Tabernacle Congregational Church, Salem, Mass

The Tabernacle Congregational Church, at the corner of Washington and Federal Streets in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The Tabernacle Congregational Church had its origins in 1735, when a large group of parishioners, including the pastor, broke away from the First Church of Salem. Following the split, both churches claimed to be the true “First Church,” and the dispute was not resolved until 1762, when the colonial legislature forced the newer church to give up their claim to the name. As a result, the congregation became the Third Church of Salem, although it later came to be known as the Tabernacle Congregational Church.

Its first meeting house burned down in 1774, and was replaced three years later by a new one, located here at the corner of Washington and Federal Streets. In 1812, Samuel Newell, Adoniram Judson, Samuel Nott, Gordon Hall, and Luther Rice were ordained here as the first foreign missionaries from the United States, prior to their departure overseas for India. The building would remain in use for many years afterwards, but it was demolished in 1854 to build the church that is shown in the first photo.

This church building was designed by noted Boston architect Richard Bond, and had an Italianate-style design that was popular for churches of this period. It included a tall steeple that rose 180 feet above the street, and the sanctuary of the church could seat some 1,050 people, which was more than double the membership at the time. Including furnishings, it was built at a cost of $21,400, or about $600,000 today. However, the church made most of this money back in short order. In keeping with customs of this period, the pews were sold to parishioners, with prices that ranged from $25 to $60 in the galleries, and $40 to $250 on the main floor. Through this sale, held in 1854 on the day of its dedication, the church brought in $16,119.48 in revenue.

The 1854 church stood here until 1922, when it was demolished to build the present-day building. This was the third consecutive church building to stand on this site, and incorporated elements of the 1777 structure. This included the tower, which was modeled after the one that had been added to the earlier church in 1805. The new church was designed by Boston architects Philip Horton Smith and Edgar Walker, and it was completed in 1923. It has remained in use by the congregation ever since, and the exterior has been well-preserved after nearly a century since its completion. It is now part of the Federal Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Pickman-Derby Mansion, Salem, Mass

The mansion at the corner of Washington and Lynde Streets in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

The house in the first photo was built in 1764, although it was extensively modified over the years. It was one of Salem’s finest 18th century mansions, and was home to some of the city’s most prominent residents, starting with merchant Benjamin Pickman (1707/8-1773). Originally from Boston, Pickman later came to Salem as a young man, where he became a prosperous merchant, with ships that were involved in trade with the West Indies. He also served as a colonel in the militia, a member of the colonial legislature and governor’s council, and as a judge.

Pickman was about 56 years old when he built this house on Washington Street. He apparently lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1773, although historical records do not seem to specify. According to these sources, the house was “left by him to his son, Clarke Gayton Pickman,” leaving some ambiguity as to whether he personally lived in this house upon its completion, or simply had it built and then gave it to his son, a practice that was not uncommon among wealthy families of this period.

Either way, his son Clarke (1746-1781) ultimately acquired the house, where he lived with his wife Sarah and their four children. However, he died young, at the age of 35, and his four children had even shorter lives. Both of his sons, Clark and Carteret, died in childhood, and his two daughters, Sally and Rebecca, only lived to be 20 and 28, respectively. Sarah only lived in this house for about a year after Clarke’s death, and sold the property in 1782.

The next owner of this house was Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799), who was probably the wealthiest of Salem’s many merchants. During the late 18th century, Salem was the seventh-largest city or town in the country, as well as the richest on a per capita basis, and Derby played a large role in this prosperity. The ships of his fleet were among the first American vessels to trade with China, and his shipping empire also included extensive trade with India, Mauritius, Sumatra, Europe, and the West Indies. Some 50 years after his death, he was even referred to as “King Derby” in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s introduction to The Scarlet Letter. In this lengthy polemic against his hometown, Hawthorne laments the decline of the once-prosperous city, equating Derby with the Salem’s golden age.

