Street.