Does a house recognize the DNA of its past occupants? Do the walls remember past lives? Perhaps! On September 6, 2014, a young man, Jim Derrickson, Jr., the great grandson of the original owners of our 100 year home visited for lunch. As I opened the door he greeted me with an arrangement of flowers and a gift basket of cheese and sausage from Crowley Cheese, a Vermont company. What I didn’t know is that his great grandmother, Adelaide Crowley Welcker, was a relative of the Crowley Cheese family. In he stepped and said, “It’s just the way I imagined the home.” He later stated, “In this house I feel a sense of tranquility as if it welcomes me.” As well it should. Some Welckers, the original owners along with their son and daughter and her children, Jim and Billy Derrickson lived in the house for 36 years. Together Jim, my husband Joe and I were able to answer questions about the history of this house’s first family and to laugh at Jim’s remembrance through history tales about the dark woodwork and the tulip stained glass windows.
In 1914 a couple moved from New York to Springfield to initiate a building project for a home in the newly developing Atwater area. They were expecting their second child Helen to join their son John when they started their endeavor. The couple, Rudolph and Adelaide Crowley Welcker, met in Europe in 1904 while they both were traveling. Rudolph, a native of Holland, was working on governmental projects and was a well-respected engineer while Adelaide, a 1903 Phi Beta Kappa Radcliffe graduate in language, was touring Europe with her mother Helen Crowley. She later worked in Italy on archeological language support. Rudolph was born in The Hague, Holland and Adelaide was born in Cuttingsville, Vermont. Their journey together kept the Welcker family as residents in the house at 43 Atwater Road from 1915 to 1951 at which time Adelaide died; 16 years after the death of Rudolph.
The Welcker’s home was one of the first of new homes built in the Atwater area with the exception of the George M. Atwater and his family’s homes. George Atwater, at his death, left a trust for the over 87 acres of land calling for a fine residential development along the street car route from Springfield to Chicopee trolley line. The home at 43 Atwater Road was designed by Gardner and Gardner, prominent Springfield architects and built by Joseph Roy. The design considered a craftsman style today was built in the style of German and Dutch country houses with all the practicalities of the day. Certainly it was a warm family home and loved by the Welckers. Rudolph was waked in the living room of the home on November 9, 1935. Adelaide remained in the home with her daughter Helen Derrickson and her two grandchildren, William and James Derrickson, until her death.
Rudolph Welcker received his education at the Institute of Technology in Delft, Holland. After graduation, he rose so dramatically that by 1903 we was made assistant engineer in the municipal service of The Hague. He later worked for the Persian Government on extensive Irrigation systems, then on to British India where he was appointed assistant engineer in public works in Cairo, Egypt. Later he was appointed superintendent of the Delta Light railways until 1906. He then worked for six years in New York City as designing engineer on the various subways. He was an inspector of the Pennsylvania railroad tunnels and was then placed in charge of implementing the plans for the Queensborough subway and the long Island railroad. He then went on to be the consulting engineer for New York City until 1913 at which time he moved to Springfield to make his home. In 1917 he was appointed supervising engineer for the U.S. Navy for the district of Baltimore and in 1918 was also appointed supervising plant engineer for dry docks and marine railways on the Atlantic coast, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Shipping Board. He had general supervision of construction of all dry docks, marine railways and repair plants located at various ports from Portland, Maine to Galveston, Texas. In 1919 he returned to his Springfield headquarters and worked as a consulting engineer both in the U.S. and abroad.
John Welcker, Rudolph and Adelaide’s son, graduated from Harvard and was appointed Assistant Professor in chemistry later to enter the finance industry in New York City where he developed a solid reputation. At one time John substituted for the Republican Senator from Maine in a conference at Harvard with the current Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kennedy on government issues. Helen Welcker Derrickson, their daughter, lived with her children at home in Atwater until the death of her mother in 1951.
Her son Billy and two grandchildren Julie and Jim Derrickson, Jr. remember the tales from their grandmother about their time in Atwater. Rita Dooley, now deceased, had many conversations with Kathleen Pellegrino, the home’s current owner, about Adelaide and her intelligent and welcoming manner and about Billy and Jim (Sr.) Derrickson’s antics as little boys living in the home. Adelaide was remembered in a letter to the newspapers after her death as an exceptionally kind and supportive person of young people.
Jim Derrickson, Jr., my guest for luncheon, is a software engineer for InterSystems in Cambridge, MA. His specialty is in bringing new products to market. It was after working on a bid for an Electronic Health Record and Health Information Exchange for the Saudi government and researching what work his great-grandfather did in then Arabistan, that he found the Springfield Preservation Trust’s winter holiday party 2014 at my home article from The Republican on line. He knew the address. He talked about his work and his great-grandfather and great, great grandfather’s (also a famous engineer) work and sees the theme running through all their work. Whether it was irrigation systems on the Arabian Peninsula, dykes in Holland, canals in Panama, bridges over the Nile, subway systems for New York City or the exchange of electronic health records today, the work continues. Like the house at 43 Atwater Road, it’s in our DNA.”
The Springfield Republican
Conversations with Rita Dooley (dec.)
Conversations with and research by James Derrickson, Sr.
Margaret Humberston, Springfield Museums
Jim Derrickson now resides in the South End of Boston and Brockton
July Derrickson and her mother Charlene (Ryan) Derrickson reside in West Bridgewater