Upon purchasing this house in 1782, Derby soon set about renovating it. He hired noted local architect Samuel McIntire, who made alterations to the original design. This included the addition of the cupola, which provided Derby with a view of the waterfront and his incoming ships. However, Derby soon began planning for a new house, and in the 1790s he hired Charles Bulfinch to design a mansion a little south of here, on the present-day site of the old town hall. Derby moved into this new house upon its completion in 1799, but he did not get to enjoy it for long, because he died later in the year.

In the meantime, this house on Washington Street was acquired by Derby’s son, John Derby (1767-1831). Like his father, he was also a merchant, but he was involved in other business interests here in Salem, such as the Salem Marine Insurance Company and the Salem Bank. His first wife, Sally, died in 1798, leaving him with three young children. However, in 1801 he remarried to Eleanor Coffin, and the couple had eight children of their own.

Among their children was Sarah Ellen Derby, who married John Rogers and had nine children. Their oldest son, also named John Rogers (1829-1904), was born here in this house, and later went on to become a prominent sculptor. He specialized in small, mass-produced plaster statues, known as Rogers Groups, and these inexpensive pieces of artwork found their way into many homes across the country and overseas.

John Derby died in 1831, and the house was subsequently sold to Robert Brookhouse. It would remain a single-family home throughout the 19th century, although it steadily declined over the years. This reflected the declining prosperity of Salem as a whole, which had peaked in its prominence as a seaport around the turn of the 19th century. It slowly dropped off the list of the ten largest cities in the country, and by the time Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter in 1850 it had become a shadow of its former glory.

In 1898, the mansion was sold and converted into a commercial property. It became the Colonial House hotel, as shown in the first photo a little over ten years later. The ground floor had two storefronts, with the Colonial House Cafe on the left and a bar on the right. Just to the left of the hotel is a nickelodeon, an early movie theater that, as the signs in front indicate, cost a nickel for admission. These were common during this period, in the early years of film, and the sign above the entrance advertises “Moving Pictures and Illustrated Songs.”

Only a few years after the first photo was taken, the property was sold to the Masonic lodge. The historic 150-year-old mansion was demolished in 1915, and the present-day Masonic Temple was built on the site. This large, Classical Revival-style building was completed in 1916, and featured stores and offices on the lower floors, while the upper floors were used by the Freemasons for office space and meeting rooms. The building was badly damaged by a fire in 1982, which caused over a million dollars in damage to the upper floors, but it was subsequently restored and is still standing. Along with the other nearby buildings, it is now part of the Downtown Salem Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Washington Street, Salem, Mass

Looking north on Washington Street from the corner of Essex Street in the center of Salem, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

One of the great features of Salem is its remarkably well-preserved downtown area, with hundreds of historic buildings that date as far back as the 17th century. Here in the center of the city, both Washington Street and Essex Street are lined with historic commercial blocks, although this particular view of Washington Street does not have very many buildings that survive from the first photo. In fact, the only building that is easily identifiable in both photos is the Neal and Newhall Building on the far right. This was built in 1892 at the northeast corner of the intersection, and is still standing with few significant changes except for the ground floor storefront and the balustrade atop the roof.

The other buildings beyond the Neal and Newhall Building on the right side of the street are still standing from the first photo, although it is hard to tell from this angle. These include, starting in the foreground, the Newhall Annex (c.1902), City Hall (1837), and the Kinsman Block (c.1882). However, on the more visible left side of the street, not much remains from the first photo. In the distance, near the center of the photo, is the Tabernacle Congregational Church, which was built in 1854 and demolished in 1922 to build the current church building on the site. Next to the church, barely visible at the base of the steeple, is the Odell Block, which was built in 1890. This three-story brick commercial block is the only building on the left side of the first photo that has survived largely unaltered.

The only other building on the left side of the street that apparently still stands today is the one on the left side, with the American flag flying above it in the first photo. This was the home of the William G. Webber dry goods business, and the signs on the building advertise for other tenants such as the New York Life Insurance Company and the Merchants National Bank. It was known as the Endicott Building, and its National Register of Historic Places listing indicates that it was built in 1885 and remodeled in 1911. However, the first photo shows a date of 1872, which suggests that it was actually a little older. The 1911 renovations apparently altered most of the original exterior, though, and the building went through even more dramatic changes in recent years, adding several stories to the top of the original building, and today there are no visible remnants from its original turn-of-the-century appearance.

