Public Garden, Boston (3)

The view of the Boston Public Garden, looking northeast from just inside the entrance at Commonwealth Avenue, taken around 1900. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

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This statue of George Washington has appeared in several earlier posts here and here, and the scene shows the statue with Beacon Hill in the distance. The only easily recognizable building from the first photo is the Massachusetts State House; the distinctive dome and triangular pediment beneath it can be seen just to the left of the palm tree on the right side of the first photo. The State House is still there, but its view is now blocked by larger trees in the park. Incidentally, if the palm trees in the first photo look out of place in Boston, it’s because they are. Although they are not native to anywhere near New England, tropical plants such as pal trees and the elephant ear plants in the 2015 scene have long been a summer feature at the Public Garden, and in the winter they are stored in greenhouses to protect them from the cold.

George Washington Statue, Public Garden, Boston

The side view of the George Washington statue in the Boston Public Garden, facing north toward Beacon Street, sometime in the 1800s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The statue in 2015:

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As mentioned in this earlier post, this statue of George Washington has stood at the Commonwealth Avenue entrance to the Public Garden since 1869. It was designed by sculptor Thomas Ball, a Boston native who also designed the Charles Sumner statue in the Public Garden, and the Emancipation Memorial at nearby Park Square. Since then, not much has changed about the statue or the surrounding park. The trees now obscure the view of the houses in the distance, but many of them are still standing today, along Arlington Street to the left and Beacon Street in the center and right.

Public Garden, Boston (2)

Looking west from the bridge in the Boston Public Garden toward Commonwealth Avenue in 1895. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

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For as much as Boston has changed in the past 120 years, this scene has stayed remarkably the same. It is taken facing the opposite direction from the photos in this post, and the statue in the distance is the same one visible from the other side in that post. This bridge over the lake has been a feature in the Public Garden since it was added in 1867, and it was designed by noted Boston architect William G. Preston. Two years later, the statue of George Washington was added, and it is one of many statues that decorate the park.

Beyond the Public Garden is the eastern end of Commonwealth Avenue, which was designed with a wide, park-like median. It serves as a major centerpiece for the Back Bay neighborhood, and the townhouses on either side of the street have been highly coveted since the area was first developed. Many of these historic homes are still standing today, although it is hard to see in the 2015 photo here. The ones to the left, at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Arlington Street, have since been demolished and replaced by a modern high-rise, but most of the ones on the right are still there, including the ones at the corner. Built mostly in the 1860s, these are among the oldest homes in the Back Bay, and this location along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and across from the Public Garden has long been desirable real estate in the city.

Public Garden Lake, Boston

Looking west across the lake in the Boston Public Garden, sometime in the late 1800s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The view in 2015:

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Boston’s Public Garden, as mentioned in this post, was the first public botanical garden in the United States when it was established in 1837. It was located along the edge of the city’s original shoreline, and like the rest of the Back Bay it was a tidal marsh when European settlers first arrived in 1630. By the 1850s, though, the city was looking to expand west by filling in the Back Bay, and one of the initial projects was the landscaping of the Public Garden, which was done in the early 1860s by landscape architect George Meacham.

In the years since the first photo was taken, the Public Garden itself hasn’t changed much. It still has the artificial lake in the center, surrounded by walkways, flower beds, and statues. The lake’s famous swan boats are not visible here, but they began operation in 1877 and are still in use during the summer months. Also not visible from here is the bridge over the lake, which was added in 1867 a little to the right of this scene, and is still there today.

The greatest difference between these two photos, obviously, is the skyline beyond the Public Garden. When the first photo was taken, the eastern portion of the Back Bay had been developed, and the Arlington Street Church, built in 1861, was the most obvious landmark in this scene. The church is still standing, as are the townhouses just to the right of it along Arlington Street, but otherwise all of the other buildings from the first photo are gone. The buildings to the left of the church are on Boylston Street, and most of the Victorian townhouses were demolished long ago as the street became an important commercial area. In the distance, skyscrapers such as the old and new John Hancock buildings and the Prudential Tower show how the southern section of the Back Bay has been extensively redeveloped starting in the second half of the 20th century.

Whip Factories on Elm Street, Westfield, Mass

Looking north on Elm Street in Westfield, toward the intersection of Franklin Street, around 1890-1895. Image courtesy of the Westfield Athenaeum.

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Elm Street in 2015:

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As mentioned in a previous post, Westfield was once the world’s leading producer in whips. When the first photo was taken, there were some 37 whip factories in the city, and by the start of the 20th century they combined to produce 99% of the world’s supply of whips. Two of these companies were photographed here; in the foreground to the right was the New England Whip Company, and just beyond it, in the much larger building with the tower, was Cargill, Cook & Co. Beyond these two factories were several other brick buildings, all of which were probably built around the 1870s or 1880s, just as Westfield’s whip industry was reaching its peak.

The whip industry was a boon to the entire city, but the lack of diversity in Westfield’s economy was felt as the whip factories started closing in the early 1900s. Automobiles had largely replaced horse-drawn carriages, which meant little demand for the city’s whips. Some of the historic whip factory buildings were later repurposed and are still standing in Westfield, but the ones in the first photo have since been demolished, and there is now a gas station on the site. The Swift Building, a three story brick building barely visible at the far end of the row of buildings in the first photo, is the only one left from the 1890s view. Otherwise, the only surviving structure from the first photo is the railroad trestle in the distance. There have not been any trains along this track for many years, but the right-of-way is in the process of being converted into a rail trail.

Hotel Aspinwall, Lenox, Mass (3)

The west side of the Hotel Aspinwall, around 1902-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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This view shows the opposite side of the hotel from the photos in the previous posts, and this post gives more details on the history of this hotel, which stood here from 1902 to 1931, when it was destroyed in a fire. The fire was believed to have started on the veranda on this side of the building, and although the exact cause was never determined, contemporary newspaper reports indicate that it was probably from a carelessly discarded cigarette.

The site of the hotel is now Kennedy Park, which has hiking and cross country skiing trails and several scenic overlooks, including this one. In the foreground is the Kennedy Park Belvedere, which was built in 2011 in memory of Dr. Jordan Fieldman, a physician at Berkshire Medical Center who died of cancer in 2006. It became the subject of controversy, though, when a group of local citizens objected to it and filed lawsuit against the town. The suit was ultimately dismissed, and the memorial is still here, in approximately the same location where guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John D. Rockefeller, Sr. once enjoyed the view from the hotel’s veranda.