Sketch of Holyoke|
by George H. Allyn, page 6
In Exchange Hall had been held the concerts, lectures, society, religious, and public meetings for a score of years. The writer as a small boy in about 1868 recalls the velocipede craze. The velocipede was a caricature of the later high-wheel bicycle without the chain. A high speed could be attained on a smooth level surface, but it was practically impossible to ride up hill. Exchange Hall was headquarters for the craze at its height, and staid citizens would pay fifty cents for the privilege of whirling around the hall, and taking a flying dive when they tried to make a sharp turn. Thomas W. Mann and John J. Prew thought they saw "millions in it," and invested in several velocipedes for a tour through Connecticut. The mechanical construction of the machines was faulty and they would break right at the "neckyoke."
Mr. Prew said it was worth a dollar to see the gaze with which the country blacksmiths, to whom they took the machines, regarded them. Finally Mr. Prew traded his share in the venture for a pair of boots and returned home.
His brother, Joseph N. Prew, entered the photographic business in 1861, at the age of eighteen years and continued till 1877. First located in the Hutchins' block, corner of High and Hampden streets, he later removed to the Fuller block, and still later moved across the street again. The sign, "Prew's Picture Rooms," extended clear across the street.
Joe is also reported to have secured many volunteers for the war, some of whom sent home cordial assurances that they'd kill him when they returned. He still survives, however, and Holyoke would miss his cheery countenance and the sound of his booming voice.
In 1864 the Colby block, next to where the Holyoke National bank now stands, had been built and was afterwards sold to W.C. Carter, who kept stores there. Later, by inheritance, it came to W.C. Heywood and is now owned by Louis Strauss.
The block now occupied by the Atherton store seems to have been built by J.C. Parsons in the 60's, and later was owned by "Jim" Meacham, the jeweler, with whom T.J. Morrow learned his trade. Later B.F. Lincoln bought it and his son still retains it.
R.G. Marsh had also built the property now known as the Park Pharmacy, and George M. Wolcott bought in 1862 the lot on the corner of High and Dwight streets, on which he built in 1879, and which is now the McAuslan & Wakelin corner. The Orrell block, at the corner of High and Hampden streets, was also built in the early 60's, and Main street, below Dwight began to build up in this decade.
A young man from Vermont, named Charles Corser, came to the town, and shortly after opened a shoe store nearly opposite. It is related that when he struck the town he was unable to pay his boarding master for several weeks, and one morning the latter remonstrated with him:
"See here, Corser, if you think I can board people for six or seven weeks without a cent of money, you're mistaken." "Why don't you sell out to someone that can, then?" replied the imperturbable Corser. Mr. Corser was the first natural advertising genius among the merchants.
First Congregational Church
Other merchants of this era were Allen Higginbottom, O.S. Tuttle, A.L. Shumway, Gustavus Snow, W.L. Martin, who owned the block standing at the corner of High and Hampden streets; E.F. Jefts, John R. Baker, R.P. Crafts, L.A. Taber, E.W. Loomis, father of W S. Loomis; Tuttle & Moore, Rufus Mosher, T.E. Morrill, and Ezra H. Flagg, druggists-though in the later 60's Mr. Flagg became a member of the firm of Wiggin & Flagg, lumber dealers.
The people lived largely in the Lyman, Hadley, Hampden, Holyoke Paper Company, Germania, and New York Mill tenement blocks, with a large number of "shanties" bordering the river bank from Prospect street clear to Tigertown, or South Holyoke.
The Franklin, Massasoit, and Bemis (afterwards Union) paper mills had been built, and a number of mill tenement blocks to accommodate the help.
The residence section had moved from Maple street as far west as Chestnut street, where George Brown, T. C. Page, and S. S. Chase had built, in 1862-63. There was also the Madison Chapin residence on Chestnut street, afterwards bought by C. W. Ranlet, and the L. P. Bosworth residence; also the house occupied by R. P. Crafts before he built the fine mansion, now occupied by S. A. Mahoney. Race street had also came in as a residence section, the Buttericks, Newtons, Chases, Flaggs, and others residing there. Jones S. Davis, agent of the Lyman Mills, had built his fine Maple street place, at the corner of Dwight street. On Dwight street was the Asa Willard house Mr. Willard ran an extensive lumber business, on Front street, at the first level canal and was a strong character. It is said that when dying he gave clear and explicit directions for the carrying on of his business, directing that G. J. Prew should be retained in the office, Levi Meacham in the shop, and other faithful men in various places, but speaking of one expert mechanic, who had been with him for years, he said: "Fire __________ so and so at once. I could handle him, but no one else can."
Human nature was much the same in the late 50's and early 60's as now, for it is related that D.E. Kingsbury, manager for R.P. Crafts sent W.W. Sanborn, a green employe just from Vermont, over to J.E. Morrill's to get
ten cents worth of "white lamp black." From Mr. Morrill's he was forwarded to E.H. Flagg's drug store, and from there to Emerson's grocery store, etc., finally returning and announcing that he "couldn't get a durned bit on't in town."
On another occasion when a soda fountain had been set up in Ludington's drug store, some of the jokers, egged on by "Ros" Crafts, got Harve Jones to place his mouth to the faucet and then turned on the full force. Harve thought a shrapnel bomb had exploded in his brain. And a professional man yet living in the city relates that when attending school at the little brick school opposite where M.S. Spies now lives, which was surrounded by a board fence, he and some of the boys procured an enormous horse pistol, charged it nearly to the muzzle with powder, and shoving it through a crack in the fence, discharged it just as Alf Street's ox team came past in the lot at the rear. It took Alf nearly an hour to catch and subdue the terrified beasts, and that evening the young fiends fired the miniature cannon below Lydia Farnum's window, frightening the good lady and her sister nearly into spasms, and wound up by going to George C. Ewing's place, who then lived in a little house near where J.H. Fowles now resides.
The war was ended; a host of workshops and workers had come in, and the courage of Holyoke's pioneers was high.
But as there was no suburban development, and the business section was largely confined to a small part of the present High street and a few stores near the corner of Dwight and Main streets. A. & S.B. Allyn had built a block at the corner of High and Dwight streets, where the Holyoke Realty Trust building now stands, but they found it a little too far south, and sold it in 1869 so as to erect a building farther north. From Lyman to John streets on High was the best business center, and the Exchange block, a little south of Lyman street on the west side, was regarded as the creme de la creme of business locations, and when it burned to the ground, Holyoke felt it as a crushing blow.
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