Derby Square, Salem, Mass

Derby Square from Front Street in Salem, with the Old Town Hall on the right side, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Derby Square is a small plaza in the center of Salem, and it is named for the prominent Derby family, which once owned the land here. Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799) was a prosperous merchant and among the richest men in New England, referred to by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter as “King Derby.” During the 1790s, Derby had an elegant mansion built here on the site. It was designed by noted architect Charles Bulfinch and was completed in 1799, but Derby died later that year and the property was inherited by his son, Elias Hasket Derby, Jr. However, the younger Derby had little interest in paying the high costs to maintain the house, and it sat abandoned for some time before finally being demolished in 1815.

After demolishing the house, Derby sold the property to his brother, John Derby III, and his brother-in-law, Benjamin Pickman, Jr. The following year, they donated the property to the town of Salem, in order to build a new town hall on the site of the mansion. Construction began later that year, and was completed in 1817. It was built of brick, with an elegant Federal-style exterior, and there is some speculation that it may have been designed by Charles Bulfinch. Like many New England municipal buildings of the era, it was designed as a multi-use building, with a public market on the first floor, and a meeting hall and town offices on the upper floor. The basement also had commercial tenants, including a restaurant that was housed here during the early 19th century.

The first event held in the meeting hall was a reception for President James Monroe, who visited Salem in July 1817 during a tour of the New England states. At the time, Salem was at the peak of its prosperity as a major trading port. It was the tenth-largest city or town in the country during the 1820 census, and the second-largest in New England after Boston. However, it was still technically a town at the time, with a town meeting form of government, and this building continued to be used as the town hall until 1836, when Salem was incorporated as the second city in the state, just 14 years after Boston became the first city.

The municipal government moved into the new city hall, which was completed on Washington Street in 1837, and this building remains in use today. By this point, though, Salem’s once-prosperous shipping industry was in decline, and the city saw slow population growth throughout most of the 19th century. Salem never again ranked among the ten largest cities in the country, and now it is no longer even one of the ten largest in the state. However, this early prosperity, followed by many decades of stagnation, has resulted in the preservation of a remarkable number of historic buildings. Today, while Salem is best-known for its infamous witch trials, the city also boasts hundreds of historic buildings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including many of the buildings here at Derby Square.

Although Salem’s government moved out of the upper floor of the old town hall in the 1830s, the first floor continued to be used as a public market for many years. It was known as the Market House, as shown by the sign in the first photo, and had stalls for a number of merchants, most of whom sold food. The 1869 city directory lists a fruits and vegetable dealer, a butter and cheese dealer, plus five tenants whose business was described simply as “provisions.” As seen in the first photo, the area in front of the building was also used as a marketplace, with dealers selling goods from their wagons.

The old town hall continued to be used as a market into the 20th century. Although threatened by demolition, it was ultimately preserved following an extensive renovation from 1933-1934. The first floor was completely remodeled, and the old market stalls were replaced with office space for a variety of city offices. The “Market House” sign was removed, and the building became known as the “Old Town Hall,” despite having served in that function for just two decades. Despite the changes on the first floor, though, the old meeting hall on the upper floor has remained largely the same, and continues to be used as a venue for many different functions.

Today, aside from the sign, the exterior of the building has seen few changes since the first photo was taken, and most of the other neighboring buildings have also been preserved. The first floor of the old town hall is no longer used for city offices, and is instead an art exhibition space, but the area in front of the building on Derby Square is still used for its original purpose. Although it was empty when the 2017 photo was taken, the square is the site of a weekly farmers’ market during the summer, plus a monthly flea market that runs from May through September.

