Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2015 Preservation Award Winners
Photos of Coomes Block, Morse Block, and Smith Carriage Company Building / Caring Health Center

Coomes Block, Morse Block, and Smith Carriage Company Building: Caring Health Center • Springfield

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Coomes Block, Morse Block, and Smith Carriage Company are three connected buildings that represent the southward expansion of downtown Springfield in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and are listed together in the National Register of Historic Places. The oldest, the three-story Smith Carriage Company Building (1890, modified 1924), displays Queen Anne and Renaissance Revival-style characteristics. First used as a storage and assembly facility for carriage and then auto parts, the building later served as an electrical and furniture warehouse. Constructed in 1904, the three-story, Classical Revival-style Morse Block was originally divided into two storefronts at the street level, with the upper two levels serving at various times as a dance hall, bowling alley, and meeting space. The early 20th-century Coomes Block is a good example of the period's classically ornamented commercial architecture. Originally configured as a retail storefront with offices above, the building housed various furniture companies from 1939 into the late 20th century. In the 1980s, a local furniture retailer purchased all three buildings and created a single, flowing showroom and warehouse space on multiple levels. Following the company's closure in 2000, the buildings stood vacant and suffered from deterioration and vandalism. In June 2011, as they awaited a planned rehabilitation, all three sustained significant tornado damage. The buildings likely would have been demolished, were it not for Caring Health Center's existing commitment to rehabilitating them for reuse as medical facilities.

Utilizing state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits, the restoration and adaptive reuse included structural repairs, masonry work, installation of new roofing and historically appropriate windows, restoration of historic trim, accessibility upgrades, and new electrical, mechanical, and fire-protection systems. In the Coomes Block, the project restored the configuration of display windows based on historic photos, and included patching and repointing of cast-concrete details and rebuilding the parapet with proper support. Many of the Morse Block's historic window and door openings had been filled with cinderblocks. Nonhistoric storefronts, windows, masonry, cornice, and roof framing had all been severely affected by the tornado. The project team rebuilt the building's walls from the third-floor level, reopened doors and windows, and reconfigured the storefronts in a more traditional manner. The roof was replaced with a new truss system and insulated membrane. Damaged tin ceilings were restored to match the original pattern and profile in the community room, first-floor corridor, and patient waiting area. Prior to the project, Smith Carriage's pressed-metal cornice was corroded and its wood supports severely deteriorated. In areas of severe deterioration at spandrels, the brick was replaced to match the surrounding area, and the cornice was repaired and secured to new backing. The building's aluminum storefront was replaced with double doors and display windows with transoms, echoing the configuration in historic photos. A major challenge of adapting the three buildings for new use was to develop an accessible circulation pattern that preserved the existing floor plates, since they did not have consistent floor levels. The team used small ramps to ease the transitions between buildings, and created an interior elevator to access all public and clinical areas. The adaptive reuse of these buildings into a full-service, licensed community health center allowed Caring Health to provide much-needed medical, dental, and wellness services in an accessible, central setting. The center each year serves more than 13,000 patients, many of whom come from economically challenged backgrounds and suffer from high rates of chronic disease. This sensitive rehabilitation and restoration project also strengthens a vital and diverse urban neighborhood, and will serve the community for years to come.

< < 10 of 11> >