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For the Love of the City—A Valentine Soirée
February 4 @ 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm$40
The Springfield Preservation Trust’s 2024 Winter Fundraiser—with the theme “For the Love of the City—A Valentine Soirée”—will be held at the Valentine Mansion, the bed and breakfast and events venue at 270 Maple Street, courtesy of homeowner and host Katherine Prewitt.
The event, taking place on February 4, 2024, at 1:00pm, will feature music, hors d’oeuvres, wine, beverages, a silent auction, and gorgeous city views from the home’s sweeping ballroom and expansion hosting spaces.
Support the Springfield Preservation Trust in its mission to preserve and protect properties in Springfield, Massachusetts which have architectural, historic, educational, or general cultural significance—including properties such as this one!—by attending our Annual Winter Fundraiser this year!
History of the Home and It Original Owners
Built in 1879, 270 Maple Street is a 30-room historic mansion is an impressive 11,102 square feet in size, with a 40-foot grand ballroom, ornate floor-to-ceiling hand-carved fireplace, 12 bedrooms, and what might be the best residential view of Springfield.
The home is historically known as the Frederick Harris House, as it was built for Frederick Harris and Emily Osborne, who were married in 1879 and shortly thereafter, moved into this fantastic home perched on the crest of the hill on Maple Street.
The house started out as the carriage house of Jotham G. Chase, who built a house next door on the site of what would become the Nathan Bill House. The exterior of the Chase house was built around 1873-74, and the carriage house may have been built around the same time—the masonry beholds an “1877” mark, which could be indicative of its age. However, Chase ran out of money during the Panic of 1873 and couldn’t finish the construction. In 1879, he sold the carriage house to Harris, who hired a contractor to convert it into a house in time to move in after his and Emily’s September 1879 wedding in Auburn, New York.
When the house was completed in 1879, it was considerably smaller than its current appearance. The first major expansion came in 1886, followed by the addition of a ballroom in 1900, reportedly built by Italian artisans over two years of construction.
Frederick Harris was a banker—who succeeded his father, Frederick H. Harris, as president of the Third National Bank of Springfield in 1911, when his father passed away. This would explain the hidden vault behind the dining room wainscotting! He was also active politically, and served as an alderman and as a member of the school committee.
Emily came from an even more prominent family. Originally from Auburn, New York, her father David was a prominent businessman and mayor, but her family was even better known for social activism. Her grandmother, Martha Coffin Wright, and her great aunt, Lucretia Coffin Mott, were both leaders of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, and her brother, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the warden of Sing Sing and an influential prison reform advocate. Her sister was Helen Osborne Storrow, the philanthropist who founded Storrowton Village at the Big E. Helen’s husband was James Jackson Storrow II, a Boston businessman who briefly served as president of General Motors in the company’s early years.
Frederick and Emily had two children, Florence and Helen, but they were hardly the only residents of this house. Like other wealthy families of the era, they regularly employed multiple servants who lived here. In the 1900 census, they had three, and by 1910 they had four: a housekeeper, waitress, cook, and laundress. Florence moved out after her marriage in 1907 to Frederic Jones, and the couple later moved into a nearby house on Maple Street. Like his father-in-law, Frederic Jones would later go on to serve as president of Third National Bank.
Frederick died in 1926, and two years later he was memorialized in the naming of the Frederick Harris School, an elementary school on Hartford Terrace in the East Forest Park neighborhood. Emily lived out her life in the home until her death in 1940, some 60 years after she first moved in. Daughter Helen (Harris) Smith then moved into her mother’s home—she was the last family member to own the house. An alumna of Smith College, Helen was president of the Visiting Nurse Association, trustee of the Springfield Hospital, and vice president of the Wesson Maternity Hospital.
Helen lived in the home until her death in 1974. The home was willed the following year to the MacDuffie School for Girls, who sold the home that same year to MaryAnn and Robert Cornell. The Cornells lived in the home and operated it as an art gallery—from 1975 to 1984. In 1984, Thomas A. Valentine purchased the home—with much of the remaining art still hanging on the walls. Valentine retained ownership through various trusts until 2019 when he sold it to current owner, Katherine Prewitt. Prewitt lives in the home and operates it as a bed and breakfast, which she named after Mr. Valentine and happens to have purchased on Valentine’s Day. Fitting!
The mansion has the distinction of being the only house on Upper Maple Street to be in continuous ownership by one family for almost 100 years.
Since then, the house has remained well-preserved on both the exterior and interior. The side porch overlooking the city was damaged in the June 1, 2011 tornado, but was restored. The mansion remains as an important part of the Ames/Crescent Hill District on the National Register of Historic Places.
Join Us at the Winter Fundraiser!
The Trust looks forward to hosting its annual winter fundraiser at this home and is grateful for Katherine Prewitt for opening it up to us in support of our mission to protect, preserve, and promote historic properties of Springfield.
This event is sold out, but you may be added to the wait list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.