1881 — Chester W. Chapin, a railroad tycoon and congressman from Springfield, commissions renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a bronze statue of his ancestor and early city settler, Deacon Samuel Chapin. Springfield builds a small park, Stearns Square, to showcase the artwork.
1887 — Saint-Gaudens’ statue, The Puritan, is unveiled in Stearns Square. The square, which is most likely named for real estate speculator Charles Stearns, is located between Bridge and Worthington streets, and is a collaboration between Stanford White, a star architect, and St. Gaudens. In addition to The Puritan, the posh gateway to downtown features gorgeous landscaping, a huge, bronze fountain decorated with a globe and turtles, some fancy benches, and other sculptures.
1999 — The CityBlock Music Series is founded by Steve Walbridge and Donnie Moorhouse. The series aims to bring the community together, in downtown Springfield, through music. Walbridge stays on for 10 years, booking gigs that include internationally famous artists, for the free summer concerts. The concerts are held on Main Street. The city shuts down part of the street for the concerts and a festival type atmosphere springs up around the music.
2000 — To highlight Worthington Street’s eclectic mix of shopping, clubs, bars, and restaurants, the CityBlock Music Series moves to Stearns Square, where about 10 to 14 free concerts per summer will be performed over the next 14 years.
2010 — The concert series builds a reputation for attracting motorcycle enthusiasts and acquires the nickname “Bike Night.” During most concerts, the portion of Worthington Street closed for concerts is lined with bikes. The series becomes a blend of bike show and community event. Not everyone is thrilled.
2014 — The Springfield Business Improvement District (BID), the series’ organizer, seeks to update the summer music fest with the goal of making it more about the community and the music. The series’ name changes from CityBlock to the Stearns Square Concert Series.
2015 — The BID makes some controversial changes to the concert series including banning motorcycles, or any vehicles, from parking on Worthington Street during the music. Bikers send a petition to the city seeking to reopen the street to parking and accuse officials of trying to jettison the people who made the concert series popular in the first place. The street remains closed to parking. After being gone from the series for five or six years, founder Steve Walbridge returns to help “revive” the series.
2016 — Walbridge and the BID part ways as CityBlock teams up with the Eastern States Exposition to schedule shows. In addition to the Thursday night concert series, the BID expands events at Stearns Square to include Tuesday night classic car Cruise Night.
Beyond — There are a number of plans to improve Stearns Square and the businesses that frame it. Future development will include a three-floor club on Stearns, the former Skyplex. The 19,921-square foot building was purchased by the BID and ideas for its use are still being formed.