Sketch of Holyoke
by George H. Allyn, page 16

      In our realty recollections we became oblivious of our city's part in the Spanish war, but it was most creditable, and twenty times the number of men enlisting could have been supplied, if needed. We have always thought that Capt. W.J. Crosier and his mule never received quite the amount of credit which really should have been accorded them.
      Anyone desiring a thrilling account of Roosevelt's gallantry at Los Guasimas should call on the captain, who will feelingly depict it, possibly punctuating it with what one of our genial old-time Holyokers used to call "scattering remarks."
      In 1900 the Water Power Company built the splendid new dam, which seems about the finest piece of masonry in the world. The company did themselves proud on this, though for a period of about fifteen years they were shamefully negligent (in the writer's opinion at least) in allowing their canal fences to be so neglected that from six to ten children were mathematically certain to fall to their death each year. This condition has been remedied under the present management, but many heartrending deaths could have been avoided by a few dollars and a little care.
      The fine West street school building came in 1896.
      One of the prettiest churches in our city, the St. Paul's Episcopal, on Appleton street, was built in 1904, succeeding the modest gray stone building built at the corner of Maple and Suffolk streets in 1869.
      During the last half century the part of Northampton comprising a long narrow neck of land running from the hills to the river, and from upper Northampton street to Mt. Tom Junction suffered peculiarly.
      When the boundary between West Springfield and Northampton was fixed there was no Holyoke, and this narrow stretch was somewhat nearer to Northampton than Springfield. The building of the Paper City changed the complexion of affairs and left it right in close touch with Holyoke, and about seven miles from Northampton. Northampton's jurisdiction was merely municipal. She owned no land or buildings save the little Smiths Ferry schoolhouse, and when it became patent that Holyoke could conveniently accommodate the section, while the Meadow City couldn't without great inconvenience, the desire for annexation was inevitable. But instead of petitioning directly a quarter of a century ago, the matter was not taken up till 1895, and numerous attempts were defeated by Northampton on shrewd technicalities, and others were discontinued by cause of olive branches temporarily held out in the fall and quickly withdrawn when it became too late in the year to act.
      Northampton's position was simple and sordid. She wanted the fat sum of money received each year in taxes, bound to increase yearly. She paid out only a tithe of this, and didn't propose to. Had she bound herself before the Legislature to furnish water, schooling, sewerage, etc., it is doubtful whether, tinder the leadership of President of the Senate Treadway, if she wouldn't have still retained the control. But the idea of a city that frankly said she would make no improvements, retaining this fertile section, was too much for the solons, and annexation became a fact in 1909, accompanied by an award of $55,000 for damages, which was in the nature of a ransom paid to an Arab chief holding a prisoner in captivity.
      Holyoke, though a little dilatory, will keep her promises to this beautiful section, and has already kept one of them, under Mayor White, who has shown Springfield that we do not continue to "sleep at the switch."
      During the last twelve years an apartment craze has sprang up that we cannot believe is for the best interest of Holyoke. We had to be largely a city of factories, but we might have been also a city of homes. We aspire to yet, but hundreds and hundreds of prospective home owners have become flat dwellers because of the large number of fine steam-heated apartments. Apartment dwelling conduces to sloth and softness of one's fibre. A town of homeowners is harder muscled, harder-headed, and more imbued with civic pride than one of flat dwellers. While the structures are handsome, they hive up the civic wealth of the town.
      In Holyoke's early days the "Yankees" worked in the mills, and as laborers. Then came the Irish; they became ambitious and yielded to the French. Then came the Polanders, one of the hardest working and thriftiest of all.

Windsor Hotel

Windsor Hotel, Destroyed by Fire February 28, 1899.

