St. Joseph's Church: 1874-2008?



News has broken today that St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, situated on the corner of Howard and East Columbus Avenue, has been sold by the Springfield Diocese for $1.2 million to the Colvest Group of Windsor, CT.

Given Colvest's history of developing parcels into CVS and Starbucks, I'm not very optimistic that their plan includes renovating and preserving this church. Odds are that it will be demolished, yet another church steeple gone from the downtown horizon.

The book King's Handbook of Springfield, published in 1884, contains this history of the church:

St. Joseph's Church was organized for French Roman Catholics in March, 1873, with a membership of 240 families, under the direction of the present pastor, Rev. L. G. Gagnier. Two months later, May 5, the society purchased a building-lot and a house on Howard Street, near Water; and July 7 the foundations of the church were laid. The basement was roofed in, and occupied for divine worship from November, 1873, until July, 1877, when the erection of the whole structure was successfully completed. It is built of brick, in a simple but imposing style of architecture. The dimensions of the building are 144 feet by 65 feet, including the tower.

The basement is 14 feet high, and the side walls of the main building are 21 feet high, with a clear-story that gives a central aisle of 52 feet from floor to ceiling. The tower and steeple are 172 feet high. The net cost of the property as it now stands is about $60,000. The membership is over 400 families. A parochial school, under the direction of the Sisters of St. Joseph, is soon to be in operation.

While adaptive reuse of churches is difficult, it is not impossible. The big problem seems to be finding a developer that wants to voluntarily tackle such a project instead of being forced into it by property restrictions or market conditions (such as high demand for the space).

There is no legal way to stop the demolition of this 133-year old church; it does not sit in a local historic district so it is outside the control of the Springfield Historical Commission. Springfield does not have a Demolition Delay Bylaw which could hold this project up. The state does not hold any preservation restrictions on the property (unlike the one held on Old First Church). Although the church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that only gives it access to tax credits if the owner desires to pursue them, as well as protects it from governmental demolition. The land beneath the church is already zoned for business, so the city council has no say in this matter.

At this point, unless there is a significant public outcry, St. Joseph's church will fall to the wrecking ball.

This is not a problem unique to Springfield. Boston has seen dozens of churches close in the past few years. Holyoke just saw the demolition of Immaculate Conception church, a magnificent gothic structure that the Diocese decided was "too expensive to fix". Chicopee just saw the razing of the Chicopee Falls United Methodist Church, a structure built in 1842 - to accomodate a parking lot. Westfield recently lost Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church to make way for the city's Great River Bridge Project.

Springfield's church closings have been more gradual, and often church buildings have been sold to other parishes and denominations. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I can't think of a Springfield church being razed in the past 20 years.

St. Joseph's is not the oldest church in Springfield, nor is it the most architecturally significant. Yet it is one piece of the puzzle which causes outsiders to marvel at the historic nature of our city. As each of these seemingly insignificant buildings disappear (as many have over just the past few years), our city loses more and more of its historical fabric, and becomes more and more like any other city with cookie-cutter developments lining our streets.

Can St. Joseph's be saved? I seriously doubt it, because in order to save a building, you must have a developer interested in saving it, and the developer that now owns this building does not seem to fall into that category. There is no "reuse fairy", feeling pity for a city that laments the loss of its architecture, transforming old buildings into whatever visions people can dream up.

So we will likely be forced to use yet another razing as yet another teaching moment, and try to figure out how to head the next potential demolition [Chestnut Middle School? Tech High School? Westinghouse?] off at the pass long before we get to this point in the process.

church sold

I had heard that the church was sold last spring. I guess not, though. Or maybe I'm thinking of a different church! That is a big building with a lot of land (including the rear sections). I tend to agree, it's more likely the church is going down.

A shame

Some of my family history is tied up in that church. Sadly church buildings are one of the hardest to save once they go vacant because their reuse potential is so low. If you don't use them as a church, what else are they good for? It's a shame - more Springfield history down the drain.

