Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2017 Preservation Award Winners
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Photo of Merrick-Phelps House, Springfield

Merrick-Phelps House, Springfield

Rehabilitation & Restoration

Constructed in 1841, the Merrick-Phelps House is one of Springfield’s most significant historic buildings. Built by Solymon Merrick, inventor of the monkey wrench and a key player in Springfield’s history of industry and innovation, the house was sold in 1847 to Ansel Phelps, who later became the city’s mayor. Many residents still refer to this as the “Mayor’s House.” After Phelps’s death in 1860, the building continued to house families of the Springfield elite well into the 20th century.

The Merrick-Phelps House is situated on the corner of Maple and Union streets. The area is a gateway into downtown Springfield and one of the city’s most heavily traveled arteries. The Greek Revival-style, two-story, single-family house features a low hipped roof and an elaborate two-story portico with fluted Corinthian columns. A one-story porch on the Union Street elevation was added in 1890. The primary entrance is located at the center bay of the porch elevation on Maple Street and is accentuated by a Greek Revival-style door surround and a pair of glass and wood panel doors. The windows are all original. Notable interior features include a grand center hall with a curved staircase along one wall, a large parlor and dining room with decorative trim, and five original fireplace mantels. The Merrick-Phelps House stands out as one of Springfield’s most notable historic houses and is an anchor to the surrounding Lower Maple Historic District.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the house began to show signs of neglect, and it was abandoned in 2007. When the current owners, DevelopSpringfield, purchased the house in 2013, it had been vacant for several years and was in an advanced state of deterioration, exacerbated by the 2011 tornado that caused significant damage in the area. The first step in the rehabilitation process, which used state and federal tax credits, was the restoration of the exterior, including the building’s distinctive porch columns and capitals. Exterior work included repairs to the original slate roof, repair and reconstruction of the original chimneys, and restoration of all 31 original windows as well as three sets of interior shutters. The rehabilitation process proceeded with the conversion of the interior into professional office space. As the interior retained a significant amount of historic material and detailing, renovations were sensitively done to retain as much of the original fabric as possible, including the floor plan, historic plaster walls, hardwood floors, wood detailing, doors, staircases, fireplaces, and mantels. Modern HVAC, electrical work, plumbing, and sprinkler systems were all carefully woven in to minimize alterations to the historic fabric. The building now serves as the headquarters for DevelopSpringfield and for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampden County, housing eleven employees and attracting numerous visitors and volunteers.

Situated on its prominent corner near the downtown core, the rehabilitated Merrick-Phelps House stands as a shining example of historic preservation. The investment into the Merrick-Phelps House has spurred the development of adjacent houses, which together will form the commercial campus known as the Lower Maple Business Park. The Merrick-Phelps House is once again a proud symbol of Springfield’s rich historic and architectural heritage and a functioning contributor to the city’s economic future.

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