McKnight Historic District is a small neighborhood located directly to the East of Springfield’s Metro Center. It is one of 4 neighborhoods that center around State Street. This neighborhood along with Bay, Upper Hill and Old Hill form the geographic center of Springfield.
McKnight is surrounded by Liberty Heights (North), Upper Hill (South), Bay (East) and Metro Center (West). Interstate 291 runs directly North of McKnight, separating it from Liberty Heights. The Northern end of the neighborhood consists of Albany Street, also known as gasoline alley. The center of the neighborhood is majority residential houses and the Southern end includes businesses lined up along State Street.
The McKnight neighborhood was a planned community developed by brothers John and William McKnight. The neighborhood is lined with streets of elegant Victorian houses and mansions built in the late 1800’s. The residents of McKnight are among the most knowledgeable of the history of their neighborhood and houses.
The houses in McKnight come in all shapes, sizes and styles. Some of the characteristics of these houses include bright exterior paint, wrap around porches, large spacious rooms and wooden floors. They are referred to as painted ladies because they are painted in a way to highlight the house’s unique architectural features.
McKnight has the highest concentration of Victorian houses in Massachusetts (excluding Boston). Many of the homes in McKnight have been featured in publications including Antique Homes Magazine. All houses in the Historic District have been photographed, documented and are part of Springfield’s Local Historic District and the National Register of Historic Places.
Being part of Springfields LHD means there are restrictions on what modifications may be made on the houses. These restrictions include modifying any exterior street facing features of the house. This includes aspects such as siding, paint and shutters. The Springfield Historical Commission offers forms for anyone wishing to make modifications on properties in historic districts.
To the South of McKnight is a commercial district known as Mason Square, named after Primus Mason. Mason was a black Entrepreneur who donated the land for Mason Square. Mason Square is the other half of the McKnight planned community. The plan when constructing this neighborhood was for the businesses on State Street to be within walking distance and serve the McKnight residents living on the side streets.
The Northernmost portion of McKnight consists of a site unofficially known as Gasoline Alley. Aside from being an industrial street full of junkyards, auto shops and gas pipelines, Gasoline Alley is home to a community of businesses in a nontraditional setting.
The most prominent organization in gasoline alley is the Gasoline Alley foundation. The foundation is a non profit organization founded by social entrepreneur and venture capitalist Joe Sibilia. Their mission as stated on their website is:
The business is run out of a colorful mill building that sticks out compared to the nearby gray steel based businesses. Other businesses close to gasoline alley include the Gasoline Alley Salon, as well as an indoor hydroponic farm known as Urban Artisan Farm who’s goal is to solve the issue of local food deserts and a coffee shop known as Monsoon Roastery and Espresso Bar. The businesses in this sprawling industrial area are out of place but all have the same mission of doing good for the community and increasing entrepreneurship in Springfield.
Just South of Gasoline Alley is the site of the proposed McKnight Community walk and bike trail proposed by the McKnight Neighborhood Council. The plans are for a 1.5 mile recreational open space from State Street for Armory Street. The project has already received state and city funding for the planning and design.
Other green spaces in the neighborhood include decorative open spaces built into the neighborhood by the original developers. McKnight’s large ornate homes and greenspaces make it a truly unique neighborhood in Springfield.
Thank you for checking out part 3 of 413NOW’s Springfield’s neighborhood guide. By the end of this series, each Springfield neighborhood and each Western Mass town will have both an article and a drive through video. Sign up for our Email list to be notified when 413NOW releases important content. 413NOW takes personal information very seriously and will not spam or abuse your information.