The second place our photographic tour of Center-City Springfield will take us is East Commercial Street. If you have not read the introduction to this tour, now would be the time for that.
When North Springfield was founded, it was located on this street, around its intersections with Jefferson and Benton Streets, which are on the east side. So this is where we find the greater majority of civic history. One example, which I don’t have a picture of, is Rathbone’s Ace Hardware, which has been in business continually for over 110 years, under the name Rathbone.
Here is a sidewalk shot of the more historic half of C-Street, with the Citizen’s Bank clock directly in front of us. The City of Springfield has actually done a nice job with streetscaping, to make the area more desirable. Here you can see the black street lamps, and wide, fresh-looking sidewalks.
As I said in the previous post, Commercial Street is a major study in contrasts. Here we have C-Street’s first fancy restaurant (in ages), called Peabody’s, and a book store that’s been closed for who knows how long. Peabody’s is where I took my wife for Valentine’s Day this year.
One thing I have not mentioned yet is C-Street’s charity scene. The strip is anchored by two major institutions for the less fortunate: Victory Mission on the west, and the Missouri Hotel (pictured below) on the east. The photo here was intended to highlight the historic detailing on the building.
This is a very controversial issue in Springfield, as it is in many cities. The hub of life for many homeless and vagrant people is either Commercial Street, or Downtown proper… two neighborhoods the city would like desperately to breathe new life into. And it can indeed be difficult to get people to invest venture capital into a place where people are known to have little or no money.
Sadly, many of the city’s attempts at a solution involve nothing more than moving these people around, and barring new service agencies from moving in to help. This is unfortunate, but on the other hand, when a city has a cultural and architectural heritage like this, which is wasting away, doesn’t it have a responsibility to restore it? And that takes money, right? What do you think?
Another face of C-Street is the flea market/antique store scene. Here’s a storefront I particularly like:
And yet another face… a Professional Massage Training Center.
Following is an “aerial” shot of Commercial Street’s Farmer’s Market. Obviously things have not quite ramped up yet at this point. But last summer, this is where we met the lady who would eventually be our coffee provider at the Front Porch: Julia’s Java.
Probably the proudest landmark of Commercial Street history is the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. Built in 1902, and restored for its 100th birthday, it crosses 13 sets of railroad tracks, for a total span of 562 feet. Commercial Street runs parallel to the railyard, and right up against it. Back when North Springfield was founded, there were no bridges or tunnels for getting across the tracks… everyone had to go straight across. Consequently, when rail traffic was heavy, sometimes it would take hours before passage was possible. This was the arrangement that led to the construction of large, beautiful homes south of the Commercial Street, for the business owners, supervisors, and officials. The only place the common workers could afford to live was on the less convenient north side of the tracks. It was, quite literally, the “wrong side of the tracks”, and to this day, the north side of Springfield is known for being poorer than the south side.
Back to the topic: the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge was built to provide a solution to this problem, so that anyone (on foot, anyway) could travel back and forth across this wide and bustling rail terminus.
Next-up: Downtown Proper.