Friday, April 25, 2008

Bird's Eye Views & Panoramic Shots of Springfield

Bird's-eye view and panoramic images have long captured folks' fancy. Perhaps it is because they satisfy a primordial urge to climb to the highest available point to survey our surroundings, assess our environment. Mountains may be conquered because they are "there," but it is the view from the top that is the marvel and the prize.

Here are some images of Springfield, from a variety of media, that afford us that look around, to survey and assess, to see the city of yesterday from a falcon's perspective.

This cropped section of an 1875 O. H. Bailey & Co. bird's-eye view map of Springfield includes Water Street - which met its demise with the construction of Interstate 91 - running parallel with the Connecticut River. Another interesting point to note is Damon's Bridge, at the end of all places, Bridge Street. Today Bridge Street is bridge-less, the Hampden County Memorial Bridge, built in 1920-22 as a replacement for the old covered toll bridge laid across the banks a block or so downriver, tying in with Boland Way. Boland Way is named in honor of U. S. Representative Edward P. Boland (1911-2001). This map and many more can be found in the Map Collections of the Library of Congress (LOC).

The riverbank is crowded with homes and businesses in this E. J. Lazelle photograph of Springfield in the 1880s, scanned from the 1905 book, 'Springfield Present and Prospective.'

This photo postcard from the Barbara Shaffer Collection has an undivided back, meaning it was published sometime around 1901-1907, when Post Office regulations limited the reverse side to the sender's and return addresses only. The view is from the corner of State and Chestnut Streets.

Here is another scan from the 1905 book, 'Springfield Present and Prospective,' an uncredited photograph of the view west from the tower at the U. S. Arsenal at Springfield.

Springfield in 1913 from the corner of Main and State Streets, with a rare combination of both north and east views. From the Prints and Photographs Division of the LOC.

Springfield College and Watershops Pond as seen from an airplane circa 1920 or so. This photograph is also part of the LOC collection.

This postcard (and the following two) have the divided backs and "chrome" finish that place their publication sometime after 1939. This view shows the city of Springfield, looking northwest, captured in a photograph snapped by Lloyd White Bell, the color added later. Shown spanning the Connecticut River are the Memorial Bridge and its upstream cousin, the Western Railroad bridge, which, at the time of its construction in 1840, was the longest railroad bridge in the world. The towering Campanile, which is part of the Municipal Group, is the city's highest building, just to the right of the Memorial Bridge.

Postcards become more interesting when they are captioned, the scene described. Here is the caption from the reverse of the postcard above: "Bird's-eye View, looking North, showing Mt. Tom. From the Municipal Tower, 300 feet in the air, overlooking the busiest section of the city, the Union Station and North toward Mt. Tom whose Summit House can be seen in the distance."

Another view of a growing Springfield, this time looking south. Thanks, Barbara, for sharing these great postcards!

And here is Springfield as seen from above recently in the free program, Google Earth, at an angle very similar to the 1875 map crop up above. One has to wonder what the cartographers and artists at O. H. Bailey & Co. would have thought of such technological marvels offering aerial views on command as we enjoy today.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

The Businesses By The Bridge: Westfield, Massachusetts

Recently I've been wrestling with the idea of offering advertising space to interested folks here on EWM. I have to admit, I'm having a hard time with it. On the one hand, I sure could use the money. On the other hand, I like the mostly unadulterated feel of EWM as it is. I guess I'd still rather be a starving writer than a prosperous advertiser. Must be from when I was dropped on my head as a kid.

I don't want anyone else to starve though, even if it is in a business sense. Especially when the businesses are located on one of the most interesting and history-filled chunks of land in Westfield: Depot Square on the North-side of the Great River Bridge, and just across the Westfield River, the area of Kane Park to the south. It would be fair to say that this is one of my favorite parts of town, the history of industry and transportation in Western Massachusetts captured in a microcosm. A simple shake of the globe sets fascination flying, the olden scene unfolding amidst facts readily stirred (and stirring): floating crystals in liquid history.

The Great River Bridge Project has had a real impact on the businesses along its path. Folks just don't want to stop like they used to, probably because they spend so much time already stopped in traffic on North Elm and Elm streets trying to get across the bridge. So it requires an extra personal effort, keeping these anchor family-run businesses going, but it's an effort worth undertaking, and one that depends on community involvement. And who knows where it could lead?

Stop and pick up the fixings to make a nice dinner for your sweetheart at North Elm Butcher Block. Ordering ahead saves time.

To make the evening special, hop across the street to Pilgrim Candle and pick up some tapers to go with your capers.

