City of Homes, an exhibit exploring the ways Springfield builders, designers, manufacturers, merchants, and residents interpreted the concept of home, will be on view from July 18 through Jan. 20, 2008 at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum at the Quadrangle.
In the 1880s, journalist Frederick R. Guernsey christened Springfield "The City of Homes" in a Boston Herald editorial. The city's 19th-century mix of well-paid industrial and commercial jobs meant that a large number of residents could afford to be homeowners rather than tenants. Springfield's housing stock blossomed in suburban developments in the McKnight, Forest Park, and Hungry Hill neighborhoods. Springfield's wealth of homes in a profusion of styles led Springfield architect Eugene Gardner to extol "the heterogeneous character of our domestic architecture." The nickname "City of Homes" is still used to promote Springfield today. But what makes a home? The exhibit will explore the different ways people have defined "home" and will invite viewers to explore their own ideas for what makes an ideal home. The exhibit will feature rare architectural drawings and photographs of some of Springfield's grand Victorian mansions, blueprints and catalogs for middle-class single-family homes, articles and photographs showing the "Home of the Future" created by Monsanto at Disneyland in the 1960s, and even images of Springfield's first mobile homes. Selections from advertisements, advice books, and interior views will illustrate how changes in fashion and technology shaped home interiors as well as exteriors. Visitors will be able to design their own homes by choosing from various styles of architectural features such as roofs, gables and windows and placing them on a magnetic board in the shape of a home. Another magnetic board will allow visitors to design an interior space. Members of the Springfield Preservation Trust have generously loaned items from their private collections for display in the exhibit.