Saturday, March 31, 2007

Flounder Logic

One night it was my middle son Addy's turn to have the exclusive, one-on-one fishing trip with Dad.

We went to the Connecticut state park at Bluff Point, in Groton. It wasn't long before Addy caught the first fish of the night, a flounder.

I rebaited his hook with a sandworm and cast the line back out for him. Handing the pole to him, I said "There you go. I cast it right in the same spot."

Addy replied "Why Dad? I already caught the fish that was there."

Ah, the logic of youth.

Photo: Turning the Soil

"Spring ploughing, New England"
Platinum print photo, by George E. Tingley (c. 1899)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sacred Heart Church Gets A New Roof Redux

Driving to work last week, I noticed the stone cross had been replaced atop the peak of the Stafford Street side of Sacred Heart Church in Springfield. Yesterday I was able to snap a few follow-up photos showing the progress made since the EWM post of March 12, 'Sacred Heart Church Gets a New Roof.'

The cross, back where it belongs in time for Easter.

The south tower climbs heavenward.

The north tower and facade.

The Chestnut Street facade and a gathering of shrubs.

The east side or rear of Sacred Heart church. In the aforementioned previous post, the stonework running up the peak and the cross on the left were missing, taken down temporarily as part of the ongoing roofing project. The roofers are certainly earning their money on this job.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

MassPike, Morning

Massachusetts Turnpike - March 23, 2007

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Museums of Western Massachusetts

Museums have a wide range of operating days and hours, some are seasonal, others open only on weekends. Some are limited to visits as part of a guided tour. It's always best to call ahead to get all of the details, or visit the museum's web site, if available, when planning an outing. (Updated July 10, 2013)

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The Amherst College Museum of Natural History
Amherst College Campus
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 542-2165

"A partnership of seven outstanding college museums with three unique neighboring museums offers visitors an unparalleled opportunity to experience the art, books, Natural and human history of many periods and cultures." --From the museum web site.

Amherst History Museum
67 Amity Street
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 256-0678

"Housed in the 1750 era Strong House, the Amherst History Museum takes visitors on a journey from the towns colonial past, through its industrial age and into the computer driven present...The Amherst History Museum opened in 1916, governed by the Amherst Historical Society, founded in 1899." --From the museum web site.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
125 West Bay Road
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 658-1100

"The mission of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is to inspire, especially in children and their families, an appreciation for and an understanding of the art of the picture book." --From the museum web site.

Emily Dickinson Museum: The Homestead and the Evergreens
280 & 214 Main Street
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 542-8161

"The Museum is dedicated to educating diverse audiences about Emily Dickinson's life, family, creative work, times, and enduring relevance, and to preserving and interpreting the Homestead and The Evergreens as historical resources for the benefit of scholars and the general public." --From the museum web site.

Hampshire College Art Gallery
Johnson Library Center, Lower Level
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 559-5544

"The gallery's active program of exhibitions includes, in addition to the more traditional media, environmental installations, dance and performance pieces, and video presentations." --From the gallery's web site.

Mead Art Museum
Amherst College Campus
Corner of Route 9 and Route 116
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 542-2335

"The Mead Art Museum exhibits highlights from the permanent collection in six galleries, and presents temporary shows on contemporary art, photography, and interdisciplinary subjects highlighted by loans from public and private collections." --From the museum web site.

National Yiddish Book Center
1021 West Street
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002
(413) 256-4900

"We invite you to visit us in person at our beautiful new headquarters in Amherst, Massachusetts: a lively "cultural shtetl" featuring a book repository, theater, conference space and museum exhibitions." --From the book center web site.

University Museum of Contemporary Art - UMass Amherst
Fine Arts Center
University of Massachusetts
Anherst, Massachusetts 01003
(413) 545-3670

"The Gallery maintains a Permanent Collection of approximately 2,600 objects with an emphasis on drawings, prints and photographs from the second half of the 20th century." --From the gallery web site.

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Chester Historical Society
15 Middlefield Street (Route 20)
Chester, Massachusetts 01011

"The Chester Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of Chester’s heritage and historical buildings. The society maintains numerous resources for local history or genealogical research, as well as a large collection of items from Chester’s industrial past. Email us if you would like to make an appointment to use the resources of the society or if you have any questions/comments about Historic Chester Massachusetts." --From the historical society web site.

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Bisbee Mill Museum & Chesterfield Historical Society
66 East Street
Chesterfield, Massachusetts 01012
(413) 296-4384 (Curator)

"...In December 1995, this building with its old grist mill, woodworking shop and blacksmith shop --and space to display items already in the possession of the Historical Society-- was accepted and deeded to the Historical Society for $1.00." --From the historical society web site.

Edwards Memorial Museum
3 North Road
Chesterfield, Massachusetts 01012
(413) 268-9927 (Curator)

"The Edwards Memorial Museum features a Victorian Parlor and old organ, as well as period dresses and costumes. Antique furniture, spinning wheels, household tools, equipment, pictures and "Living History" tapes. Open Fourth of July and Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m." --From the web site.

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The Crane Museum of Papermaking
30 South Street
Dalton, Massachusetts 01226
(413) 684-6481

"In wall and floor cases, exhibits trace the history of American papermaking from Revolutionary times, with special emphasis on the durable, distinctive Crane papers made for currency, bonds, stock certificates and elegant stationery." --From the Crane Museum web site

(See EWM post: 'The Crane Museum of Papermaking', July 6, 2008.

