Beach Street, Boston

Looking west on Beach Street toward Harrison Avenue in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Beach Street in 2014:


Taken before the neighborhood was redeveloped as a major commercial district, the first photo shows a variety of early 19th century architecture, with a combination of a hotel (the Boston Hotel on the left), a church (Beach Street Church), and residential buildings.  Notice also the awning that advertises “cool soda” at the business on the right.  Today, this area has undergone total redevelopment, and is now in the midst of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Chauncy Street, Boston (2)

Looking northeast along Chauncy Street with Bedford Street in the foreground, in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Chauncy Street in 2014:


These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the ones in this post, just facing the opposite direction on Chauncy Street. The church in the distance is the old First Church in Boston building, which was built in 1808 and was the home to Boston’s oldest church congregation until 1867, when they moved to the Back Bay. At the time of the 1860 photo, this was an upscale residential neighborhood, although it was becoming increasingly commercial by the 1860s.   Just a few years later, much of the area was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872. In the distance is the Macy’s building at Downtown Crossing, with Summer Street, the epicenter of the 1872 fire, beyond it in the distance.

Chauncy Street, Boston (1)

Looking southwest on Chauncy Street in Boston, toward modern-day Avenue de Lafayette from Bedford Street, taken around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Chauncy Street in 2014:


Another work of noted photographer Josiah Johnson Hawes, the first photo shows a very different Chauncy Street than the present-day view. The church at the corner is the Rowe Street Baptist Church, which was built in 1847. The church, along with all of the other buildings in the photo, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872, which is one of the reasons why none of the building in the 1860 scene survive to this day.

Harrison & Essex Streets, Boston

The corner of Harrison Avenue and Essex Street in Boston, in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Located in present-day Chinatown, this scene has completely changed in the past 150 years, with none of the 1860 buildings surviving today. Even the streets have changed somewhat, with Harrison Avenue (the street in the lower left foreground) being extended across Essex Street, through where the house on the right-hand side of the 1860 photo once stood.  That house was home of Wendell Phillips, a noted 19th century abolitionist, lawyer, and candidate for governor of Massachusetts.

Incidentally, the first photo was taken by Josiah Johnson Hawes, who worked with Albert Sands Southworth in the famous Southworth & Hawes photographic company.  Together, they were among the early pioneers of quality photography, and some of Hawes’s photographs, including the one above, give a rare glimpse of Boston on the eve of the Civil War.

North Market, Boston

North Market in Boston, next to Quincy Market, around 1855. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


These photos show the same scene as the ones in this post, just from a different angle.  The building on the far left of the 1855 photo is the Old Feather Shop, the same one seen in the photo in the other post.  Built in 1680, it was demolished around 1860, soon after the first photo was taken.  Both pictures were taken from right in front of Faneuil Hall (which can be seen on the far right of the 2014 photo), and this area has been a major commercial center since the 1600s, when it was known as Dock Square.  Today, most of the commercial activity centers around tourism, and the location is adjacent to Quincy Market and along the Freedom Trail.  The red brick path of the Freedom Trail can be seen in the foreground of the 2014 photo.

Water Street, Boston

Looking up Water Street toward Washington Street, from Congress Street, around 1870. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Water Street in 2014:


Located in the center of downtown Boston, Water Street looks nothing like 1870s Boston; in fact, only one building appears in both photos, the Andrew Cunningham House, barely visible on Washington Street in the distance, just to the left of the modern-day parking garage.  It was built around 1725, and is located right next to the Old Corner Bookstore.  Nothing else remains, although the cobblestone is probably still there, hidden underneath untold layers of pavement.

The first photo was also a much longer exposure than the 2014 one – notice the ghostly-looking girl standing on the sidewalk, and the other blurry figures crossing the street.  All in all, the 1870 scene has much more life to it, with innumerable, unique signs of the various tradesmen on the street and many pedestrians walking around.  It contrasts with the present-day scene, (which, granted, was taken on a Saturday afternoon) with its seemingly-deserted streets and buildings that seem to have much less character than the 1870 ones.