Holyoke Historical Commission Demolition Delay Ordinance Public Hearing Text Size

Event takes place on May 28, 2013 at 6:30 PM
War Memorial Building 310 Appleton St. Holyoke MA


Legal Notice

City of Holyoke, Massachusetts

Holyoke Historical Commission

May 2, 2013


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, under the third Amendment to Chapter 18 of the Revised Code of Ordinances of the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts, under Sec. 18-34 C-c of the Demolition Delay Ordinance, that a PUBLIC HEARING will be held concerning the proposed demolition of


399 Appleton St, Herbert Farr House

(also known as Dr. Lepine’s Dental Office)

owned by the

YMCA, Holyoke, MA.




Public Hearing Held at

310 War Memorial Building

Appleton Street, Holyoke, MA.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


6:30 PM



 Preservation Mass Endangered Historic Resources Program

 Herbert Marshall Farr Residence

399 Appleton St, Holyoke, MA. 01040

August 3, 2012


 Description of Endangered Resource:


The Herbert Marshall Farr House (HLY 132) is currently an closed professional building at 399 Appleton St.

1881 Queen Anne red brick and wood trim three story Victorian with approximately 50 feet of frontage on 8,958 square foot lot on a major street in Holyoke. The house is a large irregularly massed red brick building. The decorative details include brackets, bay window, stringcourses, iron grill work above the back bay window, carved vine motifs on the second floor window caps, dormers and a tower.

 The home was built as a single residence for Herbert Marshall Farr but later turned into a professional building with its original carriage house to the north.

 Historical Significance:


Mr. Farr was one of the most progressive leading businessmen of early Holyoke. Mr. Farr not only stood among the leading manufacturers of Holyoke but among the foremost in the country. ‘Fortunes were made by the investors as the Farr Alpaca Company became dominant in the nation’s textile industry.  Farr Alpaca was once Holyoke’s largest industry and one of the major integrated worsted mills in the country, located in Holyoke because of the foresight of civic concerns of the pioneer leaders here.’ (Holyoke Transcript, Nov. 27, 1900)

 Herbert Marshall Farr was born in Chesterfield, New Hampshire in 1841 but moved to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada where he finished his education. In 1864, Mr. Farr became a pioneer in the manufacture of knitted goods and alpaca at Hespeler, Ontario. After a few years in Canada, Mr. Farr became convinced that conditions were more favorable (lower tariff on wool) for the manufacture of his line of goods in the United States and in 1874, he considered  Holyoke. Here he formed the company with a capital of $200,000.

 Herbert Marshall Farr  along with Joseph Metcalf founded the Farr Alpaca Company, a large mill complex originally on Jackson Street near Main Street. The company wove worsted fabric, alpaca, mohair and serge for the clothing industry.

Mr. Farr was one of Holyoke’s entrepreneurs in the early 1870’s who saw a need, raised the financing and moved his assets into town. He needed local financing and received a heartening reception in Holyoke. Jared Beebe, a local textile expert and later first president of Farr Alpaca and Timothy Merrick of the Merrick Thread Company comprised a committee of two to journey to Hespeler, Canada to investigate the potential. They came back with a glowing report.

Then a committee of three was selected to raise money. Farr said he needed  $200,000.  Some 115 people signed up to buy $229,500 worth of stock, more than enough to put the Farr Alpaca Company in business by September, 1874. The shares sold for $100 each and Jared Beebe was the largest local investor with 70 shares. Timothy Merrick bought 35 shares and Mayor Pearson’s invested $2,000 for 20 shares. William Whiting bought 25 shares and George Ewing, promoter of the first Hadley Falls Company, bought 20 shares in the Farr Alpaca. The Canadian group agreed to put in $135,000 if Holyoke residents subscribed $200,000. Herbert Farr and his brother-in law, Joseph Metcalf, advanced this money. They both came to Holyoke to operate the new business.

 In 1874, the Farr Alpaca Company began operations under the management of  Farr and Metcalf and from this time, the growth of the concern was rapid. The company once employed 3000 operatives in three mills with a payroll of $10,000 weekly. Mr. Farr not only stood among the leading manufacturers of Holyoke but among the foremost in the country. ‘Fortunes were made by the investors as the Farr Alpaca Company became dominant in the nation’s textile industry. ‘Farr Alpaca was once Holyoke’s largest industry and one of the major integrated worsted mills in the country, located in Holyoke because of the foresight of civic concerns of the pioneer leaders here.’