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Historic Deerfield
Old Main Street
Deerfield, Massachusetts 01342
(413) 775-7214

"Historic Deerfield, Incorporated, is dedicated to the heritage and preservation of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and the Connecticut River Valley. Its museums and programs provide today's audiences with experiences that create an understanding and appreciation of New England's historic villages and countryside." --From the Historic Deerfield web site.

(See EWM post: 'Cemetery: Old Deerfield Burying Ground', July 31, 2007.)

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Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation
42 Water Street
Granville, Massachusetts 01034
(413) 357-8814

"NCCHP is a new museum created to preserve and incorporate the rich history of Granville and the surrounding areas. The museum is housed within the historic buildings of the Noble & Cooley drum factory." --From the NCCHP web site.

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Museum of Our Industrial Heritage
2 Mead Street
Greenfield, Massachusetts 01301

"The museum’s mission is to celebrate our industrial heritage through preserving, collecting, and educating the public, with emphasis on Franklin County and Athol, Massachusetts." --From the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage web site.

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Children's Museum at Holyoke
444 Dwight Street
Holyoke, Massachusetts 01040
(413) 536-7048

"The Children's Museum at Holyoke provides a unique setting in which children and adults learn together about art, science and the world around them." --From the museum web site.

The Volleyball Hall of Fame
444 Dwight Street
Holyoke, Massachusetts 01040
(413) 536-0926

"The Volleyball Hall of Fame...opened to the public on June 6, 1987. A two-day volleyball tournament was hosted by the Volleyball Hall of Fame to celebrate the grand opening." --From the Hall of Fame web site.

Wistariahurst Museum
238 Cabot Street
Holyoke, Massachusetts 01040
(413) 322-5660

"Wistariahurst Museum seeks to preserve the home, landscape and material culture of the Skinner family and promote an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events." --From the museum web site.

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Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum
East end of Housatonic Street
Lenox, Massachusetts
(413) 637-2210

"A vintage railway coach houses this unique permanent exhibit where visitors are introduced to the rich history of Berkshire County and to the locations where that history can be revisited...On summer weekends and Holidays the museum offers two ninety minute round trip excursions from Lenox Station to Stockbridge and a forty-five minute round trip excursion from Lenox Station to Lee narrated by a uniformed conductor." --From the museum web site.

Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio
92 Hawthorne Street
P.O. Box 2256
Lenox, Massachusetts 01240
(413) 637-0166

"Visit the home of American Abstract Artists George L.K. Morris and Suzy Frelinghuysen, set on a 46 acre estate in the heart of Lenox, Massachusetts. View their paintings, frescoes, and sculpture; experience their exquisite collection of American and European Cubist Art." --From the studio web site.

The Museum of the Gilded Age at Ventfort Hall
104 Walker Street
Lenox, Massachusetts 01240
(413) 637-3206

"Ventfort Hall is an imposing Elizabethan-style mansion built in 1893 for Sarah Morgan, the sister of J. P. Morgan...Located on spacious grounds in the heart of the village, it is partially restored and open to the public. Through lectures, exhibits, theatrical performances and other events, The Museum of the Gilded Age interprets the great changes that occurred in American life, industry, and society during the Nineteenth Century, a fascinating period of American history." --From the museum web site.

The Mount - Edith Wharton's Estate and Gardens
2 Plunkett Street
Lenox, Massachusetts 01240
(413) 551-5100

"The Mount is the turn-of-the-century home that Edith Wharton designed and built based on the precepts outlined in her groundbreaking 1897 book, The Decoration of Houses, co-authored with architect Ogden Codman, Jr. A perfect example of the newly dawned American Renaissance, the classical revival house and its formal gardens represent the only full expression of Wharton’s architectural and landscape architectural theories." --From the Mount web site.

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The Bidwell House Museum
Art School Road
P.O. Box 537
Monterey, Massachusetts 01245
(413) 528-6888

"The museum, set in the Berkshire hills, is an elegant Georgian saltbox originally built circa 1750 as a parsonage. Authentically restored, filled with antiques and surrounded by beautiful grounds and hiking trails, the museum is open Thursday through Monday between 11 am and 4 pm from May 27th to mid October." --From the museum web site.

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North Adams

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
87 Marshall Street
North Adams, Massachusetts 01247
(413) 662-2111

"Since opening in 1999, MASS MoCA has become one of the world's premier centers for making and showing the best art of our time. With annual attendance of 120,000, it ranks among the most visited institutions in the United States dedicated to new art." --From the museum web site.

North Adams Museum of History and Science
Western Gateway Heritage State Park, Building 5A
State Street
North Adams, Massachusetts 01247
(413) 664-4700

"Our mission is to protect, preserve and promote the rich history of North Adams, Massachusetts and its people...Our goal is to present exhibits, publications and programs that will bring to life the rich history of North Adams, Massachusetts. You are cordially invited to attend all of our programs." --From the historical society web site.

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Smith College Museum of Art
Elm Street at Bedford Terrace
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
(413) 585-2760

"With approximately 25,000 objects, the Smith College Museum of Art has one of the nation's finest teaching collections." --From the museum web site.

