Monday, April 09, 2007

A Visit to 52 Westminster Street

Last week, Jim Boone, President of the Springfield Preservation Trust (SPT), invited me to come along on a tour of the house at 52 Westminster Street, in Springfield, Massachusetts. The visit was scheduled for Saturday, April 7th, at 1:00pm, and our tour was to be hosted by the Rev. Maxine Moore, the Paster of St. Mark Methodist Episcopal Church, which is the the owner of the 52 Westminster property.

I arrived shortly before 1:00pm, and I was met there by Jim Boone. Soon afterward, about a half dozen other members of the Trust arrived to join us. While we waited for our host to arrive, we talked and snapped pictures, and we also took a little stroll around the exterior of the property.

And so 1:00pm drifted by...

A couple of neighbors noticed us at the property and stopped by to talk with us. Both were entirely uninterested in any restoration of the old house. Their sentiment is entirely understandable - who would want to walk out each day to be greeted by such a neglected and blighted property? Still, the SPT was there to gather information about the house's interior, and also to urge the church to either sell the property or take action to renovate it.

1:15pm went by....

The house at 52 Westminster had been used as a church for much of its history. Jim showed me a photograph of the house from the 1930s, back when it was in fine condition. It's a shame that owners of such properties - with such rich histories - feel the need to let them fall into such a dire state of disrepair.

1:20pm went by....

The neighbors complained that drug dealers often park in front of the property to sell their drugs, and that drug users will use the back-side porch to do their drugs. The neighbors said they have repeatedly called the police on such occasions, and the only way they felt that such activities would stop is with the demolition of the old house. The property is actually on the City's list of buildings targeted to be brought down. So the clock is ticking on this small piece of Springfield's history.

1:30pm came along - but unfortunately, our host did not.

Jim Boone received a call on his cell phone. It was Bill Devlin, an SPT member, who had just had a conversation with the Reverend Moore: Who are all those people [attending the tour]? she had asked him. (Bill had called to inquire about her whereabouts, mentioning that a lot of folks were waiting.) Unfortunately, the Reverend said she had just plum forgotten all about our visit, and she wasn't dressed yet, and she hadn't checked with the trustees of the church to OK our tour of the house, and... well, you get the picture. There would be no tour.

Oh well. Below are some photographs I took of the property while we waited for our no-show host. And at the bottom is a brief video tour of 52 Westminster Street. You can also check out a video done by Joseph Fountain last month at the site. Mr. Fountain is an interested buyer, but the church, unfortunately, has not returned his calls.

rear view of the house

side-rear view

front view

St. Mark Church (owners of 52 Westminster)

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Missing Persons in New England

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At 6:18 PM, Blogger sojourner said...

You are doing a public service by publicizing these old houses. In fact, I think the Springfield Republican would better serve the public by doing a series on the possibilities of blighted houses instead of focusing on getting rid of every old building in the city. Their series on blight is depressing.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Bill Dusty said...

Unfortunately, red tape and legal wrangling makes saving the worst of the worst a highly doubtful proposition. Unlike 83 Maple, which is on the market, this property is owned by a church that for whatever reason refuses to sell it. And they've made no effort at all to upkeep it through the years.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

after veiwing the photos of the property it makes me wonder what is really going on in splfd. lack of money in the neighborhood along with the problems downtown in cityhall no wonder the monies never make to the places that really need it. maybe if a famous writer had lived in that house the city would be more concerned with helping to see that it was kept up. maybe someone should try to help instead of being so quick to point out the faults in others.


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