Looking northwest from the Washington Monument

The view from the top of the Washington Monument, taken between 1906 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in February, 2006:

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Both photos are taken looking almost directly down Virginia Ave., but other than the street network, not much remains from the early 1900s photo.  As least two buildings are identifiable in both: the white building in the lower right, and the building to the right of it (which is barely visible in the first photo).  They are the Organization of American States and the Daughters of the American Revolution buildings, respectively.  Otherwise, the area looks remarkably sparse in the first photo, primarily because most of the land in the foreground did not exist before the 1880s, when the Potomac River was dredged, and the dredged material used to fill in this area to address flooding issues.  The Constitution Gardens, visible in the lower left of the 2006 photo, would not exist for another 70 years.  Shortly after the first photo was taken, the Navy built temporary offices during World War I.  These “temporary” offices lasted into the 1970s, when they were demolished to create the pond and parkland visible today.

Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Government

The scene in 2014:

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The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.

Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2014 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.

Railroad Arch, Springfield

Looking north toward the Boston & Albany Railroad arch over Main Street in Springfield, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The railroad arch in 2013:

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For many years, there was no bridge over Main Street, forcing the busy rail line to cross the busy road at grade.  Finally, in 1890, the stone arch was built, and survives to this day, even when none of the other buildings from the first decade of the 20th century have.  See the 1882 photo in this post for a view of Main Street before the arch was built.

Massasoit House, Springfield

The Massasoit House in Springfield, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated by James D. Gill (1882)

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The same scene around 1908, with the stone railroad arch in the distance. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2017:

 

This scene on Main Street in Springfield was prime real estate when the first two photos were taken.  The hotel building in those photos, the Massasoit House, opened in 1843, right next to the railroad depot (the building partially hidden by a tree in the right-center of the 1882 photo), just four years after the railroad came to Springfield.  It was the perfect place for a hotel, because the railroad depot made this location the transportation hub of the city, and the Massasoit House had its share of notable guests over the years, including Charles Dickens, Daniel Webster, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, and Jefferson Davis.  However, in 1926 the building was sold and turned into the Paramount Theatre.  Most of the structure was demolished, but there are a few surviving sections of the original 1843 building.

One thing lacking in the 1882 photo is the iconic stone arch, which wasn’t built until 1890.  It helped to alleviate congestion on Main Street by elevating the railroad, and it also coincided with the opening of a new Union Station just a short walk away on Lyman Street.  By the 1908 photo, the railroad arch is there, and the scene captures an interesting combination of transportation modes.  Along with the railroad in the distance, it shows trolleys alongside a roughly equal number of automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, during the period of transition from draft animals to internal combustion engines.  Today, as seen in the 2014 photo, buses have replaced the trolleys, and automobiles clearly won out over horses; not a single horse-drawn carriage is to be seen on Main Street anymore.

Hotel Worthy, Springfield

The Hotel Worthy, at the corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Hotels

The building in 2013:

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Unlike many of the other views of downtown Springfield from the turn of the last century, almost nothing has changed in this scene.  Taken from the corner of Main and Worthington, with Worthington to the left and Main to the right, most of the buildings in this photo have survived.  The only exception is the building to the immediate right of the Hotel Worthy, which is now a public square.  The historic hotel itself is now an apartment building, and the buildings beyond it to the left down Worthington Street now house a variety of bars and restaurants.  One of these, Smith’s Billiards, has actually been open since before the 1908 photo was taken, and it is supposedly the oldest pool hall in the United States.

Main Street Springfield (2)

Main Street in Springfield, looking south from the corner of Main and Worthington, in about 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2013:

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Much has changed about this scene in the ensuing 100+ years, but two prominent landmarks remain, the Fuller Block, sans roof ornaments, and the Hotel Worthy on the far left.  The building between the two, along with most of the other buildings on the left-hand side of Main Street, is gone, as are the trolleys that were once ubiquitous throughout downtown Springfield.