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The Berkshire Museum
39 South Street, Route 7
Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201
(413) 443-7171, Ext. 11

"The Berkshire Museum enriches, educates, and inspires through diverse collections of art, natural science, and history, as well as dynamic educational programs and special exhibitions. From American art by Hudson River School artists to our aquarium housing both native and exotic fish, reptiles, and amphibians, from an interactive dinosaur dig to the mummy of Pahat, the Berkshire Museum is “a window on the world” for all ages." --From the museum web site.

Herman Melville's Arrowhead
780 Holmes Road
Pittsfield, Massachusetts 01201
(413) 442-1793

"It was at Arrowhead that Melville wrote his most famous work, Moby-Dick, along with three other novels...Arrowhead is now a house museum interpreting the life of the Melville family in the Berkshires. It is owned and operated by the Berkshire County Historical Society, a non-profit corporation" --From the museum web site.

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South Hadley

Joseph Allen Skinner Museum
Woodbridge Street
South Hadley, Massachusetts 01075
Contact: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (413) 538-2245

"The main building, open to the public, was originally the Congregational church in Prescott, Massachusetts. When that town was flooded due to the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir, Skinner bought the 1846 building and moved it to South Hadley. It became his personal museum, housing his wide-ranging collection of American and European furniture, decorative arts, crafts, tools, and geological specimens." --From the Mt. Holyoke College web site.

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
Lower Lake Road
South Hadley, Massachusetts 01075
(413) 538-2245

"Dedicated to providing firsthand experience with works of significant aesthetic and cultural value, the Museum develops exhibitions and programs that aim to provide aesthetic enjoyment, stimulate inquisitive looking, and encourage understanding of the artistic achievements represented by a diversity of cultures." --From the museum web site.

South Hadley Historical Society - The Old Firehouse Museum
4 North Main Street
South Hadley, Massachusetts 01075

"The Old Firehouse Museum presents the history of this town, which was settled in 1753 and is the site of our new nation’s first commercially successful canal." --From the museum's Facebook page.

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Springfield Museums at the Quadrangle
21 Edwards Street
Springfield, Massachusetts 01103

George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum

"The George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum is one of the two Springfield Museums dedicated to fine and decorative arts. It represents the very personal taste of the Victorian collector whose name it bears. The Museum was built in 1895 in the style of an elegant Italian villa and opened to the public in 1896 as the “Art Museum.”" --From the museum web site.

The Museum of Fine Arts

"The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the two Springfield Museums dedicated to fine and decorative arts. The Art Deco-style Museum was erected in response to a bequest from Mr. & Mrs. James Philip Gray, who left their entire estate for the "selection, purchase, preservation, and exhibition of the most valuable, meritorious, artistic, and high class oil paintings obtainable," and for the construction of a Museum to house them. The Museum opened in 1933. The Museum of Fine Arts presents a strong cross section of American and European paintings, sculpture and works on paper." --From the museum web site.

Springfield Science Museum

"Visitors to the Springfield Science Museum will find a world filled with the wonders of natural and physical science. The Museum also is home to a live animal center with fish, insects, reptiles and amphibians in such realistic natural habitats as an Amazon rainforest, coral reef, and New England harbor." --From the museum web site.

Connecticut Valley Historical Museum

"Learn more about the history and traditions of the Connecticut River Valley through our permanent and changing exhibits that tell the story of the region from 1636 to the present through the Museum's collection of handcrafted furniture and silver by local craftsmen, motorcycles and antique autos made in Springfield, industrial objects from the region's factories, and historical firearms from the area's gun industry, including selected revolvers from a premier Smith & Wesson collection." --From the museum web site.

Dr. Seuss National Memorial

"The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is now open at the Springfield Museums in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where Theodor Seuss Geisel was born and which appears to have inspired much of his work." --From the National Memorial web site.

Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History

"The 40,000-square-foot museum presents exhibits that interpret Springfield history in the larger context of American history in the 19th and 20th centuries. As a prosperous city growing out of the Industrial Revolution, Springfield reflects historical trends experienced by the United States as a whole." --From the museum web site.

Springfield Armory National Historic Site
1 Armory Square
Springfield, Massachusetts 01105

"Overlooking the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts, Springfield Armory National Historic Site offers the story of our Nation’s first armory. Our large museum, year-round public programs, exhibits, and special events speak of nearly two centuries of pioneering American military arms manufacturing." --From the Armory's web site.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
1000 West Columbus Avenue
Springfield, Massachusetts 01001
(413) 781-6500 or 1-877-4HOOPLA

The museum of the continuing history of basketball in the city where the sport was created.

Pan-African Historical Museum USA
Tower Square
1500 Main Street
Springfield, Massachusetts
(413) 733-1823

"Existing exhibits at PAHMUSA include documents and photographs chronicling centuries of Black history in the Pioneer Valley." --From the Tower Square newsletter.

The Titanic Museum
208 Main Street
Indian Orchard, Massachusetts 01151
(413) 543-4770

"The Titanic Museum provides an exciting combination of discovery, adventure and education for visitors of all ages. The Titanic Historical Society's (THS) foundation, and its greatest strength, is its collection of rare, Titanic survivor artifacts, one of the finest anywhere." --From the museum's web site.

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Chesterwood Estate and Museum
Williamsville Road
P.O. Box 827
Stockbridge, Massachusetts 01262
(413) 298-3579, Ext. 11.

