Sunday, April 29, 2007

'Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), Educational Institutions,' Excerpt I

We begin a new chapter of 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell, 1905) in EWM's historical book transcription series.The first segment of chapter two, 'Educational Institutions,' by William Orr, follows.


Educational Institutions

It is a matter of record that, in June, 1679, the town of Springfield contracted with Thomas Stebbins, Jr., to build a schoolhouse for the sum of fourteen pounds, or seventy dollars in terms of present currency. In September, 1898, this same community of Springfield opened to her youth a high school, whose cost, including land, building and equipment reached a total of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

While such comparison does not discredit the zeal of the early fathers for popular education, it does show the readiness of Springfield to spend in generous measure for her schools, and indicates how great have been the changes in organization and method since the time of the seventeen-by-twenty-two-foot schoolhouse built by Thomas Stebbins, Jr.

In the early days no special committee had charge of the work of popular education. At town meetings and in the sessions of selectmen, questions relating to teachers, pupils and school buildings were considered and settled. The need of direct supervision was afterwards met by the organization of school districts, each under the care of a local committee. But the district system did not make for progress. Petty jealousies and neighborhood quarrels divided the town and set district in opposition to district. Thus a high school, opened in 1827, closed its doors from 1839 to 1841 because of opposition from the outlying parts of town. A superintendent of schools, the first officer of the kind in Massachusetts, was appointed in 1840, and again divided public opinion compelled the abolition of this office after something like a year's trial.

Meanwhile the State, under the leadership of Horace Mann, was calling for a more efficient conduct of schools and for higher standards of instruction. In response to these demands the town began to consider the placing of all control in the hands of a central committee.

After much discussion the abolition of the district system was brought to pass in 1855. With this date and under the policy then inaugurated begins the modern school department of Springfield.

Next in logical order was the appointment of a superintendent of schools. The growth of the city, the increase of school attendance and the multiplication of buildings made it possible for the committee to look after the details of school administration. Neither could any lines of progress or betterment laid down. After the usual period of discussion and agitation the office of superintendent of schools was created and measures were taken to place the educational system of the city in charge of an expert, elected by and responsible to the school committee.

Since 1865, when Mr. E. A. Hubbard, the first superintendent, took up his duties, the city school system has made steady and permanent advance. For this progress the city is in large measure indebted to the tact and leadership of the men to whom she has given in trust the care of her public schools. Under Mr. Hubbard, from 1865 to 1873, many of the older style grammar schools, such as the Barrows and Hooker buildings, were erected. New methods of instruction were introduced. The high school grew in numbers and finally called for a new home. This was provided by the erection of a building now used by the State street grammar school. By careful selection the personnel of the teaching force was improved. Coherence and unity were given to the school system. Public confidence was secured and found expression in generous appropriations.

Superintendent Admiral P. Stone extended and perfected the work of organization. In his annual reports he brought before the people the vital facts of the schools. his term of service, 1873 to 1888, was a time of financial depression in the country at large and of reduced appropriations in the city. Mr. Stone by his ability in organization did much to bring the schools uninjured through this trying experience.

Dr. Thomas Balliet assumed charge of the schools in April, 1888. He brought to his task a broad and thorough training in the philosophy of education and a mastery of the best methods of instruction. His inspiration and influence soon made themselves felt on teachers, committee and community. New lines of development were opened to meet the social and economic needs of the city. Kindergartens were placed on a permanent basis. The practical spirit of the time showed itself in the opening of cooking schools for both day and evening classes. Elementary evening schools were improved and extended and an evening high school established. With clear understanding of the city's industrial needs, Doctor Balliet encouraged the development of the manual training course. In 1898, a Mechanic Arts high school was organized. This institution is now known as Technical high school, and is intended to join academic training with courses in shop work and applied science. An evening school of trades was opened in connection with this department of instruction.

Material equipment made rapid advances during the period from 1888 to 1904. Over a million dollars were spent on school buildings and among these are many that are recognized as among the best examples of school architecture in the country.

In May, 1904, Doctor Balliet resigned his position to enter on his work as dean of the School of Pedagogy in New York university. His successor, Mr. Wilbur F. Gordy, was chosen in June, 1904. Mr. Gordy's long and successful experience in school duties and his understanding of the practical problems of education insure the maintenance of the high standards of Springfield and a continued progress along right lines. The community has already given Mr. Gordy its confidence and looks on him as worthy to wear the mantle of his high office.

This brief historical sketch shows that in the half-century since the schools of Springfield were brought under one system of management, notable results in popular education have been secured. While there has been general advance in all lines of instruction, this city has certain characteristics that have given it a unique reputation in the land. A prime cause of the excellence of the schools is the intelligent interest of the people in education. School men and citizens are one in purpose to maintain the schools in the most efficient condition. The community has always been able to command the service of strong men and women for its school committee. The committee has wisely granted large powers to the superintendent and has not embarrassed him by needless limitations in the appointment of teachers or in the planning of courses in instruction. Politics and personal or partisan influence have never found an abiding place in the council of the school board. Hence in selecting teachers the only question is fitness for duties of the position to be filled. Incompetent or inefficient teachers are not retained.

The spirit and morale of the teaching body is not unusual. Personal interest in the children and care for needs of the individual have come to be traditions of the service. There is a fine enthusiasm in their work and an active interest in promoting the well-being of the community at large. As a result of the excellence of the Springfield schools and the strength of her instructors there has been an increasing tendency on the part of other cities to seek for candidates among the ranks of the local teachers. Too often these attempts have been successful. On the other hand it is worthy of note that loyalty to Springfield has led many teachers to remain, even at some financial sacrifice.

In her educational policy, Springfield has always sought to give abundant room for individual initiative and has never hampered her teachers by petty restrictions. Routine details have been minimized. The demand has been for the impress of the personality of the instructor on the plastic nature of the child. Work under such conditions is sure to attract and hold men and women filled with the true spirit of the teacher.

The same consideration for the needs of the child is shown in methods and courses of study. One illustration from the policy of the high schools will make clear the Springfield policy. While many boys and girls are fitted for college each year and sent to a large number of different institutions of learning, the methods of instruction and curriculum are not dominated by the requirements for admission to the college. Rather is regard had to the best general training of the youth, in science, language, mathematics, history and art. Commercial and technical courses rank on an equality with college preparatory work. The high school maintains its own individuality and independence. Yet no schools rank better in standing with the colleges and the success of Springfield graduates in higher institutions and the many distinctions that fall to them show that education for general efficiency brings in the long run better results than special preparation for an examination.

Another characteristic of Springfield's educational system is the emphasis laid on practical studies. In this respect the city has shown a progressive spirit and open-minded attitude. For many years instruction has been given in cooking, sewing, and drawing, both free-hand and mechanical. Manual training is thoroughly taught in the grammar grades, and finds its culmination in the excellent courses of the Technical high school in wood and metal work, and in the evening school of trades with its provisions for instruction in various skilled industries.

With the increase of the foreign-born population there has come demand for increased facilities in evening schools to teach elementary branches. Such schools are maintained in the Elm street building and at Indian Orchard. In 1904, there was a total enrollment in these schools of 1,430. All the evening classes, including the high school, evening draughting, free-hand drawing and trades school, gave a total enrollment of 2,421 students.

Practical studies are given a large place in the evening high school and the classes in bookkeeping, arithmetic, stenography, typewriting and laboratory work in science are well attended. While the Central high school holds firmly to the idea of general as opposed to special training, opportunities are given for a commercial education. The ready demand for high school graduates by business men testifies to the value of the instruction in both academic and technical subjects. Yearly more positions are offered than there can be found graduates to fill.

