Saturday, March 22, 2008

Postcards: Four Springfield Landmarks

The city of Springfield is home to some of the finest architecture in Western Massachusetts. From the Maple street mansions to the Municipal Group, the copper-crowned Sacred Heart church, to the facade of the Federal Armory, Springfield is host to an eclectic collection of expressive edifices, both public and private.

Here are some postcards of city buildings, from the Robbins family collection, kindly shared with EWM to share with you.

A compilation of the postcards below, buyers would get four for the price of one when purchasing this postcard. Although they are undated, the fact that the postcards are printed on woven linen 'paper' places them in the 1930-1945 era. They were published by the Springfield News Company and produced by Technor Brothers, of Boston, whose company slogan boasted "Technor Quality Views."

Symphony Hall, the Campanile and City Hall form the triad of the Municipal Group. Noticeably absent are the tall buildings that make up Springfield's current skyline, now dwarfing these civic structures and taking up the space of the serene sky captured in this postcard.

Springfield City Library and adjacent Merrick Park, sternly watched over by the constant bronze gaze of city forefather Deacon Samuel Chapin (1595-1675), immortalized in a statue by artist Augustus St. Gaudens. Or was he? Commissioned and presented as a gift to the city by the Deacon's descendant, Congressman and railroad tycoon, Chester W. Chapin (1798-1893), the sculpture is actually said to be " portrait of any Chapin, but a composite in the sculptor's mind of the family type, and fitly given the ideal name, 'The Puritan.'" (Springfield Present and Prospective, 1905). The library was opened in January, 1912, replacing the former building, erected in 1871. A large donation by Andrew Carnegie and the many contributions by the citizens of Springfield were instrumental in the fruition of the expanded State street quarters.

Fronting Dwight street and bordered on its south by Taylor and north by Lyman streets, the former United States Post Office takes up its own city block. Still used as office space, the building was replaced as the city's main postal branch by the much less impressive current structure on Liberty street. In the years between 1775, when Moses Church was postmaster, and 1829, when Albert Morgan was appointed to the position, the post office changed locations six times, each time a new postmaster took over. Springfield's first 'permanent' post office wasn't opened until 1891, on the corner of Main and Worthington streets.

Springfield became even more of a major traffic hub for the region in the mid-19th century, when rail travel became the quickest and preferred method of transportation. Positioned at the crossroads of rivers, roads and rails, the city enjoyed a prominent place in the development of Western Massachusetts, connecting Boston and Albany, Athol and New Haven, the horizon to points beyond. One could travel south, north, east or west from Union Station in Springfield, and hundreds of thousands of folks did, some merely stopping off between trains to enjoy the hospitality of the Massasoit House or to see a race at Hampden Park; others, city residents traveling off and away to seek their fortunes and destinies, in war and in peace. Abandoned in the 1970s and awaiting redevelopment, Union Station was built in 1926, replacing the former train station by the same name, which was opened in 1889. Amtrak's offices and ticket counters are currently located at 66 Lyman street. Today, train travel has ceded its place to the automobile in the western part of the Commonwealth, with 112,314 passengers boarding or disembarking from trains in Springfield in fiscal year 2007, compared to the 1,154,178 who did so at Boston's South Station. Perhaps with fuel prices rising and no end in sight, those figures will change...

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Ted said...

Very nice post. I haven't read you for a while and I need to get caught up. The Old Muser

Mark T. Alamed said...

Thanks Ted!