"Chesterwood, the 1920's summer home, studio and garden of sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) is just a few short minutes from the Red Lion Inn. Guests take a step back in time when visiting this 122 acre estate that inspired an artist who inspired a nation." --From the museum web site.

Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Glendale Road, Route 183
Stockbridge, Massachusetts 01262
(413) 298-4100

"Norman Rockwell Museum houses the world's largest and most significant collection of original Rockwell art. Highlights include enduring favorites from Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers, the powerful Four Freedoms, and the nostalgic Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas." --From the museum web site.

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West Springfield

Josiah Day House Museum
70 Park Avenue
West Springfield, Massachusetts
(413) 734-8322

"The oldest known brick salt-box style home in the United States...Tours of the Josiah Day House are available by appointment and during special town events and selected holidays. Tours may include a demonstration of a working loom and a cemetery tour." --From the museum web site.

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Amelia Park Children's Museum
99 Elm Street
Westfield, Massachusetts 01085
(413) 572-4014

"Amelia Park Children's Museum is a Learning Place where hands-on exhibits invite children to experiment, create and play through activities. Adults and children can share in the excitement of learning and discovering the region and the world in which we live." --From the museum web site.

Jasper Rand Art Museum
Westfield Athenaeum, Main Level
6 Elm Street
Westfield, Massachusetts 01085

"The Jasper Rand Art Museum on the Athenaeum's main level is a spacious gallery designed to showcase the works of local artists and craftspeople, with exhibits in all types media shown on a monthly basis." --From the museum web site.

Edwin Smith Historical Museum
Westfield Athenaeum
6 Elm Street
Westfield, Massachusetts 01085

"The Athenaeum's Edwin Smith History Museum is a treasure trove of Westfield history dating back to Westfield's colonial settlement in the 1600s. Opened in 1927 and named in honor of Edwin Smith, the co-founder of the H.B. Smith Company, the quaint History Museum is open Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. or by appointment. (Call (413) 568-0638)" --From the museum web site.

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Westhampton Blacksmith Shop Museum
5 Stage Road
Westhampton, Massachusetts 01027
(413) 527-3209

"The front room of the museum is an authentic 19th century blacksmith shop, filled with tools of that trade and featuring a large collection of hand tools." --From the museum web site.

* * * * *


Wilbraham Children's Museum
678 Main Street
Wilbraham, Massachusetts 01095
(413) 596-2472

"The Wilbraham Children's Museum is available to children in all surrounding communities. Designed to meet the needs of children under age 5, the playground and play areas inside the museum have been specifically designed with this age group in mind." --From the museum web site.

* * * * *


The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
225 South Street
Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267
(413) 458-2303

"Nestled in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is both art museum and research center, welcoming visitors year-round to experience its outstanding collections of European and American art in an intimate setting of profound natural beauty." --From the Institute web site.

Williams College Museum of Art
15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Ste 2
Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267
(413) 597-2429

"One of the finest college art museums in the country, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) houses 12,000 works that span the history of art. Within the broad range of time periods and cultures represented, the collection emphasizes modern and contemporary art, American art from the late 18th century to present, and the art of world cultures. Admission to the museum is always FREE as are a host of educational programs that are available to the public." --From the museum web site.

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This list is continually evolving. If you want to help build it, and there is a museum you know of that can be added, please email, or leave a comment here. Thanks!

For lots more Western Massachusetts activity ideas visit the EWM page, 'Things To Do In Western Massachusetts'.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care!

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

'Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' Excerpt VI

The first Sunday of Spring, and in typical New England fashion, the snow that was predicted overnight turned to rain, with sun breaking through the clouds forecast for later on today and possibly thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon. The only thing reliable about New England weather is its unreliability.

We continue our journey through 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell 1905) with section two, 'Commercial and Municipal,' of part III, 'Architectural Garments,' from chapter one, 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' written by Eugene C. Gardner.

Continued from: 'III. Architectural Garments, 1. The Personal Equation in Houses.'

III. Architectural Garments

2. Commercial and Municipal
Perhaps there is no better illustration of the evolution of business architecture in the older parts of this country than in the main commercial avenue of an old New England city like Springfield. Beginning with a corner grocery, detached stores and shops gradually extended along either side of the street, with a sprinkling of dwelling-houses, the latter being sooner or later given over to business and the vacant lots filled in until the principal street presented a continuous wall of buildings, each with its own proprietor and line of business. Before the days of elevators, buildings were commonly two or three, rarely four, stories in height, and after fire ordinances prohibited the use of wood for external walls, red brick, with a mild peppering of granite or brownstone, were the most available and useful materials. These earlier business blocks might almost be classified as factories, so simple were they in design, so strictly utilitarian in character. As business prosperity increased there was a larger outlay for more expensive material and skillful workmanship without essential departure from the simpler forms. These quiet, serviceable structures making no claim to architectural display, still produce the most pleasing effect. They have something of the aristocratic dignity of old families; they are at peace with one another; naked and not ashamed.

Really fine, scholarly examples of commercial architecture are so few and far between that they tend to exaggerate by contrast the homeliness of the earlier structures, while the fantastic and sometimes frantic efforts at ornament and variety, of what may be called the transition period, where each building is indifferent, if not openly hostile, to its neighbor, only produce architectural confusion and discord. Probably merchants and architects will need to be born again several times over before either will voluntarily sacrifice contemporary popular applause and a chance for vociferous advertyising, in order to educate the public taste.