In this connection attention is called to the growth and development of the Technical high school. The experimental stage of manual training lasted from 1886 to 1898. At first the courses were mainly in the grammar grades, but in 1896 a four-years' course was established in connection with the Central high school. In 1898 an independent school of secondary grade, known as the Mechanic Arts high school, was organized. In May, 1904, the name was changed to Technical high school. The school for a long time occupied rented quarters in the Springfield Industrial institute at Winchester Park but a fine building is now under construction on Elliott street at a cost of over $300,000, and planned to provide large facilities for instruction in academic and technical studies. Courses in home economics and domestic science will be given in this school. The building will accommodate nine hundred pupils.

The practical side of education is kept in due subordination to the claims of general culture. Such studies as free-hand drawing and music have been recognized in the curriculum of all grades. In the Central high school, classes in music analysis and harmony mark an advanced line of study, and have received special mention from the state board of education.

Within recent years expert attention has been given to the proper physical development of children. A supervisor of physical culture has the oversight of the pupils of the grammar and primary grades. Games and light gymnastics are provided. Outdoor sports are encouraged and directed. In the high school all athletics are under the supervision of a competent physical director, while every boy is required to do definite gymnasium work. The school board is now earnestly urging the organization of a system of medical inspection.

In material equipment, the city has provided most generously for her schools.

The buildings recently erected for grammar and high school purposes have attracted favorable comment from visitors. Mention has already been made of the Central and Technical high schools. In 1903, the Chestnut street grammar school was completed at a cost of $135,961. The Forest Park building, dating from 1899, represents an outlay of $90,000. The William street school, including land and building, is valued at $76,000. Provision is made of the most modern and efficient appliances for sanitation, including heat and ventilation. Such buildings with their tasteful decorations and neat surroundings constitute no small factor in the education of the child's taste and contribute to right conduct.

Tribute to the excellence of Springfield's school system is given in the attention her schools have received from students of education. In 1902, commissioners from New South Wales, officially delegated by their government to examine the school systems of the world, spent two days in Springfield, and in their report gave high praise to what they saw in this city. Many foreign delegates to the educational congress at St. Louis in 1904 made it a point of inspecting the schools of Springfield on their way home. Most significant was the visit of Dr. Paul Albrecht, minister of public instruction for Alsace-Lorraine, who made a special study of methods of teaching ancient and modern languages, a field in which Germans are supposed to be masters.

These visits were due in part to the impression made by the exhibition of the Springfield school as the exposition at Chicago in 1893, Buffalo in 1900, and finally at St. Louis in 1904. At the St. Louis fair three gold medals were awarded, one for elementary education in arithmetic, one for evening trades classes, and one for secondary education.

Springfield, now fully entered on her second half-century of existence as a city, possesses a great treasure in the organization, equipment, standards and spirit of her schools and teachers. Generous appropriations from the public treasury, cordial support of the school board, freedom from political and personal influences in the city government, are the civic factors that have contributed to this result. Under such favorable conditions, capable, broad-minded and expert superintendents, joined in a common work with loyal and efficient teachers, have instilled through the schools into the youth of the community the best of their life and character. No better foundation can a city lay for continued prosperity. Economic success depends on an abundant supply of trained workmen. These the schools are furnishing, and in greater numbers and variety as departments of instruction multiply. Public peace and safety depend on the right attitude of the citizen towards all questions of law and order. Such lessons faithful teachers supply by example and precept. Great problems of the municipality call for minds capable of grasping details and reaching sound conclusions. The exercises of the classroom give this mental power to the coming voter. Above all else should the spirit and atmosphere of the schoolroom influence the youth to consider his higher duties to the city and state, duties that call for self-sacrifice in the interest of the community, the true civic spirit that alone makes democracy possible.

As Springfield has loyally supported her schools in the past, she will in the future provide fully the means and conditions necessary to assure progress and an even better adaptation to the needs of the public weal.
Next week: 'Educational Institutions, Certain Other Schools.'

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Commerce & Industry: Spring Fashions

Earlier in the week, blogger Tommy Devine poked a little good-natured fun at me in one of his posts, naming me the "wizard of all things Westfield," after I let the Cliff Claven inside me show - once again - by offering in a comment on a previous post of his ("Westfield's Dead") the somewhat obscure bit of information that the key to the Old Westfield Burying Ground is located at the Westfield Athenaeum, for those who wish to peruse the pasture of peace located on Mechanic Street. He also described the word "athenaeum" as a "high-brow" word for library.

Ouch. High-brow.

Almost as bad as the Who selling their songs for commercials and TV show intros.

Lest anyone get the idea that I consider myself mystically and linguistically sophisticated: I only knows what I know. Growing up in Westfield, the library was referred to formally as the Westfield "Athenaeum" enough times for it to sink in as a regular word in my vocabulary. Not to mention the required one-year of Latin in Catholic high school I managed to score a B in. A real conjugation conflagration, that was.

Anyway, would a high-brow wizard find himself spending his Friday morning under a rain-soaked garbage truck like I did yesterday? I think not. Just a regular guy with a twisted sense of humor, like life has, and the folks too, that ride on the back of this truck day after day, doing their job, rain or shine, ice or sun...

For over 20 years, nearly half my life, I've been putting bread on my table by climbing under cars and trucks and fixing the things that break under there. Some days it may be a '69 Firebird rag-top, other days it may be a stinky, but artistically-decorated, garbage truck. The best jobs to do are those that folks are grateful for, like RV-ers broken down far from home or a long-haul trucker on a tight schedule who manages to limp into the shop off the highway for repairs. Say what you will about the big trucks on the road, but they and the folks that drive them are what keeps America's shelves stocked. I like being a part of keeping America moving along.

The flowers are a nice touch for Spring. If there was a contest for best-decorated garbage truck, this truck would certainly be a contender.

Safety glasses are an important piece of personal equipment on most industrial jobs. An ability to see humor in the mundane is also essential.

Somehow capturing both the glamor of Jackie O and the grittiness of Courtney Love, the leis add a splash of color to an otherwise mechanical personality.

These are leaf spring main-plates and wrappers. The main-plate is what attaches the leaf spring to the frame of a vehicle, on which a hanger for a pin that slips through the "eye" of the spring is usually mounted. The wrapper is usually the second plate in the stack of leaves, its "eye" more open and wrapping around the main-plate's eye for safety. If the main-plate breaks, the wrapper will keep the vehicle's axle in place temporarily, with repairs recommended to be made as soon as possible. If both plates break, it is possible for the axle to come free from the vehicle. The first two numbers on the end of the leaves signify the make of the vehicle that the item fits, running in alphabetic order, lower numbers corresponding with lower letters. 13 represents Autocar; 16, Brockway; 22, Chevy, and so on. In this photo, the 43-460-1 is a Ford main-plate for an old cab-over style truck that some local fuel companies used to favor. I don't miss working on those. The plates starting with 62 are for Mack trucks.

These are complete leaf springs, bought pre-assembled per OEM specifications from our American distributors. Some springs are made overseas or in Canada or Mexico. Japan is well-known in the industry for its expertise in making tapered parabolic spring steel. The springs pictured here are for passenger cars, pick-up trucks, vans and SUVs. When I first started as a suspension mechanic in 1986, leaf springs as a component of passenger-car suspensions were just beginning to be phased out, but we still saw our share of Novas, Camaros and Chrysler Fifth Avenues, and such. Now the transformation to struts and coil springs is nearly complete in the passenger-car market, with the transition to softening the suspensions on SUVs and pick-ups by using the same basic technology of struts and coils beginning in recent years and picking up steam. Many larger trucks and trailers are coming equipped with air-ride technology. Guys like me who bang steel with a hammer for a living are a dying breed. That's one thing about the ever-changing world around us: It keeps us learning.

