The room is on the first floor of the Alexander House in Springfield, December 2, 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.
The room in 2019:
The Alexander House is one of Springfield’s oldest homes and perhaps the best example of Federal-style architecture in the city. It was built in 1811 and originally stood on the north side of State Street, between Elliot Street and Spring Street. However, it has been moved twice over the years, first in 1874 when it was moved a few hundred feet due to drainage issues. Then a larger move took place in 2003, when it was moved to the corner of Elliot Street so that its old land could be redeveloped into a federal courthouse. As a result, although these two photos show the same room, they were taken in different locations, the first on State Street and the second on the house’s current lot on Elliot Street.
The original owner of this house was the merchant James Byers, who lived there from 1811 to 1820, when he sold it to Colonel Israel Trask. The house briefly belonged to the eminent portrait painter Chester Harding, but he sold it to Trask in 1832. Trask died three years later, but his family owned it until 1857. The next owner, and namesake current of the house, was a local banker and politician Henry Alexander, Jr. He served as president of Springfield Bank, and he also held a number of elected positions, including that of city councilor from 1857 to 1858, mayor from 1864 to 1865; and state senator from 1865 to 1868. Alexander named the house Linden Hall, and it was during his possession that the house was first moved. He lived here until his death in 1878, and the house remained in the Alexander family for the next 60 years, until the death of his last surviving child, Amy B. Alexander, in 1938.
The Alexander House was designed by prominent architect Asher Benjamin, and it was built by local contractor Simon Sanborn, who was responsible for most of the beautiful early 19th-century homes in Springfield. In a rather unusual arrangement for a New England house, the house has no front door. Instead, it has two side entrances, which are connected by a hallway that spans the width of the house. At the front of the house are two living rooms, one of which is shown here in these two photos. This particular room, located on the right side of the house when viewed from the street, originally faced southeast towards the corner of State and Spring streets, although in the house’s current orientation. , it is oriented to the southwest.
The first photo was taken less than a year after Amy Alexander’s death, as part of an effort to document the house for the Historic American Buildings Survey. At the time, the future of the house was still uncertain. One proposal was said to have been to move it across the river to Storrowton Village at the Big E Exhibition Center, but this was ultimately scrapped due to the challenges of such a move. Instead, in 1939 the house was acquired by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Now known as Historic New England, this organization has restored and maintained many historic homes throughout the region, and they owned the Alexander House until shortly after the 2003 move. it is privately owned and rented for offices, but it retains its historic aspect both inside and out, and it stands as one of the most historic and architectural houses in the city.