St. Josephs Reunion

Tommy,
Are you The Tommy who graduated in 1969 with me? And your brother Billy is a priest? If so please contact me about a possible 40th reunion next year in 2009.E-mail me at popcornwoody@msn.com

Old First church

We went to the "final service" at Old first church yesterday. What a sad thing to think that that congregation that started in 1637 is folding and that the towns Meeting House will shutter its windows and go to the highest bidder. Built in 1819, it is one of the most beautiful Greek Revival buildings you will ever be in. It is in marvelous condition, a tribute to the congregation who have worked so hard with such respect to maintain it. The very idea that this building could be torn down or even significantly altered for another use is beyond belief. Hopefully some reuse of the rear buildings could generate suficient income to maintain the church as a historical site. Any ideas out there? If you have not been in the church, they are presenting the Messiah next Sunday and there will be a Christmas service.

St Joseph's

Drove by St Josephs yesterday and the dismantling has begun. There was a crew there taking out the organ. I wandered in and much has been removed. The big plaques from the walls are gone as well as the entire altar area. Still beautiful light fixtures and all the stain glass is still there. Pews still there. A lovely church, such a shame. Hope everything is going to be deconstructed and saved. the exterior has interesting brown stone detail and that huge copper dome will be a salvagers delight. Wonder who will be doing the demo. Clearly the owner has no intention other than destruction.

Ways to move forward

I think that there are a few ways that we can learn from this demolition, to prevent the next one from happening.

1) Push for a demolition-delay bylaw for properties listed or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. This would stipulate that any permit for demolition would first be passed through the Historical Commission. If the commission votes that the demolition should be delayed, it would be delayed for a fixed amount of time, during with other alternatives could be explored. This is common in the eastern part of the state, and even Holyoke has one of these.

2) Pursue the acquisition of preservation restrictions from properties outside historic districts in lieu of some carrot offered. For example, maybe some form of reduction on property taxes or monies to rehabilitate the structure. This might be viewed unfavorably from people within historic districts, but the district properties have the benefit of being within a district that is held to higher standards than other properties.

3) Alternatively, pursue the acquisition of preservation restrictions as a charitable donation. These are known as facade easements. In essence, the homeowner would agree to preserve the facade of the building as if the property were in a historic district, and would be able to deduct 11-15% of the appraised value of the property from their taxes. I'm trying to get some information on this.

4) We need to develop relationships with developers that excel at historic preservation. There is plenty of opportunity here, but not many players experienced in this area.

5) We need to identify the buildings in danger a full five years before they come down. Instead of looking at boarded-up buildings, we need to look at historic buildings that are becoming shabby and get at them before it is too cost-prohibitive to save them. Once the building is boarded up, the chances of reuse are slim, and the danger of them being destroyed, either by neglect or vandalism increase dramatically.

All that said, I don't think there is much else that we could have done here. The building was not in ideal shape when it was closed. The property was worth much more as car-centered commercial space than anything else. Our redevelopment climate is weak. That's why I took the position of sadness, rather than outrage, in this month's Preservation Trust newsletter, because I didn't see much chance for success in this particular fight.

I'm going to start a thread on endangered properties in the next few days; maybe we can bring some properties some attention.

Properties in danger

I agree with you all on your assessment of endangered properties in Springfield. A well thought out established procedure to identify buildings in danger is what Spfd needs. I just don't see the community $, city $, taxpayer $, coming to the rescue to save historic properties.

Marking them as in danger only prolongs the inevitable if there is no money in place to save old buildings. I know the Preservation Trust can't do it. No one organization has the funds for that.

I see the work that the SPT did for the Buckingham St. property and others, and without community money, they can only do so much. It is going to have to be up to area businesses, taxpayers, and donations to foot the bill to get these properties in salable condition or at least properly mothballed until the economy turns round.

I don't care what financial troubles the city is in, there should be funding for historic preservation. I would support a tax increase to fund projects in our community. I wish everyone could see the benefits of that. But our city has the opinion that it is the private sector's responsibility to save these old buildings. And that is just not going to happen now. Buckingham is now a parking lot and there was not that much wrong with that building. Nothing so wrong that if it was in NY or Boston, it wouldn't have been saved.