As might be expected from the conditions of business prosperity and freedom from political graft, and from the general culture of the citizens, our municipal buildings are usually well adapted to their various uses, of good style and quality. Indulgence in monumental features for the sake of impressive architecture is rare. The prevailing and apparently irremovable handicap in all public work is the constant change of executive. Sometimes this occurs during the progress of important undertakings, men of different tastes, divergent judgement and, perhaps, opposite ideas as to public economy and utility, are called upon to complete work begun by others whose taste and intentions they do not approve.

Inasmuch as the average sentiment of those to whom the members of a city government feel responsible and look for their official support is never in favor of that which is absolutely the best, it follows that the highest excellence is rarely attained in municipal work. Sometime we may arrive at the dignity of a permanent board of public works that shall also be a competent board of censors. We shall also learn that temporizing for the sake of present saving is culpable waste, and that thorough, high-class, fire-proof building is the only true economy.
Next week: 'III. Architectural Garments, 3. Churches, Monuments and Chimneys.'

Map: Springfield, Massachusetts, 1875

These engravings are from the 1875 O. H. Bailey & Co. map, 'View of Springfield, Mass.' The bottom image is a cropped section of the map, which is found in a much larger version at the Library of Congress website, with a zoomable view and a numbered legend of the locations of local establishments of interest.

Wason Manufacturing was originally located on Lyman Street, expanding in the 1870s to state-of-the-art facilities in the Brightwood section of Springfield, pictured above. The plant was one of the most efficient in the country, with the ability to create a complete railway car on location, every part manufactured in-house. Milton Bradley was hired as a draftsman for the world reknowned railway car company when he first came to Springfield in 1856, later moving on to create his own noteworthy business in Springfield, the Milton Bradley Co., lithographers and game manufacturers, in 1860. The first kindergarten in Springfield was established by Milton Bradley. The company's former home on Maple Street is now, fittingly, Milton Bradley school.

Established with a capital stock of $100,000 by an act of the Massachusetts legislature on May 15, 1851, the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., now referred to as MassMutual, managed over $450 billion in assets by the end of 2006. The five-story building at 413 Main Street, built in 1866-67, was a step up from the insurance company's first home, Room 8 in the Foot's block, at the corner of State and Main. In 1851, the maximum life insurance benefit per person was $5,000.

Incorporated in 1846, the Agawam National Bank was one of Springfield's earliest financial institutions. The bank's president in 1848 was a member of one of Springfield's most prominent families, Chester W. Chapin. The bank was located on the corner of Main and Lyman Streets.

The Union Block on Main Street was home to one of Springfield's oldest companies, Simons & Kibbe, the candy manufacturer begun in 1843, renamed the Kibbe Brothers & Company in 1864. Jordan Marsh also operated a wholesale and retail grocery store out of the block, and Charles Hall, having moved to Springfield after suffering devastating losses in the Chicago fire, maintained a store next to the grocer's, selling china, silver and decorative items for the home. For those folks in the market for furs, caps or umbrellas, D. H. Brigham & Co.'s clothinghouse was located on the opposite end of the block from Kibbe the confectioners'. In this engraving, the artist misspelled Kibbe, using the variation "Kibby."

A small section of the 1875 bird's eye view of Springfield map created by O. H. Bailey & Co., viewable at the link below or at the beginning of the article. For more maps, modern and historical, check out EWM's, 'Trails, Rails and Roads: Maps.'

Map source: American Memory Collection, Library of Congress, Map Collections, Digital ID: g3764s.pm003250

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Harry Houdini's Next Escape

Harry Houdini, born Erich Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, March 24, 1874, is back in the news, over 80 years after his death on Halloween of 1926.

Houdini's grand-nephew, George Hardeen, concerned that all of the questions surrounding the master of escape's mysterious death haven't been properly answered, is seeking the exhumation of Houdini's remains from his resting place at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, New York. Hardeen is the grandson of Houdini's younger brother, Theodore Hardeen, (Ferencz Deszo Weisz). Theodore was also a performer of magic and illusion, although, despite inheriting all of Harry Houdini's paraphernalia and "secrets," he never quite reached the level of his brother's fame or achievement, and lived under the shadow of the moniker, "Brother of Houdini," for most of his life.

Paperwork will be filed in New York Monday by attorney for Houdini's descendants, Joseph Tacopina, to begin the process of disinterment with an official request for the exhumation, after which, if approved, accomplished forensic pathologists Dr. Michael Baden and professor James Starrs will examine Houdini's remains for signs of foul-play. It could take months for the legal process to play out.

Mystery has shrouded Houdini's death ever since the American icon was ruled to have died from a ruptured appendix on his left side as a result of a punch to the stomach by one of his students three days before his passing. The fact that the appendix is on the right side was apparently overlooked by the medical examiner. Houdini, dead at the age of 52, had already been buried by the time his death certificate was filed on November 20, 1926. There was no autopsy.

