Sketch of Holyoke
by George H. Allyn, page 13

      It was in the late 70's that John J. Prew returned to Holyoke penniless, and was cordially received by Joseph N. John J., always indomitable of spirit, found a lot on the west side of Elm street, and arranged to build a block thereon in company with Clovis Hamel. Hastening home, overjoyed to tell Joe that he was going to do the job, he nearly collapsed at Joe's reply:
      "Holy Stars, John, where are you going to get the nails?"
      But John did "get the nails," built and sold the block, and continued to a high pitch of prosperity.
      A strong element of German citizenship also came in during this decade and proved its sterling worth. The Germans located for the most part at South Holyoke, many of them working in the Germania Mills.
      In 1880 Holyoke's population had increased to 21,915, and was booming as rapidly as at any period in its career.
      The Nonotuck, Syms & Dudley, Chemical, and Winona Paper Companies were all organized in 1880, and practically the Deane Steam Pump also. The Hampden Glazed and Holyoke Envelope came in 1881 and numerous other industries crowded in.
      A peculiar situation in business property obtained from 1882 to 1884, Dwight street, from High to Front, being a better business location than High street. Business had as yet refused vigorously to cross Dwight street south. The George M. Wolcott block, built in 1879 on the corner of Dwight and High streets, had for its first tenant S. Applebaum, clothier, who went broke. "People will not cross Dwight street," was the universal cry, and the Dwight street business section with the big Dickieson dry goods store, the Boston dry goods store, the H.C. Smith Clothing Company (later Nourse & McCammon), J.G. Mackintosh & Co.'s bank, the Holyoke Furniture Company, J.S. Carr & Co., S.H. Barre and D.H. Porterfield, jewelers, with the Windsor Hotel and Opera House, for a time had both the older part of High street, north of Dwight, and the few blocks south "skinned a mile."
      But the southerly growth was inevitable. W.H. Mayberry built the present Horrigan block. J.F. Allyn the block now occupied by Green's drug store, W.L. L'Esperance the block now occupied by Russell Bros., J.G. Bishop the block now being remodelled by E. O'Connor, J.A. Clough the block occupied by the G.E. Russell Company, Cordes & Thieme the block at the corner of High and Suffolk streets, now owned by Charles Cunningham, and when John Tilley built the McAuslan & Wakelin block (as we now call it), and then the present Thomas S. Childs' block in 1887, and removed his successful furniture business up from Main street, south High street's future was but a question of time. Never was a business street built up more rapidly, and the rise in values was phenomenal. Men were made wealthy by a single purchase on High street. Patrick Curran bought the two corners of High and Appleton streets, and made a fortune by it.
      In 1879-80, the Water Power Company, thoroughly progressive under W.A. Chase, built a row of brick cottages on Walnut street, south of Appleton, and sold them on easy terms. Mark Wood, employed at the Farr Alpaca, bought one and found a customer for another. This induced him to open an office evenings for the sale of real estate, and about 1884 he gave up the mill and devoted his entire time to the new business. The company also built cottages on Cabot and later on Beech, and farther south on Walnut street, which Mr. Wood also sold. Though others dabbled in realty sales, Mr. Wood was the real pioneer, successful real estate man, and for seven or eight years monopolized the commission business in his line.
      The Highlands were building up with tremendous growth.
      E.J. Pomeroy had built the fine place on Northampton street, lately purchased by C. Fayette Smith, prior to 1880, calling it "Westover."
      George Nightingale was the first to build on Lincoln street, near Northampton, in 1880, and R.F. Kelton, who had become the leading marketman, followed suit in 1881. W.S. Loomis located on the old Tuttle place about the same time, and George W. Prentiss and R.B. Johnson built in 1884.
      The Connecticut River Company's passenger depot location was changed from the foot of Dwight street to the present site in 1883, while R.P. Crafts was mayor. We think this was the year that Porter Underwood was nominated by the republicans in caucus with 178 votes, with James E. Delaney the democratic candidate. Mr. Crafts was nominated by a citizens' committee, and defeated Mr. Delaney, while Underwood received just 176 votes, causing the Transcript to remark that a detective should be secured to find out where the votes went that he was shy of on the caucus figure. The location of the depot is said to have been changed largely because of enmity to "Tim" Merrick.
      In 1885 the big Whiting Street building and the Marble Block were built and the Marble Hall Hotel opened by Mrs. J.H. Smith. This was later kept by Rodney Brown, "Ke" Webster, Frank Washburn, and James Kelley.
      The Windsor had H.C. Ferguson, B.L. Potter, and George H. Bowker as landlords.
      In 18S5 W.A. Chase built the ten-footers below the City hall, and High street, south of Dwight, steadily built up.
      In 1887 (we think) the city employed Daniel O'Connell to make the fill across Maple street, which had so long barred the town from what is now Elmwood. The Holyoke Street Railway had been established in 1884, and in 1884-85 the suburb of Oakdale plotted on the side hill below the old Allyn slaughter house. W.S. Loomis sold out his interest in the Transcript and bought (together with Joseph E. Chase) the Horace Brown property in Elmwood, cut it up into lots, sold them by a drawing, became interested in the Holyoke Street Railway, and extended it to Elmwood and Oakdale, and later under his management, the Springdale extension was made.
      Hiram Smith was the first superintendent, and the present superintendent, Thomas Smith, drove a car, making him twenty-seven years in the service.
      In 1887 occurred the momentous defalcation of George M. Bartholomew, president of the Holyoke Water Power Company, and the displacing of W.A. Chase as agent by E.S. Waters—a sorry day for Holyoke.
      Mr. Waters was a man of the highest character, but he was not attuned to the democratic progressive Holyoke spirit.