If I am wrong about any of this, please feel free to correct me.

-Andrew

Community Preservation Act

I generally think you're right, except that I was thinking about identifying properties that are not obviously yet in danger. When a building has sat unoccupied for 10+ years, it's plainly in danger, and there isn't much that can be done. But what about a building that is starting to look deteriorated, it's maybe occupied by a use that isn't harmonious with its continued existence, something like that? If we can identify those buildings way ahead of time, we can start the process before the building becomes abandoned.

There is one avenue to get money for historic preservation, and that is for the city to adopt the Community Preservation Act. It is basically a property tax surcharge of up to 3%, with the money raised then matched by the state. The money raised can then be spent on three things: historic preservation, open space, or affordable housing. Spending of 10% raised in each category is mandatory, the other 70% can be spent in any of the categories.

Several groups and categories would be exempted from the surcharge.

  • The first $100,000 of taxable value is automatically exempt (so if your house was worth $150,000, you'd pay on $50,000).
  • Property owned and occupied by a person who would qualify for low-income housing or moderate-income senior housing would be exempt.
  • commercial and industrial properties would be exempt.

Could a city such as Springfield pass the CPA? I don't know. It would be a hard sell in a community where most people feel they're not getting value for their taxes. It might be worth exploring though, since even the full 3% would only increase the taxes of someone living in a $200,000 home by $50. If you had a $150,000 home, your taxes would only increase by $25. However, it's obvious that the resistance to the trash fee shows that the city is fairly anti-tax, no matter how small.

Community Preservation Act

Hi Ralph,

Thank you for taking the time to answer me on that. I think the trash fee hit hard because the city was now charging for something we received as part of our taxes (I feel still should be). The Community Preservation Act describes a way we could access state money to help solve blight issues that EVERYONE in Springfield is concerned about. I especially like the state matched funds because everyone knows money talks and we would need a lot of money to deal with the issues around town.

I wouldn't see it as such a hard sell to the public as long as it was marketed as adding to Springfield's ability to clean itself up and not as another charge to get something done that the city should be doing anyway. I mean, it is not the city's responsibility to clean up/restore blighted properties. It should be the owner's but since we also live in a society where you can just walk away from a building when your back taxes get too large, then the city must take over to avoid a crime situation.

I would question how to get the 70% spent on restoration, blight clean-up, preservation, etc. and not put into low income housing. I mean we don't need any more low income housing in Spfd. There are vacant buildings all over. But I am sure someone might object to the 70% going toward saving the next Buckingham St. mansion. Who controls the money? I wonder why this has never been passed before? Has the Preservation Trust ever lobbied for it? By the way, 3% then a state matched 3% would be an incredible amount of money. Nothing to sneeze at!!!

Nice talking to you,

-Andrew

Endangered Properties

I vote for the Westinghouse complex in East Springfield to be included on your list of endangered properties. Currently a developer plans to clear the entire site to build a retail center. Also the old city owned East Springfield fire station on Page Blvd. It has been closed since the new safety complex was built on Carew Street, with no plans in the works. There is also the old city health department building on State Street across the street from MassMutual. While the "newer" part of the building is being used the original art deco portion is completely empty, and I assume not being maintained properly.

It's interesting that you

It's interesting that you mention the Springfield Health Headquarters building on State Street. I recently viewed photos from someone who crawled into it through a smashed window. The window has since been covered up, but it was a sign that people aren't paying too much attention to the welfare of the building - the window was open for many months, and I am sure plenty of others have gained access to the building. Given that it's attached to an active health care facility, one would assume that it is alarmed, but apparently not. The person who's pictures I saw said that several times while he was exploring the building, people walked right past the old double doors within a few feet of him, and it made him nervous enough about being caught that he left after only being inside for a little while.

This is to me the greatest danger to these old buildings - imagine if a homeless person or an arsonist set a fire in there? It could endanger the lives of those who work and/or reside in the adjacent building - I realize that there are legal and financial hurdles in the way for all of these places, but out of public safety they should be payed at least SOME attention to...