Speculation has long swirled with suspicions of a plot against Houdini by a group known as the Spiritualists, whose claims of contact with the 'other-side' Houdini worked tirelessly to debunk, proving time and again that the Spiritualists used deceptive methods to convince their gullible and unwitting patrons of their abilities to communicate with the great beyond. One particular medium Houdini went head-to-head with was Mina "Margery" Crandon, wife of Boston surgeon Dr. Le Roi Crandon, himself a staunch defender of the Spiritualists and fierce adversary of Harry Houdini. The friction between Houdini and the Spiritualists was reaching a peak in late 1924, when Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and himself an ardent and unwavering believer in the Spiritualist movement, wrote that Houdini would likely, "get his just deserts very exactly meted out. ... I think there is a general payday coming soon." According to an AP article Friday in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
"During a 1924 "seance," Margery channeled a "spirit" named Walter who greeted Houdini with a threat: "I put a curse on you now that will follow you every day for the rest of your short life.""
A note in the McManus-Young Collection at the Library of Congress, part of the Rare Books Division, sheds some light on the running conflict between Houdini and the Spiritualists:

"The December 31, 1924 edition of the "Boston herald" reported that Houdini had, on the previous day, deposited $10,000 in New York City Bonds at City Hall in Boston as a guarantee that he could detect and repeat any phenomena shown by "Margery." The first paragraph of the article stated the following: "Neither Dr. Le Roi G. Crandon nor William McDougall, professor of psychology at Harvard, will answer the challenge, backed by a $10,000 guarantee, which was made yesterday by Houdini, the magician, that he can detect and repeat any phenomena shown by Mrs. Crandon, the famous medium "Margery," and that he can prove to an unbiased committee that he knows more about mystery than the Harvard psychologist."

Houdini considered "Margery" Crandon a fraud. Professor McDougall accused Houdini of being prejudiced and unfair. As the level of debate escalated, Houdini offered to forfeit $5,000 if he could not duplicate or explain any manifestation produced by "Margery" and, as stated in the "Boston American," $5,000 "To a Harvard professor if he will consent to be thrown into the river nailed in a packing case."'
Houdini went so far as to design and build a "Margie Box," made with the intention of limiting the medium's ability to move freely while "channeling" otherworldly spirits, thereby reducing the odds of trickery on the psychic's part. The Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress offers this note on the apparatus:

"Mina Crandon, known as Margery, was a medium who fully challenged Houdini. In her impressive Boston home, with the unwavering support of her husband, a respected surgeon and member of the Harvard faculty, she held seances to demonstrate her alleged supernatural powers. In 1924, she applied for a $2,500 prize offered by the "Scientific American" to any medium who could establish authentic communication with spirits under strictly controlled test conditions. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was her great champion; Houdini, her great opponent. Determined to limit the medium's physical movements in the seance room, Houdini provided the box shown here by which Mina Crandon's suspected manipulations were to be contained."
Was Harry Houdini poisoned by the Spiritualists, as many Houdini historians and enthusiasts believe? It is a question that has remained unanswered since the first newspaper headline ventured to ask, shortly after the legend's untimely death: "Was Houdini Murdered?" Soon, the world may find out, when Harry Houdini makes his ultimate escape, from restful slumber of 80 years. Is he pushing the process along, reaching to us from the afterworld, his spirit demanding the truth be told? Even Margery Crandon's great-granddaughter, Anna Thurlow, entertains skeptical questions of her ancestor's possible complicity in Houdini's sudden demise, quoted in the AP article: "With people that delusional, you have to question what they're capable of," Thurlow said. "If there's any circumstantial evidence that Houdini was poisoned, we have to explore that."

Or maybe there is another avenue to explore in this intriguing American mystery - if only for the sake of a good twist to the plot, however speculatively imaginary it may be - the frustrated and jealous sibling-rivalry angle, perhaps? Here is the accompanying and intriguing note to the first advertisement poster below, provided by the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress, Magic Poster Collection:

"Under the terms of Houdini's will, the Library of Congress inherited the magic and spiritualism components of the great mystifier's library. Beatrice Houdini received the Theater Collection, now at the University of Texas at Austin. Apparatus and other stage effects were bequeathed to Hardeen. As exemplified by the poster shown here, Hardeen used testamentary language in an effort to position himself as Houdini's heir in magic. His role, however, was to remain "Brother of Houdini." Often credited with having been the first to realize the dramatic potential of doing a straitjacket escape in full view of an audience, Hardeen, nevertheless, was not the creative, evolving, ego-driven force represented by his sibling. The riveting magic of Houdini came from within. Once he was gone, the presence of his apparatus spoke most eloquently about a greater absence--a legend who had fused mastery of detail with great showmanship, daring, imagination, and mystery.

Despite directions to the contrary, Hardeen passed on to others the legacy he had received. Today, many of the handcuffs and related items are held in the Houdini Historical Center located in the magician's first American hometown--Appleton, Wisconsin. A fire, however, at the Houdini Museum and Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls, Canada consumed all but the metal frame of the prominently displayed Upside Down Water Torture Cell."
Harry Houdini's legend and spirit perserveres, binding us to his memory in the same knots and buckles of mystery he so easily transcended, still waiting for us to catch on to the trick. Waiting for our escape.

Carey and Sons Lith, N.Y. (c. 1936?)

Triangle Poster Printing Co., Phila. (c. 1931)

Poster source 1: Library of Congress, Prints and Photgraphs Division, Magic Poster Collection, Digital ID: var.1626
Poster source 2: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Magic Poster Collection, Digital ID: var 1623
Poster source 3: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Magic Poster Collection, Digital ID: var 1622
Photos and notes source: Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, McManus-Young Collection

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Great Flood of 1936: Hatfield Tobacco Fields

These photos show some of the aftermath of 'The Great Flood of 1936,' which destroyed acres of tobacco fields in the town of Hatfield, Massachusetts, as the Connecticut river, swollen with snow melt and heavy Spring rains, wreaked havoc on every town and city it passed on its never-ending journey southward to the Sound. Bridges and buildings, farm land and forest: Nothing was spared the river's roiling fury as it crested over the days of March 19-21, leaving devastation and despair in its wake.