Holyoke Armory

Holyoke Armory.

      Holyoke was going at top speed, and its momentum carried it on for a few years at the same apparent pace, but the slackening under a rigid and harsh Water Power Company policy was inevitable.
      In 1888 came the big blizzard, and who of us that can recall it will ever forget it! How the wind drove the sheets of snow in a dead horizontal line. At 8 p. m. that evening the city was a vast desert of snow. The next evening, after the storm cleared away, a fire broke out, and the Transcript specially commended the skillful driving of "Tim" Harrington. M.F. Walsh declares that "Tim" was forty-nine years of age at the time, and if so, the genial fireman would be about seventy-three now, and certainly holds his age well.
      Another event of paramount importance to the writer occurred in 1888 in the founding of the H.D. Allyn Real Estate Agency by H. D. Allyn, his father. Henry D. Allyn established the business in competition with the successful and reliable Mark Wood Agency by pure skill of salesman ship and power of perseverance. Mr. Wood is still the dean of real estate men, hale and hearty, respected an honored by all. The Allyn Agency, second in years, has sold millions of dollars worth of property and placed a like aggregate of mortgage loan, and still hustles hard for existence. Both agencies have seen High street property quintuple in value and the city nearly triple in population.
      J.S. Comins built Browning Hall at the corner where the City Bank building now stands, about 1888, and it was destroyed in 1895 by one of the fiercest conflagrations the city has seen. Though a handsome building it was not of fireproof construction, and burned like tinder.
      Mr. Comins, the owner, carried no insurance, not believing in it, and when the firemen and policemen attempted to check his entrance into the burning mass, he knocked them down like ten pins till subdued. It was indeed a nerve-racking loss to anyone.
      The writer recalls the days of the horsecars, when, on Appleton street, near Beech, John MacDonnell (now chief conductor and General Grand Panjandrum) used to stand ready with an extra pair of horses to couple on for the pull up the hill. The Street Railway was a great market for the purchase and sale of horses, until it was electrified, in 1891.
      The writer well remembers when the first electric came up Dwight street, with people gaping at it from the sidewalks and windows.
      Holyoke had two or three prohibition experiences, one back in the early 70's under state prohibition, the other in 1886 or 1887 under Mayor J.J. O'Connor, who, when the old licenses ran out May 1st, refused to sign the new ones for a few weeks.
      The state prohibition law was enforced by State Constables Borlen and Casey, Mr. Casey afterwards studying law, and becoming judge of police court at Lee.
      Grave doubts were entertained of Borlen's rigid enforcement, as is said to have been the case back years before in the late 50's, when the state constable was one Wiggin, whom it is said, used to find a roll of bills in his drawer mornings, and a memo where it came from.
      But Constable Casey's integrity was unassailable. He at that time lived in a small house on Northampton street, where D.F. Coghlan afterwards built, or owned, the house now occupied by Joseph Fowles. The Casey house was burned to the ground, and about that time Mr. Casey's horse died, and he always believed that his liquor traffic foes burned the one and poisoned the other.
      It was in 1882, we think, that the closest mayoralty contest on record occurred. The first returns showed F.P. Goodall elected by one vote, but a recount elected his opponent, Roswell P. Crafts, by one vote.

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