Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Springfield Vermont, Home of the Simpsons and the Bloomfields.

(This post is a parts of a series called roots trip, see the end of this post for links to the previous articles)

Springfield, Vermont, chartered in 1761 is a somewhat sleepy historic town, about two hours from Boston and not far from the New Hampshire border. As, I strolled along it's historic downtown,  I tried to absorb the feel of the place where my Ancestors lived and worked. I got a sense of the buildings, the river and the rhythm of the town. Located in what was known as Precision Valley, Springfield—in it's heyday—was part of a booming machine tool industry. Russian and Polished immigrants flocked to the town where they found work opportunities in the many factories. The various waterfall provided energy for these industries. Some of these old industrial buildings remain in use today, while others are abandoned and in search of a revival.

Today Springfield may be best known as Home of the Simpsons. Springfield, USA is the fictional city where the famous sitcom was set. The Fox hit series, purposefully, kept for the location of Springfield ambiguous. Springfield, Vermont was the winner of a nationwide contest as the  Springfield city to host The Simpson Movie Premiere. Like the Simpsons, many of the Bloomfields choose Springfield as their home. The first  Bloomfield in my family to live in Vermont was Max, who came around 1916 and opened a business with his brother in-law Barney Kenet. They began Kenet and Blumenfeld as junk peddlers. Over the years, their business expanded into groceries, meats and eventually grains (in a second partnership they formed called the Springfield Grains Co). They came to own many properties along Clinton street.

Advertisement in the Springfield City Directory
from 1928 for Max's store
Kenet and Blumenfeld showing how they went from
junk peddlers to General Store Owners
The add reads: General Merchandise
Staple & Fancy Groceries
Meats & Provisions / Fruits & Vegetables
Ladies' and Gents' Clothing
26-28 Clinton Street Phone 375-W & 349W
Springfield Vermont

To clarify the Bloomfield's path during the early years in Sprinfield, I prepared a brief timeline:
1916- Max and Leah Blumenfeld open Kenet and Blumenfeld with Barney Kenet at 26 Clinton Street.
1917, Jan 21st- Moses Bloomfield, the family patriarch, dies in Springfield. He is the first Bloomfield to die in America.
1926 Freida Toby (Moses wife and patriarch) and Barney Bloomfield (her son) relocate to Springfield from Laconia. She opens a cloth remnant business. They live and work on 116 Main Street.
1927 Freida Toby moves to 9 Park Street and opens a Men's Clothing Store, known as F Blomfield. Ben (her youngest son) is listed as working at the store. (See city directory ad for the store)
1928, September 30th- Freida Toby dies in Springfield, Barney Bloomfield inherits the store and renames it B Bloomfield.
1932 Ben is at the Fellows Gear Shaper Company working as an Engineer.

9 Park Street, Springfield VT
The building next to it was built in 1932
Why Freida decided to leave Laconia and move to Springfield is not clear. I venture to guess that she wanted to leave the Laconia Store for Harry and his growing family. Maybe Max's growing business need her support?  We know Moses was a tailor (from the 1910 Census), so we can assume she knew something about sewing. There was a textile factory in the center of springfield which would explain where she got some of her remnants.  Though her first Springfield address is no longer standing, finding the #9 Park Street home, was one of the highlights of the trip. This decapitated property, is clearly the original home. It continues to have a small storefront with a residence above. When we visited the Springfield historical society, they provided us with photos of Park street from the early 1900-1920s.

View of #9 Park Street in the early 1900s
(The house is at the top righthand corder, on the bridge, behind the post)
Courtesy of Springfield Historical Society
Freida only lived in Springfield for a short period but eventful period in the history of the city. I can't help to imagine how she and her sons were affected by the events.  July 26th, 1927 was one of the most exciting days in Springfield's history. Only two months after his historic transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh, landed at the Springfield Airportin the Spirit of St. Louis— as part of his US tour to promote aviation. Thanks to the Inventor, Engineer, Pilot and Entrepreneur James Hartness, Springfield was one of Lindbergh's first stops. Hartness was to became governor of Vermont. On that memorable day, he welcomed the St. Louis to the new airstrip he had built. Over thirty thousand excited visitors and towns folk crowded the air port. It's difficult to imagine that the members of the Bloomfield family would miss such an exciting event. Some may have stayed to man the stores, as business certainly must have been booming that day, but I'd put money on the fact that there is a Bloomfield in the photo below.