These are known as "plain-plates," spring steel plates that we receive in varying widths, lengths and thicknesses, with a center-hole for the center bolt, which holds the leaf spring stack together, punched in each. The leaves come in even lengths, measured out from the center bolt: 24" X 24," 26" X 26," etc. Leaves range from as short as 6" total to upwards of 6'. Thicknesses are measured in decimals, .262, .291, .323, etc. Some steel is over an inch thick and some complete leaf springs can weigh more than 650 pounds. When a spring needs to have an individual leaf in the stack replaced, or a leaf added to the spring for extra carrying capacity, a plain-plate matching the thickness and width of the original leaf is selected and its length then cut down to the desired size. If a leaf is being replaced, the new plate would be cut to that length. An "extra-leaf" added to the spring is generally fitted underneath the main plate whenever possible, the idea being that the longer the plate, the more extra carrying capacity achieved. Every spring is different, with its own unique shape and arch. When a plate, or leaf, is added it must be shaped to match the existing leaves, either with a shaping hammer on a special anvil, or with a hydraulic shaping press. For me, the method I use depends on the thickness and width of the leaf. A 2 1/4" wide piece of .262 steel will succumb to the hammer pretty easily, a 3" wide piece of .401 won't. The trick is, as my Grandfather, Pop Vinisko, always told me, is to let the tool do the work. The shaping hammer, when swung properly, will feel no more heavy in one's hand than a fly swatter. Steel shaped on an anvil will hold its arch longer than steel shaped with a press.

Racks o' springs. With the warmer weather, it's nice to be able to open the bay doors to let light and air in. This is another view of our inventory, in what's referred to as the "back room." The springs on the three lower racks directly in front of the bay door fit a variety of trailers, including over-the-road and dump trailers. I'll be taking some photos of the 6-bay shop area to share with you sometime, along with a post on the different tools used in the repair and replacement of vehicle suspensions. I know: Thrilling, adrenaline-stirring stuff. Hey, I'm no wizard!

Take care, and thanks for stopping by. And make sure you check out Tommy Devine's blog, he's been blogging in the Valley since Windows 98 was just a twinkle in Bill Gates's eye.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Quabbin Gate 40: The Road to Dana Common

Quabbin's Gate 40 on Rte. 32a in Petersham is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and visited areas of the watershed.

The gate is located on the eastern side of what used to be the town of Dana, one of the four towns disincorporated on April 28, 1938, to make way for Quabbin Reservoir.

Dana is unique in that its town common and many of its main roads lie far above the waterline of the reservoir, allowing them to be visited and explored today. Only the town of Prescott, most of which is off-limits to the public, rivals Dana in the amount of land area remaining high and dry after Quabbin reached its capacity of 412 billion gallons on June 22, 1946.

The road to Dana Common is paved, although there are areas where the gravel has broken down over the years. It's not all flat walking, but the hills aren't particularly straining, either. Within a relatively short walk of two miles or so, one can see old stone foundations and 'reclaimed' fields along either side of the road.

There is a small apple orchard and even a foundation that must have once been a garage, with old rusted parts from a car that looks like it fell apart where it had been parked, one piece at a time.

The East Branch of the Swift River follows the road for a bit to the east, feeding into Pottapaug Pond, glimmering through the trees for a ways until the road curves to the west, toward the Common and points beyond.

According to Walter E. Clark's book, "Quabbin Reservoir," (1946), much of the land around the pond was privately owned by the Johnson family and dotted by summer camps occupying large chunks of land.

In fact, Gate 40's road to Dana Common, known as the Dana to Greenwich Road, or just Greenwich Road, passes through 78 acres that were owned by a doctor from New York City, Redford K. Johnson, who kept a summer home there, on the west side of Pottapaug Pond. He also owned a farm to the west of this property.

Charles W. Johnson owned 100 acres on the east side of the pond with what is described by Clark as a "fine summer camp" that was built by Colonel T.S. Johnson, Charles' father.

To the south of Pottapaug Pond, Harry S. Johnson relaxed at his summer home comfortably situated on 69 acres, while north of the pond, Charles A. and Ida M. Johnson owned land that stretched for about a mile along the east side of the East Branch of the Swift River, almost to the pond.

The dirt road to the left a little over a mile in with the massive tree on the corner leads down to the pond's edge. A short diversion worth checking out. Shore fishing is allowed here.

Pottapaug Pond is the only area of Quabbin Reservoir where canoes are allowed, although last we knew, you must have a fishing license, and presumably, fishing equipment. Check with the Massachusetts DCR to be sure.

When Quabbin Reservoir is at capacity, Pottapaug Pond is fourteen feet deeper than when the Johnsons spent their summers there.

Dana Common is a fun area to explore, with several interesting foundations to be seen along the roads that make up its triangular shape. The field to the northeast of the common was once a cemetery and was behind the Town Hall and the schoolhouse. The Congregational Church was nearby. The General Store-Post Office was on the south side of Main Street.

One can't help but see the remnant of sidewalk that once ran in front of the Town Hall and wonder about the lives of the townspeople who trod this ground as they went about the everyday business of life, running errands, attending school, worshiping the Lord and burying their dead.

Settled by European immigrants around 1735, the land had seen the movement and machinations of these hardy settlers for almost 200 years by the time the people of Dana began their long goodbye in the 1920's, when the Swift River Act was passed by the Massachusetts General Court. This Act authorized the taking of their land for the purpose of creating what would be the largest man-made unfiltered water supply in the world at the time.

Now the Common lies silent, its memories fading away with the former townsfolk whose numbers amongst us decrease with each passing day.

The road bordering the Common to the north is Skinner Hill Road and once led to North Dana, in the northwestern corner of the town.

Following this road west another two or so miles beyond the Common brings you to a beautiful spot along the shoreline known as "Grave's Landing." I have seen moose and moose tracks here. Loons often choose this quiet spot to dine in peace. The water is usually clear enough to see turtles swimming or the circular spawning nests of small-mouth bass in the Spring.

Right before you reach the shoreline is an area of Skinner Hill Road once known as "Dead Man's Curve." Not only does the road twist dangerously here, it's also a pretty steep grade. Today the description would aptly fit for how one feels upon reaching the top of the hill on the way back.

Off the right of Skinner Hill Road, heading north off Dana Common, is Tamplin Road. This road is a nice, vigorous hike if you want to make a loop back to Gate 40. Follow it north until you get to the tree that grew with the giant hole through its trunk, then head south on the trail that is between that and the old foundation on the opposite corner. This brings you back to the main road to the gate. To reverse this loop, take the first trail on the right after you enter Gate 40.

All kinds of different terrains are represented on the loop-hike, from boulder-strewn hillsides to cleared fields. A couple of spots I noticed had grass that looked like it had probably been part of someone's yard.

There are swampy areas, pine groves and hardwood forest. Beavers seem to live in every sizable body of water along the trail, which passes and crosses several scenic ponds and streams.

There is plenty of evidence of animal activities, from coyote scat piles to woodpecker-ravaged old trees. Look for moose tracks in swampy areas and turkey vultures in the air.

The road bordering Dana Common on its south side that heads southwest is Greenwich Road. This road once connected with the Monson Turnpike north of Greenwich Village, skirting 895 foot high Pottapaug Hill to its southeast. It's a little under two miles more from the Common to the shoreline taking this road. You can see the edge of the baffle dam in Hardwick from some spots along the water's edge in this area.

The road that runs off to the left of Greenwich Road, just past the edge of the Common heading west, is Thayer Road. This is a relatively short road-remnant of about a mile and brings you out to the edge of Pottapaug Pond. Thayer Road passed along Pottapaug Hill's eastern side and connected with roads heading to Greenwich and Hardwick.

As always, I recommend getting yourself a topographical map of the area before you head out. Google Earth is another neat tool I use for planning hikes and can be downloaded for free.

The Gate 40 area covers a lot of territory. The opportunities to explore are only limited by the amount of daylight hours and the hiker's energy. Even when you think you've seen it all, there is something new that catches your eye, or imagination.

It's a great gate to hike for all seasons, too, the ample parking area usually plowed out pretty quickly after each storm.

