Temple Street from Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking east on Temple Street from Main Street, on April 22, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Temple St. east of Main

Temple Street in 2016:

Of all the street views that photographer William H. Thompson took in downtown Hartford during the early 20th century, there are very few buildings that survive today. One of the few is the Cheney Building, seen on the left here at the northeast corner of Main and Temple Streets. Only a small portion of this massive building is visible here, but it clearly shows the Romanesque details of the building, which was designed by prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson. Although better known for grand public buildings such as churches, city halls, libraries, and railroad stations, he also designed some commercial buildings, including this one here, which was completed in 1876.

For many years, the Cheney Building was home to the Brown Thomson department store, and was one of several department stores along this section of Main Street. The company was later purchased by G. Fox, whose flagship store was directly adjacent to the building. G. Fox expanded into the Cheney Building, and remained here until the company closed in 1993. Today, although all of the 19th century buildings around it are long gone, the Cheney Building has been restored, and is now a Marriott hotel, with stores and restaurants on the ground floor.

Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut (2)

Looking north on Main Street from State Street in Hartford, on January 30, 1904. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

East side of Main St. from corner State to Morgan

Main Street in 2016:

These photos were taken from nearly the same spot as the ones in the previous post, just looking a little further to the left. This view shows the commercial development along the east side of Main Street north of State Street, including the mid-19th century Exchange Block on the right. Beyond it, there are several other buildings from around the same time period, all of which have long since been demolished. The site of these buildings has since been redeveloped into State House Square, which now stands on the right side of the photo.

Most of the other buildings from the first photo have since been demolished, but a few are still standing. The tall building in the center of the first photo was built only a few years earlier, in 1898, and was the home of the Sage-Allen department store. The company closed in 1994, and for almost a decade the building’s fate was in limbo, but its facade was ultimately preserved and incorporated into a new development.

Another prominent building, which has survived more or less intact from the first photo, is the Cheney Building at the corner of Temple Street, just beyond the Sage-Allen Building. This brownstone building was designed by prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1876, and for many years it was the Brown-Thomson department store. A third department store, G. Fox, was also located along this section of Main Street. Their building, barely visible in the first photo beyond the Cheney Building, burned in 1917, and was replaced with their much larger flagship store, which is still standing in the distance of the 2016 photo.

Temple Street from Market Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking west on Temple Street from Market Street, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Street scene

Temple Street in 2016:

When the first photo was taken, Temple Street extended for two block from Main Street to Front Street (now Columbus Boulevard), but it was later reduced by half, and today ends here at Market Street. This scene shows the same intersection as the photos in the previous two posts here and here, and some of the same buildings are identifiable from the other photos, including the police department building on the left in the first photo, and the commercial block/boarding house on the right, which housed everything from a barber shop to a bicycle shop to a laundromat.

Today, the only building left standing is in the distance on the right side of the street, at the corner of Main Street. Known as the Cheney Building, this Hartford landmark was completed in 1876, and was designed by prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson. It has survived 140 years of redevelopment and urban renewal, and it is now a hotel, with shops and restaurants on the lower floors.

Elliot Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking down Elliot Street from Edwards Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The view in 2015:

Most of the views of Springfield featured in Picturesque Hampden almost 125 years ago are now drastically changed, but thankfully very little is different about this view of Elliot Street. Aside from the one on the far left, all of the other buildings in this scene are still standing. The most prominent is the North Congregational Church, which was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1873. It was one of his earlier works, and is one of two of his buildings, along with the Hampden County Courthouse, that is still standing in Springfield. To the left is the William Mattoon House, which was built around 1870 and is the oldest building in the scene. It was owned by William Mattoon, who also owned the land behind it that was later developed as Mattoon Street. To the right in both photos is the duplex at 95-99 Elliot Street, which was built in 1887, only a few years before the first photo was taken. Today, all of these buildings have been restored and are part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Union Station, Palmer, Mass

Union Station in Palmer, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Palmer Historical Commission.

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The scene in 2015:

Palmer is sometimes referred to as the “Town of Seven Railroads,” and although two of these railroads were never actually operated, the town was and still is a major regional railroad center.  The two most prominent of the seven railroads were the Boston & Albany, which ran east-west between those two cities, and the Central Vermont which ran north-south from the Canadian border in Vermont to New London, Connecticut.

These two railroads shared Union Station, with the Central Vermont platform on the left and the Boston & Albany one on the right from this perspective.  It was built in 1883, and although Palmer is a relatively small town, there were two prominent figures involved in the station: architect Henry Hobson Richardson, who designed the station itself, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed the grounds.  Olmsted is best known for designing Central Park in New York City, and Richardson’s other works include Trinity Church in Boston, First Baptist Church in Boston, the Hampden County Courthouse in Springfield, and the Church of the Unity in Springfield.  However, he was also commissioned by the Boston & Albany Railroad to design their railroad stations.  He ended up designing nine stations, including this one, before his death in 1886.  After his death, his successors at Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge designed about 20 more stations based on his style, including the old Union Station in Springfield.

Because of its location as a transfer point between north-south and east-west trains, Palmer was an important stop on the Boston & Albany Railroad; an 1885 timetable shows it as one of just seven express stops along the 200 miles between Boston and Albany.  It was also the primary rail line connecting Boston to the Midwest, and the 1885 timetable shows connecting trains from Palmer to destinations like Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis.  By comparison, the Central Vermont Railway was a much less prominent, but it was still one of the major north-south railroads in central and western New England, and Palmer became its primary rail hub south of Brattleboro, Vermont.

Passenger rail entered a steadly decline in ridership after World War II, with automobiles replacing trains for short trips and airplanes becoming a legitimate alternative for long-distance travel.  Many small-town stations closed by the 1950s, including nearby stations in Monson and Wilbraham.  However, Palmer remained a stop on the Penn Central Railroad until 1971, when Amtrak absorbed all U.S. passenger rail service and closed Palmer’s station.

Almost 45 years after the last train picked up passengers in Palmer, the historic Union Station is still standing today.  Palmer is still a major railroad hub, although now it is exclusively freight trains that stop here.  The old Boston & Albany line is now operated by CSX, one of the largest railroads in the country, and the Central Vermont is now operated by the New England Central Railroad, whose southern division offices are still here in Palmer, just a little left of where the photo was taken.  A third railroad, the Massachusetts Central Railroad, also operates out of Palmer, and the station is at the southern end of their line.

Despite several decades of deterioration and neglect, the station is still standing.  It has since been restored, and the only major difference to the exterior has been the removal of the covered platform on the Boston & Albany side of the building.  Otherwise, the rest of the station still reflects its 19th century appearance, and it is now the home of the Steaming Tender restaurant.  Because of the busy rail traffic, it is also a popular place for railroad enthusiasts to watch and photograph the passing trains, and the railroad-themed restaurant serves many of these visitors.  The restaurant also has a historic locomotive on display, as seen in the foreground of the 2015 photo, and a 1909 passenger car to the left, which is rented for private events.

Church of the Unity, Springfield Mass

The Church of the Unity, photographed in 1959. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.


The same view in 2014:


The Church of the Unity is also featured in this post, although the photo in that one is close to 100 years older than this “before” one is.  As mentioned there, this church was significant as the first commission of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and was built between 1866 and 1869.  However, it was demolished only two years after this photo was taken, and was replaced with a parking lot for the Springfield Public Library.