Hotel Charles, Springfield Massachusetts

Date added: April 21, 2016 Categories: Massachusetts Hotel
Hotel complex after fire and before demolition, looking NE 1988

The Hotel Charles is the successor to Cooley's Hotel, established in 1849 and grown over the years to a complex of five buildings occupying the key parcel between the railroad station and Main St. in Springfield. The tower of the Hotel Charles, erected in 1928, represented the last phase of growth for the hotel complex. It is one of the earliest steel-skeleton and masonry structures in the city and was the third building in the city to reach a height of 125 feet. The hotel represents the growth of the local economy in the period 1870-1929, spurred by a skilled labor force, a diverse industrial base and superb railroad access.

With the decline in rail travel and the general economic depression, the hotel complex turned to supplemental uses. By the 1970s, the Main St. buildings were occupied by an Army & Navy Store and the hotel tower served as low-income and transient housing.

The City of Springfield acquired the Hotel Charles complex in 1988 with the intention of rehabilitating it for market-rate residential use. A major fire in June 1988 completely gutted the complex and led to the immediate demolition of all structures except the hotel tower.

The original Cooley Hotel on the site was a four-story brick block erected in 1849 by Justin M. Cooley (exact footprint uncertain). It was expanded with an additional structure in the 1860s (footprint uncertain) for a total of 85 rooms by 1882.

A five-story brick and granite addition in 1890 tripled the hotel's size and made it the largest in Springfield at the time. In 1904, a new six-story block fronting on Main St. was added. In 1905, a new, five-story grand entrance was built facing the railroad tracks. In 1905, the hotel claimed accommodations for 300 guests and noted that 75 rooms had private baths.

With the opening of Springfield's new Union Station in 1925, Cooley's hotel again felt the need for expansion. In 1928, the original Cooley's block (1849) was demolished and replaced by the eleven-story hotel tower (section D) with the new name Hotel Charles. The tower was designed by local architect Albert Lavalle and built at a cost of $1 million. It was the third building in Springfield to reach a height of 125 feet.

The Hotel Charles, as the enlarged complex was named, had canopied entrances on Main St. and Frank B. Murray (formerly Liberty) Streets. The main entrance was on the access road (Cooley Place) adjacent to Union Station and facing the railroad tracks. The two-story main lobby, measuring 85 x 28', was located at the center of the complex. The tap room and two storefronts were located in the older Main St. buildings. The barber shop, turkish baths, offices, kitchen and dining facilities, were located in the older sections of the hotel surrounding the lobby.

The 1928 building accommodated seven small storefronts on Main and Frank B. Murray (formerly Liberty) Streets and a small dining area in the five-story rear wing. The upper floors were occupied entirely by some 200 hotel rooms on ten floors with a single central corridor on each floor. The rooms ranged in size from 145 sq. ft. (9'3" x 15'9") to 286 sq. ft. (13 x 22').

The building was served by a bank of two passenger elevators in the main section and a single smaller service elevator in the rear. There were two enclosed staircases (one public, one service) near the respective elevators. The basement level accommodated boilers, coal storage, switchboards and laundry facilities. Rooms in the new Hotel Charles tower all had private baths, while some of those in the older buildings had shared baths. A newspaper article (Springfield Union, Oct. 21, 1927) noted that the two older buildings on Main St. would be renovated to provide 130 modern hotel rooms.

Hotel Charles, Springfield Massachusetts Interior view, first floor tap room 1988
Interior view, first floor tap room 1988