If it helps, I am willing to spend some time photographing any places that people deem to be endangered. I remember looking for documents on York Street, and the woman gave me a box with a few newspaper clippings in it from the 90's, and that was it. I told her I had tried contacting various depts. of the city to gain legal access, for the purpose of photo documenting them, but that noone had ever responded to my phone calls or emails. She said that if I was successful, that they would really appreciate having copies of my pictures. I can be reached at my email address: gibstan59@hotmail.com. If anyone is interested in viewing many of my pictures of the city and of other interesting sites around Western Mass, you can by going here: http://s64.photobucket.com/albums/h169/everyhumandies/

I may not be a professional, but I do often try to capture thoughtful perspectives. Let me know what you think, if my work might be worth anything to the city or otherwise...

For what it is worth, I may also be able to make arrangements with a prominent, local photographer who has expressed his interest in doing these types of photo essays. My work is really basic, amateur stuff, but his work is known world-wide and has won awards. It would be nice to have his photography skills at work for the documentation of our city's fine old buildings.

Court Square Building endangered

We can add the Court Square Building to the endangered list. The City is seeking a developer for the site, but what developer of a project like that wants to begin by paying an exorbitant back tax bill? The current legislation regarding back taxes is a major hindrance to anyone serious about working with an abandoned building. That was Peter Picknally's issue with the Court Square Building and the only change since his death is a bigger tax bill due.

No taxes with 13-31Elm

Here's a link to the city's website for 13-31 Elm Street. There are no mention of taxes to be repaid. I think that when the city takes a building for nonpayment of taxes, it then wipes the back taxes out. The city took the building about 2 years ago, and it appears the taxes are now a moot point.

back taxes

Thanks for the link. There certainly is no mention of a tax consequence, but based on the media coverage when Peter Picknally was interested in the Ct. Sq. Building and on personal experience with another municipality, I would still question the tax issue and whether the prospective buyer would have a clear legal title to the property. It may take a real estate lawyer to fully answer this question.

Ralph is 100% correct. The

Ralph is 100% correct. The back taxes have been cleared because the city took the property for non payment of taxes. Taxes are no longer an issue with the property.

Saint Joseph's Church

My family and I are saddened by the destructiion of our church. The building held many memories to many people of Springfield and the diocease. Some of my girls were married there, went to school there and worshiped there. The building was a magnificent structure and a solid one. It could have been converted and kept as a historical landmark. As far as I am concerned, the bishop thought more of the money than the people's feelings in the doing in of this lanmark. No matter what replaces it. my family and I will never patronize it.

Historical Treasures of Springfield

Hello. My name is Bob Gordon. I am a lifelong resident of the city, and have had a big interest in history and architecture all my life. I just realized that St. Joes was being demolished this past weekend, when I noticed that the steeple was gone!

I have been a forum member on many photo web sites, where I have presented many pictures of the beautiful exteriors of our city's forgotten treasures. In an attempt to gain legal access to these sites, to work on photographic preservation of them before they are gone, I have made numerous attempts to contact various city officials, all of which have gone unanswered. It seems that the simple requests of an ordinary guy like me are way down on the priority list for those who make decisions regarding our city's historic buildings...

Regardless, I wanted to say that the loss of both York Street Jail and St. Josephs Church have been hard to accept. I went through this same sadness when they demolished Northampton State Hospital, and I will go through it again as more and more of our treasures of the past are lost to the short-sightedness of developers who seem to act only to generate a profit, without regard to the significance of the buildings they raze.

A tour of our city reveals that there are literally dozens of these magnificent structures being forgotten, as our leaders struggle to find ways to keep our city economy afloat. As each year passes, time is working against them - a small leak in a roof, an open window, or an unlocked door can all lead to quick and irreversible damage, whether from vandals, arsonists, or just the elements. I am sure that in time, many more of these places will come down due simply to neglect.

