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History of the Longmeadow Town Green

by Jim Moran, Board member- Longmeadow Historical Society
December 21, 2017

The Town Green has been the focal point of life in Longmeadow for a long time. This summary looks at the changing landscape of the Town Green from the late 1700's to the early 20th century.

Proceedings at the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of the Town of Longmeadow (aka "The Centennial Book") was published in 1884 for the 100th anniversary celebration of the incorporation of Longmeadow in 1883.  It contains a wealth of information about the first hundred years including the history of the Green.  In addition, a review of the historic Longmeadow maps (1831, 1855, 1870, 1894, 1910 and 1920) of the Green provides some great insight as to its history.

Here are highlights of the early history of the Green through the early 20th century....

  • Prior to 1831 there were numerous shops on the Green as well as a School House and the Meeting House.  These shops were granted 40 year leases on the Green with the last lease starting in 1795.

  • The 1831 map shows only the School House and the Meeting House (--> Congregational Church) remaining on the Green.  There were no shops in 1831 since most of the leases had expired and town leaders decided to remove them from the Green.

  • The 1870 map shows only the Congregational Church and the weigh scale(?) for the Colton Store.  The School House located on the Green was destroyed by fire in 1852.

  • Two shops (marked sheds on the 1870 map)- the blacksmith and the wheelwright had been granted leases for a section of land west of the Olde Burying Yard but these shops were not removed when the leases expired.  The owners eventually achieved legal ownership (squatter's rights?) and the Parish was required to purchase the properties when the Congregational Church was moved from the Green to its current location.

  • In 1874 the Congregational Church was moved to its current location and at that time there were no visible structures on the Green.

  • In 1895- the Springfield Street Railway was granted a "franchise" to operate a trolley service from Springfield, MA to Enfield, CT along Longmeadow Street.  It is interesting to note that the original proposal on the 1894 map showed the trolley tracks + electric power poles/ lines avoiding intrusion onto the Green.  However the 1910 map shows the actual north/south trolley path being placed directly on the Green. For 40 years (1895 - 1940) trolleys transversed the Green carrying Longmeadow residents and others to their destinations.



Here are some additional details....

The Centennial Book published in 1884 provides a great snapshot of the Green in the early days following the American Revolution.  Here are a few excerpts...

"THE BROAD AND BEAUTIFUL LONGMEADOW STREET has been at different times the subject of many votes, showing how narrow has been its escape from the most serious encroachments, urged in the interest of individuals, or even of the public itself.  It may surprise some to learn that the present central section of park-like sward was originally a long sand-drift, -similar to many now found in the wood-belt eastward, and that this was reclaimed and converted into its present verdure by a process of enrichment and cultivation extending over several years, carried on by a citizen (Capt. Calvin Burt), who was permitted for that purpose temporarily to enclose a long section of the street. The northern half of this same central section was also by town permission occupied for many years by a central series of shops, stores, and manufactories, under forty year leases, in the same way that the front portion of the Burying-Ground grant was permitted to be occupied by a blacksmith's and a wheelwright's shops."

"These last [blacksmith and wheelwright shops], unfortunately, by unchallenged occupancy for more than forty years, gained finally a title to the land itself which it cost the Parish several hundred dollars to extinguish when this corner was desired as a site for the remodeled Church edifice in 1874.  Fortunately the danger was earlier discovered in regard to the Main Street [Longmeadow Street] leases, and the removal of all those buildings was secured at the expiration of the lease-term- while a sentiment of jealous and loving care now exists which would make their renewal forever impossible."

The Town stopped granting 40 year leases to build shops in the street (Town Green) in 1795.  By 1831- because of expired and unrenewed leases, there were no shops remaining on the Green- only the School House and the Meeting House (see Figure 1 below).  The School House burned down in 1852.

The 1870 map in Figure 2 shows the sheds which are the blacksmith and wheelwright shops referred to in the above passage.  Because the blacksmith and wheelwright shops (west of the Olde Burying Yard) had been in place for greater than 40 years, the renters became owners (squatter's rights ?) and the Parish was required to purchase the land when the Congregational Church was moved from the Green to its current location in 1874.

By 1870 the only remaining structure on the Green was the Congregational Church which was moved to its current location in 1874 (see Figure 2).

 


Figure 1- 1831 Map of Longmeadow Town Green 
[click image to enlarge]


Figure 2- 1870 Map of Longmeadow Town Green
[click image to enlarge]

The Old Country Store built by Calvin Burt and Stephen Cooley in 1805 remains today as the Spa-on-the-Green/ Dr. Glen Brooks as the only commercial business on the perimeter of the Town Green.


Figure 3- Old Country Store


Figure 4- 1894 Map of Longmeadow Town Green  
[click image to enlarge]

After the split of East and West Villages of Longmeadow on July 1, 1894, the Springfield Street Railway launched a commercial enterprise to provide trolley service from downtown Springfield to Enfield, CT.  The original layout of the trolley tracks shown in the 1894 map (see Figure 4) avoided use of the Town Green but the final implementation actually utilized a significant portion of the Town Green for the tracks and electric power poles/ wires (see Figure 5).  Trolley service was initiated in 1895 and the last trolley run was in 1940.


Figure 5 - 1894 Map of Longmeadow Town Green 
[click image to enlarge]

Below is an Emerson photo- (Figure 6) showing the trolley tracks traversing the Town Green in 1915.


Figure 6 - Springfield Street Railway- Looking North on Town Green


Check back to the Town Crier Archive often to read new articles as they are posted.


Longmeadow Historical Society

697 Longmeadow Street
Longmeadow, MA 01106
(413) 567-3600
LongmeadowHS@gmail.com
 
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