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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • LAKE GARDA, ITALY

Springfield: 1905

Springfield: 1905

"Main Street, Springfield, Massachusetts, circa 1905." Detroit Publishing Company 8x10 inch glass negative. Library of Congress. View full size.

 

Ottoman standard

The Fuller Block has an Ottoman military crescent moon standard at its top. Does anyone know the history of that?

Hotel Worthy in the 50s

I was born in Springfield & spent my childhood there. The Hotel Worthy has a place in my heart as the site of "The Accordion Mart" run by a family named Kuznierz on the second floor of the old Hotel. Took lessons there for a couple of years, you haven't heard the Din of Hell until you've heard 30 kids playing accordions next to a stairwell in a space paved with marble & ceramic tile all around. Just up off Stearns Square was the Breck Building -- at the age of 11, I dragged my box up Worthington past the Breck to a bus stop, headed up State Street for Pine Point.

Re: Women and Oysters

By sheer coincidence, I just recently finished reading Mark Kurlansky's The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. "Craze" is not really the correct word to describe the history of oysters in the American diet as it implies that their consumption owed to a "fad" or "fashion." Rather, oysters were a staple of early 19th century menus merely because they were cheap and plentiful. New York Harbor, the estuary of the Hudson River, was fantastically productive of oysters, once producing close to 50% of the world's harvest. A meal of oysters in New York cost but a few cents - one of the least expensive sources of protein at the time. Pollution doomed the New York oyster beds, transforming what was once a poor man's staple into a rare delicacy.

Springfield

The contrast between the LIFE on this street and the dreary bleakness of Main Street in Springfield in 2009 is utterly depressing. The left side of the street in this photo is dominated today by the (old) U.S. Courthouse, a drab, faceless, early 1970's monstrosity that just sucks the energy out of the neighborhood - although "energy" is in very, very short supply these days in Springfield.

What a vibrant scene!

Lars, I agree. In fact, this scene reminds me a lot of modern-day Oxford Street in London.

Amazing photo

The original photo could've been some organic metropolitan city: France, London ... The modern bland look immediately puts it down as (any) Mainstreet USA. Shorpy is quite depressing sometimes.

[France is certainly one of my favorite cities. - Dave]

Women and Oysters

Two topics: one, on the debate about women and period clothes, I think the "hourglass" ideal of the late 19th early 20th centuries was very sexy...if you think about it, it was very concerned with accentuating or even exaggerating women's curves; sexy, even if not much skin was showing. Compare above photo to a current view of women in jackets and jeans.

Second, can any culinary historians tell us why oysters were so omnipresent in these days? I see photos of rough and tumble Western towns with oyster menus prominently shown. They must have been as popular as fast-food hamburgers are today.

[NYT article on the oyster craze of the 19th century. - Dave]

Television?

Extreme left side, bottom half- is that a sign for a television store? I know it can't be, but wonder what the sign actually said.

[There's no "I" between the "S" and the "O." - Dave]

So what's up with Edward J Murphy?

I just realized that almost EVERY single business establishment that states the name of the proprietor does so in the "initial, initial, last name" format:

Dr. J.W. Grady (specialist)
H.G. Moore (photographer)
W.L. Douglas (shoes)
W.S. Clark (clothes)
W.E. Maguire (dentist)
C.W. Atwood (printing)
E.A. Whipple (optometrist)

But Edward J. Murphy gets to use his whole name. What makes him so special?

Native Springfieldian

I was born and raised in Springfield but I haven't been back in over 20 years. I used to spend every weekend wandering downtown and was crazy about all the wonderful old buildings. It was a very vibrant city in the 1960s. But shortly after I left in 1970 they had a major "urban renewal" project that decimated the entire downtown area and turned it into a stark, uninviting desert of ugly slabs. It sure looks grim in the Google Street View, especially compared to the old pictures.

Back to the Future

I wonder what kind of TVs they sold at the "Television" store (leftmost store).

[Back when TV was known as "Levison." - Dave]

Good old days

And I thought some European cities had been badly ravaged over the course of the 20th century. But look at this in comparison to Google's present day pic of the same corner. It's gone from beautiful to pitiful. At 150.000 inhabitants nowadays at least this corner of Springfield looks like any boring outskirt. At a third that population around 1900 it had a very urban and sophisticated feel to it.