While I am not currently a member of the Historic Commission, I am very interested in becoming active in the fight to save and restore these places. I am the foreman of a local painting company, and have acquired numerous other skills in my 20 years in the business. If there are projects where my efforts would be helpful, please let me know.

In the meantime, If there are any of you who would like to see my photographs of places like York Street Jail, St Joseph's, Court Square, Chestnut Middle School, and Union Station, please reach me via my email address at gibstan59@hotmail.com. I am currently working on putting together a large group of framed pictures that I will hopefully find a place to display sometime in the coming months...

Thank you to all those of you who have worked hard for the future of all of these magnificent structures.

Sumner Avenue

Hello!

I'm interested in Sumner Avenue, 162 Sumner in particular.
Can you direct me to anyplace I might find some information on it?
It was Dr.Seuss' Grandfather's house by the way!!

Thanks!!

162 Sumner Avenue

The house at 162 Sumner was included on a Preservation Trust House Tour 15 years or so ago. The owner informed visitors that there were Dr. Seuss drawings on the wall. A few years later, I was involved in extensive research on both the Geisel and Seuss families.

The Geisel family bought the house in 1901. As with certain other Geisel assets, the title to the house was held in the name of Christine Geisel, Dr. Seuss's grandmother. Christine and Theodor Geisel had many children including a daughter, Christine. Christine took care of her father in his declining years at 162 Sumner and eventually inherited the house. She married James L. Wallace and they had two children, Dick and Ted. I corresponded with Dick's widow, Barbara Wallace Collins, over a period of about 6 months. She shared a great deal of information about the Geisel family and refuted the claim that Dr. Seuss had drawn the pictures on the wall at 162 Sumner. She claimed that it was her husband, Dick, who drew them to imitate the work of his famous cousin.

All the Geisels gathered every Christmas Eve at 162 Sumner to drink German beer and sing Christmas carols. Music, particularly opera, was important to Dr. Seuss's grandfather and famous opera performers of the day often visited the Geisel home from New York City.

162 Sumner remained in the family (despite a foreclosure proceeding in the early '40's) until the deaths of James and Christine (Geisel) Wallace om the 1960's. It was an interesting family.

The Geisel Home

I understand that Ted Geisel lived in Forest Park when he was growing up, but I had also heard that he lived on Mulberry Street at some point. Does anyone know if this is true or not? If it is, which house is it and when did his family live there?

Ted Geisel

It is my understanding that Ted grew up on Fairfield St, don't know the number, but know the house. I then think they moved to what is now 39 Mulberry where the Tapestry office building is. so while living on Mulberry St, he went to classical, walked there, and that is where the Mulberry St reference came in his first book.

Fairfield Street

Yes, Ted Geisel grew up in the house at 74 Fairfield Street. He was born in his maternal grandparents' home on Howard Street and the family moved to Fairfield in 1906. His parents owned the Fairfield house until 1943. According to what I have read and researched at the Registry of Deeds and the city directories, neither Ted nor his family lived on Mulberry Street. The only biographical connection I have found (besides the book, of course) is that as a boy Ted rode the delivery wagons for the Highland Brewery to thirsty customers located on Mulberry.

St. Joseph's gone

Very sad to drive through Springfield this past weekend and look for St. Joseph's bell tower and not see it.
As I came off 91 and saw the pile of rubble, I had unkind thoughts for whoever would do such a thing.
Apparently interstate-abutting property is so valuable as to make this worth it.
Shameful.

St. Joes and Springfield in general...

Yeah - it is shameful. There is a vast wealth of unused property and buildings in this city. To remove a historical landmark for the purpose of putting a bank on that land is a grim reminder of the sheer stupidity and shortsightedness of many developers. How on earth did they determine that they must use that particular land, versus any of the countless other sites in and around our downtown? And who gave them the idea that we needed yet another stupid bank? Aren't there enough banks around? Seriously, it seems every time a grand old structure is torn down, it is replaced with banks, gas stations, and or pharmacies. Do we really need so many of these three places, as in, one on every corner of every street in the city?

