The Charles H. Richards House

by Laurel | February 3rd, 2014

03 May 1910

Residence of Charles H. Richards

Residence of Charles H. Richards
242 Oak Street, Holyoke
About 1892

This image is from a book in my collection that was published in 1892 and is labeled “Residence of Charles H. Richards.” This was a interesting home to research because looking up the place on aerial maps, it clearly no longer exists — there is no house that even remotely looks like this place. By looking at the city directories and the Federal Census, it is clear Charles H. Richards and family lived in this home from 1892 – 1906. From 1908 – 1910 the Richards family is recorded as living nearby at 253 Oak Street. From prior research, I knew that the home and workplace of Frank & Elizabeth Towne had burned to the ground and found the following article:

Nautilus Offices Destroyed, Costly Early Morning Fire
Mr. and Mrs. William E. Towne Burned out of Residence and Publishing Plant — Loss of $10,000

From The Springfield Daily Republican, 12 Dec 1910 –-The residence of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Towne, publishers of the Nautilus, the American New Life and the Helper magazines, as well as publishers of a number of books, was practically destroyed by fire yesterday morning, and but little saved. The house is situated at 242 Oak street, and was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Towne about five years ago, it being known then as the C. H. Richards residence. Alterations were made at once, the lower floors being devoted to the publishing offices and the upper floors occupied by the family.

The fire was first discovered by the two housemaids, who slept in the upper story. They were aroused by the smoke and, running downstairs , alarmed the rest of the household, who were sound asleep. The fire had made such a start that the occupants had to leave at once, with little attempt to save anything, although the subscription records were secured. Mr. and Mrs. Towne aroused Mr. Towne’s mother, who lived with them, and she was at once taken to the home of friends nearby. The fire department was called at 1:10 and arrived promptly, and although the fire was under such headway that the firemen could not save the building, yet they kept the flames from spreading to nearby houses and also saved the barn on the property, which was used as a storehouse and was filled with stock and books belonging to the publishing company.

The Townes did rebuild on the same lot and resulted in what most people know as the Nautilus or Elizabeth Towne building. They did care extra care in rebuilding to incorporate ideas that would prevent another fire and you can read more about that at this link — and see a photo there of the new building to jog your memory. What follows is a bit about the original owners — clearly well known in the community — of the house pictured above, .

03 May 1910 — Death of Charles H. Richards, For Many Years a Well-Known Grocery Dealer. Charles H. Richards, 64, died yesterday morning at home 253 Oak Street, after a long illness. He was born in Chicopee, December 2, 1845, and was the eldest son of the late T. T. and Mary A. (Smith) Richards. The family moved to Willimansett when he was three years of age, and later, in 1850, came to Holyoke. He attended the public schools and the high school, and entered the employ of W. C. Carter in the Grocery business when he was 17 years of age. He was with the firm when it moved to High Street , and in 1867, bought an interest in a grocery store at Main and Sargeant Streets, his partner being J. A. Thayer.

Richards & Thayer

Richards & Thayer
Ad From the 1881 Holyoke City Directory

The firm remained at that location until 1892, when they bought the block now owned by D. M. Foley market company and conducted business there until 1901, when the firm dissolved, Mr. Thayer retiring and Mr. Richards conducted the business until 1904. Mr. Richards was married in 1869 to Miss Nettie Harlow, who survives him He was a member of Connecticut Valley Lodge,  Knights of Pythias, being one of 18 charter members of the lodge, and had held many lodge offices, having been elected commander in 1907, and was made past commander in 1908. He leaves besides his widow, a daughter, Mrs. James A. Brierly (Jennie) of Holyoke, and a brother, George W. also of Holyoke. The funeral will be held at the home tomorrow afternoon at 2:30, Rev. Dr. E. A. Reed conducting the service, the burial will be in Forestdale Cemetery.

20 June 1926 — Mrs. Ettie H. Richards Dies at Age of 80. Was Graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1867 — Active in “Y” Auxiliary. Holyoke, June 19 — Mrs. Ettie H. Richards, 80, died today at the Holyoke City Hospital after a long illness. She was born in Springfield, Vt., daughter of Lucius and Esther Harlow. The Harlows later moved to Bellows Falls, Vt., and Mrs. Richards attended the schools there and Mt. Holyoke College graduating in the class of 1867. She then came to teach in the Park Street School. Her marriage to Charles H. Richards took place in 1869. He died in 1910.

The couple had two children, Ettie who died when young and Mrs. James Brierley. It was through Mrs. Richards that the local branch of the Hampden County Childrens Aid Association was formed and for 40 years she was the heart and soul of that movement. Mrs. Richards was founder of the auxiliary of the local “Y” and many years its president. When the “Y” building was finished some 35 years ago, she undertook to raise the money for its furnishing, and she headed the committee that raised the money. For almost two generations she taught a young men’s class in the Second Congregational Church Sunday school; in her early days she played the organ. Besides her daughter she leaves two grandsons, Richard and Charles Harlow Brierley and one great granddaughter, Sylvia Brierley. The funeral will be held at the Skinner Memorial Chapel Monday afternoon with burial in Forestdale Cemetery.

Jennie Richards Brierley, daughter of Charles H. and Etta (Harlow) Richards was a talented musician and one of the founders of the Holyoke Music Club (it marked a 50th year anniversary in 1939). Other members included Mrs Fannie Reed Hammond, wife of William C. Hammond, the beloved Holyoke organist, Alice Chapin, Grace Chapin, Ruth Hyde and Mrs. Edward Bates.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Suggested Holyoke Books

Mountain Park -- The Holyoke destination we all loved.

Mount Holyoke College

Mount Holyoke College, Postcard History by Donna Albino. Many Holyoke women have attended Mount Holyoke. Author also maintains an amazing MHC website based upon her personal collection.

Holyoke - Chicopee, A Perspective

Holyoke-Chicopee: A Perspective, by Ella Merkel DiCarlo. DiCarlo, a former Transcript columnist offers a fascinating compilation of her essays. Published in 1982, this out-of-print book is worth looking for in the aftermarket.


Holyoke, by Craig Della Penna. The first Holyoke book in the Arcadia series, published in 1997.

Belle Skinner Collection

Belle Skinner Collection, by Ruth Isabel Skinner. Published in 1933, this book is long out of print but copies are still available in the aftermarket.

Mitch Epstein: Family Business

Mitch Epstein: Family Business Published in 2003, available in the aftermarket. Epstein's furniture.