Main and Bridge streets today.

The onion dome building is still there, minus the dome.


View Larger Map

Picturesque Springfield

Aha! Found it! I did a search on "Haynes and Co Clothiers Springfield", attempting to locate the large store at the far left of the photo, and found another photo of the same area with better location information, in this booklet of Springfield photos from 1912:

http://www.archive.org/details/picturesquesprin00grav.

On the top of page 12 (or thereabouts, there aren't page numbers) is a photograph labeled "Busy Main Street, West Side, Looking South from Bridge Street", and the building on the street corner is clearly the one behind the "H. G. Moore, Photographer" sign, recognizable by the distinctive arched windows. The picture below it on the same page of the booklet, labeled "Hotel Worthy and Busy Main Street looking South on East Side" shows the insurance-company building with the interesting onion-shaped roof decoration, but somewhat in the background.

In Google Street View, you'll find that the insurance company building is still there (minus the fancy roof, and only barely recognizable), but everything else is completely gone; much of it flattened into public squares.

Fuller Block

From the 1988 book "Main Street, U.S.A.": The "eccentric, onion-domed" Fuller Block is at the intersection of Bridge Street and Main. Next to it is the Phoenix Block, with the Hotel Worthy (look for the awnings on upper floors) at the far end of the block, at the cross with Worthington.

Vive la difference

It's the architecture that makes this photo absolutely splendid. Every building is a little different and, to my eye anyway, gorgeous. Walk down any main street in the U.S. and they're all glass and steel. Talk about borrrring.

Perfect

Wonderful picture. Perfect as a movie set. No construction. All stores open. Vibrant scene full of hustle and bustle. Several generations of technology present. Nice snapshot in time.

Fancy Roof

I don't have time to do too much digging, but I see references to a life insurance building on Main St. in Springfield that had a Masonic hall in the upper stories - I wonder if that's what we're seeing here.

Dr. Grady, Specialist

I wonder what he specialized in? Maybe that's why he gave his advice free; you had to go in and consult with him to find out exactly what part of your body he was going to treat!

I guess he's a step up from Dr. Nick Riviera, anyway.

Cobblestone Streets

The cobblestones which dominate the foreground of this photo remind me of an interesting statistic: in 1908, three years after this photo, in the entire United States there were only 144 miles of paved roads.

Given the tremendous labor necessary to lay the stones (generally granite), and the resulting bumpy ride due to the natural irregularity of the pavers, it's not so hard to understand why there weren't more.

Tarmac, a turn-of-the-century development, would soon displace the cobblestones and pave both city and countryside.

[Asphalt paving of city streets was well under way by the 1880s. - Dave]

Beautiful Shot

I'm trying to find this location on Google map and it's not easy. Either this area has been completely demolished or I'm on the wrong Main Street.

As far as gorgeous girls being covered up, similar to what we have in winter here in Mass.

Dogs

The funny thing is that dog in front of the hot dog cart staring something inside the building.

And the eyes of Dr. T.J.

And the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg are watching it all on the right side of the photo.

Great photo. Seems like a pretty busy place, which gives us many wonderful things to look at. That roof with the moon on top of it is pretty unique. Any idea what the building housed? I see a sign on it that is for a life insurance company, but I'm not sure if that's for the whole building or not.

Hot diggity

I see a hot dog cart, but no Chief Wiggum anywhere.

Anyway, I just love these period piece streetviews, there's so much to see.

In the eye of the beholder

Whenever I look at the women of our current era in new photos, I always have a hard time getting it through my head that some of them would actually be quite lovely young ladies who would really blow us away if they just excercised a little restraint and exhibited some grace and class.

I don't think the females in "Girls gone Wild - Daytona Beach edition" have any edge on the likes of Evelyn Nesbit, Lily Elsie, or Louise Cromwell.

A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man

Still, it's no Shelbyville!

Gorgeous Young Babes

Whenever I look at the women of this era in these old photos, I always have a hard time getting it through my head that some of them are actually gorgeous 20-something babes who would really blow us away if dressed in today's styles, but you would never know it, the way they were always covered up with the clothes of the day.

[Women walking down the street covered up with clothes -- the bane of civilization. - Dave]

 
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