In contrast, I do applaud the development of the riverfront. In fact, in passing it the other night, I noticed that instead of the stench of Bondi's Island, I actually smelled some kind of great food, which I presume to have been emanating from the new Onyx, next to the former Bball HOF - there were a TON of cars down there...I have wondered for a long time why they haven't tried to add more to Riverfront Park - it is a really nice place when you look past the utter emptiness of it...Maybe it's just that the highway keeps it secluded. Maybe it's the population of homeless that at least up until recently seemed to be found there at all times...Oh heck - who knows...

I was sad to see York Street go, but it's not as if they didn't make an effort to save it - what was it - ten years that it sat there with the "jail for sale" sign on it? It would have been nice to be able to see it inside and take some pics before they smashed it down, but there are quite a few resources for that around.

I just can't reconcile the idea that St. Joe's was bought for the sole purpose of taking it away, especially given what the land will supposedly be used for.

Maybe, just maybe, any of you developers out there could try harder to THINK before you DO, and instead of knocking down pieces of our history, you find ways to keep them there and in use for future generations? I would love to have a bank that was built into an old church - that would be cool, and I'm sure it could be done with some effort, but it seems that so very few who control such things just don't care to save anything due to the costs. The almighty dollar vs everything else...Standard American fare...

By the way, and it's just my own opinion, but both the Mass Mutual Center (Civic Center rehab) and that new Fed building on State Street are ugly as hell. Does our city always hire the builders with the least attractive designs for buildings? Some people say that places like York Street and St Josephs are eyesores - I think these new, ultra-contemporary cement and glass structures are totally wrong for our city - not only are they void of any real aesthetic qualities, but they clash hard with the historical buildings they are surrounded by...

As I said, just the bitter rantings of a resident who sees the city in a very negative way. I would love to see it turn around, but I think it's going to get worse before it gets significantly better...Too many factors involved, like rampant crime, poverty, falling property values, dangerous schools...All the things that make people go somewhere else instead of staying put here.

Eyesores

Yes. The Mass Mutual Center rehab of the old CC is so ugly that I cannot find who the architect was for it (I assume they are are indifferent) and I have searched quite a bit for it. The old building was by Eduardo Catalano who also designed the Hall of Justice and the original Bay State West. They were all aesthetcially pleasant, but the Civic Center was his best work in Springfield. He also desgined many buildings at MIT in Cambridge (where his office was) and you can see the connection.

I am not sure who in their right mind would have called St Joseph's an eyesore!
And do you know where I can find any pictures of the old Steiger's? I have also searched quite a bit for them and cannot find any. Another gem lost.

There are those in almost

There are those in almost every city who see anything that has gone unused as an eyesore. That is what I was referring to - an empty old building is to many nothing more than an invitation for trouble, and in many cases, rightly so - criminal activity, arson, homeless people all seem to follow the abandonment of many such places.

It is a shame when there is no mechanism in place that immediately recognizes the peril that places such as St Joes are in when they go up for sale. I have read some of the issues dealing with St Josephs, and wonder if anything can be done to bring such issues to the table for voting, such as the creation of some kind of protected status for such buildings in the city. Time will tell whether or not the community steps up and resolves the loopholes that let it go to the demo crews instead of being saved for some kind of reuse...

As far as the Civic Center goes, I just wonder why they took up the entire block with flat, plain walls of brick and glass, verses trying to renovate the open square and making it more inviting for the city. As it is, the building seems to be just another quickly built low bid job - function over form is necessary sometimes, but in that particular area, it made it seem all closed up and dark, and the building itself has no visible ornamentation to speak of, in contrast with its surroundings.

Anyway, I'll be looking for info/images of Steigers, and will let you know what I find.

To exemplify what I was

To exemplify what I was saying about eyesores, just consider Chestnut Street School - it's perimeter, almost ten feet from the ground up, is entirely coated in graffiti and tagging. It is likely just a matter of time before there is a fire in the building, as the backside of it has a lot of secret openings through which to crawl. I know it is supposedly going to become market-rate condos, but by the time that comes to fruition, it may be too late -

Similar examples are everywhere - while those in charge wrestle with the options and the finances of dealing with such a place, they often sit there, exposed to whatever and whoever chooses to abuse them.

