Mason Square/Winchester Square/Winchester Park

Mason Square/Winchester Square/Winchester Park

Winchester Square Fire StationWinchester Square Fire Station

Photo added by Ralph Slate

I am doing some research on this venerable piece of land and am trying to figure out when the names were changed. This is what I know.

Primus Mason bought the land in 1850 for $25 and sold it to the City in 1860 for $60 with restrictions that it had to always be used for public purposes. In 1885 Mason removed the restrictions for $1 from the City so that the City could build a Fire Station there. Fire station was built by W.H. Buxton for $16,000. Original tower on the fire station was removed in 1915 during a major remodeling
At this time (1885) Mason offered to sell another parcel behind the current Fire Station for $50 so they would have more land for the Fire Station but the City turned him down. Land became part of Hendee Manufacturing.

The remainder of the land the City owned, having been Masons, was named at this time Winchester Park after Mayor Charles A. Winchester who had been Mayor from 1868-69. Winchester was a lawyer who was described as a “careful painstaking excellent Mayor” and that his “death at the prime of his life was a great loss to the City ”

Mason died in 1892 and left an estate of $37,700, $33,000 of which was used to start the Home for Aged Men, now the Mason Wright Home.

My questions are: When did Winchester Park have its name changed to Winchester Square? Was it done formally and by what decree? What had Mayor Winchester done in his brief Mayoralty 15 years before that warranted the park being named for him? Do you know anything about Winchester? I had read somewhere that the name Winchester was used as an English reference to go along with the fancy names being used by the McKnights who were doing development in the area. I think this contradicts this theory.

What was the date of the change from Winchester Square to Mason Square in honor of Primus Mason and who had initiated that and seen that it was done.

Sources: Highland Community 1921, Published by Highland Co=Op Bank and Kings Handbook

Mason Square more info

Looked at some old maps and Atlas I have and discovered curious things. The 1882 Geo Walker Atlas has a page called the McKnight Improvement. On this map it has Winchester Park. On an 1884 Map I have it has Winchester Park. The 1899 City Atlas has Winchester Park. The 1910 LJ Richards Atlas has it as Winchester Square and does the 1920 Atlas.

So, was the history written in the Highland Community book wrong about the park being named in 1885 for Mayor Winchester?

It is a reminder that what we consider history is a fluid thing and multiple sources are needed to determine accuracy.

Update Mason Square info.

Update 1/8/11
Charles A. Winchester was Mayor 1868-9 but had also been a School Committee member in 1850 and had voluntarily taken responsibility as Superintendent as a volunteer for a while and was greatly appreciated.

Primus Mason sold the land to the city for $65 in 1860. Though this seems like very little money, at the time it was significant. Mason had paid $50 for it 10 years earlier.

The Municipal Register of Springfield says the following as far as the name is concerned:
1889 p344 “Winchester Triangle”
1905 p553 Last report that” Winchester Triangle” is used
1906 p 589 “Winchester Park”
1907 p635 “Winchester Square”

Historical Survey of City Departments: Park Department and Forest Park: Chronological dates in the growth of the Parks Department.

1821 Land purchased for a square near Court Street (becomes Court Square)
1868 “Winchester Park” acquired
1872 “Winchester Park” improved. Named for Charles Winchester under whose Mayoralty land was acquired
1902 “Winchester Triangle” is in poor shape, replace brick walk with cement

What is really interesting in all this is that Winchester Triangle/Park/Square was really the first public park in the city after Court Square was created in 1821. The next park was not until 1882 with Benton Park on State St.
The name” Mason Square” started to be used with the creation of the Mason Square Development Corporation in 1987 as part of the revitalization of the area. Citizens said the renaming was “to honor an illustrative citizen and to correct a 100 year old slight”.

Mason Square history

Excellent job, Jim! Thanks for sharing your research. I remember the name being changed from Winchester to Mason Square but it had seemed further back than 1987. Glad you could pinpoint it.

I have a number of diferant

I have a number of diferant pictures of Winchester Park,Square,Triangle.. Most all of them labled Park. Most all came off internet. Pictures are over 100 Yrs old. I can tell you how to get them or I can email them to you. Please reply to this if interested..

Winchester Square Photos

Would love to see what you have. either email at or my address is 97 Florida St Springfield ma 01109 Thanks Jim boone

Winchester/Mason Square

Whos are the "Citizens" who did the renaming and why was it a slight?

Winchester/Mason Square

I, too, was interested in when and why Winchester Square became Mason Square. Jimboone's short history was interesting but did not really answer my questions and he went astray at the end of his post in two areas. First, the chance that the general population spontaneously (as he implies) began to use the new name is zero. This is long before Twitter and Facebook. It had to be a conscious effort over time by local government and media leaders. Second, whoever he was quoting that it was done to "correct a slight" appears to have bought into the silly politically-correct reverse racism that permeates our society. The most normal circumstance is that landmarks are named for political figures. It is difficult to think of a landmark being named for someone who sold (not donated, but sold) land to the city for any landmark. But Mayor Winchester was Caucasion and George Mason was a Negro so it was correcting a slight. If you follow the money trail that I suggest below you may reach the conclusion that the name change was more of a slight-of-hand by those civic leaders to distract people from problems that became apparent.
I remember that there was great controversy surrounding the organizations that were established to obtain and channel federal money to projects in the area and a very short Google search starting at the Mason Square Development Corporation added to my recollection of the events that took place more than two decades ago.
The crony capitalism of Solyndra is just the latest and greatest iteration of that practice. It occurs pretty much every time tax money is directed to what are always called "worthy projects to help the people." The worthiness of the project is always in question, but there is never any question who benefits-the politically well-connected.
Google MSDC and see the connections. Pay close attention to the work by Tom Devine at Valley List and the Ogulewicz Chronicles. You will find reports of the deeds and mis-deeds of minor and major politicians and influential persons that you will recognize. Our current Congressman (then Mayor) and the publisher of the Springfield newspapers are exactly the sort of people who could make the name change stick.