In Springfield alone, 20,000 soaking souls sought shelter in the midst of the catastrophe, almost 20 miles of city streets submerged. The silver lining in the cloud of calamity was found in the creation of thousands of clean-up, rebuild and repair jobs in a region that had been starved for work for years as a result of the Depression.

For more photos, see the related EWM post: The Great Flood of 1936: Hatfield House and Barns. The National Water Summary of 1988-89 includes the section, 'Floods and Droughts: Massachusetts,' which contains a brief explanation of the unusual weather conditions leading up to flood of 1936 in this PDF.

Photo captions are from the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information. Paul Carter, photographer.

"Tobacco lands after the Connecticut River had subsided near Hatfield, Massachusetts." (April 1936)

"Land ruined by the high waters of the Connecticut River. Near Hatfield, Massachusetts." (April 1936)

"Where the Connecticut River cut a new channel near Hatfield, Massachusetts, ruining good tobacco land." (April 1936)

"Ruined tobacco land along the Connecticut River, near Hatfield, Massachusetts." (April 1936)

Photo source 1: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8a20644
Photo source 2: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8c51707
Photo source 3: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8c51708
Photo source 4: Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8c51711

The Great Flood of 1936: Hatfield House and Barns

Over $200,000,000 dollars in damage was the final tally in the Bay State as a result of 'The Great Flood of 1936.' A winter of heavy snowfall, sustained Spring rains and ice dams combined to form a destructive catalyst that would result in ten deaths and 50,000 homeless across the State. The Connecticut river crested in Springfield on March 21.

These photos from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, were taken in Hatfield, Massachusetts by Farm Security Administration photographer, Paul Carter, shortly after the flood waters subsided.

For more flood photos see the related EWM post: The Great Flood of 1936: Hatfield Tobacco Fields. WGBY also has a web page with some incredible photos: 'The Great Flood of 1936: Photo Gallery.' Amherst College served as an evacuation site and shelter during the flooding, as recounted in the Fall, 2005, Amherst Magazine article, 'From the Archives: The Year of the Flood, 1936.' The article includes a photo of evacuees in Pratt Gymnasium, taken on March 23, 1936.

Photo captions are from the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information, Paul Carter, photographer.

"Barn and farm equipment ruined by flood waters. Hatfield, Massachusetts." (March 1936)

"Barn of client after the Connecticut River had subsided, Hatfield, Massachusetts." (March 1936)

"Destruction caused by disease-infected waters of the Connecticut River. The owner has received a grant. Near Hatfield, Massachusetts." (March 1936)

"Flood debris in yard of resettlement client. The wheelbarrow floated to its precarious position on the roof. Hatfield, Massachusetts." (March 1936)

Photo source 1: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8a20570
Photo source 2: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8a20608
Photo source 3: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8a20614
Photo source 4: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, FSA-OWI, Digital ID: fsa 8a20612

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Panoramic Photos: Court Square, Springfield, Mass. (c. 1909)

Looking northwest toward Court Square. The Hall of Records is the building at the end of the path, the court house (opened in 1874), the building to the left of it, and Springfield Institution for Savings is the building on the far right. (c. 1909)

Looking southwest at Court Square. The First Church (built 1819) is on the far right in the photo, the court house just beyond it, on the church's left. The Court Square theater is across the street from the church and the court house, bordering the park. (c. 1909)

In 1902, the year of the city's golden jubilee, $100,000 was raised in public donations to fund a project extending Court Square to the river, spurred by a donation of $10,000 toward the cause by the estate of the late Tilly Haynes, one of Springfield's most active and valuable citizens. Now, 105 years later, another push for change is being made concerning Court Square, a hope for a revitalization and rebirth of the area - which is indeed the heart of the city, and, like any vital organ, important to look after. (Republican article, Mar. 15, 2007) Let's hope the present has better success with its vision than did the past.

Proposed extension of Court Square, Springfield, Massachusetts. Note the police station (#2) on Court St., across from City Hall. (c. 1902+ ?)

Photo Source 1: American Memory Collection, Library of Congress, Panoramic Photographs, Digital ID: pan.6a06153
Photo Source 2: American Memory Collection, Library of Congress, Panoramic Photographs, Digital ID: pan.6a06160
Map Source 1: American Memory Collection, Library of Congress, American Landscape and Architectural Design, Digital ID: mhsdalad 170043

Poem: 'Black Sheep,' (1861?)

Source: American Memory Collection, Library of Congress, Nineteenth Century Song Sheets, Twing, Carrie E. S., Digital ID: as101150

'Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' Excerpt V

This excerpt of the book, 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell, 1905), begins section three - 'Architectural Garments' - of chapter one, 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be.' Here's part one, 'The Personal Equation in Houses,' by Eugene C. Gardner.

Continued from: 'II. Plan of the Ground Floor, 2. Broader Outlooks.'