It's tempting to want to bike the trails and dirt roads of Quabbin, but please keep in mind, bicycles are allowed only on paved roads within the watershed.

As Spring blooms around us, it's interesting to ponder as one walks along silent roads what the Spring of 1938 must have been like for the folks that once populated these byways. What it must have been like saying goodbye to home while the beauty of the Swift River Valley could only have been a potent lure to stay.

The rebirth of dormant land a poignant reminder of what was lost. And what remained.

For more town of Dana information and photos intended as a supplement to this article, check out the previous EWM posts: 'Quabbin Gate 40: Dana Town Common' and 'Quabbin Gate 40: The Dana-Greenwich Road.'

And to explore Quabbin even further, check out EWM's The Quabbin Page, with on and off-site links galore.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

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

Hello everyone, and welcome to another installation of EWM's historical book transcription series.

Following is the the conclusion of chapter one, 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' of the 1905 book 'Springfield Present and Prospective,' written collectively by prominent citizens of the city as a sort of literary snapshot of where the city had been, was currently, and where it was heading at the first light of the 20th century. Section four, 'Looking Forward,' winds the chapter up with part three, 'Other Goals to Be Gained.' An afterword by the author, Eugene C. Gardner, follows.


Continued from: 'IV. Looking Forward, Part 2. What the River Asks and Gives.'

IV. Looking Forward

Part 3. Other Goals to Be Gained

Giving the river the first place in considering the future, there is much to be done in the way of perfecting the minor parks and increasing their number. In this department the first step, as in making a rabbit pie, is capturing the principal ingredient - first get the land. It would be a wild undertaking for the city to attempt to build at once river walls from Pecowsic to Chicopee, construct big wharves, complete the glories of Court square, build a new bridge, and fill up the waste and vacant places throughout the city with fountains and flowers, trees and statues; it would be the wisdom of Solomon himself to secure land that will sometime be available for both business and pleasure, while it is of little actual value.

It can hardly be hoped that the whole of Hampden park will be acquired for the sole use and occupancy of the public; it is not unreasonable to expect that a river-bank margin of suitable width may become part of our park system. The land north of Hampden park has been mentioned; a similar piece across West street, north of the bridge on the river bank, if skillfully treated in connection with the causeway leading up to the bridge, would make a dignified approach to this connecting link with West Springfield, and would be no more than a "retort courteous" to the charming approach from the other side. Beyond this the river bank further north might be secured while it is still unoccupied.

Leaving the river, there is much unimproved land in the Atwater estate, some of which is apparently impossible of utilization except for parks or pasturage, either at present or in the future, and this should not be omitted in plans for future development.

The land surrounding the Van Horn reservoir has been suggested as easily convertible into a pleasant pleasure ground. Whether these ponds are permanently retained as a part of our water supply or not, there would be great advantage in making them a part of our park system. And, again, the shores of the Watershops pond; it is not conceivable that any other practicable treatment of the land along this lovely body of water could add more to its commercial value than the reservation by the city for park purposes of a belt including the road , giving to building lots fronting the lake an outlook across the intervening park and water toward the east. In fact, the number and extent of the suburban parks and drives that may easily be established in the future round about Springfield is limited only by the taste and enterprise of the citizens.

Passing from these more or less ornamental features to just plain streets, one of the obvious improvements, easy enough now but growing more difficult every year, is the widening of certain portions of some of the narrower thoroughfares. Most of the buildings on minor streets, and many of those on the principal avenues, have, at most, but a few years to live, and should not be allowed to cause a permanent defect in the city. The best time to make the crooked straight is before petrifaction or ossification takes place; the next best is any time before the cost of straightening becomes prohibitive. Still more foolish is the sparing of an old tree. We have the best authority for hewing down the trees that cumber the ground, which is exactly what every tree does that stands in the way of something better.

Of still greater importance in the scientific evolution of the city's ground plan, is the extension of certain avenues which came to untimely ends before they had finished their course. We may not expect a Baron Haussman or "Boss" Shepard to drive their civic battering rams through palaces and warehouses, slums and railway stations, for the greater glory of the city, but we indulge a reasonable hope that some time a strenuous city government backed by an enlightened public sentiment will accomplish the same ends more economically though more slowly.

Fulton and Water streets, in their present divorced condition, can never fulfill their appointed mission; Dwight, that should be a broad avenue at least a mile and a half long, is incontinently barricaded by the misplaced union station; the convenience and business value of Chestnut street are seriously impaired by its steep descent into State; and for all of Ward one lying east of the Boston and Maine railroad, northward to the Chicopee line, there is no public highway to the North-end bridge above the Memorial church.

In regard to the future architecture of the city, we may be sure that its improvement will depend upon the cultivation of popular taste. Good architecture grows as slowly as fundamental Christianity, and, to continue the comparison, its shallow, obtrusive expression often attracts more attention, is more sure of admiration and imitation than the genuine article. Gradually examples of the best in architecture will find place in conspicuous portions of the city, and their quiet, persistent influence will lift us above the meretricious and commonplace. The significance of color, of harmony on a large scale, of proportion, which in architecture is like the lost chord in music, will be profoundly felt if never fully understood. The intersections of streets and the approaches to parks and bridges will be emphasized by monumental features; spires, towers and domes will exemplify the abounding resources and activity. As in the elder days of Rome, "to be a Roman was greater than to be a king," so the citizens of Springfield can be nobly proud of their lofty ambitions and worthy achievements.

--Eugene C. Gardner


It would be impossible to mention all the public-spirited citizens who, by their generosity and wise foresight, have helped to make Springfield a beautiful city. Among these in recent years, but who have passed away, Tilly Haynes occupies a conspicuous position, not only because of his large bequest, but because of the generous spirit which prompted him to leave it without restrictions that might impair its usefulness. The extension of Court square was always a cherished purpose of his, - it would not be fair to call it a dream, because it was too explicit, too obviously practicable. In the selection of the site for a new court house a generation ago, it was anticipated that sometime in the future the extension of the square would give this notable building a worthy setting. All of that Mr. Haynes foresaw, realizing full well that the inevitable future growth of the city would require an enlargement of the central public plaza. His bequest and the courageous spirit that prompted it has been like a beacon light, encouraging and leading others to join the ranks and keeping alive the thought and purpose of a beautiful city.

Grateful memory is also due to O. H. Greenleaf for his liberal gift of land in Forest park, land which might have been sold advantageously to the owner without direct benefit to the city, and which men of more selfish character or narrower vision would have been sure to hold for private profit. His interest in this, as in all matters of public welfare, was maintained and practically manifested as long as he lived.

Another who during his life did much, very much to increase the visible beauty of the city, was Justin Sackett. He had an innate love of natural beauty and rare skill, not in attempting to create, or rival what Nature alone can achieve, but in preserving the natural beauty that only needs loving care and appreciation to become more and more lovely with the passing years. Springfield abounds with evidences of his keen insight and unselfish and well-directed efforts to preserve and develop what a bountiful Providence has provided.

No one needs to be reminded of the long, disinterested and, happily, still active service of Daniel J. Marsh. It may almost be said that without his constant personal effort, we should have had no Forest park in its present shape; that what is growing every year to be reckoned one of our brightest civic jewels - in fact a whole case of jewelry - would not have existed, or would have been at least of little note, liable at any time to be sacrificed to private interest. Surely this is something compelling our gratitude, a direct refutation of the cynical words of the hypocritical Anthony, that the evil men do lives after them, while the good is oft interred with their bones. The reverse is true; such good deeds as these live on with increasing influence from generation to generation.

Neither can we hear of this great public pleasure ground and recreation field with its simple natural charms and the rare beauties of the southern portion without remembering how much we owe to E. H. Barney, whose untiring zeal and noble generosity have done so much to enhance and make permanent the rare charms of Forest park.