      One concern that in continuous business career under the same family management nearly equalled the J. Russell hardware store, is the Wm. B. Whiting Coal Company, which succeeded W.L. Martin in the late 60's.
      About 1887 P.J. Kennedy came to Holyoke and established the Daily Democrat, afterwards merged into the Evening Telegram, now a lively and militant journal. Mr. Kennedy was a man of ability and a spellbinder, but Mr. Loomis will always remain the editor par excellence of the old-timers. In a witty essay read in the Congregational Church vestry, back in the late 70's, Mrs. C.H. Richards said that the Lord showed true scriptural care over William, "for the very hairs of his head are numbered."
      Preston W. Search, who was superintendent of schools here in 1898-1900, had a powerful influence on the educational morale, and would have been an ideal head, but for the danger that his extravagance might bankrupt the city.
      The genial M.F. Walsh perpetrated a particularly fiendish joke on Committeeman T.J. Carmody, which certainly didn't lengthen Mr. Search's official career, but the erstwhile committeeman, now water commissioner, would recall the laying of the Smiths Ferry water mains if we divulged it. 'Tis said that when the wily M. F. revealed the facts to Carmody in after years the remorseful committeeman said contritely: "Holy sailor, and I fired poor Search for that."
      The Free Press and the Democrat are also with us in journalistic sense.
      Two important events in 1898 were the outbreak of the Spanish war and the formation of the Williams & Montgomery Real Estate Agency. The writer has often facetiously claimed that the latter event carried with it the most danger to Holyoke property, as the senior member hailed originally from Jericho, Vt., up near the Canadian line, and the junior from the Trott River New York section, and 'tis said his grandfather in Revolutionary times persuaded a Hessian guard to desert from the British, using the familiar real estate logic.
      But seriously the firm has earned its designation as "the reliable firm," and until the advent of John H. Woods, was considered the most enterprising of brokers. Slanderers now claim that the three agencies (Allyn, W. & M., and Woods) have reduced the city realty bargains to about the condition of the ancient province of which Caesar wrote: "All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which, etc." The writer considers it unnecessary to demonstrate the falsity of this.
      The burning of the Windsor Hotel and block in 1899 temporarily paralyzed the business current in that section, and gave a tremendous impetus to High street values. Firms like McAuslan & Wakelin and Besse-Mills seeking locations naturally made a big stir.
      To illustrate the increase in values the lot where the Goodall drug store now stands was sold by the Allyn Agency in 1889 to John O'Shea and Levi M. Pierce for $6,550, considered a good round sum. James J. Curran paid $35,000 for the same lot in 1907. R.F. Kelton bought the property now occupied by Hatch & Co. for about $36,000 about 1899 or 1900. For our friend Rackliffe's sake we forbear to tell the public and the assessors what it is worth now.
      The McAuslan & Wakelin fire, in 1907, was another disturber of traffic, but our fire department (we believe the finest for its size in the world) has minimized fires that might have razed the business portion of the city. The Marble Block fire, in December, 1902, was handled like a strategic battle.
      We might mention the fine progress Holyoke' s evening schools have made, but we fear the principal's brain, already weakened by the Republican scribe's flattery, might be turned for fair.
      This recalls to us the great difference in working, living, and schooling which has obtained in the writer's memory since 1870. At that date many people worked from 6 a. m. to 6 p. m. in the mills. The old sawmill used to have them come to work as early as 5 o'clock. Few houses had sanitary plumbing, gas, or even hot water. There were no telephones, electric cars. phonographs, or automobiles. Hard-working young men would go over to the island in the Connecticut to play ball Sunday, the only moment they had for relaxation, and the police would raid them. The roads were in a deplorable state. The lockup wasn't a decent place for a dog. Modes of recreation were few and expensive. The schools, compared with those of today, were like hencoops.
      The writer recalls lard selling for twenty cents per pound, sugar seven pounds for a dollar, kerosene twenty-five cents per gallon, and tea one dollar per pound "and five cents extra for the caddy," a miserable tin can that we'd throw into the garbage can. No bicycles, no electric lights, nothing that we have today. Let us be thankful.
      The Holyoke Business Men's Association was organized in the late 90's, but despite the conscientious work of men like James J. Curran, M.H. Whitcomb, M.P. Conway, and others, failed to make good. In our judgment their aims were too narrow and picayunish. The Holyoke Board of Trade was organized in 1909, and despite several false starts and internal dissensions, for most of which the writer was fervently cursed, bids fair to make good. It is striving to better the city, not by "swiping" industries from other places, but by healthy and legitimate development.
      E.A. Buckland notes that there was a socialistic organization here clear back in the late 70's, and that at the time of the Haymarket tragedy in Chicago there was fear of an armed revolution, and the club used to drill at South Holyoke.

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