There is plenty of parking next to and behind the North Elm Butcher Block...

...So take your time to browse at the Little Black Dog Gallery next door to Pilgrim Candle for that special gift, or a romantic book of poetry that will set hearts a' flutter.

A warm fire can do much to set the evening's mood. Make sure your chainsaw is sharp at the Yankee Sharp Saw Company.

If dinner burns while you're outside sawing wood for the romantic fire, you can always order out from Elm Pizza.

Who knows? Maybe after your special dinner something more permanent is on your horizon, like a tattoo from Nitemare Tattoo, or heck, for single folks, maybe even marriage.

You could get your wedding invitations printed up at Westfield Printing.

And have your wedding photographs custom-framed at Walter's Fin Frames.

Maybe start a new family-owned business yourselves. The old Valley Hardware building next to Walter's is for sale.

A realtor comes in handy when you're looking for a home base, and Century 21 is everywhere.

Of course, now that you're all committed and responsible and stuff, you'll need to insure your house, your business and yourself. The Tierney Group is located in Westfield's restored train depot, on the corner of North Elm and Old Pochassic Streets.

Stock up on candles at Whip City Candle Company. Living happily ever after can take a long time.

Until death do you part. No one wants to get here, but we all do. One consolation: You get a chauffeur and they stop traffic for you when you make your final trip. No more waiting to cross the bridge.

So there's my free plug for the businesses by the bridge: From dinner to demise.

Let's keep them alive.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Meet the merchants:

North Elm Butcher Block
37 North Elm Street
(413) 562-6759

Pilgrim Candle Company
36 Union Avenue
(413) 562-2635

The Little Black Dog Gallery
16 Union Avenue
(413) 562-1295

Yankee Sharp Saw Company
59 North Elm Street
(413) 562-0645

Elm Pizza
38 North Elm Street
(413) 568-2020 or 568-2757

Nitemare Tattoo
3 Depot Square
(413) 572-0437

Westfield Printing
338 Elm Street
(413) 562-4664

Walter's Fin Frames
55 North Elm Street
(413) 562-1285

Century 21 Hometown Associates
350 Elm Street
(413) 568-2491

The Tierney Group
16 North Elm Street
(413) 562-7007

Whip City Candle Company
3 Depot Square
(413) 568-9700

Czelusniak Funeral Home
349 Elm Street
(413) 562-4874

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Pulling Into the Past: Fill 'Er Up!

Remember the days when a motorist would pull into the local service station - the slight bump of the rubber line under the tires setting off a cheerful bell - and an attendant would come out and, well, attend to your car? Before you even had your window down, the gas nozzle would be in your tank glugging away and your hood would be up, dip stick being wiped clean and re-dipped to check your engine's oil level. It would have been rude, indeed, to drive away without letting him squeegee your windshield sparkling clean. A fill-up would often come with the reward of a drinking glass or a plate and road maps were free. Not to mention the generously distributed sheets of S & H Green Stamps that filled up many a glove compartment of the day. My mother would squirrel the stamps away in a brown paper grocery bag until a rainy Saturday afternoon, when she would paste them all into their proper places in the official S & H Green Stamp books, for discounts on toasters and blenders and such at the S & H Green Stamp store in West Springfield. I think my dad would have just as soon deposited them in the little plastic trash bag that hung off the car's cigarette lighter, another perk from the full-service filling station for giving them your business.

The first two photographs below were published in 1939, long before my time, but when I spotted them at the Library of Congress's web site awhile back, the thought came to me that it might be interesting to compare the gasoline prices of 1939 with the gasoline prices of today. Well, according to the Energy Information Administration, a branch of the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), on April 7, 2008, the per gallon cost of regular gasoline averaged $3.332 nationally. The national average in 1939? 19 cents a gallon.

Of course, anything has the ability to take on a different perspective if one backs away from the common view. A chart published online by the DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program back in March, 2005, compares current historic national gasoline price averages from 1919 to 2004 with those averages adjusted for inflation per the 2005 dollar. That 19 cents that folks were paying in 1939 was actually $2.60 in 2005 dollars. I don't know what that 19 cents translates into in 2008 dollars, but with oil nearing a bazillion dollars a barrel, I sure wish my grandparents had stocked up.

