About the Agawam Historical Association
Visit the new Agawam Historical Association web site here.Charles W. Hull
The roots of the Agawam Historical Association begin with "Charles W. Hull. Jr., who, in addition to farming, carried on a lumber business and held various town offices including Selectman and Assessor, and as a hobby collected a variety of things; history, antiques, minerals and Indian relics. He was a familiar figure seen walking slowly along the fields looking for arrowheads." He lived on a "small Main Street farm which had been in the family since the Civil War and where" the household included his wife, parents and three daughters "and an occasional hired farmhand".
One of his daughters, Edith LaFrancis, born in 1905, made the "mile walk to Agawam Center School which she attended for the usual nine years, going on to graduate from Technical High School in Springfield in 1923. At Westfield Teacher's College she completed half the course and then branched out in a variety of activities until marriage started her on a career as a homemaker. She managed to find time for writing and the study of art while caring for her family; her husband, son and daughter." By 1980 she had six grandchildren.
Edith loved commercial and fine art and writing and was constantly involved in "projects". Her work, including "pen and ink illustrations and photos from her collection have been used along with her writing in such publications as New England Galaxy, New England Homestead, Science of the Mind, Tobacco Journal, Yankee, Good Old Days, and the Tower Press craft magazines and newspapers. After her father's death, she "took over as history keeper and continued where he left off, with articles and pictures for The Agawam Independent". In 1980 the publication of her book; Agawam Massachusetts A Town History marked the "completion of a project not only her own but also her father's" and left as a legacy the definitive work about Agawam's history "from the building of the first house in the meadow to the beginning of government under the Home Rule Charter of 1972".
During the time Edith was writing her book, she was supported and encouraged by Marilyn Curry, Chairman of the town Historical Commission. Around that time "Marilyn and Dick Curry purchased glass negatives of photographs taken in Agawam in the late 1800s, assuming that they were the work of the Howes Brothers of Ashfield, Massachusetts. The negatives sat in the box they were purchased in, until 1991 when Dick Curry died, and they were then donated to the Agawam Historical Association. Local historians, including Kimball Howes of the Ashfield Historical Society, later revealed that the photographs were not the work of the Howes Brothers. When a photograph album was (later) donated to the Agawam Historical Association, it was compared to the negatives received from the Currys, and they were identical. This also revealed the true photographer as Reverend Hollis A. Campbell." High resolution digital images from these glass negatives are available for online viewing in the Agawam Historical Association Image Museum.
The 1918 Elm Street fire station"At a special town meeting on September 26, 1917 the 'Special Committee on Fire Department Needs in Agawam Center reported advising the building of a hose house.' It was voted that day 'that the town take a lot of land situated on the Southerly side of Elm Street belonging to the heirs of Edward K. Bodurtha... for the purpose of erecting a hose house thereon.' It was also voted 'that the Moderator appoint a committee of three to secure plans, advertise for bids and erect a suitable hose house at Agawam Center on the aforementioned lot, and that the Treasurer is hereby authorized and directed to borrow for the term of one year with the approval of the Selectmen, a sum of money not exceeding thirty-six hundred dollars ($3600) for the payment of same.' The actual cost of the Elm Street station (Station No. 3) was $4638.23, broken down as follows: Norman F. Winter, architect, $219.98; Amos Gosselin, contractor, $4,398.85; Springfield Gas Light Company, connection, $18.50. This was the first fire station in Agawam to be built specifically for motorized apparatus. Construction was finished in 1918 and the station was in service for more than 75 years. Later the station was moved 186 feet west on Elm Street from its original location so that the Baptist Church could build an addition.
The Agawam Historical and Fire House Museum
"Plans for the Agawam Historical and Fire House Museum began in 1995 during the construction of the new Agawam Fire Department headquarters on Main Street. The 1918 Elm Street station was scheduled for decommissioning upon the dedication of the new station. Then-mayor Christopher Johnson brought together the Agawam Historical Commission, the Agawam Historical Association, and the Agawam Fire Department to discuss the feasibility of renovating the building and opening it as a museum. The Town would retain ownership of the property, and the Historical Association would raise the funds necessary for materials. The Agawam Historical Association then embarked on a three-year findraising campaign that raised more than $35,000. Much of the renovation cost went into the addition built at the rear of the building, which houses a chairlift, making the museum fully handicapped accessible." The dayroom on the second floor has been completely renovated to look as it did in 1918 and now contains permanent and revolving displays from the collection. The kitchen area has been renovated as well to look as it did at the time the station was built. The first floor apparatus bay houses displays pertaining to the Agawam Fire Department.
The beginning of a new century found the Agawam Historical Association members pursuing not one, but two major projects. First, Association President Rick Bellico lead a group of volunteer underwriters in assisting the Association purchase the oldest house in town, the Thomas Smith House at 241 North West Street in Feeding Hills. The house was purchased in 2002 and restoration is progressing and is documented in a photo gallery on the Association web page at agawam-history.org.
Concurrently, David Cecchi and the Agawam Historical Association published an 'Images of America' book titled; Agawam and Feeding Hills, which included many of the photographs previously mentioned along with others donated from private collections. That book was so well received that he published a followup in 2005 titled; Agawam and Feeding Hills Revisited.
* Quotes about Charles Hull and Edith LaFrancis all from Agawam Massachusetts A Town History.