by Evan Spring
This is the first in a series of four posts featuring postcards of Worthington.
Over the years Worthington has generated enough different postcards to fill a small shoebox in the Worthington Historical Society archive. If this sounds surprising, consider that Worthington has long been a summer refuge for northeastern urbanites separated from friends and family. Also, postcards were hugely popular in the early decades of the 20th century, particularly during the “postcard craze” of 1907 to 1913 – a time when photographic images were still a rare commodity. In those days anyone could send a photographic portrait of their home or family to a printer and contract for postcards. At least half the postcards in the WHS collection were never sent, largely because families would collect them and display postcard albums in their parlors.
The postcards below all picture the Worthington Corners and environs. First up is a view facing north toward the Corners, from what is now the skating pond area on Route 112. The photograph was taken sometime between 1907 and 1917, when the Corners was a much more visually distinct cluster of buildings, thanks to extensive deforestation.
The large building in the center is the Worthington Inn, a major resort hotel that burned down in 1931. To the right of the Inn is a barn that went with the property. The large building on the far left is the “Casino” dance hall. (More on these buildings later.) Here is a similar view of the Corners from the golf course.
The next postcard shows the view facing west from the hotel, with a mostly bare Buffington Hill in the distance.
The following postcards show the Worthington Corners from within. This next one faces west from the post office, along what is now Route 143, towards the stoplight.
The next tinted postcard, postmarked 1912, faces the same direction but from the position of the horse-drawn cart above.
Now, from the same position, we turn in the opposite direction to see the familiar view of Williamsburg Road (Route 143) to the left, Old Post Road to the right, and the post office and store between them.
The next postcard is the same view down Old Post Road, from in front of the hotel.
The post office at Worthington Corners dates all the way back to 1796. (In 1799 there were still only seven post offices in all of the Massachusetts Province.) The postcard below, postmarked 1908, shows the post office and store.
The sender, Edith, was not terribly impressed with the photo.
Edward and Cora Bligh were the proprietors of the store and post office from 1914 to 1925. At one point the ell housed a feed and grain business; now it’s the post office. The sign above the garage door reads “MAGIC YEAST.”
In 1925 the Corners store was sold to Merwin and Arlene Packard. In the postcard below, the sign above the door reads (left to right) “Country Club Ginger Ale,” “Boots and Shoes,” “M. F. Packard General Store,” “Candy and Cigars,” and “Country Club Ginger Ale” again, with “Worthington Post Office” below. The lower left window has a sign for Goodyear Airwheel tires. In 1960 Merwin sold the store to his son Cullen (Pete) Packard.
The next postcard shows the present-day Worthington Inn, along Route 143 north of the stoplight (not to be confused with the large resort hotel that burned down in 1931). Built in 1780 in the Georgian style, this house is now both the oldest building at the Corners and the only Worthington building listed with the National Register of Historic Homes (as “Four Corners Farm”). Four Corners was once a prosperous farm and social hub, hosting agricultural fairs. The name “Elmsted,” printed on the postcard, came from the tall elm trees that surrounded the house. “Ross Stevenson home” is also written on the card; Stevenson, a summer resident from New York, owned the house from 1904 to 1925. In 1942 the house was restored by William Gass to its original 18th-century look.
Proceeding just a bit further north, the next postcard faces northwest along Route 143, where the Maples and Health Center are now. Next time you have to get your teeth drilled, think of it as a trip to Lovers Lane.
The next two postcards feature “The Spruces” at 32 Williamsburg Road (Route 143, on the left as you drive northeast from the Corners), now owned by Diane and Steven Bartlett Magargal. The house began as a tobacco barn in 1872, before the owner Horace Cole quickly and wisely gave up tobacco farming. Cole refitted the barn into a cheese factory. Later it became a basket factory run by Horace F. Bartlett and John Kinne, employing as many as sixteen men during the winter. In 1882 the barn was converted into a family home that also served as a summer boarding house. The house was named for a row of spruce trees planted as a windbreak behind the property.
The next postcard of the Spruces is postmarked 1907. The postcard industry mushroomed that year, thanks to the U.S. Post Office authorizing “divided back” postcards, with both the message and address on the back and an image covering the entire front. This postcard has the images and message space on the same side, so it was probably printed before the new rule went into effect. G. F. B. is Guy Franklin Bartlett.
