Park Street Station, Boston

The entrances to the Park Street station, taken from in front of Park Street Church, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


The entrances to the subway are still there, as is Boston Common, but the background is very different, with the skyline of Boston’s Back Bay rising above the trees on Boston Common.  Boston’s two tallest buildings can be seen here: the John Hancock Tower, which is in the center of the photo, and the Prudential Center, barely visible to the right of the John Hancock Tower.  The Freedom Trail passes through this intersection, with the brick path echoing the cobblestone rows that once crossed Park Street.

Boylston Street, Boston

Looking west on Boylston Street toward Arlington Street, between 1910 and 1914. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


Boylston Street in 2014:


The buildings on the left are a little taller, but otherwise not a great deal has changed in this scene.  The Boston Public Garden to the right is still there, and Arlington Street Church, although hidden by the trees in 2014, is still there.  Notice, however, the trolleys in the background.  At the time, trolleys running on the present-day Green Line would travel along Boylston until Arlington, and then descend into the subway in the Public Garden.  From here, they would travel under Boylston and Tremont Streets, and eventually emerge from the subway near North Station.  This was the first subway tunnel in North America, and was opened in 1897.  However, the presence of the trolleys gives an upper limit to the date of this photo; in 1914, the subway tunnel under Boylston Street was extended to Kenmore Square.  A new incline was built here, in the center of Boylston Street, to serve what is now the “E” Branch of the Green Line; this branch was not put underground until 1941, at which point the Public Garden incline was permanently closed.

Temple Place from Tremont Street, Boston

Looking up Temple Place from Tremont Street, facing away from Boston Common.  Photo taken between 1910 and 1916, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


This area was a major shopping center around the turn of the last century, and it still is today.  Temple Place doesn’t look all that different, with many of the same buildings still there.  However, the street has since been truncated at Washington Street (the next block down), with Macy’s and other retail stores occupying the area where the street (actually called Avon Street on the other side of Washington) used to be.  The building on the far left, the R.H. Stearns Building, is essentially unchanged, although it has different tenants now.  The R.H. Stearns department store occupied the building from its completion in 1908 until 1977, when the company closed.

Milk Street, Boston

Looking down Milk Street, just past Old South Meeting House, around 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The same street in 2014:

The Library of Congress estimates that the first photo was taken between 1910 and 1920, but the license plate on the car appears to be dated 1911, which would, assuming the driver’s registration was current, place the photo around that time.  It captures a scene, frozen in time, not long before some major world events began to happen.  At the time, the Titanic was still under construction, the czar still ruled in Russia (for the next few years), and World War I was just a couple years away.  Automobiles such as the one in the photo were still a fairly new concept, and although none are seen in the photo, horse-drawn carriages were still a common sight around Boston.

The world has dramatically changed since the first photo was taken, but the street scene here isn’t completely altered – several buildings are still there, including the one on the far left, and the one just over a block down the street on the right.  Based on their architectural styles, they were probably brand-new in 1911, but today they don’t look all that different from the outside.

Washington Street, Boston (2)

Another view looking up Washington Street, taken from the corner of Temple Place, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


This view of Washington Street was taken a couple blocks back from the one in this post, and shows some of the drastic changes in the Downtown Crossing area.  In this area, Washington Street is closed to most traffic, allowing pedestrians easy access to the stores on both sides of the street.  It’s one of the few cases where the “now” photo actually has less traffic than the “then” photo.

Today, Downtown Crossing is still a major shopping district, but almost all of the buildings in the 2014 photo are new – probably the only easily recognizable building in both photos is Old South Meeting House, which is three long blocks down the road.

Washington Street, Boston (1)

Looking up Washington Street from near Franklin Street, toward Old South Meeting House, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


Washington Street in 2014:


These two photos were taken just a block away from the ones in this post.  This particular view illustrates some of the changes that Washington Street has seen over the past century.  Long before even the first photo was taken, Washington Street was once the only way in or out of Boston by land (hence, “one if by land, two if by sea,” with the land part referring to passing through here).  However, subsequent landfill in the 19th century expanded Boston’s land area, and allowed for other routes in and out.

Today, this section of Washington Street is closed to most traffic, and is at the center of the Downtown Crossing shopping district.  In that sense, not much has changed – 100 years ago, this area was also a major commercial district, although not many of the buildings survive today.  The most prominent is the Old South Meeting House, which has stood at the corner of Washington and Milk Streets since 1729.  A few other buildings on the right-hand side, both in front of and behind the church, still exist today, but everything in the foreground has significantly changed.