Saturday, January 4, 2014

Massachusetts; A Guide To Its Places and People - Springfield - Foot Tour #4

American Guide Series - Illustrated
The Colony Club

"Retrace on Court Square; R. from Court Square Green into Main St.; L. from Main St. into State St.; R. from State St. into Maple St." 

"4. The Colony Club, 50 Maple St., is the former home of the late D. B. Wesson, manufacturer of firearms. The walls are of pink Milford granite; the interior is finished in woods of native and tropical origin, variegated marbles, and satin wall coverings." 

Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts; A Guide To Its Places and People (Kindle Locations 9226-9229).
Boston, Houghton Mifflin company. Page 362-3, Published 1937

Baystate Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice
(Original Location)
GPS: N42° 06.174; W072° 34.973 

 (New Location)
GPS: N42° 06.058; W072° 35.544

Quick Description: 

The Colony Club was destroyed by fire on February 19, 1966. The original site is now occupied by the Baystate Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice.

Long Description:

In 1889, George W. Tapley sold the real estate later known as 50 Maple Street in Springfield for $35,000 to Daniel B. Wesson, one of the founders of the firearms manufacturing firm of Smith & Wesson, purchase the property at 50 Maple Street from George W. Tapley for $35,000. Wesson began the construction of a French Chateau inspired mansion in 1892, which was completd in 1898 at a cost of $200,000.

Both Wesson and his wife died in 1906 and the property was later  purchased by the social club called the Colony Club, which was formed in 1915. The Colony Club occupied the building from 1915 until February 19, 1966, when the building was destroyed by fire. The Colony Club had entertained such distinguished guests as Presidents Taft, Roosevelt, and Hoover, and Congressman John F. Kennedy. among others.

The Colony Club then rented space on the third floor of 110 Maple Street. The land at 50 Maple Street was taken by eminent domain by the City of Springfield and the Colony Club moved to it's present  location at Tower Square, 1500 Main Street, in March, 1973.

Introduction to Springfield, MA from:
Massachusetts; A Guide To Its Places and People

SPRINGFIELD The Metropolis of Western Massachusetts City: Alt. 69, pop. 149,642, sett. 1636, incorp. town 1641, city 1852. Railroad Station: Union Station, Lyman & Liberty Sts., for N.Y., N.H. & H. R.R., B. & M. R.R., and B. & A. R.R. Accommodations: Seven hotels. Information: Chamber of Commerce, 134 Chestnut St.; Automobile Club, 140 Chestnut St.; A.L.A., 1387 Main St.

SPRINGFIELD, the metropolis of western Massachusetts, lies on the east bank of the Connecticut River, holding a strategic position in the traffic of the New England states with New York and the West. Its situation on a series of terraces and in gently rolling country produces an effect of spacious leisure, and imposing architecture and tree-shaded lawns, parks, and boulevards give it an atmosphere of dignity, substance, and comfort. Its diversified industries, superior transportation facilities, large merchandising establishments, and fine residential sections make it an important center of industry, commerce, and finance; and its notable interest in music and the other arts make it an outstanding cultural center.

In 1636 a dozen families made their way to the inviting valley where the Agawam River joins the Connecticut. Their livestock inflicted so much damage on the cornfields of the Indians that they were forced to abandon the settlement. They moved on across the Connecticut River, to a barren terrain demanding heart-breaking labor and promising little reward for toil.

Fortunately, the leader of the group was stout-hearted William Pynchon. With such vigor did he build up the new settlement that even after a board had been elected determination of program and policy was left in his hands. His leadership was not questioned until 1650, when he published a theological work. The Puritan Fathers detected in the book germs of heresy. To protect the community from infection they administered the antitoxin of denunciation. The services of Pynchon were soon forgotten; he was badgered on all sides, and finally returned to England. His son, John, remained and assumed the management of the town.

In the next year the Springfield community indulged in a witch hunt — a sport more exciting than the battle against heresy. Hugh Parsons was a dyspeptic, of choleric disposition which had not endeared him to his neighbors. His wife was subject to periodic fits, probably epileptic. But such an explanation of their eccentricities was too simple, and the savants of the occult brought charges of witchcraft against the couple. Not a few good people were disappointed when the court acquitted the pair.

Twenty peaceful and constructive years followed. In 1675, however, King Philip declared war on the Colony, and Springfield did not escape. The town was almost totally burned. The townspeople pushed reconstruction, building on a larger scale. Early in the eighteenth century the citizens of Springfield made the river a capital asset. They erected sawmills and gristmills and took their first step away from a complete agricultural economy. The large clay deposits were utilized in the manufacture of brick. Acute financial depression resulted from the Revolutionary War; farmer and mill-owner were bogged in a morass of debt. Thousands banded themselves together under Daniel Shays, and for six months tramped up and down western Massachusetts in an attempt to prevent the convening of the courts and the entering of judgments against debtors. Although their cause won numerous sympathizers, it failed. Springfield became Shays's Waterloo when an attempt to capture the United States Arsenal was frustrated.