Josiah Gilbert Holland House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 115 High Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, this house was the home of author Josiah Gilbert Holland, a noted historian, novelist, poet, and editor who lived in Springfield for much of his literary career. Holland was born in 1819 in Belchertown, Massachusetts, and was an 1844 graduate of the Berkshire Medical College. He moved to Springfield after graduating, where he married his wife, Elizabeth Chapin, and briefly practiced medicine. However, he soon abandoned the profession and turned to writing. He published a weekly newspaper, the Bay State Courier, for six months in 1847, but he and Elizabeth subsequently moved to the south, where he worked as a teacher in Richmond and as superintendent of schools in Vicksburg. He had little professional experience for the latter position, and Vicksburg had little in the way of public schools, but Holland was able to establish a system that was based on public education in northern states.

Holland served as superintendent in Vicksburg for a year and three months, but he and Elizabeth returned to Springfield in the spring of 1849, in order to care for her dying mother. Here, Holland resumed his journalistic career, after Springfield Republican editor Samuel Bowles hired him as an assistant editor of the newspaper. During the early 1850s he wrote History of Western Massachusetts, which was originally printed in the newspaper in serial format before being published in a two-volume book in 1855. The following year, Holland was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the old city hall at Court Square, where he gave an hour-long speech that, among other things, criticized the city’s lack of noteworthy architectural works. He objected to the designs of public buildings as well as private homes, and noted that “a common horse-block has just as many, and just the same, architectural ideas in it” as an entire street full of the city’s finest homes.

Around the time that he gave this speech, though, Holland lived here in this very modest Greek Revival-style home, which had very little architectural distinction of its own. The house was likely built sometime in the late 1830s or 1840s, during the time when this style was common for houses in Springfield. It does not appear in the 1835 map, but it was in existence by 1851, when that year’s map shows it as being owned by an A. Howe. Josiah and Elizabeth Holland likely moved into the house a few years later, and at some point it came to be known as “Buff Cottage.” By the 1860 census the Hollands were living here with their young children Annie, Katie, and Theodore, plus two servants. At the time, the value of Holland’s real estate was listed at $9,000, plus a personal estate of $13,000, for a total net worth equal to about $600,000 today.

During the time that Holland lived in this house, his literary career gained him national attention. His first novel was The Bay Path, a work of historical fiction that was set in early Springfield. It was published in 1857, and was followed a year later by the long narrative poem Bitter Sweet, which was written here in this house. This poem would become one of his most popular works, and was described in 1894 by biographer Harriette Merrick Plunkett as “Dr. Holland’s reflections on the mysteries of Life and Death, on the soul-wracking problems of Doubt and Faith, on the existence of Evil as one of the vital conditions of the universe, on the questions of Predestination, Original Sin, Free-will, and the whole haunting brood of Calvinistic theological metaphysics.” She declared it to be “truly an original poem,” comparing it to the works of Robert Burns or Sir Walter Scott, and cited the praise that it had earned from poet James Russell Lowell. However, the poem, along with many of Holland’s other works, also received its share of criticism from those who found his writing style to be excessively sentimental and moralistic.

Holland’s other works during this period included three collections of essays, Letters to Young People, Single and Married (1858), Gold Foil, Hammered from Popular Proverbs (1859), and Letters to the Joneses (1863), all of which were published under the pseudonym Timothy Titcomb. In 1860, he wrote his next novel, Miss Gilbert’s Career: An American Story, which highlighted the Victorian belief that a woman’s greatest career was to be a wife. The Civil War started a year later, and Holland’s editorial duties at the Republican consumed much of his time throughout the war. He even became the de facto editor-in-chief of the newspaper during part of the war, taking on these responsibilities during Samuel Bowles’s overseas trip to Europe.