Not to complete the list even approximately, but to mention one of the younger citizens who has dome much in the way of laying broad foundations for the lasting beauty of this city, Nathan D. Bill should be remembered. With the liberal devotion of his own time and energy to public interests, with his broad conceptions and quick perception of practical values, we can not help looking to him for further achievement and leadership.

These men are not mentioned as being the only ones whose unselfish devotion has been manifested in the improvement of our city, or with the idea of giving even the smallest account of what each one has done - that would make a very long story; and the most valuable part of their work is not in the actual accomplishment, excellent as these have been - it is in the example and in the incentive which they have given and are still giving to their contemporaries and successors. They have not been merely thinking and talking, they have been doing, and by what has been done they have shown the still nobler possibilities of the future.

--E. C. G.

Next week: On to chapter two, 'Educational Institutions,' by William Orr.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Taxes Through Time

Ben Franklin once said "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." Then again, he also said, "For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise." Chances are pretty good that his opinions on death and taxes stayed pretty constant, though, considering he paid each when due, the faithful rebel he was.

Taxes in their various forms have long vexed the common man, and long benefited the common good, the question in marking the twain of the two very real conditions more often than not: 'when is enough enough?' This quest for parity has led to rebellions and secessions and set men to sea on dangerous voyages to freedom. But almost everywhere man has set foot, whatever dry land he claims, there is a call to pay the piper, to contribute to the society created whenever more than one gather. Taxes are the tie that binds.

Nason & Varney's 1890 Gazatteer of Massachusetts includes the property tax rates of many cities and towns profiled within its 724 pages, circa late 19th century. Although the rates aren't broken down into commercial and residential percentages in the Gazatteer, it might be interesting to compare the rates of today with the general figures it does provide.

In 1885 Springfield, there were 8,699 voters living in 6,402 homes. The property tax rate in 1888 was $13.60 per $1,000, with a city-wide valuation of $39,863,255. Springfield's current property tax rate is $16.04 per $1000, residential; and $31.91 commercial, industrial and personal. The total valuation for fiscal year 2007, including all tax categories, is $7,433,650,520. There are 39,710 residential parcels in the city.

Pittsfield's valuation in 1888 was $9,893,959. At the time the Gazatteer was compiled, most of Pittsfield was still untouched forest, with under 4,000 acres of the town's total of close to 25,000 cleared for the town's 2,480 taxable dwellings. The property tax rate in 1888 was $16.80 on each $1,000. The residential tax rate in Pittsfield for fiscal year 2006 was $15.65 per $1,000; the commercial rate was $27.66 per $1,000.

Chester, the little town nestled in the foothills of the Berkshires that enjoys the distinction of being both the hottest (107 degrees f., Aug. 2, 1975) and coldest (-35 degrees f., Jan. 12, 1981) place in the Bay State, is also becoming known as the small town with the big tax rate. Even in 1888, at $18 per $1,000, Chester's tax rate was higher than many towns and cities, a full $4.40 higher per $1,000 than Springfield's at the time. Today, Chester's property tax rate is $17.40 across the board for all categories, personal, commercial and residential, still higher than Springfield's and Pittsfield's, but not by as wide a margin as more than a century before. At the fiscal year 2006 rate, Chester is one of the most expensive places to own property in Massachusetts.

Amherst does its residents a great service by offering a pdf of property tax rates from 1895 to 2006 on its town web site. It must be a relief for residents to see that their current tax rate per $1,000 of property owned is $15.06, down from a high of $86 in 1963. In 1895, Amherst's property tax was $13.00 per $1,000.

According to the web site,, the cheapest place to own property in Massachusetts today is in the town of Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard, which has a property tax rate of $1.85 per $1,000. Think of the tax money you'd save if you snatched up an island steal like the 3 bedroom home at 22 Nickerson Farm Lane, listed for sale at $6,300,359 on That's what I call beating the tax man in style.

Document source: Library of Congress, American Memory Collection, Printed Ephemera, Boston, 1808, Digital ID: rbpe 0480140a

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Photo: Bald Eagle at Watershops Pond

Bald Eagle at Watershops Pond, Springfield, Mass. (Photo by Amanda Hendrix, April 13, 2007)

Local resident Amanda Hendrix was in the right place at the right time this past Friday when she digitally captured this magnificent specimen taking a branch break at Watershops pond in Springfield. Absent in Massachusetts since around the turn of the 20th century, Bald Eagles are regaining a talon-hold in the western part of the State, a direct result of their re-introduction to the general area on July 29, 1982, at Prescott peninsula in New Salem. Some indication of this can be found in the fact that Amanda's Saturday morning post on the local online forum about her eagle sighting was quickly responded to by five other Springfield folks who had also spotted eagles in the area recently. Not unusual in the Ware or Franklin County, etc. online forums perhaps, but Springfield is the third largest city in Massachusetts, and to draw a hunting eagle (or likely, more than one) speaks of the bird's local numbers. The eagle re-introduction program ended in 1988, a total of 41 chicks from Michigan and Nova Scotia having been released into their new domain, the beautiful hills and valleys and sparkling waters of the Bay State.

I personally have been fortunate to have seen many eagles, both Bald and Golden, mostly in the Quabbin area of western-Central Massachusetts, where it seems like if you sit still long enough, one is bound to glide over. The most memorable (and meaningful) sighting I can recall is also the closest I've come to a wild Bald Eagle. So close, in fact, I thought it might hit my car as it swooped low in front of me while I zoomed up I-91 North during a family crisis that had set my nerves on edge. Something about that eagle coming out of nowhere, passing me like a beautiful omen with it's crisp contrast, the bright, white head a crown befitting it's regal and transcendent beauty, calmed my spirit. I was able to relax. When I got to my destination, I found my fears had been overblown. Everything was going to be alright. Not every bird gives us a 'feeling,' or summons an emotion within: Eagles do.

For more eagle information, the Massachusetts Audubon Society web site has a great page titled, 'Eagles in Massachusetts.' A couple of other resources are WGBY's web page 'A Natural Focus: Bald Eagles,' and FirstLight Power's 'Eagles Online,' a web site that hosts the 'Eagle Cam' on Barton's Island in Franklin County. Unfortunately, the Eagle Cam seems to be inoperable for the time being.

Exploring Western Massachusetts would like to thank Amanda Hendrix for sharing her awesome eagle photograph with us here. We certainly appreciate it! Thank you.

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

In this excerpt, we continue chapter one of 'Springfield Present and Prospective,' published in 1905 by Pond & Campbell, 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be.' This is part two, 'What the River Asks and Gives,' of section three, 'Looking Forward,' written by Eugene C. Gardner.

Continued from: 'IV. Looking Forward, Part 1. Bedrock'

IV. Looking Forward

2. What the River Asks and Gives

If an earthquake should suddenly convert Enfield dam into a second Mount Tom, reaching from Wilbraham mountains to Blandford, the river at Springfield might possibly appear to be lost in an inland sea; but barring such an interesting cataclysm it will be safe to predict that the river will always be one of our permanent assets, as it always has been our most attractive physical feature. Whatever happens to our railroads, our streets, our merchandise and our morals, the river will never cease to run through the city. It is ours to cross, ours to embellish, ours to cleanse and navigate.

As to the crossing, the days for temporizing are over. We are too rich and too wise to build bridges that must be removed, re-built, or strengthened and enlarged during the next one or two centuries. Bridges over large streams should be among the most permanent of all artificial constructions. Established thoroughfares are supremely conservative institutions. The Appian Way, which has existed for two thousand years and more, the Bay Path, and a thousand more, indicate that nothing is more tenacious of life than a public highway. When these great viaducts, in sublime defiance of Nature's primeval arrangements, turn water into dry land, paradoxically closing a gap in the surface of the earth that never can be closed, their construction becomes a performance worthy of solemn consecration, and the thing itself a fit object for pious adoration.

