I like to point out old and unusual buildings to my daughter Nora. Once, I pointed to a building and said "that looks like it used to be a factory. What kind of factory do you think it was". She blurted out with glee, "I think it was a chocolate factory!" Oh, to be four years old again.
It turns out that there once was a chocolate factory in Springfield. The building is still standing, and I bet many of you have driven by it without even knowing what it once was.
If you often drive on Berkshire Avenue, in Pine Point, you will recognize the above building. Its address is 616 Berkshire Avenue. If you're on top of things, you might know this by its current usage, a bus company yard for Student First transportation.
You might remember this building as Ciocca Construction Company, or New Directions Community Outreach Inc., or School of the Warriors martial arts, or as housing a gun dealer, or as "Crossroads" (a dry club for teenagers), or any other of the hodge-podge of businesses that used it in the 1980's and 1990's. There was even talk of it becoming the home of New Leadership Charter School in 1999.
If you're a little older, you might remember it housing Mayflower Donut Bakery, Grazio Brothers Sheet Metal, Arrow Screw machine manufacturers, Federal Tool Company, or Springfield/Berkshire Cast Products (the latter, its last tenant before briefly going vacant in the late 1970's).
If you're older than that, you might remember that it was once exclusively used as a factory for Carlson Pattern Shop, manufacturer of wood and metal pattern equipment for use in the foundry trade. That company purchased the building in 1942, moving from a location on Cass Street (which it had moved to from its original location in a garage on Page Boulevard). Although it later leased out part of the space, Carlson occupied the building until the 1960's, later succeeded by a company named American Pattern.
Here is a photo of the building showing more vitality, a Carlson advertisement from a 1952 booklet published for the city's centennial.
But you'd have to be really old in order to remember that this building was originally a Chocolate Factory.
I don't have much information on the company, but here's what I know. In 1915, a company named the W.H. Miner Chocolate Company built a factory on this site. The company was listed as incorporating in 1914 with a capital of $750,000. The company's president was Herbert L. Handy, who was also involved with the H.L. Handy company, wholesale meat and provisions, which was incorporated in 1904.
By 1921, the corporation had changed its name to the Handy Chocolate Company. It operated until 1934 and disappeared from city directories in 1935. The building sat vacant until 1942, when Carlson Pattern acquired it.
There is ample evidence that at least in later years, Handy Chocolate was owned or controlled by the Kibbe Candy Company, also of Springfield. The 1934 city directory lists Kibbe as occupying some space in the building, Handy Chocolate's headquarters was listed just a few doors down from the Kibbe headquarters. The Springfield edition of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps verifies this:
The map gives a very detailed description of how the building was used:
First Floor: Shipping & Storage
Second Floor: Moulding & Cooling
Third Floor: Mixing
Fourth Floor: Roasting
Both Kibbe and Handy closed in the 1934-1935 timeframe.
The only significant online historical reference I could find on either company was that in 1915, a man named Frederick Hillman was listed in the book "Who's Who in New England" as the director and secretary of the W.H. Miner Chocolate Company, and that in 1926, the Handy Chocolate Company filed a petition against C.C. Mengel & Brothers in front of the US Supreme Court. The petition was denied.
Gone are the days when something like chocolate is manufactured in Springfield, but at least we still have the building. It's up for sale, too, for a cool $1.8 million. Maybe someone should send an information packet to Hershey's...