The Court Square Building is another example - I haven't seen it inside, but I know that there was extensive water damage from a bad roof that went unchecked. It only takes a short time for water to wreak havoc on a building, and the end result is often a building that is too far gone to reuse...

These places become so cost prohibitive to fix, that tear-downs become the only option. It would be nice to have some kind of fund set aside to shore them up and some kind of universal alarm system that is put in place to protect them as soon as they become disused. Mothballing has proven effective all over the country...So many important places could be saved that way.

Lights on at night inside Chestnut?????

Speaking of Chestnut Middle School - I just drove by there around 8:00 tonight, just taking a ride around and sipping a coffee, and I happened to notice that there were lights on inside! I thought that was really odd, but I wonder if it means that there are people hanging out in there who do not belong...? Hmmm....

Thanks for the tip!

Thanks for pointing this out Bob -- I have contacted the building code enforcement department and let them know about this. I'll post back here when I hear something back.

The developer for that building is still moving forward, and we still have hope that the project will be carried forward. The Baystate expansion is a favorable factor affecting the project, the thought is that adding many jobs will expand the market in that area. It's tough, though, to develop properties in a depressed market, particularly older properties that take more effort to develop in any market. There are few tools available, the main one being the state and federal historic tax credit programs. Those have worked well in the past, but you really need a developer who knows the ins and outs of the programs, because they are somewhat complex to understand and manage.

I think the trick is that we have to get out ahead of these properties before they go dark. The SHC is trying to do this with the Oakland St. fire station, if we do things correctly a new occupant will be ready to step in as soon as the firefighters move out. I can see how that could be a logistical nightmare though, since so many city departments are involved, and so much process (declaring it a surplus building, selling it, etc.)

I think I'm going to post a "ten most threatened" thread here, with a twist - I'll include two categories, one for unoccupied buildings, one for occupied buildings that are still threatened for some reason or another. The second list would be buildings with a better chance of being saved. Once a building goes dark, it's probably too late, because a couple of winters with no heat and the deterioration really sets in. It then takes a monumental effort to bring the building back. Look at Tech -- 20 years empty, although the structure is probably sound, the interior would need to be gutted to put anything in there.

Thanks Ralph for contacting

Thanks Ralph for contacting the right people - not sure who I would have called, if anyone - I have no idea who would be in there, as in, it might have been a city official checking something or who knows...What I do know is that I have payed attention to the plight of a lot of abandoned places. Locally, by finding these web sites ( thanks to whoever puts the effort in to make them!) and by driving and looking around, and online, via some of the websites about abandoned places from all over the country and in some cases, the world.

I have been noticing the downward slide of Chestnut for a while - just before they closed it and boarded it up, I drove by and saw the dumpsters and work trucks and wondered if it was being shut down. A woman inside said that they were the last people using the building for some special classes, but they had been asked to move out as it had been condemned by the city. She wouldn't allow me to take pictures inside, saying that I'd need permission from the city to do so.

Ever since that day, I have watched the school, and wondered about it's fate - with the promise of a new future, it seems to be a race as to who gets it first - vandals or developers - I hope the place is alarmed, as the power is clearly still on inside, but given the amount of graffiti I assume that people have gotten in. That is the first step towards the "death" of a building - easy access to inside it by vandals, and eventually it goes up in flames - it has been happening to places like Chestnut all over the country for a long time...I'd hate to see that happen to such a beautiful building that has so much potential. That is why I speak out about what I see there. It is obviously in danger.

I hope I don't come across here as someone who just likes to complain - I am pretty well aware that there are a lot of hurdles when it comes to saving old buildings, especially in a city where the economy is hurting badly. Springfield sometimes seems to be on the edge of falling to pieces economically, and it is easy to find bad news about it. I am just a resident who is fascinated with architecture and history, who doesn't like to see the loss of these beautiful old places.

However - I have to say, that with the recent improvements along the river and the demos of York Street and St Joe's, along with the possible finding of a developer for Court Square, it looks like there is hope yet for this old city of ours!