In most emphatic terms, a noble bridge declares the courage and skill of its builders, and there is no grander illustration of the beauty of utility than a bridge of scientific construction and scholarly design. In no other artificial construction is there so little occasion for questionable compromise between grace and convenience, between economy and strength, between daily drudgery and perennial delight. Is it likely that Springfield will neglect an opportunity that has been a century in coming? Is it likely that the county, of which Springfield is the capital, will fail to recognize the benefit sure to follow the closer union and more intimate relationship of the parts of which the county is composed?

To say that a bridge should be built across the Connecticut river in this city in the form of a broad avenue, uniting the east and west shores as closely as Main street unites State to the streets and avenues a thousand feet to the north and south, is not a fantastic speculation, a day dream - it is the plainest common sense of the equine variety. To propose anything inadequate in breadth and strength for the multitudinous traffic sure to occupy it twenty-five years hence - fifty years - a century, - is to forget the lesson of the North-end bridge and waste the public funds by temporizing. To affirm that dignity and stateliness, graceful proportions and beauty of detail are necessarily more difficult to attain than their opposites, is to betray disqualifying ignorance. Certainly the river is ours to cross. It is also ours to cleanse and embellish.

If Adam and Eve had been left in their original state of innocence and happiness, nobody appears to know exactly what would have happened to the rest of us, miserable sinners that we are - in nothing more miserable than in our occasionally graceless fashion of introducing modern improvements, and setting up the standards of half-civilized civilization on the ruins of semi-barbarous barbarism. In spoiling the heathen we have too often spoiled our own heritage. 'Squire Pynchon and Deacon Chapin, of blessed memory, found the water of the great river as sweet and clean as that of the streams that fed and feed it still - Jabish brook and Little river, the branches of the Westfield, Ware and Chicopee. Could it possibly have occurred to those shrewd and far-seeing pioneers that their enlightened descendants in this adorable valley would be obliged to spend, for drinking water alone, money enough to have bought the whole of the royal grant from Nova Scotia to New Amsterdam, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, all on account of their own short-sighted perversity? Those pioneers may be pardoned for thinking - if they thought of it at all - that the broad, flowing river would no more be damaged by the impurities that escaped from their scattered settlements than is the sea by the wrecks that are rotting in its depths. We know better. We know that we have deliberately and selfishly polluted the noble stream; that its impurity is increasing every year; that it will go on increasing until in sheer self-preservation we shall begin the reform that ought to have been begun a generation ago, and which will cost more and more every year it is delayed. To cure the evil immediately would be as impossible as to eradicate catarrhal ragweed and malarial mosquitoes in a single season; but that fact does not exonerate us if we leave it unchecked. It does not justify us in bequeathing an unclean legacy to our unborn heirs.

Neither is this an idle speculation. In many cities of our own and other countries, sewage and rivers are not invited to occupy the same bed to the utter waste of one and the hopeless ruin of the other, and so long as we continue this offensive habit we deserve to be written down as among those who strain at gnats and swallow camels.

Cleansing naturally precedes embellishment; but if each waits for the other in this case, it is to be feared that we shall remain ragged and dirty for many years. We leave the river in its filth because the banks are filthy; we leave the leprosy of the banks undisturbed because the river is unclean. Under wise business management the salvation of neither would wait for the other.

The reclamation and embellishment of the river bank will not require its exclusive use for park purposes; quite the contrary. Its embellishment should be like that of a dining-table when it is loaded with an abundance of wholesome food; of a workshop decorated with the finest tools and machinery; of a fertile farm ornamented by flocks and herds and bountiful crops. The most beautiful effects will not be produced by treating the banks as ornamental pleasure grounds. The city can not afford such an occupation, nor would it be suitable for land so central and valuable for commercial purposes. We may have plenty of serpents, but it would cost too much to make a Garden of Eden between Main street and the river. Court square and its proper treatment will be a sufficiently expensive luxury in the business section. There is plenty of room for riparian parks between Springfield and Holyoke, between Springfield and Thompsonville. This land is also too valuable for railroad uses, for steam railroads not only spoil all the land they occupy, but they depreciate the value of property for a considerable distance on either side.

Doubtless this happy marriage of use and beauty would mean, except where wharves are necessary, an esplanade with the open river on one side and business buildings fronting it on the other. The expense of constructing heavy buildings at water's edge would be great, but a protected embankment suitable for walks and drives would be simple, affording ample opportunity for decorative features next the water without loss of room valuable for building.

Inseparably connected with the development of the river bank is the question of navigation. In navigation itself, rocks are objectionable, but they make good standing ground in forecasting the future of this subject. Among these bed rocks is the stubborn fact that heavy freight can be more economically transported by floating it in water than by any known contrivance of wheels on land, or wings in the air. Another fact is well established: commercial science abhors waste as Nature abhors a vacuum. Therefore when it can be shown that moving the freight, taken to and from Holyoke and Springfield, by water instead of land will effect an annual saving equal to a profitable percentage on the cost of making the river navigable for steam or other tugs and their trailing lines of barges, then the river will be made navigable to Springfield and Holyoke. Business common sense will not long neglect so plain an opportunity to save and make money, which is just as much a duty - provided it is done honestly - as eating. So in our treatment of the river and its banks, we must anticipate wharves on both sides with suitable approaches and conveniences for the attendant work. They may not come this year, nor this decade, or generation, but we can not help thinking they are sure to come. "The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small," and they keep on grinding.
Next week: 'IV. Looking Forward, Part 3. Other Goals to be Gained.'

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Postcards: Westfield River

The Westfield river has been a source of power and life in the Valley since the first inhabitants fished its waters for sustenance and used its path for travel. Follow the major route through Westfield, Route 20, and you find yourself accompanied by the river for most of the journey, nature always discovering the path of least resistance long before man does.

The river has not always been a sympathetic geographical feature in Westfield. Major floods in 1938 and 1955 caused widespread devastation and heartache. My grandfather, Fred Alamed, used his fishing boat to rescue folks on the North-side of town, trapped by the rising waters of the river, fed by the raging Arm and Powdermill Brooks.

Although the Flood of 1938 was undoubtedly the harsher of the two, both events prompted Westfield and other area towns to take steps to alleviate the possibility of future flooding by constructing, dikes, dams and pumping stations throughout the Connecticut River Basin. The 1955 flood led to the creation of a city Flood Control Commission, established in Westfield on December 1, 1960. The Commission meets at City Hall on the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. The Commission's page at the City of Westfield's web site is very well-done, with some amazing photos of Westfield during the two floods.

Most folks associate river flooding in New England with Spring rain and snow melt, but the floods of '38 and '55 occurred in the autumn of the year, a result of hurricanes and heavy downpours. The United States Geological Survey offers an interesting summary of Massachusetts floods and droughts at its web site, complete with graphs and chronology.

Despite nature's refusal to wear the bridle of man, public works projects and private efforts, (such as those by the Westfield River Watershed Association), inject man's hopeful partnership, insofar as it can be effective, into her hydraulic proclivities.

The postcards below, donated by reader/contributor Barbara Shaffer (thank you!), show the river before any major flood-control projects were undertaken, other than some relatively ineffectual earthen dikes built before 1869.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Poem: 'To The Connecticut River'

Mount Tom (c. 1865)
Thomas Charles Farrer (1839-1881)

To the Connecticut River

From that lone lake, the sweetest of the chain
That links the mountain to the mighty main,
Fresh from the rock and swelling by the tree,
Rushing to meet and dare and breast the sea -
Fair, noble and glorious river! In thy wave
The sunniest slopes and sweetest pastures lave;
The mountain torrent, with its wintery roar
Springs from its home and leaps upon thy shore: -
The promontories love thee - and for this
Turn their rough cheeks and stay thee for thy kiss.

The young oak greets thee at the water's edge,
Wet by the wave, though anchored in the ledge.
- 'Tis there the otter dives, the beaver feeds,
Where pensive oziers dip their willowy weeds,
And there the wild cat purrs amid her brood,
And trains them in the sylvan solitude,
To watch the squirrel's leap, or mark the mink
Paddling the water by the quiet brink; -
Or to out-gaze the gray owl in the dark,
Or hear the young fox practising to bark.

