MACRIS Houses: 148 and 158 Morgan Street

by Laurel | February 17th, 2014

February 2014


148-158 Morgan Street

148 (left) and 158 (right) Morgan Street
Architect William R. S. Chase
English Revival, Built 1924
Click through on image to enlarge.

These two homes sit side-by-side on Morgan Street, designed and built in 1924 by architect William R. S. Chase. In the MACRIS database, there are two separate images for these homes, but because there is a very interesting connection to the families who originally lived in the houses, I am writing about them as one.

The image above I created so that the reader might see how the houses are situated to each other, very unusual in that the steps behind the tree that is dead center in the image above lead to the front doors of both houses. Essentially the front doors are on either side of the land that lies between them. The houses are “twin” houses that are “flopped” — the interiors of each house are the same (at least they were originally) but they are just inverse.  So, if someone wanted to access the back door, they are actually located on the side of the house where the driveways are (cannot be seen in this image).

158 Morgan Street

158 Morgan Street
Front entrance
View from center space as seen in the gray-scale image.
Courtesy of

The interesting part is, I believe, why these houses were built this way. Architect William R. S. Chase not only designed these homes, but he also lived in 148 Morgan Street, the house on the left.  Chase was married to Vena Houston (her name appears often enough as Verna in newspapers). They had one daughter Harriet who was born about 1924.

At 158 Morgan Street lived Joseph H. Ely, who was married to Ada Josephine Houston, the sister of Vena Houston. Joseph and Josephine had one son, Joseph Houston Ely, born about 1926.

Each family had a maid recorded on the 1930 census. It must have been wonderful for the sisters to live so close to each other, looking out their front door with a view of their sister’s  home as well as their own. The Chase family lived in 148 Morgan Street until the late 1960’s at least, a long tenure in the house.  I believe the Ely family was there for as long, though I am still trying to gather evidence.

Here are a couple of photos that give a sense of time and place to the early occupants:

Joseph Harold Ely

Joseph Harold Ely
Born about 1879

Josephine, Vena, Maud Houston

Josephine, Vena, Maud Houston
About mid 1880’s

The names of Chase, Ely and Houston — particularly Ely and Houston are Holyoke surnames that appear in Holyoke histories from just about the beginning. The Houston line is also related to the Street family. Just look at part of the wedding description from The Springfield Republican, published 02 June 1921, When Ada Josephine Houston married Joseph Harold Ely:

Both parties to this alliance are members of families whose forebears have been identified with Holyoke from its very beginning. Mrs. Ely’s maternal ancestors being of the Street families, which included Whiting Street, who left a share of his millions to aid the worthy poor not only of Holyoke but of many neighboring towns, while the Houston family was also a longtime Holyoke family who originally lived in the Smiths Ferry district. The bridegroom is a grandson of the late Dea. Joseph Ely, who was in reality a pioneer and one of the men tho in the days when the Connecticut River furnished the only transportation, before the dam was built, was one of the firm whose boats made regular trips from Hartford, Ct., to Northampton and towns further north, by which and the sale of his land to the Boston company who developed the water power he became one of the well-to-do citizens and was highly esteemed fro his excellent judgement and strict integrity. It is interesting to note that he was one of the men instrumental in forming the Second Baptist Church, the organization which erected the worthy edifice of Appleton Street in which occurred the ceremony this noon which united his grandson and his bride.

Lastly, 158 Morgan Street, the house on the right, is currently for sale. It has 7 bedrooms, 4 full baths 4,606 square feet and is a single-family Home. I’ve never had the opportunity to see the interior of 158, but I have been fortunate enough to see 148, and it is a magnificent house. It has he structural basics of a well-built house of that era, a great floor-plan and obviously it has some Holyoke history. Have a look at it online at least — there are only a half dozen photos of the interior, but worth a view.

MACRIS image database.
The Springfield Republican.

4 Responses to “MACRIS Houses: 148 and 158 Morgan Street”

  1. Gwendolyn Webster Ely, wife of Joseph H Ely VIII, lived in the house until she passed away in 2011. The family sold the house in 2012.

  2. Jaimarie ely says:

    My name is Jaimarie Ely, I am the great granddaughter of the Joseph Ely who first lived in the house at 158 Morgan street. The Elys lived in that house until about two years ago when my grandmother Gwendolyn Ely passed away. The house is beautiful on the inside, and for me full of memories.

  3. Joseph Harold Ely says:


    My name is Joseph Harold Ely, I am the grandson of the Joseph Harold Ely that you mentioned and for whom I was named. I lived at 158 Morgan Street until I graduated from college in 1979. I have many fond memories of the time I spent there. I remember many times when Uncle Bill and Auntie Vena would visit our house. I also remember many summer afternoons sitting under the awnings in the court yard trying to beat the heat. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I would like to mention one thing, I believe the man pictured is not Joseph Harold Ely but Joseph Ely his father. Joseph Harold never sported a mustache unlike his father.

  4. Carol Ely Hepfer says:

    My name is Carol Ely Hepfer and I have the photographs that were included with the article. The gentleman identified as Joseph Harold Ely is really his father, also Joseph Ely (the VI). My grandfather, Joseph H. Ely (the VII), built the house with his wife Ada Josephine Houston Ely and lived there with their son Joseph Houston Ely (the VIII), who married Gwendolyn Webster Ely and raised five children in the house. One of them was my brother, Joseph H. Ely (the IX). He and his son Joseph H. Ely the X still live in the area. The pictures that you provided a link to are the interior of 158 Morgan Street when it was sold in 2012 by the Ely family.

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