Sunday, November 18, 2007

Postcards: Main Street, Springfield, Massachusetts

One of the earliest Main Streets in the country, Springfield's central thoroughfare has long been a continuous parade of cacaphony and character, offering a unique conglomeration of everything the city has to offer...And more. Dissimilar building styles as loud and obnoxious as a clashing tone-deaf, symphony have long been a staple of the illustrious architects and builders of the city canyon that rises from both sides of the street, with a narrowness belying its history, unplanned and early, its first pedestrians' and riders' New World dreams as such that the street was indeed to them a grand avenue as opposed to the thick and untamed forest from which they had carved it.

The following postcards of Main Street, Springfield, Massachusetts, are from the Shaffer Collection, kindly donated to EWM by local historian Barbara Shaffer to share with you.

The distinctive minarets of the Fuller Building, on the north-east corner of Main and Bridge streets, serve as a point of reference in this postcard. If you were standing in the middle of Main street looking north on a fine day in 1905, such as the one captured timelessly here, this is the visual you would have soaked in. Of course, if you lingered there long enough, you stood a good chance of getting run down by one of the cars of the Springfield Street Railway, a horse and wagon, or even one of those newfangled automobiles the Duryea brothers were running around town in. The eight-story Worthy Hotel, on the corner of Worthington and Main streets, is a couple of doors up from the Fuller Building. The railroad arch is in the far distance. The north-west corner of Main and Worthington streets, diagonally across the street from the Worthy Hotel, was occupied by the edifice of the U. S. Post Office and Customs House.

Another view looking north up Springfield's Main street, circa 1901 - 1907. Although horse and buggy or foot power seem to be the predominant methods of perambulation - and, of course, the street railway, which would set you back a nickel - a careful look at this postcard reveals the presence of a pair of bicycles outside Smith & Murray's department store on the left, waiting patiently for their owners to return from downtown errands or obligations. The Five Cents Savings Bank is directly across the street, on the north corner of Main and East Court streets. Hmm...Save...Or ride? A moot point if one spends the nickel on penny candy.

A busy Court Square under barren trees and gray skies suggests either early spring or early winter in this "photo-type" postcard created by George S. Graves in Springfield. Smith & Murray's department store, established in business on the corner of Court and Main streets in 1879, is the dark building on the far left. The Five Cents Savings Bank is across the street from the store. Since 1972, the 6,677-seat MassMutual Center (formerly the Springfield Civic Center) has dominated the landscape on the east-side of Main street, between East Court and State streets, and would consume much of the backdrop of this view today.

Another view of the Fuller Building, on the north-east corner of the intersection of Bridge and Main streets. The railroad arch is in the far distance, to the left in the post card. According to Springfield author and architect, Eugene C. Gardner, writing in 1905, the arch is "a utilitarian work of great dignity and beauty, the latter not always recognized because of its simplicity. If it were in an old city of France or Italy, Baedeker would give it double stars and American tourists would love to talk of it to their friends at home."

Unlike the previous three postcards, this postcard has traveled through the mail and is postmarked April 26, 1909, 6:30 p.m. It is from "Papa" to a Miss L. A. Smith, and states simply: "This is a fine town." Nice.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and take care.

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Tony said...

I love those old pictures. Thank you Ms. Shaffer and thanks Mark for the excellent commentary. Hope there's lots more to come.

sojourner said...

Tony, I am quite happy to share some of these views. After years of sitting in a file drawer, it is time they were seen by others. Mark is a skilled word artisan. His articles are a perfect fit for the pictures.

Mark T. Alamed said...

You're welcome, Tony. I definitely couldn't do it without Barbara (sojourner).

I'm glad you both enjoyed my captions. "Skilled word artisan?" Cool. I'm afraid my already large ego has just grown a size. ;-)