Louis LaFrance Pioneer Builder, Dies at Holyoke

by Laurel | October 10th, 2014

21 March 1938

Construction Leader for 45 Years was 72 — Erected Many Apartment Houses in This Area

Louis Lafrance

Louis A. Lafrance

Holyoke, March 20 — Louis A. Lafrance, 72, for more than 45 years a prominent builder and real estate owner here, died suddenly at his home, 240 Linden Street, shortly after 4 this afternoon. He had been confined to his home for several days with what was believed to be a slight illness but this morning a serious heart condition became evident. Mr. Lafrance celebrated his 72nd birthday Thursday.

Mr. LaFrance was a pioneer in apartment house building on a large scale and no one person or company erected so many of this type of building here. His first building was erected in the lower part of the city in the early nineties. The growth of the city could be used as a record of the extensive activity of the LaFrance Construction company, of which he was founder.

Expanded Business District

It was his foresight that started the expansion of the business district to Maple Street between Suffolk and Appleton Streets, then occupied by residences or apartment blocks. His block at the northeast corner of Maple and Appleton Streets was the first combining business and dwelling to be erected in that part of the city. Many were the skeptics about this and other similar ventures but it took only a few years for other building promoters to follow suit.

When the annual tax bills were prepared for publication it was expected to find the Lafrance tax bill by far the highest individual tax in the city.

His first large venture was the series of buildings at the south end of Pleasant Street known as the Lafrance apartments, considered the most desirable in the city That was about a decade ago.


He built many public buildings most notable hereabouts being the H. B. Lawrence School and the Perpetual Help Church on Chestnut Street. The Lafrance hotel, now the Hotel Grand, was a venture of about 35 years ago and at the time was Holyoke’s tallest building. He also built churches at Central Falls and Woonsocket, R.I., and dwelling blocks in Chicopee. About World War time he built the first apartment blocks at Windsor and Springfield, VT.

Native of Quebec

Mr. Lafrance was born at Chambly, P.Q., March 17, 1866, the son of William and Philomene (Durocher) Lafrance. He came to Holyoke with his parents when a boy of three and attended the local public schools. When he graduated from the Appleton Street School, then under the principal-ship of H. B. Lawrence, he started as a dry good clerk. His first job was with the Holyoke Dry Goods store under the late E. A. Dickinson. Later he took a clerkship in the store of A. L. Shumway and then became head clerk and buyer for Ferguson & Logan.

In 1889 he left the dry goods business to venture into building. Holyoke was then starting on a building boom. His partner was Gilbert Potvin, Sr., a friend of his family who also had come to this city with the early families from Canada. In 1892 Mr. Potvin retired and Mr. Lafrance went into partnership with Octave A. LaRiviere of Indian Orchard, who later became his father-in-law.

Mr. Lafrance married Eugenie LaRiviere of Indian Orchard on June 21, 1893. Mr. Lafrance has been a life-long Republican. Although deeply interested in public affairs his only public office was membership on the playground commission by appointment of Mayor Avery.

Mr. Lafrance leaves his widow, three daughters, a son and several grandchildren. The daughters are Beatrice, who is Mrs. John J. Sullivan of Pleasant Street; Estelle, who is Mrs. Kirk Day of Waban; and Annette, who is Mrs. Maurice Curran of Andover. His son is Paul L. associated with his father in the building and real estate business. He also leaves two sisters, Mrs. Eudlocie Perrault of Trenton, N. J. and Mrs. Olivine Allen of Holyoke, and two brothers, William Lafrance of Holyoke and Joseph Lafrance of Chicopee Falls.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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