Not surprisingly, the WHS archive has more postcards of the Worthington Inn/Lafayette Lodge than any other landmark. Jacob Bartlett opened a hotel at the Corners in 1858, and when it burned down forty years later, the Worthington Inn was built on the same spot. This resort hotel was quite famous in its day, with the uncommon luxury of indoor baths and toilets. An early circular for the Inn boasted of “delightful walks and drives, golf, tennis, pool and English bowl…In connection with the Inn is a small farm, from which guests are supplied with fresh eggs, milk, butter, and pure spring water…automobiles at reasonable prices may be obtained from the Inn.” “English bowl” refers to cricket.
Here is the north-facing front of the Worthington Inn, viewed from in front of the present-day post office and Corners Grocery.
The next tinted postcard is postmarked 1910.
The postcard below shows the south-facing rear of the hotel.
The next four postcards reveal the lobby and office areas. The last view of the staircase shows a flax jenny (spinning wheel) on the landing.
In 1916 the Worthington Inn was sold, and the new owners changed its name to the Lafayette Lodge – a reference to General Lafayette’s overnight stay in Worthington during his 1825 U.S. tour. Fifteen rooms were added, bringing the guest capacity to 75.
In the next postcard of the Lafayette Lodge, the lower-left insert shows a large extension projecting south from the rear of the building. This structure began as a barn situated off Buffington Hill Road. The barn was converted into “The Casino,” a dance hall and important gathering place for Worthington’s turn-of-the-century social life. In 1917 the new managers of the Lafayette Lodge somehow moved the entire Casino to the back of the hotel, to serve as a dining and dancing area.
The next postcard shows both the inside and outside of the Casino extension.
The next postcard, from around 1920, is a bird’s-eye view of Worthington Corners, facing east. The large building is the Lafayette Lodge, and the casino extension can be seen on close inspection.
The next postcard, also post-1917, has a clear view of the Lodge and adjoining Casino from the south.
This postcard was made for advertising through the mail.
This one has an inset of Lafayette himself.
On the windy night of February 27, 1931, the entire Lafayette Lodge, including the Casino extension, burned to the ground in about half an hour. The next postcard shows the Casino dance hall at its original location south of Buffington Hill Road, behind the present-day library.
This next view of the Casino faces northeast, and the library is seen immediately to the right. The library was built in 1915, and the Casino was moved in 1917, so the photograph must fall within that short time span.
On June 13, 1825, the French aristocrat and military officer Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, Marquis de La Fayette – better known to Americans as “Lafayette” – passed through the Worthington Corners during his triumphal U.S. tour. The postcard below shows the building where Lafayette enjoyed his dinner banquet and stayed the night. At the time of Lafayette’s visit, the building was a tavern run by Noah Pierce, or Pearse, on the site of today’s library.
In the early 1900s the Lafayette House was disassembled, and many of the materials were added to the rear of a neighboring home (now the Epperly residence). This addition is clearly visible in the next postcard, a view of the Corners from the south. The hotel is just off the frame to the right.
We conclude our postcard tour of the Corners with three views of our library, named in honor of Frederick Sargent Huntington. Born in Wisconsin, Huntington came to Worthington as a young man and served as a minister for five years before dying in a typhoid epidemic in 1888, at the age of 36. Huntington proposed the idea of a library during one of his sermons, and proceeded to solicit books from the townspeople. The library began in the second floor of the Corners store, and then moved to the Lyceum Hall on Buffington Hill Road. The current library was dedicated in 1915, with an endowment from Huntington’s estate.
Stay tuned for more postcard posts from the WHS archives. The next three installments will cover Worthington Center, South Worthington, and “Miscellaneous” – postcards depicting everything from Ringville Cemetery to golfing ladies in heels.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Evan Spring, a jazz historian, freelance editor, and WHS board member, lives on West Street with his wife Zoë. He was an editor of the Annual Review of Jazz Studies and Journal of Jazz Studies, and holds an MA in Jazz History and Research from Rutgers. For 23 years he hosted a jazz radio program on WKCR-FM New York, interviewing over 200 musicians. His main research focus is the New York jazz scene of 1955 to 1964.
Posted May 6, 2014.