Chestnut St.

I received an email from Carl Dietz of the city. He said that the developers have been in there frequently recently, and that someone may have left the lights on. He sent someone to check it out.

Elliot St. house

I'm wondering what's happened with the beautiful old brick house on Elliot that was damaged by fire? We drove by last week and it's such a wonderful structure and location for restoration! I know the costs must be high, but what a shame it would be for it to disappear.
Kathy

Elliott St.

At a March 6 meeting, the owner of the house petitioned the Springfield Historical Commission to demolish the house. She stated that the $760,000 insurance payment she received would not cover the cost of repair. The SHC requested that the owner obtain a detailed breakdown of the repair costs, and that she return at the April 3 meeting. She subsequently sold the property to someone for $5,000. The new owner claims to want to restore the building, although since none of the insurance settlement went along with the sale, I'm unsure how realistic that is. The city's code enforcement department is aggressively pursuing that the owner secure the building, it has filed a court case against the original owner.

The issue is still very much open.

Elliott St.

Clearly the insurance company should be investigating this. $760,000 is well more than enough to make the repairs, as the detailed breakdowns would show.

Shell game with the shell

Very sad to see- what has become of this grand home- loved from 1870s & only recently- neglected & abused.
Angela- The lady who "bought" it has not returned my calls. I own the adjacent home. She described herself as friends/business partners with ex owner Mrs. Majorie Fallon.
Fallon is the character who allowed the neglect & is taking the cash & running. How nice for her.
Having paid $380,000 & having done only minor repair- it seems Springfield was a windfall for this Wellesley wheeler dealer.
Neighbors were predicting the homes demise since her purchase- with the house left open & dark despite our pleas with piles of flammable trash & odd people coming & going at all hours. Very Sad

St. Joseph Church

Just wanted to share a few thoughts on the Church. I am a former parishioner of St. Joseph. My grandmother and grandfather, Dolores and Charles Bergevin, brought me to church there every Sunday when I was a little kid, and I remained a parishioner there for about 20 years. Lots of happy memories of the Church...First Communion, Confirmation, my high school graduation party..and of course I can't forget my grandparents fiftieth wedding anniversary that we celebrated there in 1996. The annual Bazaar Noel and meat pie project were a lot of fun. It was a beautiful church, and there were a lot of wonderful people that were members of that parish. Of course, there are sad memories too...Lots of parishioners have since gone home to God, including my grandmother, who died in 1997. We had her funeral Mass there. Two days after Easter, I made my way back from New York City, where I am assigned, to my hometown of Springfield. I couldn't help but stop, and of course, it hurt a lot to see the pile of bricks that were once part of the magnificent church building.It also broke my heart to see the shell of the school that I had attended for all nine years (including Kindergarten), also waiting to be demolished... It's too bad that something couldn't have been done to save the buildings...After all, do we really need another bank? Now, a brick from the church sits on my office bookshelf, with a tiny plaque that says, "St Joseph's Church, 1873-2008". I am thankful for all of the wonderful memories, and for the gift of faith that was fostered there. St. Joseph's will always hold a special place in my heart.

St. Joseph's Church & School

I just wanted to say how sad it is that St. Joseph's is no longer there. I just watched a brief video clip and it brought tears to my eyes. I was among the graduating Class of 1969. There are so many wonderful memories from attending that school. My cousin and I are hoping to get in touch with our class mates. We would like to have a 40th Reunion with our class next year. Kind of like a Final Farewell to a place where we spent so many years together. They may have taken away the building but not the spirit that so many of us keep in our hearts.

St. Josephs Reunion-Class of 1969

I am seeking all of my classmates who graduated in 1969 from Springfield's St.Joseph School.I would like to have a 40th reunion sometimes next year in 2009.I will need the help of all of us in contacting as many classmates as we can.There's plenty of time to do this,so I hope everyone will be interested in this tough,but not impossible project.
Please contact me (Bill G.)at popcornwoody@msn.com
Thank You!

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