As Holland became a more established literary figure, he put some of his newfound wealth into building a new house that was both much larger and more architecturally prominent than his home here on High Street. It was completed in 1862, and was located in the northwestern corner of the city, near the border of Chicopee, on what is now Atwater Terrace. At the time, this part of the city was far removed from the city center and only sparsely populated, so Holland’s choice of a location was puzzling to some. One person is even reported to have questioned “Who would ever want to live there, except some hare-brained poet like Dr. Holland?” The design of the house was unique among the many 19th century mansions in Springfield, featuring a Swiss Chalet-style design, and it was named “Brightwood” because of its painted wooden exterior. This name would later be applied to the entire northwestern corner of the city, and today the neighborhood is still known as Brightwood.

The Holland family would only live at Brightwood for five years, before embarking on a two-year vacation to Europe and then relocating to New York City, but Holland wrote several of his best-selling books while living here in this house. Perhaps the most notable work of his career was Life of Abraham Lincoln, which was published in 1866. A year earlier, Holland had been asked to give a eulogy of Lincoln at a memorial service here in Springfield, held just four days after his assassination. The eulogy proved powerful, and just a month later Holland was traveling to Springfield, Illinois to research Lincoln’s life.

The resulting book was the first lengthy biography of the 16th president, and sold around 100,000 copies. It was one of many such biographies that were published soon after Lincoln’s assassination, most of which were poorly written, but Holland’s book is generally considered to have been the best of these. As described by Allen C. Guelzo in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Holland’s book was “a landmark Lincoln biography, the first of any substantial length as a biography, the first with any aspirations to comprehensiveness,” and “the first life of the ‘inner Lincoln,’ setting the stage for a genre of Lincoln studies that remains compelling and fruitful to this day.”

After moving to New York, Holland became one of the founders and the first editor of Scribner’s Monthly, which later became The Century Magazine. He continued his role as both editor and author throughout the 1870s, alternating between publishing novels and volumes of poetry. His final book was The Puritan’s Guest, a collection of poems that was published in 1881. He died on October 12 of that year, at the age of 62, and his body was returned to Springfield, where he was interred in Springfield Cemetery, just a short walk from where he once lived here on High Street.

In the meantime, at some point during the 1860s the house here on High Street was sold to Timothy Henry, a livery stable owner who lived here for many years with his wife Julia. He died in 1883, but Julia continued to live here until her death in 1900, more than 30 years after she and Timothy moved into the house. Following her death, however, the house went through a series of owners and residents throughout the early 20th century. It steadily declined until, when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, it was being used as a lodging house. The 1940 census shows that it was being rented for $50 a month by Elizabeth Cody, a 64-year-old widow. She, in turn, rented space to two young women, one of whom worked as a bank clerk while the other was a stenographer.

By the time the first photo was taken, the once-famous resident of the house had long since been forgotten. Although ridiculed by many within the literary community during his lifetime, Holland had nonetheless been popular with the general public throughout the late 19th century. However, by the turn of the 20th century his overly sentimental, melodramatic style and Victorian-era moral lessons had fallen out of fashion, and his works drifted into obscurity.

Ironically, it was a reclusive friend and correspondent of Holland – the Amherst poet Emily Dickinson – who would go on to achieve lasting fame as the area’s preeminent 19th century poet. She died only five years after Holland, having had just a few poems published in her lifetime, yet her posthumously-published work eventually established her place within the Western canon of literature. This proved the exact opposite of Holland’s fame and reputation, who in 1940 was dismissed by biographer Harry Houston Peckham as “the major prophet of the unsophisticated, the supreme apostle to the naive.”

Holland’s two former homes in Springfield did not fare much better than his literary legacy. This house on High Street was evidently still standing as late as the 1960s, since the address was listed in city directories of the period, but at some point in the late 20th century it was demolished and replaced with a parking lot for the Wesson Memorial Hospital, which is located across the street from where the house once stood. However, this house ultimately outlived Holland’s grand Brightwood mansion on Atwater Terrace. After moving to New York, Holland had sold it to industrialist George C. Fisk, and the property remained in the Fisk family until well into the 20th century. It eventually fell victim to the Great Depression, though, and proved too costly for the few surviving family members to maintain, so it was finally demolished in 1940.