 However, industry took its toll. Mr. Farr suffered considerably from the effects of a strike at his mill in 1898 and the suicide death of a close friend, William Constable. Although the strike  was quickly and satisfactorily, it affected Mr. Farr deeply and may have increased his ‘nervous prostration’ from which he suffered. (A modern day explanation of this symptom can be called ‘depression’ today.) Mr. Farr took his own life in an upstairs bathroom on Monday, Nov. 26, 1900. The news of the sad end spread rapidly around the city Sunday and was the chief topic of conversation all day.

Much sorrow was expressed on all sides for Mr. Farr was one of the most progressive leading businessmen of Holyoke.

His significance in Holyoke’s industrial and financial history diminished quietly over the years probably due to the circumstances of his death.

 His mother, his widow, Annie and two daughters, Mrs. T.J. Morrow and Miss Bessie Farr, and one sister, Mr. Joseph Metcalf, survived him. His funeral the following day was private. His casket was completely covered with floral offerings and the room was a mass of flowers donated by the directors of the Farr Alpaca, and employees. He is interred in Forestdale Cemetery.

 His residence is mentioned in the 1900 newspaper article, “About twenty years ago, Mr. Farr, built his beautiful residence at the corner of Pine and Appleton Streets. The house has just been prepared as has been the annual custom for years for Mr. Farr’s winter convenience.” (Holyoke Transcript, Monday, Nov. 26, 1900)

 Annie Farr, his widow is not listed at that address after 1915. Further research needs to be done to trace the family. The Farr’s 399 Appleton St. residence continued as a single residence until James Connors turned it into a professional building in 1946 for Dentist Arthur Lepine and Dr. Mully. Later additions were added to the front in 1957. Although the house has additional office space added, and the interior of the building broken up into small cubicles, the main part of the house is intact and restorations can bring the historic house back to its original design. Consider an attractive Queen Anne porch or attractive landscaping and period paint and detailing?  It could be eligible for the  National Register of Historic Places or a fitting museum to document Herbert M. Farr’s  significant place in Holyoke’s industrial and financial  history and also to acknowledge the YMCA dedication to the city, it members and its historic past.

  (Continuing under Joseph Metcalf’s leadership, Farr Alpaca became an industry leader by today’s standards, for example they initiated profit sharing in the World War I era.  There was an athletic field, community house, dispensary with doctor and dentist available in the waiting, examination and operating rooms and a school for those who spoke no English. They also provided cultural and entertainment events in the 108 Cabot Street mill # 3 as seen in the first floor stage/theatre/cabaret space build for the employees. 3,000 people were employed; fifty-one miles of cloth were woven a day and over sixteen thousand miles a year. Over six million pounds of wool was used annually and to run these plants, seven thousand, three hundred and eight-eight horsepower was required, one thousand and eighty being waterpower and the balance steam power. The Farr Alpaca Company was the first company in the country to manufacture all wool cashmeres and Henriettas and the first to make serge linings to compete with those made in Bradford, England.

 But alpaca and mohair linings of which it had a monopoly went out of style and in 1939, the company closed. The theatre space became a roller skating rink during the 1940 to 1944 by E.C. Aldrich and was known as the Winter Palace Roller Skating until 1970 when it was used as a warehouse by the Connecticut–Massachusetts Tobacco Cooperative Inc. Today Paper City Brewery Inc. operates there.)


The nature of the threat is imminent demolition within a three month period. The YMCA purchased the building from a board member for additional parking. There are photo images included that show that there is plenty of parking spaces available at off times. It seems that parking is available at peak times around the building that may require a short walk. 

The YMCA has not yet addressed zoning issues and concerns.

 It appears that the previous owner and member of the Y Board of Directors made a ‘deal’ to unload his father in law’s closed dental practice for $55,000. In earlier conversations with this owner, he was unwilling to hear about alternatives solutions.

 Community commitment

Local support for the preservation of the resource and the broader community is not fully aware of the threat. The YMCA has been quiet about its purchase and its potential demolition. Some historical commissioners are meeting with the Director this week to discuss some other alternative options for the residence.

 Future Plans:

The Herbert Marshall Farr Residence would be used as additional office space or child care or resold to a preservation minded owner then the building could be saved from demolition. Perhaps the YMCA can use more office space, physical therapy or ancillary space in this historic home? There is a cramped childcare facility using the original carriage house right next door.  They can’t expand because of the small size of their current facility.

 The YMCA has stabilized the neighborhood. They are a tremendous organization that meet the needs of their members and in the meantime run a business in a fragile economy. There are possible new parking options on Pine Street due to a recent fire in the area. By helping to restoring this historic home, they will continue to keep the neighborhood save, secure and intact. The Herbert M. Farr Home could become a landmark home in Holyoke and a showcase for the YMCA.

 The Historical Commission would be interested in partnering with the YMCA and Preservation Massachusetts to restore, help, support or even resell this 1881 significant Queen Anne historical resource.  


Posted on May 2, 2013 by