"Scene at filling station near Northampton, Massachusetts." (October 1939)

"Filling station operator talking to traveler near Northampton, Massachusetts." (October 1939)

Page 22 of the Springfield Daily News, published February 17, 1938, offered a smorgasbord of choices for the Western Massachusetts automobile-shopper. For 75 bucks, that itch for the open road could be satisfied with a 1931 Plymouth Sedan. If you had the dough, you could sit yourself behind the wheel of a 1937 Terraplane Deluxe Sedan (with heater), for $625. To be sure, in 1938, at the tail end of the Great Depression, not everyone had the luxury of dreaming about a new car in any serious way. Some folks were simply trying to stay warm, as these pages of newspaper - found stuffed in the walls of my parents' home as makeshift insulation - attest to.

(<--- Can't help but wonder if Mr. Cook ever found his wheel...)

Big money, big car, big advertisement in the Springfield Daily News, circa 1938. Seems to me this ad is sending mixed messages to the prospective buyer. In large, dark letters at the bottom of the ad, the reader is told (with an exclamation point for emphasis) that they "Better buy Buick!" But directly to the left of that three word command, in smaller typeface against a black flag-shaped background, is the strange disclaimer: "When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them." Okay. Which is it? Should I better buy a Buick, or have the better ones not been built yet? Maybe "Better buy Buick!" is an overt statement of affordability rather than a subversively veiled threat to 'purchase, or else.' Perhaps Buick is a better buy, but better will Buick someday build.

More intriguing to me is the advertisement's promise that if I, "Go look at the price tags and what's behind them," I'll, "...spend from now on in a Buick enjoying life." I wish someone would have told me that before I traded my Ford in for a Chevy.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Photo/caption one source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Russell Lee, Digital ID:
Photo/caption two source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Russell Lee, Digital ID:

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The View From Tekoa Mountain, Russell , Massachusetts

Maybe climbing Tekoa Mountain in Russell, Massachusetts, isn't the best way to break oneself into warm weather hiking season after a long, and somewhat sedentary, middle-aged winter. Tekoa is no Everest, but it is an invigorating jaunt up steep trails and over crags and boulders to the summit. The view is well-worth the heart-hammering, breath-gasping, leg-aching Sunday stroll, though. Funny how I remembered the climb as being much easier. Then again, the last time I climbed the mountain I was 15.

Here are some photographs of last Sunday's adventure.

Skirting the rocky spine of the Berkshires, twin steel rails thread a path westward between Tekoa Mountain Range and the Westfield river, miles and worlds away from their Boston beginnings. On May 24, 1841, the first locomotive climbed into hilltown Chester from downriver Westfield, and by 1842, under the auspices of the Western Railroad Corporation, Chester had linked with Albany, New York. The advent of rail travel was a quantum leap in the transportation of freight and passengers across the unforgiving Western Massachusetts landscape.

The Mass Turnpike (I-90) bridge looms overhead as the swollen Westfield River mounts an assault on its stalwart foundation in an annual Spring ritual. The fishing is good along this stretch of the river when the current calms a bit, with plenty of parking along Route 20. B & G Sporting goods is nearby if you don't feel like digging worms.

A slab of stone alongside the rails hosts the determined etchings of hands now long at rest.

New growth sprouts from the charred trunk of a pitch pine tree. A fire in early April, 1999, claimed 1200 acres of the Tekoa Mountain Range and the life of 64 year-old John Murphy, the town of Russell's dedicated deputy fire chief, who made the ultimate sacrifice while battling the blaze.

A train rolls westward toward Springfield, the smoke from a distant fire billowing across its path. The John S. Lane & Son sandpit on Pochassic Road in Westfield is prominent in the center of the photograph. Glaciers grinding through the metamorphic rock of Western Massachusetts left plenty of sand and stone in their paths, much to the delight of quarrymen, and quite to the disdain of gardeners.

The graceful spans of the I-90 turnpike bridge lend an industrial elegance to this bird's eye view. Route 20, also known as Russell Road, parallels the Westfield River, seen here passing beneath the Pike on the far bank. The section of 20 known as Jacob's Ladder begins around here for travelers headed west through Huntington, Beckett and Lee and points beyond. It is a beautiful ride any time of the year. For folks interested in going a little further afield, I-90 west will take you clear out to Seattle. Send us a postcard, will you?

The Berkshire mountains: Blue and brown and gray. Spring comes a little later to the higher elevations of Western Massachusetts, bearing gifts of muddy roads and raging brooks. An old Strathmore Paper mill smokestack reaches skyward from the valley floor in the distance, dwarfed by surrounding sentinels of stone. Tekoa Mountain is about 1,130 feet at its summit. In comparison, Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, is 3,491 feet tall at its summit, in the northwestern town of Adams.