The manufacture of metal goods was given an impetus in 1794 by the passage of a bill in Congress establishing the United States Armory at Springfield. The advent of the railroad, about 1835, stimulated business. At that time the town already had seventy-three mechanic shops, six cotton mills, four printing offices, thirteen warehouses, two card factories, two forges, one rifle factory, one powder mill, six sawmills, four grist mills, three tanneries, two jewelers' tool factories, one sword factory, and one spool factory.

Developments in the manufacture of textiles brought French-Canadians, English, and Scots. Skilled artisans of all races were attracted by the openings in the machine shops. Irish, Italian, Swedish, and German labor was plentiful. Long hours and meager wages were the lot of those whose labor enriched the town. But aside from the general agitation that accompanied the crisis of 1830, there was no real organization of labor until after the Civil War.

The year 1824 marked the founding of the Springfield Republican by Samuel Bowles. The excellent style of this journal, under the editorship of Dr. J. G. Holland, and the liberal philosophy of its editorials, made the paper almost a national institution. The first newspaper in Springfield, however, was the Massachusetts Gazette and General Advertiser, published in 1782, which failed to survive, posting this notice: 'Those gentlemen who engaged for their papers in grain are once more requested to make immediate payment, as the printers are in much want of that article.' Other papers published during this period were the Hampshire Chronicle, the Hampshire Herald, and the Federal Spy.

In 1847 John Brown of Akron opened the warehouse of Brown and Perkins, wool merchants. The business enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity, but John Brown was absent from business the greater part of the time, his real enthusiasm being centered in the Abolitionist movement. Said Emerson,' If he kept sheep, it was with a royal mind. And if he traded in wool, he was a merchant prince, not in the amount of wealth, but in the protection of the interests confided to him.' He organized the United States League of Gileadites, which assisted fugitive slaves to escape.

Shortly after his arrival in Springfield, John Brown was visited by Frederick Douglass, Negro orator and scholar, who found him living in a cottage near the shacks occupied by Negroes. ' Plain as was the house on the outside,' wrote Douglass, ' the inside was plainer. Its furniture would have satisfied a Spartan. There was an element of plainness about it which almost suggested destitution.... The meal was such as a man might relish after following the plow all day, or performing a forced march of a dozen miles over a rough road in frosty weather.' John Brown lived in Springfield for two years, and during this time hundreds of runaway slaves were harbored in the town, then were passed along to the next station of the Underground Railway.

The termination of the war once more allowed the free flow of commerce. An expanding market aided in Springfield's prosperity. Factories were rebuilt and enlarged, the population swelled. Simultaneously labor took its first organized steps toward improving working and living conditions. Following the example of the horse-car drivers, who in 1861 had established a benevolent association, which was forced by a threatened wage reduction to transform itself into a trade union, workers in many industries began to wage a united battle for the eight-hour day. In 1864 cigar-makers, stonecutters, pianoforte-makers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and tailors were organized to secure higher wages and shorter hours. The Massachusetts Legislature investigated the possibilities of regulating and limiting hours of labor, and eventually the eight-hour day became a reality. In the later i88o's all the trade unions in the city participated in the formation of the Central Labor Union. To Bishop N. Saltus, first president of this federation, belongs a chief share of the credit for its vigorous development.

Since 1890, such large industries have been established as the Van Norman Tool and Machine Company, the United States Envelope Company, the Fiberloid Company, the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, and the Milton Bradley Company, makers of toys, games, and school supplies. Motorcycles have been manufactured here since the beginning of the century. On the West Springfield side of the river numerous industries have located. The Gilbert and Barker Company makes gasoline pumps and oil-burners. Matches, packaging machinery, radios, magnetos, hot-water heaters, air-conditioning equipment, and forgings are also manufactured here.

Between 1910 and 1920 the population increased 117 per cent. Of the present residents of Springfield, about one-fourth are foreign-born. The largest racial group is the Irish, which numbers nearly 6000. The Italians follow with about 4500, Russians with 3800, French-Canadians with 3700, and Poles with 2400. Scotland, England, Sweden, and Germany each contribute about 1000 to the foreign-born population. The high percentage of skilled workers among the population has been a strong influence in the social and political life of the city. The general housing situation, for example, is considerably better in Springfield than in most industrial cities of its size. The civic life is heightened by the social clubs, singing societies, and physical culture centers of the various racial groups.

A flood in 1927 caused considerable loss when the Connecticut River overflowed its banks; but it can hardly be compared to the catastrophe of 1936, when the worst flood in the history of New England inflicted untold suffering on Springfield and caused property losses amounting to millions of dollars. Only efficient organization, prompt action, and many deeds of heroism prevented wholesale loss of human life.

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