Thou dost not stay, when Winter's coldest breath
Howls through the woods and sweeps along the heath -
One mighty sigh relieves thy icy breast,
And wakes thee from the calmness of they rest.
Down sweeps the torrent ice - it may not stay
By rock or bridge, in narrow or in bay -
Swift, swifter to the heaving sea it goes,
And leaves thee dimpling in they sweet repose.
Yet as the unharmed swallow skims his way,
And lightly drops his pinion in thy spray,
So the swift sail shall seek they inland seas,
And swell and whiten in thy purer breeze,
New paddles dip thy waters, and strange oars
Feather thy waves and touch thy noble shores.

- Brainard (1797 - 1828)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Commerce & Industry: The Kibbe Candy Kids (1910)

In 1908, the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) hired photographer Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940) to document child labor practices in the United States. Hine spent several years capturing children on film engaging in a variety of tasks, including farm, factory and mill work. Hine even recorded images of child vaudeville performers. Hine spent time in Western Massachusetts while working on the project, taking photographs of barefoot children selling newspapers on the street in Northampton, youthful mill workers in the Berkshires, and candy factory workers in Springfield, as seen in the photographs below. Hine's photographs were instrumental in illuminating the widespread use of children in the workplace in the country in the early part of the 20th century, and helped lead to the adoption of national child labor laws.

Photograph captions are from the NCLC caption cards.

"Entrance to Kibbe's Factory. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Kibbe's Candy Factory. Joseph Giordano, Freddie Reed, Willard Leavenworth. Some of the smallest youngsters at Kibbe's. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Kibbe's Candy Factory. Joseph Giordano 14 years, Feeding Hills, Mass. Had just received his work certificate and left school. Tended a chocolate machine at $3.50. This was as small a boy as any at Kibbe's. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Kibbe's Candy Factory. Freddie Reed, 14 years, Hayden St., been working a few months. Left school this year as soon as he reached the legal work age. Is earning $ 4.00. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Kibbe's Candy Factory. Ryme Sylvester 15 years, 68 Clinton St. Runs chocolate spreader. Earns $ 4.00. Been at it one year. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Chocolate machine operator - Kibbe's Factory. Earl Roberts, 15 years. Has worked four months. Earns $ 4.00. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Kibbe's Candy Factory. Francis Clancey, 14 years, Walter St., Brightwood. Left school a few weeks ago to work at Kibbe's. Earns $3.50. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

"Kibbe's Candy Factory. Freddie Reed, Jos. Giordano, Willard Leavenworth, Francis Clancy. Location: Springfield, Massachusetts." (c. October 1910)

For more photographs by Lewis W. Hine of child laborers in Western Massachusetts, check out the EWM post: The Tired Faces of Children: Industrial-Strength Photographs by Lewis W. Hine

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

Photographs from: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Records of National Child Labor Committee, Lewis Hine, photographer.
Photo 1: Digital ID: nclc 04608, Photo 2: Digital ID: nclc 04604, Photo 3: Digital ID: nclc 04603, Photo 4: Digital ID: nclc 04600, Photo 5: Digital ID: nclc 04609, Photo 6: Digital ID: nclc 04599, Photo 7: Digital ID: nclc 04602, Photo 8: Digital ID: nclc 04605

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

This segment begins the first section, titled 'Bed Rock,' of part IV, 'Looking Forward,' from chapter one of the book, 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell 1905), 'The Visible Charm, As It Was, Is, and May Be,' authored by Eugene C. Gardner.

Continued from: 'III. Architectural Garments, Part 3. Churches, Monuments and Chimneys.'

IV. Looking Forward

1. Bed Rock
In this age of science and certainty one takes large risks who ventures any other vaticination than cautious reasoning from cause to effect. "Don't never prophesy unless you know" is excellent advice, yet every man whose mind is not comatose will sometimes yield to temptation and try to describe his air castles, not always providing for them a visible means of support.
Already Springfield has a foundation whereon to rear the temple of a goodly city whose extent and abiding wealth will be limited only by the intelligence, industry and unity of its citizens. Let intelligence stand first. He would be a poor student of history and human nature who failed to see that the nobler qualities that raise one community above another are intimately related to physical beauty and the cultivated appreciation of it; who does not know that if our material work gives lasting pleasure it is because of its being the expression of high intellectual and moral qualities which it, in turn, develops and sustains. We can not be too often or too forcibly reminded that it is a crime to inflict upon a city any conspicuous work that does not embody the highest skill at our command.
Every man's house is his castle, and in the absence of a king he is at liberty to make it as appallingly ugly as he pleases - provided he has no aesthetic consciousness, or conscience, - but everything for which the city is responsible - and its responsibility should be largely extended - ought to be of such a character as to excite the admiration and respect of the intelligent citizens who help pay for it and of succeeding generations who must gaze on it indefinitely, or pay for its destruction. Surely this will require intelligence of the highest order in public officials. But the fountain does not rise higher than its source, and we cannot expect our representatives to hold loftier ideals than our own.

After intelligence there must be industry in its broadest sense; that is enterprise, public spirit, executive ability. Whether hands or heads are given the highest place, either without the other is a one-armed soldier. We may chase the devil around the stump in an endless argument only to reach the same conclusion, which is that tireless enterprise and dauntless valor are wasted unless wisdom stands at the helm; and, conversely, that the highest intelligence is like the wind that bloweth where it listeth until it has taken form in doughty deeds.

What organization is to an army, a pilot to a ship on a rock-bound coast, a goal to a race, unity of purpose is in the effort to improve a city. This implies a well-considered, generally-approved, comprehensive plan, far-reaching, disinterested as to localities, and at the same time elastic and adaptable. Without this, chaos and confusion, aesthetically speaking, will persist to the end; Springfield will not surpass but fall behind other cities, and really noble results can be reached only at long intervals and by costly sacrifice. The one great overwhelming idea of the present age, the chief outcome of all that has been accomplished in the way of human civilization since the world began, is the unity of mankind and its corollary, the obligation and necessity for concerted action. This appears in all affairs, large and small. In families, in business and educational organizations, in municipalities and in nations. We can not afford to elevate one corner of the edifice and leave the others to sink in the quicksand; no class must be lifted at the expense of another; no portion of a city be raised to the summit of luxury while the slums are still gasping in the depths of filth and unsanitary degradation.
Next week: 'IV. Looking Forward, Part 2. What the River Asks and Gives.'

Complete chapters of 'Springfield Present and Prospective':
Chapter 7: 'The Story of Springfield,' by Alfred M. Copeland and Edwin Dwight (includes book title page)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Sacred Heart Church Revisited

Ask and ye shall receive...

I drive by Sacred Heart Church on Chestnut Street in Springfield on my way to work every day. Interstate 291 in that area gets tricky, the crossover to the Armory Street exit - which is the one I want - a daily dare of death-defying driving. Yet, I never pass the towering and magnificent, aptly-crowned structure without taking a look. 'Tis a satisfying gaze, this rock of hope, steadfast and true, beckoning like a stepping-stone to greatness. Proof that man can rise above.

Last month, I happened to be in the area of the church for appointments (how come many of the new people you meet as you get older seem to be doctors?), and noticed the cross from the south peak had been removed temporarily as part of renovations to the church roof. It was odd, but neat, to see the heavy stone cross at ground-level. I made it a point to stop on my way home to take some photos. I wondered how long it had been since the cross had been so accessible, the last time folks could walk up and look at it close-up, the simple carving no less humbling to a believing soul whether at fingertip's reach or eye's far-focus.

