View from Citadel Hill, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The view looking east toward downtown Halifax from Citadel Hill, around 1900-1917. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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The view in 2016L

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It isn’t in New England, or even in the United States, but Halifax has long had close ties with New England, especially Boston. It is the closest major North American port to Europe, and as such it is the last stop for outgoing ships from Boston, and the first for incoming ships. This scene here shows part of the city’s massive harbor, which has been of strategic importance over the years. After the British occupation of Boston ended in 1776, their fleet took refuge here in Halifax while preparing for an assault on New York City, and many years later the harbor was used as a gathering place for eastbound Atlantic convoys in both world wars.

Through all of this, the strategically-valuable harbor has been protected by Fort George, a series of fortifications atop Citadel Hill. The hill stands just west of downtown Halifax, offering sweeping views of the city and harbor, and making it the ideal location for a fort to command the harbor and its approaches. The photos here were taken near the top of the hill, near the outer walls of the fort. On the left is one of Halifax’s oldest landmarks, the Town Clock, which was built at the foot of the hill. It faces down Carmichael Street, which leads to the Grand Parade three blocks down the hill, where City Hall and St. Paul’s Anglican Church are located.

The date of the first photo is somewhat unclear, but it was taken sometime soon before 1917, when Halifax experienced one of the deadliest disasters in history. Known as the Halifax Explosion, it occurred on December 6, 1917, when the harbor was filled with ships heading to and from Europe during World War I. Two such ships were the Norwegian SS Imo, which collided with French ammunition ship SS Mont-Blanc. The latter caught fire, and after about 20 minutes its cargo of high explosives detonated.

The Mont-Blanc was essentially vaporized, and the blast wave leveled much of the northern part of the city, to the left and out of view in the photos here. A few earlier posts, here and here, show scenes from the aftermath of the explosion, which killed nearly 2,000 people, injured around 9,000 others, and damaged or destroyed around 12,000 houses. The main commercial center of Halifax, seen in this view from Citadel Hill, escaped serious damage. Essentially every window in the city was shattered by the explosion, but most of the buildings in the first photo would have survived the disaster.

Despite being spared from serious damage, there is very little that is still recognizable from the first photo a century later. There are a number of 19th century buildings scattered throughout this section of the city, but the only one that is readily visible in both photos is the clock tower itself, which remains a prominent city landmark.

Today, Halifax remains an important port. It is the largest city in Canada’s Maritime provinces, and its downtown has been built up with skyscrapers, partially obscuring the view of the harbor from Citadel Hill. The shoreline across the harbor in Dartmouth has also changed dramatically in the past 100 years. In 1911, the community had a population of just over 5,000, but today it has over 67,000 people, and is a major suburb of Halifax as well as a commercial center in its own right.

First Congregational Church, West Springfield, Mass

The First Congregational Church on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1912. Image from Picturesque Springfield and West Springfield (1912).

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The church in 2016:

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In the 18th and early 19th centuries, few issues caused as much controversy in some New England towns as the location of the meetinghouse. West Springfield experienced this in 1802, owing in part to its unusual geography. This area along the common has long been the social and commercial center of the town, but geographically it is located in the southeastern corner of the present-day borders. In the days when everyone in town was expected to attend the same church, this was an inconvenient location for the farmers who lived in the northern and western parts of the town, so when a new meetinghouse was proposed at the turn of the 19th century, it caused considerable debate.

The result was a compromise of sorts. Rather than favoring those in the town center or the farmers in the outskirts, a site was chosen that was equally inconvenient for all, on Elm Street opposite Kings Highway. Located nearly a mile north of the center, on a hill overlooking the Connecticut River, this meetinghouse was completed in 1802. Its construction costs were paid by John Ashley, a farmer in the northern part of the town who stipulated that the First Congregational Church needed to remain there for at least 100 years.

Hamstrung by Ashley’s conditions, the church could do little but count down the years, but nothing prevented town residents from forming a new church society, Park Street Congregational Church, which they established in 1870. Two years later, their brick Gothic-style church opened here on Park Street, providing a new, more elegant building in a prominent location for the residents of downtown West Springfield.

Architecturally, the new building was part of a trend in post-Civil War New England, which eschewed the more traditional plain white church buildings of previous generations. The actual design was copied from Springfield’s Church of the Unity, which had been completed three years earlier. The Church of the Unity was the first major commission of Henry Hobson Richardson, who later became one of the most influential American architects of the 19th century. His works inspired many imitations, perhaps the first of which was this church here in West Springfield. Although it hardly compares to the architectural grandeur of the Church of the Unity, this scaled-down brick copy shows the influence that, even as a young architect, Richardson’s works had on his contemporaries.

The Church of the Unity was demolished in the early 1960s and its site is now a parking lot opposite the Springfield Public Library, but the Park Street Congregational Church is still standing today, just with a different name. In 1909, with the century-old limitations now expired, the First Congregational Church was able to move from its old meetinghouse, and they merged with the Park Street church here in this building, where they remain today. The old 1802 meetinghouse, although no longer used as a church, is also still standing on Elm Street, providing West Springfield with two historic church buildings that represent two very different 19th century architectural styles.

Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (3)

One more view of the Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This view of the Josiah Day House is similar to the previous one, showing what it looked like around the time that the Ramapogue Historical Society acquired it as a museum in the first decade of the 20th century. Since then, the area around the house has changed, and West Springfield’s town common is no longer lined with the tall trees that appeared in the first photo. However, the Day House is still standing, and remains a museum, with an interior furnished with 18th and 19th century antiques, many of which belonged to the Day family, who lived in this house for four generations from 1754 to 1897. For more information on the history of the house, see this earlier post.

Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (2)

Another photo of the Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The house in 2016:

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As mentioned in the previous post, the Josiah Day House is the oldest building in West Springfield, dating back to 1754. This angle of the house shows the wooden 1810 addition, which was built for Aaron Day, Jr. and his wife Anne. Aaron was the grandson of the home’s original owner, and he and Anne raised their six children here in the first half of the 19th century.

The last of their children, Lydia, died in 1897. She was the last of four consecutive generations of Days to live in the house, and in 1902 the family put the property up for sale. It was purchased by the Ramapogue Historical Society, who preserved it as a museum. Today, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of West Springfield’s historic treasures. For more details on the history of this house, see the previous post.

Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (1)

The Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The house in 2016:

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This house is the oldest existing building in West Springfield, and probably the oldest brick building in Hampden County. It was built by Josiah Day in 1754 as a rare example of a brick saltbox-style house, and is probably the oldest such house in the United States. The house actually predates West Springfield itself, which had been settled in 1660 as part of Springfield, but was not actually incorporated as a separate town until 1774. By this point, the village on the west side of the river, with its fertile soil for farming, had grown larger and more prosperous than Springfield itself, and for many years its residents had been calling for separation.

Josiah Day was one of the residents who had petitioned the colonial General Court of Massachusetts for separation from Springfield, but he never lived to see West Springfield become its own town. He died in 1770, and his son Aaron inherited the house. Aaron and his wife Eunice moved into the house after their marriage in 1775, just months before the start of the American Revolution.

Although far removed from any major battles, the Day house nonetheless saw several important events relating to the war. In January 1776, Henry Knox passed in front of the house along his journey from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. He and his men were hauling 60 tons of cannons to fortify Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston, and just two months later these guns forced the British to evacuate Boston. Two years later, the Day House saw the results of another American victory in the war. Following the British defeat at Saratoga, General Riedesel and his Hessian troops were captured and marched to Boston, and along the way they stopped and encamped here in West Springfield on October 30 and 31, 1777, on the common in front of the house.

The closest that the Day House came to witnessing direct military action came nearly a decade later, during Shays’ Rebellion. This uprising, which took place in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787, was the result of high taxes and foreclosures against farmers in the region, and during this time the rebels succeeded in closing courthouses to prevent foreclosure cases from coming to trial. Although Daniel Shays of Pelham was the primary leader of the uprising, Luke Day of West Springfield was also one of the leaders. Luke and Aaron Day were second cousins, and while planning for the assault on the Springfield Arsenal, the climactic event of the rebellion, Luke trained his soldiers on the common in front of the house. According to local tradition, he also used his cousin’s house as his headquarters while he planned the attack.

In the meantime, Aaron and Eunice Day continued living in this house for decades. In 1810, they expanded the house with a wooden addition in the back for their oldest son, Aaron, Jr., who had married Anne Ely that year. Eunice died in 1818 and Aaron, Sr. in 1827, and the house was passed down to the younger Aaron. He and Anne raised their six children here, and Lydia, their last surviving child, lived in the house until her death in 1897. A few years later, the house was sold by the Day family after four consecutive generations of ownership.

While so many other colonial buildings in the area were being demolished around the turn of the 20th century, the Day House was purchased by the Ramapogue Historical Society, around the same time that the first photo was taken. This early effort at historic preservation has been successful, and today the house is still owned by the society. It is open to the public as a museum, and the interior is furnished with antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which had once belonged to members of the Day family.

Frary House, Deerfield, Mass

The Frary House on Old Main Street in Deerfield, around 1900-1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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The Old Deerfield Historic District is a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest level of recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. The well-preserved New England village features 53 historic buildings, with over 30 that date back to the American Revolution or earlier. Among these is the Frary House, seen here in these photographs.

When the first photo was taken, the house was believed to have been built in 1698 by Samson Frary, one of the original settlers of Deerfield. However, dendrochronology has since shown that it was built around 1758, although it is possible that portions of the house may date back to 1698. If so, it would make it one of possibly two houses that predate the 1704 Indian attack on the village. Either way, though, the house is unquestionably old, and historically significant.

The left side of the building is the oldest, and dates back to about 1758, when it was owned by Salah Barnard. He operated a tavern out of the house, and in 1775 Benedict Arnold stopped here on his way north to capture Fort Ticonderoga. The American Revolution had started just weeks earlier, and Deerfield had a large number of loyalist residents, yet Arnold managed to acquire provisions for his men here at the tavern while at the same time maintaining the secrecy of his mission.

The most significant change to the building came around 1795, when Barnard added a larger tavern to the right side of the building. Like many other New England taverns of the era, it not only provided food, drink, and lodging for visitors; it also served as the social center of the town, and would have been used as a meeting place for a variety of local events. Salah Barnard died the same year that the addition was completed, and his son Erastus inherited the building and operated the tavern for the next ten years, until he moved away from Deerfield.

The property was eventually purchased in 1890 by Charlotte Alice Baker, a descendant of Samson Frary, the building’s purported original owner. She hired the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge to restore it to its original colonial appearance, and the work was complete by the time the first photo was taken. Today, the Frary House/Barnard Tavern is owned by Historic Deerfield, a museum that owns a number of historic properties in the village.

Along with the Frary House and Barnard Tavern, this scene shows one other historic home. Just to the right of the tavern is the Nims House, which predates the Frary House by over a decade The original house on this site was built around 1685 by Godfrey Nims, but was destroyed in the 1704 Indian raid. It was rebuilt in 1710, and portions of this house might still be standing, but most of the present-day home dates back to sometime between the 1720s and 1740s. It remained in the Nims family until the 1890s, and it is now owned by Deerfield Academy, who uses it for faculty housing.