III. Architectural Garments

1. The Personal Equation in Houses
Given a well-born child, properly nourished, wisely trained, still more wisely untrained, and the odds are a great many to one that the resulting boy - or girl, as the case may be - will be strong, cheerful and intelligent, of good temper, wholesome tastes, fair to look upon, and eager to increase in size and influence. It is the same way with a city. In its earlier years it asks only for healthy nourishment and plenty of standing room. Quantity is desired rather than quality; strength ranks above skill, might above right, and license seems more admirable than law. To both child and city there comes a time when the childish order is reversed. Conventions, rules and regulations, implements of work and warfare, personal appearances, comforts and other assets enter into the problem of existence. What clothes are to a well-made man or woman, architecture, as manifested in building, is to a city; something essential to its comfort, largely indicative of its wealth and intelligence.

In a rough classification of the architecture with which we are all familiar, there may be counted domestic, commercial, municipal or public and semi-public, ecclesiastical, monumental and, perhaps, industrial, as among the conspicuous and easily distinguished varieties. They are more or less interlocking, but such a general grouping simplifies their discussion.

Real orthodox architecture in house building is rare. Most of the houses intended as homes for those who built them are far more likely each one to express the varying tastes and needs of the owner and his wife - especially of his wife, although he may not be aware of that fact or willing to acknowledge it - than to illustrate any recognized, or unrecognized, principles of the noblest of all arts. This is by no means a deplorable circumstance. What if the peculiar shapes that are chosen for the outside clothing of our homes are as varied and inconsequent as the amazing shape of feminine headgear, provided each one shelters a well-ordered domestic unit? What if they sometimes lack that sober dignity and fail to give that assurance of self-poise which ought to characterize a family whose days are expected to be long in the land? They distinctly declare that there are multitudes of good and prosperous who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to assert themselves by conspicuous and often expensive declarations of independence.

One especially fortunate condition that has saved us from much architectural barrenness in this class is the diversity and generally high character of our industrial and business activities; because owing to these we are free from great aggregations of factory boardinghouses and the monotonously bare "homes of operatives," so called, that are inevitable in towns and cities where large numbers of comparatively unskilled and often migratory laborers are employed in the manufacture of the great staples. Neither do huge blocks of expressionless tenements of the same pattern, and the Babel of towering, undomestic apartment houses overmuch abound in the "City of Homes," - thanks to the salubrious and easily-accessible suburbs. These are some of the more obvious causes that have led to the heterogeneous character of our domestic architecture.

I was about to say that the real lessons of the homes of Springfield can only be discovered by reading between the lines. Unfortunately there is little room for reading lessons or anything else between the houses - an almost universal misfortune in suburban districts everywhere. It is one of the incomprehensible and, apparently, incurable human follies that, notwithstanding enormous advantages in the way of obtaining greater space for their domiciles, men are still willing to submit to the privations and inconvenience of small lots and of uncomfortable proximity to neighbors (even good neighbors may be too near our dining-room windows) merely for the sake of saving a few minutes' time in the journey between home and business. This strange perversity can not be the result of deliberate choice, but evidently belongs to the conservatism that ignores the achievements of modern science, the inexpressibly wonderful inventions of the last half-century, and clings to the hereditary customs as monkeys cling to their tails and sheep follow their bellwether over a precipice. Forty acres and a mule may not be a practicable allowance in this part of the Connecticut valley, but viewed from a standpoint of common sense, and in the light of this electric age, it is a perilous lapse toward barbarism and, contrariwise, a lamentable encouragement of race suicide, for a man to undertake to found a family and bring up his wife and children in the way they should go, on a bit of land scarcely large enough for a cemetery lot.

But we can hardly help outgrowing these minor faults. In every direction we have attractive open country within a twenty-minute's circuit, and are not forced to imitate the less favored cities where those whose business is in one half of the city must cross the other half in order to reach their outside homes. There is improvement, too, in what we are pleased to call our domestic architecture; less of the far fetched and fanciful on one hand, less affectation of humility and rusticicity on the other, and more of self-respecting dignity. When we find that fire-proof buildings cost no more than droll freaks and ostentatious shams in wood, we shall take another step in the direction of worthy domestic architecture.
Next week: 'III. Architectural Garments, 2. Commercial and Municipal.'

Here's a link to a related article, 'Colonial Architecture,' from the September, 1898, issue of New England Magazine, posted on the website: Western Mass. History and Genealogy, The article, coincidentally, was also written by Eugene C. Gardner, the author of the above text.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Armory's Architectural Inspiration

As mentioned in C. E. Blake's article, Springfield, Massachusetts, published in the January, 1894, issue of The New England Magazine, the architecture of the United States Armory at Springfield was inspired by the East India House on Leadenhall Street in London, England, home of the British East India Company. The photos below illustrate the two buildings' similarities.

The Arsenal at Springfield, now home of Springfield Technical Community College. (c. pre-1894)

The East India House in London. The building was razed in 1929.
(c. 1817)

More on EWM: Poem: The Arsenal at Springfield, H. W. Longfellow, 1845.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!

These vintage St. Patrick's Day postcards are in the public domain, which means you can use them at will without fear of violating copyrights. Just left click on each to make them full-size, then right click and choose 'save image as' and they're yours! I wish I remembered the web site I acquired them from, but a search through my favorites revealed that, as I so often do, I neglected to bookmark the page. When I find it again, I will pass it along.

As always, thanks for stopping by and happy St. Patrick's Day!

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