Tekoa Mountain is home to many kinds of wildlife, including deer, bear and coyote. It is also populated by timber rattlers, a fact that is important for visitors to be aware of. They are mostly dormant in cooler weather, but a rise in temperature will bring these poisonous sun-worshipers out to the rocks to bask in the warmth of old Sol's golden rays.

For an assortment of maps of local concern, check out EWM's 'Trails, Rails & Roads: Maps' link, always available in the right sidebar. One interesting source is Maptech's Historical Topographic Maps web site, which includes mid-20th century maps of Western Massachusetts and many other locales. Here is a link to the Woronoco, Massachusetts Quadrangle from maps created in 1942 and 1951 from 1937 and 1951 surveys. The southwest quadrant shows Tekoa Mountain Range.

To find out more about the Berkshires, and to order a free, printed copy of the Official Visitor's Guide, which is a great way to seek and schedule fun events throughout the year, visit the web site, The Berkshires (

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Directions to Tekoa Avenue, Russell, Mass. via Google Maps:
Directions to Reservoir Road, Westfield, Mass. via Google Maps:

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Riley's Piece of Ireland: Holyoke, Massachusetts

Since 1952, Holyoke's St. Patrick's Day parade has been a March tradition here in Western Massachusetts. Held this past Sunday, March 30th, the parade brought around 300,000 folks out to Holyoke to partake in the 57th annual celebration of Irish heritage.

The Rileys would be proud. Oh, no doubt we should all raise a pint to Francis Walsh and the rest of the good folks who began in that first year what is today the country's second largest St. Patrick's parade. But the first glass should be lifted to Riley, an Irishman and the first European settler of Holyoke, thought to have possibly arrived upriver soon after Springfield was settled in 1636. The Riley family made their mark on the area, and by 1786, when the settlement was established as West Springfield's Third Parish (West Springfield having been carved off of Springfield itself in 1774), the land along the west bank of the Connecticut River the Rileys' had tamed was simply known to locals as "Ireland."

According to author Edwin L. Kirtland, in his illustrated article, "The City of Holyoke," published in the February, 1898, issue of The New England Magazine:
'Although it may be impossible to mark the date of the arrival of the venturesome Riley, the pioneer settler who located just north of "Riley Brook," now the southern boundary of Holyoke, his lonely residence was thus located, doubtless purposely, close by the water highway and near the old trail between Springfield and Northampton. We know that the Springfield colonists began to build boats immediately upon their arrival, in one of which they went over to West Springfield to build their first house; and the traffic among the river settlements as far north as Hadley Falls was carried on chiefly in these flat boats. There seems, however, little evidence that other actual settlers soon sought this territory, although the Riley family, of unknown numbers, lived in it long enough to give it the name "Ireland," now only a memory.'
The town of Holyoke was incorporated in 1850, with a population at that time of around 3,245. Begun as an investment venture, with a dam on the Connecticut River and canal system designed to harness the river's energy, the town grew steadily after a shaky start, the canals soon lined with mills and factories that were wooed to the area with the promise of steady supplies of power and people. By 1870 Holyoke's population had risen to 10,733, more than tripling its numbers in twenty years.

Here are some photographs of hydro-industrial Holyoke from the American Memories Collection at the Library of Congress, with original captions.

"Holyoke is a city of canals which supply water to the paper mills that line their banks. Massachusetts." (September, 1941)

"The Connecticut River is dammed to supply water power for the mills of Holyoke, Massachusetts." (September, 1941)

"Canals run in a half-circle through the mill area at Holyoke, Massachusetts." (September, 1941)

"Paper mills, Holyoke, Mass" ( between 1900 -1906)

"Connecticut River at Holyoke, Mass." (September, 1941)

"Holyoke Dam, Holyoke, Mass." (c1904)

For more Holyoke photographs, check out the EWM posts, Photos: Civic Structures of Holyoke...A Century Past, Photos:Elm and High Streets 1908, Holyoke, Massachusetts, and Holyoke, Massachusetts: Mountain Park (c1900 - 1915).

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Top left photo source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Historic American Engineering Record, Digital ID:
Photo one source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Detroit Publishing Company, Collier, John, Digital ID:
Photo two source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Detroit Publishing Company, Collier, John, Digital ID:
Photo three source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Detroit Publishing Company, Collier, John, Digital ID:
Photo four source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Detroit Publishing Company, Digital ID:
Photo five source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Detroit Publishing Company, Collier, John, Digital ID:
Photo six source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Detroit Publishing Company, Digital ID:

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