Springfield's original North Church

North Church (original)North Church (original)

Every now and then I come across photographs which are marked as being from Springfield, but upon further research, they are not. They are either from another state's Springfield, or sometimes are from another town in the region.

I thought that would be the case when I came across this stereoview, marked "North Church", published by Milton Bradley & Co, Springfield. I didn't recognize the church, and to me, "North Church" was the church that sits on the corner of Salem & Elliot Streets. Still, the identification wasn't written in pencil -- it was printed on a label affixed to the card, so I went ahead and bought it, puzzled as to its location.

I showed the card to Springfield Historical Commissioner Bob McCarroll, and although he hadn't seen the photo of the church before, he knew the history of North Congregational Church -- the parish originally had a church on Main Street, North of Bridge Street (the current site of the old Federal Building now being used as the Springfield Public Schools offices). He picked up on a small sliver of house pictured in the photo, to the right of the church. After doing some research, he confirmed from a photo that this house was indeed on Main Street, just north of Bridge St. He could make out the unusual skylights in the roof on the building next door, the same skylights pictured here.

The church was sold by the congregation to commercial developers in 1871 for $46,000; they probably continued to occupy it until their new building on Salem St. was completed in 1873. It was demolished and the Kinsman Block was constructed in its place.

Since it was demolished so early, it did not get the same photographic attention as many other churches in the city - was gone before the advent of postcard photos. But luckily, someone used it as the subject of a stereoview, and that stereoview survived for over 140 years.

If you click on the image, you can enlarge it to see more detail. I used both halves of the stereoview to construct a more full image; you can see the line going through the wagon on the left. Although its Gothic design makes the church seem grand, when you compare it to the house next door, its true scale becomes apparent. The parish had only about 350 members when this church was given up.

Great image, as well as a

Great image, as well as a great story. I knew that Springfield was old in comparison to Northampton, but it would seem Springfield is old enough to have layers upon layers of history.

North Church stereo view

This sure is a great image. I have never before seen a picture of the old North Church located on Main Street but have done a lot of research on the church's anti-slavery activities. There is a detailed building contract recorded in the Hampden County Registry of Deeds archives for this building.

Thanks for sharing this remarkable view.

more on North Church

King's Handbook has a write-up about North Church (pp. 194-196). The church organized in 1846 by abolitionists, many of whom knew John Brown when he lived in Springfield. In the earliest days of the church, the congregation met in a variety of locations that included the old Sanford Street Church (predecessor of St. John's Congregational)whose members were freedmen and fugitive slaves. The structure in the picture was located on the west side of Main between Worthington and Bridge Streets and was dedicated March 1, 1849. The edifice at Salem and Elliot Streets was built in 1873, presumably to accommodate a growing congregation. Some locally prominent members included J.G. Holland, George M. Atwater and Dr. and Mrs. Calvin C. Chaffee. During the 1930's, North Church sold the Salem Street building to a new church, Grace Baptist.

North Church

So happy to find this picture. I am transcribing my great-grandfather's 1850-1853 diary written from Holyoke, MS and I came across the following entry:

"Sunday 16th 1851 Went to Church this after-noon. This evening I went up to the North Church to Singing School."

Thanks to google and Ralph Slate I am able to see where he went to "Singing School".

Singing School at North Church

Interesting diary entry! An advertisement in an 1850 issue of a Springfield newspaper reads, "Mr. L. W. Leland will commence a class for instruction in the rudiments of vocal music at the vestry of the North Church on Tuesday evening next, Nov. 12. Term 24 lessons. Tuition for ladies, $1.00; for gents, $2.00."

Singing School at North Church

Nice to see your comment - I included the newspaper quote as a footnote in the diary - thank you!

I found the following diary entry from Saturday, August 3, 1850:
"Carried around some bills for Mr. T. G. U. Fisk the singing master to-day. I have to-day given John Alden a picture price 12 1/2 cts from Bakers News Room which I got charged on my account with Baker. Bought 7 cts worth of Gum Arabic."

I had assumed that Mr. Fisk was his singing instructor, perhaps not, but I didn't find any mention of L. W. Leland either. I see that he attended singing school only 5 times from December 1850 to February 1851 - looks like he didn't get his monies worth!

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