Reception at the Springfield Airport for Charles Lindberg (photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)
A few months later, Springfield made the headlines for a different reason. This time—on November 3rd and 4th—tragically, the town was hit by a devastating flood. This historic flood has been compared to the 2011 flood Vermont recently experienced. I found a lot of information and many remarkable photos of the flood on a web page dedicated to the Black River's Rampage. Two photos stood out. One photograph shows the Arch Bridge crossing Park Street, and a glimpse of Freida's store as it braced for the oncoming water. The other snapshot is of Clinton Street, Max's stomping ground under several feet of water. The flood killed 85 people across the state, 9,000 people lost their homes and 1,200 bridges were destroyed. A dam built to the north of Springfield after this flood, may have saved the town from similar fate during hurricane Irene. (Visit for a great news report comparing the two floods).

View of Park Street during the 1927 flood. You can see how high the water was compared to the earlier photo. According to the man we met at the historical society, Park Street itself did not flood. (Photographs from the A. W. LSYSATH collection). 
Clinton Street under water in the 1927 Flood.

If Aaron Bloomfield is credited to bringing the Bloomfields to Claremont, New Hampshire, then Max is responsible for the Springfield migration. Max was the first to venture into Vermont with his brother-in-law, and their success in business probably encouraged his mother, Barney and later Ben Bloomfield to join him. As far as I can tell, Max stayed in Springfield his whole life. His business suffered in the depression and foreclosed, but he managed to recover and continue to prosper.  How long Moses the patriarch spent in Springfield is unclear. Though on his death certificate it states he was a resident of Springfield, he was simultaneously listed the Laconia City Directory in 1916 and 1917, making it unclear where his permanent residence was. Like Max, Ben was a long time resident of Springfield. Both their fascinating stories will reveal much more about the Bloomfield family story, and I will be writing about them in the future.

More about the Bloomfields:
Guest blog on How I Met The Bloomfields

Roots Trips Series: Reports from a Vermont and New Hampshire road trip to research the Bloomfield family history:
Part I: Roots Trip Road-trip planning!
Part II: Three Tips for Genealogy Road Trips
Part III: Roots Trip Gem of the Day, Looking for Moses Bloomfield
Part IV: Why in the World New Hampshire
Part VI: Which Ancestors to Research?

Where Was This Picture Taken?- Legacy Roots
Friday's Faces From the Past: Mystery Man
Hot Off The Press


  1. Interesting history!

    I dwell on the change in Springfield wrought by Wall Street's destruction of its machine tool industry-- we went from being #14 on the Luftwaffe WWII target list to being a trifle in the entertainment industry's celebration of itself. Anybody who is not slightly embarrassed by Springfield's present claim to fame is the sort of American our commercial communications culture hopes to produce.

    1. Chuck, I agree. I hope it didn't sound like I really believe the Simpson's are the true claim to fame of Springfield. It's just fun and certainly gets people's attention, doesn't it? On the other hand, the transition of Main Street USA from a booming industrial town to a sleepy town, with no industry, in search of a future, does reflect the history of many rural towns across the country. I found the historic buildings beautiful and wish the history would be better preserved. Thanks for pointing out the WWII history, I was planning to write about that in my follow up post as I move from the 1920's to the later years and the Bloomfileds lives during that period.

  2. I don't think "wall street" had anything to do with the early 80's migration of the machine tool industry down to the Carolina's. That was a business decision by Textron based on Springfields Tax structure not "wall street". Sad to see Springfield looking so decrepit.

    1. I'm obviously up on all the local politics, still, from a genealogical perspective, it's so interesting to understand how the history of a place affects personal decisions. Always does, especially when it comes to jobs and migration.


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