I featured some of those photos here on EWM in a post of March 12, 'Sacred Heart Church Gets a New Roof,' captioned with my corny, but captivating, commentary. Due to time constraints, I wasn't able to do much research on the history of Sacred Heart Parish or Church, and it wasn't until my follow-up post of March 28, 'Sacred Heart Church Gets a New Roof Redux,' and a query from a regular reader and sometime contributor, that I was prompted to look further into this majestic treasure of Springfield, a source of pride to the community, parishioner and non-parishioner alike.

I was a bit surprised to find that the parish doesn't have a website. What a sign of the times that is: It's one thing to imagine the world accessible at the click of a mouse, it's entirely another to begin to expect it. Disappointment in a fruitless Google search is a symptom of change.

I resorted to snail-mail, and was extremely pleased to receive a quick response which included some excellent information, especially a concise historical summary of the parish and church, titled, 'Sacred Heart Church: A Magnet to the Eye, A Signal to the Spirit.' I wish whoever had sent the materials had included their name, because they certainly have been very helpful. I guess I will just thank the entire parish, after all, they are the ones who support the work of the church, the anchor of the North End for well over 100 years.

I was a little amused with myself when I noticed that on the first page of the history was a quote from the book 'Springfield Present and Prospective' (Pond & Campbell, 1905), the book I am currently transcribing here at EWM as part of the regular Sunday history transcription series. Had I consulted the book, I would have found two pages dedicated to a brief description of Sacred Heart Parish and its history up to the farewell turn of the 19th century. Another reminder that I'm not the sharpest tack in the bulletin board. Alas, those reminders seem to come more frequently with the passing of the days.

Most of the following information is gleaned from the two aforementioned sources.

The Gothic Revival-style church is actually the second home of Sacred Heart Parish, the third if you consider that, in 1872, Sacred Heart Parish was spun off from St. Michael's Parish, the city's oldest, established in 1861, which, up until that time, had been the sole parish serving an ever-growing population of Roman Catholics in Springfield. The land for the city's second parish, at the corner of Linden (now Stafford) and Chestnut Streets, was purchased in 1869 by Boston Bishop John Williams. As pointed out in the history, 'A Magnet to the Eye, A Signal to the Spirit,' this makes Sacred Heart Parish older than the Diocese of Springfield itself, which was established in July, 1870, by Pope Pius IX. Rev. Patrick T. O'Reilly enjoyed the distinction of being named first Bishop of Springfield, and it is remembered that he served with great devotion and kindness for his congregation from the time of his consecration in St. Michael's Cathedral on September 25, 1870, until his passing on May 28, 1892. On the day of Bishop O'Reilly's funeral, June 1, 1892, Springfield's mayor, Lawson Sibley, requested that city businesses remain closed as a sign of respect for the beloved clergyman.

The design and purpose of the original structure for the new parish was decided at an 1872 meeting between Bishop O'Reilly and North End Catholics, the majority of them Irish immigrants, who were the foundation of Sacred Heart Parish. Desiring a Catholic school, as well as a place to worship, the parishioners opted to build a tri-level, multi-use structure with their limited funds, rather than pouring all of their resources into a singularly-functioning church, the two choices having been presented to them by Bishop O'Reilly. James Murphy, of Providence, Rhode Island, was chosen as the architect of the parish building. The final design agreed upon consisted of room for 1,200 worshippers on the building's ground-level, with the Catholic school, the first in the city, occupying the second floor. The third-floor was set aside for social functions and was known as 'convent hall,' and the basement was utilized as a home for various church organizations.

The cornerstone for the first Sacred Heart Parish building was laid, fittingly so, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1873. Although the church was still years away from completion, Father James J. McDermott, chosen to shepherd the new parish, celebrated the first Mass at Sacred Heart on Easter Sunday, 1874.

In 1877, the school opened, admittance to which was restricted to girls because of a lack of classroom space. A girls' high school was carved out of part of the third floor in 1881. The school went co-ed in 1908. Sacred Heart High School and Holy Name High School in Chicopee were combined in 1969 and renamed Notre Dame High School. The high school closed seven years later, in 1976.

The $40,000 price of construction of the parish building was raised through donations, parish fundraisers and a loan, which was satisfied in 1888. Sixteen years after the original unmistakably utilitarian Parish building was conceived, Father McDermott and his growing flock again called upon architect James Murphy, this time to build them the soaring and spectacular sandstone testament of spirituality and faith we see today. A towering monument with a historical footprint and palpable neighborhood presence, standing now for over a century as a silent sentinel of Sacred Heart Parish's devotion.

The Gothic monolith, 194 feet long, 67 feet high and built of East Longmeadow brownstone, took five years to build. The church's cornerstone was laid and dedicated at an October 21, 1888, ceremony attended by 10,000 people and presided over by Bishop O'Reilly and Father McDermott. Unfortunately, and (presumably) unbeknownst to them at the time, the Bishop and good Father would not be present at the church's consecration. The Mass consecrating the Parish's new home was celebrated on October 18, 1896, by Bishop Thomas D. Beaven and Father Thomas Smyth, the replacements for the two earlier officiating clergymen, who had both passed-on before the second incarnation of Sacred Heart Church was completed.

Father McDermott was the driving force behind the construction of the new church, and had eventually become ill as a result of his over-exertions. On July 26, 1891, Father McDermott died in Paris, France, having left Springfield in May for rest and relaxation in Europe. His body was returned to his flock for burial. Father McDermott's funeral Mass was held on August 11, 1891, amidst the scaffolding and pillars of the unfinished church, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination into the service of the Roman Catholic priesthood. The sad Mass was the first ever held in the church, with Bishop O'Reilly pontificating over the service for his brother pioneering Springfield clergyman.

Father Smyth, who had come to Sacred Heart Parish from St. Mary's in Westfield - my family's home parish - continued Father McDermott's work as overseer of the church's construction, which was completed in 1896, as mentioned before, at a cost of $100,000. Father Smyth served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish for almost forty years, from 1891 to 1928. He was nearly eighty years old by the end of his ministry, having entered this world on Christmas day in Ireland, 1848.

Because of unanticipated budget constraints, the spires which were planned for the two church towers, a 114 foot tall one on the 134 foot high south tower, which houses the church's carillion, and a 79 foot tall one on the 67 foot high north tower, were scratched from the plans, their construction put off for a future date, when funds became available. Imagining spires of that height atop the two already-giant towers is difficult, the smaller tower embellished as such gaining more than double its height, and the taller tower on the corner of Stafford and Chestnut Streets nearly that itself. As it is, chances are good that the parish will be satisfied for many years to come with the superb copper crowns added fairly recently to each tower, embellishments lending a distinctive look and a finishing touch. The crowns' peaks are adorned with Celtic crosses, mirroring those found in the church below. Designed by Springfield architect Stephen Jablonski, the crowns, or "pinnacles," were installed in May, 1999, by Springfield Steel Erectors. When the new copper "pinnacles" were first installed, many folks grumbled about the change in the church's profile, most notably that the new additions were too bright and shiny for the Medieval-looking church. Architect Jablonski, in a Union-News article, was convinced that once the copper aged, and developed its natural patina, the crowns would "look fabulous." He was right.

The addition of the crowns demonstrates Sacred Heart Parish's commitment toward growth and renewal throughout the years. The parish not only faithfully, and without reserve, maintains its property and place of worship, they improve the buildings they know and nurture as the congregation's spiritual home. From a half a million dollar interior renovation in 1992, to the $30,000 purchase and installation of the sixty ton Italian marble altar in 1951, Sacred Heart Parishioners have spared no expense or sacrifice in the maintenance and beautification of the awe-inspiring material expression of their faith embodied in stone. Easily apparent is a communal aesthetic inclination and sense of pride and duty of the parish to the image projected to whomever may pass, all eyes inevitably drawn to the structure as to fine art...even if they do happen to be doing sixty miles an hour on the interstate while trying to cross two incoming lanes to make it to their exit ramp in chaotic rush-hour traffic at the time.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.