70-76 Temple Street, Springfield, Mass

The townhouses at 70-76 Temple Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

Unlike many other large cities in the northeast, Springfield never saw large-scale development of townhouses during the 19th century, with residents preferring detached single-family homes on larger lots. However, there were some townhouses that were built throughout the downtown area, including this block of four houses on Temple Street, which was completed in 1874. The houses are among the city’s finest surviving examples of High Victorian Gothic architecture, and they were designed by local architect George E. Potter, whose other works included the six townhouses at the corner of Maple and Central Streets.

Temple Street itself was developed in the 1870s, on land that had previously belonged to the prominent Morris family, including probate judge Oliver B. Morris and his son George B. Morris, who served as the Clerk of Courts for many years. However, Oliver died in 1871, followed by George a year later, and within a few years George’s son Robert had opened Temple Street through the property. This townhouse block was among the first buildings to be developed on the street, and was constructed at a cost of about $32,000 for the four homes, or about $700,000 today.

The houses were numbered 70, 72, 74, and 76 Temple Street, starting with 70 on the far right. They were jointly owned by Robert Morris and William S. Shurtleff, with Morris living at number 72 and Shurtleff at number 74. Morris had become the Clerk of Courts after his father’s death in 1872, and served in that position until his own death in 1925. Along with this, he was also a directory of the United Electric Light Company and president of the Springfield Five Cents Savings Bank, and in 1901 he published a book, The Birds of Springfield and Vicinity. He and his wife Lizzie lived here in this townhouse for many years, although around 1912 they moved a short distance to the east of here, to a house at 82 Temple Street.

William S. Shurtleff was also a longtime resident of this townhouse block, living at 74 Temple Street until the early 1890s. Shurtleff had served in the Civil War, enlisting as a private but ending up as a colonel. In 1863, he was appointed Judge of Probate and Insolvency, and served on the bench for the next 33 years, until his death in 1896. He also served several terms on the city’s Common Council, and was also the vice president of the state Board of Public Reservations, a founder and vice president of the Connecticut Valley Historical Society, and a director of the City Library Association. During the 1880 census, he was living here with his wife Clara and their daughter Mabel, plus his niece Clara, his brother Roswell, Roswell’s wife Sarah, and two servants.

Although designed as upscale single-family homes, this began to change by the turn of the 20th century. During the 1900 census, Morris’s house was the only one still occupied by a single family, with the other three having been converted into boarding houses. The most crowded of these was 74 Temple, which had three residents, along with a servant and six boarders living here. The subsequent 1910 and 1920 censuses show fewer numbers of boarders in these houses, although this would change dramatically by 1930, perhaps as a result of the Great Depression. During that year, there were eight lodgers in number 70, eleven in number 72, thirteen in number 74, and eight in 76. These residents included a variety of middle class workers, such as a pharmacy clerk, a waitress, a factory inspector, an auto mechanic, several teachers, a chauffeur, an accountant, a traveling salesman, and a milkman.

The first photo was taken later in the decade, only a few years before the 1940 census. By this point, the townhouses were still in use as boarding houses, with similar numbers of residents. As was the case in 1930, the residents held a variety of jobs, and nearly all of them earned under $1,000 a year, or under $18,000 today. By the time the first photo was taken, there was also another building attached to this block, just to the right of 70 Temple Street. This building first appears in city atlases in 1899, and had a plain brick exterior that contrasted sharply with the much more ornate Gothic townhouses that adjoined it. It was numbered 66-68 Temple Street, and during the 1940 census it housed four apartment units in number 66, plus a boarding house with six tenants in number 68.

Today, this addition on the right side is gone, having been demolished sometime in the second half of the 20th century. However, the four original townhouses are still standing, with well-preserved exteriors that have seen few changes since the first photo was taken. The interiors, though, have undergone substantial renovations over the years. The houses had started as single-family homes, before becoming boarding houses, and they are now divided into condominiums, with four units in each of the four houses. Like the Classical High School directly across the street, they are one of a number of historic properties in Springfield that have been converted into condominiums, and today this block of townhouses is part of the city’s Lower Maple Local Historic District.