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Two New Historic Districts Established In Springfield

Two new historic districts have been established in the largest city in western Massachusetts.  Both consist of a single building. 

One of the districts is a downtown office block that is home to the Springfield Innovation Center. The other is for a single house described as one of the most unusual in the entire region.

The historic district designations will allow the building owners to pursue sources of funds to restore the properties.

The house at 60 Byers Street is now the Thurston Munson House Local Historic District. Built in 1953 by artist-architect Thurston Munson, the house has a flat roof, curved walls, ironwork, and a wall of glass on the rear of the house that overlooks downtown Springfield.

Considered by some to be an eyesore on a street otherwise filled with brick apartment buildings and Victorian homes, preserving it is important, said City Councilor Adam Gomez, who sponsored the ordinance to designate it as an historic structure.

" I think it is important because that house is a one-of-a-kind house," said Gomez.

Abandoned more than a decade ago, the house was purchased last year at a tax foreclosure auction for $19,080 by Miquel Menchu, who reportedly plans to renovate and restore the property.

"Its been about 15 years since that place has gotten some TLC, I think," said Gomez.

The design of the house is a rarity, not just to Springfield but to the region, according to Bob McCarroll, a trustee of the Springfield Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

" It is built in the International Style - the modern style, that was never very popular in western Massachusetts especially for residences," said McCarroll. " You will not see very many houses up and down the valley that look close to this. This looks almost like a Frank Lloyd Wright-type house."

The Trinity Block Local Historic District on Bridge Street was once the site of the Trinity Methodist Church. It was replaced in the 1920s by the existing office block.

"This is a wonderful 1920s-era building. Very fanciful and unusual for Springfield in that it has a terracotta exterior," said McCarroll.

DevelopSpringfield, the nonprofit that owns the building, has spent $7 million to renovate the inside of the building and restore the façade.   The principal tenant, Valley Venture Mentors, moved in earlier this year.

City Councilor Ken Shea said the building enhances the character of the city’s downtown.

" The city has been here since the 1600s we certainly don't want to turn it into something looking like we developed it in 2020," said Shea.

Springfield now has 16 local historic districts.  Any exterior changes to structures located in a local historic district require approvals from the Historical Commission.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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