Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Early Years Of The Holyoke Street Railway

Employees of the Holyoke Street Railway pose for a group picture in front of the newly constructed car barn at Canal & Bridge Streets in 1908. (Photo courtesy of the Seminole Bailey Collection)

Holyoke Street Railway car barn circa 1915. A view of repair shop showing car hoists and overhead crane and concrete covered-trusses. (Seminole Bailey Archive)

The Holyoke Street Railway was founded in 1884 by a number of Holyoke businessmen including William Chase, C. Fayette Smith and H.M. Smith. The railway was granted a charter to operate in both Holyoke and South Hadley.

Originally the Railway operated as a horse drawn trolley system between the two towns, with two cars and a rotating team of five horses operating a two mile route between Main Street in Holyoke to South Hadley Falls.

           Horse drawn trolley heading south on Canal Street toward Lyman Street circa 1885. (Photo courtesy of the Holyoke History Room)

By 1886 the Railway had quadrupled to fifty-six horses and fifteen cars with a line that extended from Dwight, High and Appleton Streets to Beech, Pleasant and Lincoln Streets. The railway's expansion caught the eye of William Stiles Loomis, who at the time owned interest in the Holyoke Transcript. Loomis sold his interests in the Transcript and in 1888 purchased the Holyoke Street Railway and further expanded the line throughout the city.

As the railway entered the 1890s, further expansion continued in the city and also included lines into neighboring Chicopee. It was also at this time the Railway converted from horse drawn to electrification, which caused many investors to be skeptical about this new technology that it would result in many setbacks, but as with change, many were also reluctant to it, and this was probably the biggest reason many were against it.
Furthermore, it eliminated many jobs especially for those involved with the care of the horses being replaced.

The railway's biggest success came when Loomis purchased land on Mt. Tom from Westfield lumber businessman Roswell Fairfield. This parcel of land included the summit of the mountain and land down near to banks of the Connecticut River.

                               Cedar Knob. William Stiles Loomis summer home on the left. (Photo courtesy of the Seminole Bailey Collection)

In 1895 Loomis sold 395 acres of this property to the Holyoke Street Railway for $50,000 who created a trolley park that became Mountain Park. Loomis set aside a few acres of land on the east side of Cedar Knob for his private summer residence, "The Crag". Two years later, in 1897, a subsidiary company, Mt. Tom Railroad was formed and construction of a mile long rail that ran up to the Mt. Tom summit from the base of Mountain Park was built.

   Construction of the rail bed to the summit of Mt. Tom late 1890s. (Photo courtesy of the Seminole Bailey Collection)

               The crew of the Mt. Tom Railroad on the boardwalk of Lower Station in 1927. (Photo courtesy of the Seminole Bailey Collection)

The above photos show a trolley passing through the rock cut section of the rail bed between Mountain Park and Lower Station. 

Once this rail line was in operation, work began on the first Summit House on the peak of Mt. Tom. the house lasted only four years when it was destroyed by fire and a new, more lavish structure was built. This Summit House would meet the same fate and burn down in 1929. This was the same year that ownership of Mountain Park changed hands to Loomis' assistant Louis Pellissier. 

      Trolley heading south on Northampton Street from Mountain Park to South Holyoke 1930s.

The trolley service to Mountain Park would prosper up until the mid 1930s when changing times forced the Railway to phase out it's trolley service which also led to the decision to close the Mt. Tom Railroad line to the Summit House. 

The Holyoke Street Railway would operate Mountain Park under Pellissier until the end of 1952 when the park was sold to John Collins, who did an extensive renovation of the park that flourished until 1987 when again, changing times marked the end of Mt. Park as an amusement center.  The park is now functions as a music venue operated by area businessman Eric Suher.

A Holyoke Street Railway trolley waits for passengers at Mountain Park to take them back downtown. This photo was taken in 1935, near the end of the trolley era in Holyoke.

By 1936 the trolley service was nearing it's end. Here is a photo of trolley 114 heading north on Newton Street in South Hadley in late summer of that year. (Seminole Bailey Archive)

             Holyoke Street Railway Elmwood/West Dwight bus.  City Hall early 1940s.

As for the Holyoke Street Railway, after the trolley years, it's fleet was converted to diesel buses and operated by the Pellissier family until 1987 when it shut down. A major factor being the loss of the lucrative contract with the Holyoke School Department and labor disputes with it's workforce.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Prospect (Pulaski) Park 

A view of the park in the late 1800s.  The original bandstand building where band concerts were held on it's roof can be seen, there's also a cannon on display. To the right the ornamental pump house used to bring water up from a spring in the river embankment can be seen.

Another photo from the late 1800s shows the playground area at the western end of the park. Notice the picket fence that was eventually replaced in the early 1900s by the concrete wall that still stands. 

A view from Pulaski Park in the early 1900s showing the newly constructed Gatehouse and beginning of the first level canal.

A nice view looking west from the Chestnut Street balcony of the park mid 1920s. The second Summit House can be seen atop Mt. Tom. Notice how beautiful the views were from the park, today it's views are obstructed by overgrowth. The lamp posts must have made for a beautiful scene at night. This picture shows the early evening sun shining through the trees.

Lyman Pool 1964

Lyman Pool July, 1964.  Intersection of Pine and Prospect Streets, Route 202 and Muller Bridge in the background. Notice the Phillies cap, prior to their historic slide of September. (Photo courtesy of the Seminole Bailey Collection)

Walnut Street  1965

Looking east from 48 Pine Street towards Walnut Street between Lyman and Prospect Streets. The Mater Dolorosa Church steeple can be seen in the background. This area is now the Edgewater Gardens.

Walnut Street heading north to the intersection of Prospect Street. The puddle of water in the foreground is the result of ice melting at the Holyoke Ice & Fuel Company.
In the center of the photo is the American Legion Post 351 prior to it's new addition built a few years later. Pulaski Park is in the background.

The area between the Legion and the two houses is now the curve of St. Kolbe Drive that heads towards Mater Dolorosa School. (Photos courtesy of the Seminole Bailey collection)

Octo's Furniture Mart

Octo's Retail Furniture Mart was located on Hampden Street between Walnut and Elm Streets. Across from Scott's Auto.

The business was originally started by Frank Octo and Napoleon Derosiers in the early 1900s with stores on Main and High Streets and Octo also owned real estate, the Octo Block was located at 63-79 High Street.  

The business was later purchased by J.A. Bourbonnair and Edward Lacombe. The building on Hampden Street was still standing in the late 1950s and demolished shortly thereafter.

This photo from the mid 50s shows the building from the southwest corner of Hampden and Walnut Streets. This area is now a parking lot for the Holyoke Gas & Electric.