Early in my time at the Advocate, I wrote an article about the demise of the once-grand Hotel Charles, adjacent to the once-hopping Union Station, despite the valiant efforts by the Springfield Preservation Trust to save it. I visited the hotel site—by that point, it was mostly a shell of a building—with Bill Devlin, an architect and long-time SPT member, where I learned about the hotel’s rich history, and began to learn about the often hair-raising politics of historic preservation in the city.
The loss of the Hotel Charles notwithstanding, the non-profit SPT has had plenty of victories over its 40 years; right now, for instance, the group is in the midst of restoring the former Springfield Female Seminary, built in 1832 and located at 77 Maple St., in the Lower Maple Historic District.
As part of a series of events marking its 40th anniversary, the SPT has set up an exhibit called “Razed and Restored,” which it describes as “a retrospective display looking at the great work of preservationists in Springfield and the sad losses caused by disasters, urban renewal, and neglect.”
The exhibit is on view at Tower Square’s Center Court through this Sunday, Nov. 4.
By the way, while the Hotel Charles is gone, its ephemera lives on. When I hit Google looking for some photos of the hotel, I also came across folks selling Hotel Charles postcards, matchbook covers and—my favorite—a “vintage” bar of soap, its wrapper reading: “Hotel Charles: Springfield’s Newest Hotel.”
Also by the way: you can find great images of the Hotel Charles—and plenty of other Springfield landmarks, extinct and extant—in the excellent Springfield edition of Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series, written by G. Michael Dobbs, editor and columnist at the Reminder.