Massachusetts Digital Treasures


(South Hadley view from Holyoke: 1894 – Photo courtesy of MA Digital Treasures) 

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) brings together libraries, archives, and museums around the country through a massive digital archive system. These archives are available to anyone with internet access. It’s a resource that provides books, images, historical records, and audiovisual materials. Conceptualized in 2010, the creation of the DPLA took two years.

Similar to the DPLA, we here in Massachusetts have  a more local source for archival history and digital resources: The Massachusetts Digital Treasures Project. The project was a collaborative effort made by the Central and Western MA Automated Resource Sharing System, and the Central and Western MA Regional Library Systems. Initiated in 2006, it began as a pilot program with a headquarters in Worcester. Massachusetts Digital Tresures now has 36 collections from MA libraries with over 1,300 accessible images.

Browsing the Massachusetts Digital Treasures library gives us all an opportunity to take a look back at and learn about the local history of this state. Through the many photographs available, we are able to see the incredible ways in which places change with the passing of time. This digital library project continues as a collaborative effort among the MA library systems to bring funding, guidance, and expertise to the archives.

mt holyoke summit hous ma digital archives


(Mt. Holyoke Summit House, North Side – Photo courtesy of MA Digital Treasures)

This is the House that Jack Built

If you have ever walked down Woodbridge Street in South Hadley, you may have noticed a peculiar inscription on the chimney of one of the houses stating, “This is the House that Jack Built.” This “house that Jack built” is the Croysdale Inn located at 21 Woodbridge Street.

The inn was built by John (Jack) Parfitt, a Holyoke builder, in the spring of 1911. “Jack” constructed the inn for his two sisters, Frances and Isabella, so that they could expand their business, Ye Old English Tea Rooms. The sisters began their business in the spring of 1909 in a small red building located near the village common. The business quickly became popular, especially with the Mount Holyoke College girls. In need of more space, the sisters moved the tea rooms into a nearby house just a year later, which shortly proved unable to accommodate the increasing business. The following spring, their brother constructed the spacious Croysdale Inn (named after a family ancestor) so that the tea rooms could expand.

Upon the completion of the Croysdale Inn, the many people who helped plan and construct the inn decided to engrave on the north chimney, “This is the House that Jack Built” to capture the heart and effort put in to its establishment. Whether coincidence or not, I cannot help but think that the inscription also serves as a nod to the popular British nursery rhyme by the same name. Regardless of who or what the dedication was truly meant to honor, the inn has become best known by those words rather than by its given name.

The substantial three story building originally had a gray colored stucco exterior with dark green trimmings. The first floor, decorated in gold and brown was comprised of four dining rooms, a large kitchen, and a wide piazza at the back which was used to serve afternoon tea. The three smaller dining rooms were called the English, Dutch, and Japanese rooms, and they were designed to accommodate small parties. The north dining room ran the length of the building and was used for larger parties. According to Irene Cronin, who had written a piece on the building in the Hampshire Weekend Gazette in 1995, “The inn catered to parties, private lunches, and dinners and was noted for its home cooking.” Frances and Isabella not only ran their business on the first floor of the inn, but they lived upstairs in one of the many bedrooms on the second and third floors.

The sisters operated the tea room for 18 years until they decided to close the business and divide the building into apartments. They remained in the house for a few more years while Frances worked at Mount Holyoke College as secretary to the treasurer. In 1937 they turned the house over to the Home Owners Loan Corp. The property then went through several owners until it was purchased and renovated by Mount Holyoke College in 1959.

Today, the apartments continue to house faculty of Mount Holyoke College.

Like the nursery rhyme that tells a cumulative tale of people and things indirectly related to the house of a man named Jack, “The House that Jack Built” has a long history in South Hadley that undoubtedly will continue to grow.

Croysdale Inn. If you look closely, you can see the dedication on the chimney, "This is the House that Jack Built."

