The Central Baptist church congregation, the current building of which is located downtown on Elm Street, claims heritage back to the reform movement of the Massachusetts Puritans, who were the original pioneers in the state. However, internal troubles made the Baptist congregation unstable for a long time, such that even after the current Central Baptist congregation was formed starting in 1883, the congregation lost members due to Morman conversion. Many of these folks traveled as pioneers west to Salt Lake City. The venerable brick building with impressive copper clad steep was built during the civil war, beginning in 1963, but unfortunately, some modern window and door restorations have been done that are not consistent with the original architecture.
The restoration of the church was done by a contractor that specializes in such work. The interior was cleaned and repainted, among other things. New artwork has been donated, but some old icon images were refreshed simply by cleaning.
The Parish of St. Mary's and that of Holy Trinity are very near each other physically, but in terms of parish devotion, quite apart. St. Mary's is the wealthier church of much earlier Irish immigrant origin. The parish dates back as early as 1828, but the first wooden church wasn't erected until 1853. A year later, a mob of Know Nothings attempted to burn the church down, but through some efforts the mob was diverted away from the building. However, a faulty chimney flue caused the building to burn down in 1881. The current brick building dates back to 1885, and so is one of the older buildings in town. I toured this building with a parishioner eager to show me the recently restored interior. The exterior is also worth a good look though, and not the extensive parochial school facilities in similar red brick.
During the industrial period of the late 19th century, Polish and Irish immigrants flooded the town, and with them came the Catholic churches. The younger Holy Trinity Catholic Church is operated by an order with Polish background. Some services are still held in the Polish language. This marvelous building is located at 335 Elm Street just south of the river. In 2008, the Parish observed its 100th anniversary. The church building itself appears to be cerca 1910.
Train service no longer runs through Westfield, but the train depot, which is located on the north bank of the river, is worth a look for its architecture. Nearby are also some other old industrial buildings of architectural interest. The rail depot has been converted into an insurance company offices now.
A couple old hotels near the train depot off Elm on the northside of Westfield River now have been restored and put to use as a mall for small gift shops. The "visitor's center" sign is a bit deceptive as inside is a friendly lady and her Westfield tourist gift shop. Nevertheless, the building and shops are worth a stroll, and in the back is a small cafe.
The Public Library in Westfield also has substantial and separate art and history museums, all housed within a venerable old building that appears restored on the outside. Part of the building on Court Street appears to have once been the residence of a wealthy Westfield benefactor for the library. The Westfield Athenaeum is located downtown at the corner of Court and Elm Street.
The town of Westfield sent more than its share of soldiers to fight in the American Civil War and it has like many other cities commemorated this with a bronze memorial. The Westfield Memorial Bronze Statue is noteworthy for both age (1871 dedication) and artwork, as it is reported in the Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog. Check out the link below.
Much, though not all of the downtown is built of the locally produced red brick with brownstone trimming. Most of these building were built between 1865 and 1920. The town still has a few buildings in need of restoration, but most of downtown is now given over to antique stores and other light commercial activity. The main commercial strip is now along Hwy 20 on the other side of MA toll freeway.
The north and south sides of Westfield are joined by two bridges that cross the river, plus an additional rail bridge no longer in use. The two bridges are currently under reconstruction, but the original rivetted steel cantilever bridges are worth walking. The riverbanks have a wealth of trees that in autumn are quite beautiful.
The City Hall is within the original Westfield State Teacher's College building on Court Street. Founded by Horace Mann, the father of public education in the United State, Westfield State College was also the first coeducational normal school in the United States, and today remains the second leading producer of teachers in the state of Massachusetts. Therefore, while Westfield State College remains in the shadow of such giant private educational institutions such as Harvard University, it may be distinguished for serving the middle class public educational needs at the college level. In 1940, Louis B. Allyn, Westfield Teachers College chemistry professor and pure food expert for McClure's magazines, was shot and killed, but the murder remains a mystery. Allyn deserved credit for having started the pure food and ingredients in processed foods that let to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.
By far, the most notable life long resident of Westfield is Major General William Shepard. See the complete story in the Wikipedia link below, but this guy served in great military distinction in the French & Indian War, The Revolutionary War, Shay's Rebellion, and was a farmer, Minuteman, a state and federal congressman. His bronze statue is located on the south edge of the tri-centennial square, near the Old Town Hall.
On Broad Street, right in the center of the southside of town, across from Old Town Hall, Westfield has a small tree shrouded square with a number of important statues. I noticed right away the square could use some improved landscape care, but what interested me was the fountain and commemorative plate describing a celebratory cake made during the 1969 tri-centennial celebration of the town's founding. The cake was 10 feet high by 19 feet in diameter with some 300 lamps.
The oldest building still standing is that of Old Town Hall, built on land donated by Samuel Fowler in 1820. The building was constructed and first used starting in 1839, and has served in a variety capacities--high school, meeting hall, and church. The building is currently part of the First Congregation Church complex, providing shelter for the Carson Center for Human Services. Located at 20 Broad Street, this building is right in the center of the old town. The First Congregational Church nextdoor is also worthy of a few photos for its lovely white wooden steeple. The current Westfield City Hall is located in the original Westfield State Teacher's College building at 59 Court Street.
Between 1865 and 1893, 80% of the town's population worked in the 30 factories that combined produced 95% of the buggy whip supply for the American market, and a good part of the world market for such whips. By World War II, only two factories remained, and today the sole producer of whips in Westfield is the Westfield Whip Manufacturing Company, a company actually recreated in 1946 by retired newspaper man and former Westfield mayor, Harold Martin. At the time of my early morning arrival, I couldn't visit inside the 1887 era building, now listed on the National Historic Register of places, but it sits on the main drag of town and is easy to find at 360 Elm Street.