On the corner of Main and Elm Streets (along the on the southeast corner of Court Square) in Springfield stands the imposing Chicopee Bank building, built in 1888-1889. Designed by the local architect, F.S. Newman, in the Romanesque Revival style, the building’s corner entry below a three-story oriel window with turret is a dramatic architectural statement. In the seventeenth century, the land where the bank would be built was the home lot of John Woodcock and then of Francis Ball. According to Springfield Present and Prospective (1905), the Chicopee Bank was started “twenty-two years after the Springfield bank, by the class of small traders and mechanics whose needs were looked upon with some disdain by the aristocracy of the old bank, whose funds were all absorbed in carrying the great manufacturing enterprises of the time.” It became the Chicopee National Bank in 1865. The Old Chicopee Bank building, built in 1835, occupied the site before being replaced its red brick and brownstone successor. The frontage of the first floor shops has been altered in recent times.
Elijah Blake was the chief engineer of Springfield’s fire department and also held many local offices and served in the state legislature. His 1839 cottage style house has an interesting front porch, made of tin and designed to resemble a tent with bamboo supports. The house was purchased by the Springfield Library Association (now the Library and Museums Association) in 1890. It originally stood on State Street, was moved in 1892 to the rear of its lot to make room for the construction of the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, was moved again in 1898 for the construction of the Museum of Natural History, and yet again to its current location on Edwards Street in 1996. It has served various purposes for the Association and currently houses the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum‘s administrative offices. Before building his house in 1839, Elijah Blake had lived in a gambrel roofed house, built around 1760, on State Street, later moved to Dwight Street.
The Byers block, on Elm Street off Court Square in Springfield, is the city’s earliest surviving commercial block. Built by Simon Sanborn for James Byers, it is a three story building, transitional in style between the Federal and Greek Revival. It is typical of early nineteenth century commercial buildings that had shops on the first floor with residential space above. A 1903 article, which originally appeared in the Springfield Republican, celebrated the Byers block as a “famous little building” that “has afforded offices for many prominent men,” including lawyers and politicians, and for “being the home of some of the city’s most successful business enterprises.” The prominent men included Gideon Welles, Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy, George Ashmun, a lawyer and statesman who gave the speech nominating Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and George Bancroft, the historian and statesman. The building is now part of the Court Square Redevelopment Project.
The first Puritan settlers arrived in Springfield from Roxbury in 1636 and organized their church congregation in 1637, with George Moxon as their first minister. The first meetinghouse was built on the southeast corner of Court Square in 1645. It had a shingled roof and two turrets, one used for a bell and the other to guard against attacks by Indians. The second meeting house replaced the first in 1677. The third church building, built in 1752, had a steeple with a clock and a Rooster weathervane, one of three shipped to the colonies in 1750 (the other two went to First Church in Newburyport and South Church in Boston). The weathervane continued to be used on the fourth church building, built in 1819. The church’s most recent organ, built in 1958, was restored in 1997. The First Congregational Church continued to be used for services until the end of 2007, when declining membership led to the closure of the church and the disbanding of the congregation. In March, the city purchased the church, weathervane and organ, but many were concerned when the congregation auctioned off a number of historic items in April. The congregation eventually repurchased the valuable items and donated them to the Springfield Museums Association.