Special thanks to Irene Cronin for her information on the building through her article “Inn was ‘the house that Jack built’” published in the Hampshire Weekend Gazette 1995.

“The Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on Connecticut River”

The Inclined Plane Canal of South Hadley seems to be in the air at the moment. Last Thursday, the Library began offering plaques for sale which feature the canal and the words “Welcome to South Hadley.” (For those interested, the painted commemorative plaques are available for $20, $2 of which directly benefits Gaylord Memorial Library.) Indubitably inspired by the plaque, a patron also brought up the canal in a conversation last Friday. Finally, this Tuesday, I heard it mentioned in my biology class, in tangential connection to geology, Darwin, and monetary profit. As a non-resident of South Hadley and firmly cloistered in my studies, I had not the slightest idea of what an “inclined plane canal” entailed, much less what one was doing in South Hadley.

According to Alice Morehouse Walker, whose knowledge of Hadley truly is amazing, the inclined plane canal began construction in 1792 (1906: 109). The impetus for such an endeavor was a company, “The Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on the Connecticut River.” At the time, the Connecticut River facilitated transportation considerably (more articles to follow regarding the River). As Walker writes, “this natural waterway formed a connecting link between the isolated villages by means of which they were kept in touch with each other and in communication with the outside world” (1906: 109). Lumber was rafted down river, in addition to “farm produce, shingles, ash plank, furs and fish” (Walker, 1906: 107). Once downstream, the rafts and boats had to be poled up stream. “Poling was the hardest work known and caused much lameness and blistering of the skin in front of the shoulder, for which a frequent application of rum was a remedy” (Walker, 1906: 108). Furthermore, in South Hadley, “The Connecticut River had a fall of about fifty-three feet in the two and one half miles of rapids” (Taugher, 5). An inclined plane canal, in this context, is justifiable.

Building the canal was a daunting task, and back then, no canal had ever been built in the United States. “Gun powder was the only explosive known and drilling was done by the hands of man” (Walker, 1906: 109). The channel for the canal went through solid rock for two and a half miles and at its narrowest, was 20 feet wide (Walker, 1906: 109; Taugher, 4-5). Dutch enterprisers, who would certainly profit from increased commerce as well as the anticipated tolls, supplied the majority of the funding, but money was apparently scarce at the time (Taugher, 4). In addition, because of the drilling, water flooded nearby fields and meadows, “produced fever and ague, and indignant citizens clamored for the removal of the time [while] Those interested in the fisheries demanded a fishway that the shad might go up the river to their spawning shoals” (Walker, 1906: 109).

Furthermore, the mechanics of an inclined plane canal vary, most in terms of power sources. For example, “In the inclined plane proposed by Fulton, the boats, being placed on carriages while in the water, were drawn over a ridge having a slope in both directions, by a force derived from a vessel of water descending in a vertical well. A similar double plane was used by Kitchell on the Morris Canal, but the power was derived from a water-wheel” (Renwick, 1840: 177). “The Proprietors of the Locks and Canals on the Connecticut River” decided to opt for this second power source: “The wheels [of the canal] are turned by a large trundle wheel, fixed on each end of the shaft of water of sixteen feet in diameter, and this water wheel is put in motion by water supplied by a small reservoir” (Morse, as quoted in Taugher, 6-7). For every pound acting on the water wheel, 24 pounds could be lifted by the canal (Taugher, 7). A carriage was thus moved up or down the incline, which was stone enhanced with wooden planks (Taugher, 5). As the first of its kind, the canal opened in January 1795 to much appreciation: “Even the cold of the early winter, the people of the region surrounding the canal had a holiday and gathered in large numbers to admire the great work done and to ride and down the inclined plane in the grand carriage” (Taugher, 5). Even despite high running costs, a false criminal accusation, and much repair and maintenance work, the canal continued to assist boats up and down the Connecticut River throughout the early 1800s. Unfortunately, in 1848, other methods of transportation took precedence, and the canal closed for transportation.

The above photo is courtesy of the South Hadley Historical Society.