Primus Mason

Landmarks are named for a variety of reasons, not just political figures who have a place in history. In Springfield, for instance, we have Stearns Sq., Apremont Triangle, Court Square, Armory Square, Watershops Pond, and Memorial Square. Schools are named for educators and locations. Streets have names that come from countless sources.

Although I am unfamiliar with Mayor Winchester's specific contributions to the city, I recognize that Primus Mason was a hardworking poor man who made the most of the opportunities in his life and who became a very popular and prosperous man in town. He loved the city and left the bulk of his hard earned fortune to provide a comfortable home for the elderly in need. There is nothing "politically correct" about honoring a generous benefactor.

The purpose of this website is not political discourse but for sharing knowledge about Springfield history. Jim Boone is one of the experts in our history and did a professional job on his research. I look forward to future posts from him.

Winchester/Mason Square

Why do you hide behind gpviolet? If your opinion is worthy of consideration you should not be ashamed to express it as yourself.

I did not respond to your first inquiry about "correct a slight" as I suspected you had some ax to grind and now this post confirms my suspicions.

Maybe there can be a reasonable discussion when you feel your opinions are worthy of your identity.

Winchester/Mason Square

Thank you Barbara. Here is a little info on Winchester. He must of been popular as he was only Mayor for a short time. I think that he had stepped up and helped the schools at a time of crisis must have been important.

Sorry about my rant about anonymous posters, but I think the quality of discourse on Masslive and other blogs has found a new low as people do not have to identify themselves and can thus be as unpleasant and inaccurate as they wish with no consequence or shame.

At this time (1885) Mason offered to sell another parcel behind the current Fire Station for $50 so they would have more land for the Fire Station but the City turned him down thinking it was too much money for an unimproved barren area. Land became part of Hendee Manufacturing.

The remainder of the land the City owned, having been Masons, was named at this time Winchester Park after Mayor Charles A. Winchester who had been Mayor from 1868-69. Winchester was a lawyer who was described as a “careful painstaking excellent Mayor” and that his “death at the prime of his life was a great loss to the City ” He had also been a School Committee member in 1850 and had voluntarily taken responsibility as Superintendent as a volunteer for a while and was greatly appreciated.

Charles Winchester

After the Easter holiday, I plan to access a very informative resource for further data on Mayor Winchester and, perhaps, the Winchester/Mason Sq. name business. If I find anything interesting, I will post it. Thanks, Jim, for giving me something to work with.

Anonymity can be a good thing under certain circumstances, but it doesn't necessarily help establish helpful communication. Ironically, my political views may align with your angry critic, but this particular website was designed so that we can share our knowledge of local history. There are plenty of other on-line venues for airing differences in political opinions. I hope to follow your example and honor Ralph's efforts in creating this website as a positive place to visit.

Mayor Winchester

After some initial research, I find that Mr. Winchester was "one of its most worthy and respected citizens." He died in 1871 at the age of 48 after serving the city in a variety of roles. He was a law partner of Judge Henry Morris who left the firm to fill a seat in Congress. He was an active member of Trinity Methodist Church (and the abolitionist Pynchon Street Methodist Church before that).

A curious item is that Winchester Square was previously known as Winchester Park. The name was officially changed in 1906 due to confusion about the "park" title. Evidently a group of tourists (yes, Springfield was a tourist attraction a century ago)hired a carriage to take them to see the "park" and were disappointed to discover it was basically merely an intersection of streets.

I have not yet found any specifics about the name change to Mason Square (although I do remember the occurence of the event).

Mason Square

For some reason my theory seems to have hit a nerve. Good, maybe it will provoke more discussion and information like the fact that Mason was a philanthropist at his death.
No ax to grind, just a couple of questions that are not answered by a (still, mysteriously) unattributed quote that sounds like wishful thinking. I hope that false bravado does not lead anyone into giving up what little internet privacy exists-bad things happen.
As near as I can tell, none of the examples provided by Shaffer are named after whoever sold the land to the city, bolstering my contention that it is an exceedingly rare event.
Records research may find a city proclamation or newspaper editorial that will give us a more precise "when" and partly "how", but my guess is that the "why" will only be answered by an oral history approach. Somebody must remember something.

Mason Square renaming

gp, please re-read my post. It simply said that there are a lot of reasons landmarks are named and I thought I made a clear case of it. You obviously object to the renaming of the square. Renaming happens. Picknelly Field in Forest Park was a renaming a few years ago but I can't recall what it was before. It, too, caused a stir. If you study history, you will find this was not the first, second or last time it has happened.

I believe the Mason Sq. renaming took place in 1987. If you think it should be changed back, go for it and start a campaign to do so, but I think you might find more satisfaction in learning more about the past. If I find the exact date, I'll post it here, but, other than that, my file on this issue is closing.

Winchester Park/Winchester Square/Mason Square Springfield Ma

I'm doing a Rebecca M. Johnson School project on what the area looked like during the 1950, 60's 70's. If you can direct me to where I can find or if you can share some vintage photos, it would be greatly appreciated

Winchester Square

Missing from this dialogue is the history of the Riots in 1965 that resulted in the destruction of Winchester Square as a functioning section of the city. The long term results were banks refused to invest in the neighborhood and peaceful families moved out. The renaming of that section of Springfield was a direct attempt to put that history behind the city.
Above and below: allegations of police brutality after the Octagon Lounge riot of 1965.
Read this well done article about Springfield by an author who respects the city.

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