Post Office, Northampton, Mass

The post office at the corner of Pleasant and Armory Streets in Northampton, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2018:

This post office was constructed between 1903 and 1905, and it features a Classical Revival-style design that was popular for buildings of this period. It was designed by the office of James Knox Taylor, who served as Supervising Architect of the Department of the Treasury from 1897 to 1912. During this time, Taylor’s responsibilities included designing hundreds of federal buildings, although it does not seem clear as to what extent he – rather than the other architects in his office –  was actually involved in designing this post office.

The building originally had a rectangular footprint, with the main entrance here on Pleasant Street, flanked by two Ionic columns. However, the building was significantly expanded in 1938, as part of a New Deal-era program that constructed many new federal buildings across the country. Here in Northampton, the post office was more than doubled, with a large addition on the left side. The original design was essentially duplicated, though, so the newer half is almost indistinguishable from the older section. However, in order to preserve the symmetry, the original main entrance was closed and turned into a window, and a new entrance was opened in the middle of the Pleasant Street facade.

The expanded building remained in use as Northampton’s post office for nearly 40 more years, but it closed in 1976 when the current post office opened on Bridge Street. The building has been preserved, though, and the interior has been converted into offices. It stands as one of the many late 19th and early 20th century buildings that still line the streets of Northampton, and it is now a contributing property in the Northampton Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Connecticut Hall, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

Connecticut Hall, seen from across the quadrangle on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1901-1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Connecticut Hall was among the earliest buildings to be constructed on the Yale campus. It was completed in 1752, and it originally featured a Georgian-style design that was modeled after Massachusetts Hall at Harvard. At the time, there were only a few buildings here at Yale, so Connecticut Hall served many different purposes in its early years. There was space for a dining room, library, recitation hall, chapel, and dormitory rooms, and the ground floor also housed the buttery, where students could purchase beer, tobacco, and other products not available in the dining hall.

Over the years, as Yale steadily expanded, Connecticut Hall was joined by a group of similar buildings that all stood in a line parallel to College Street. Collectively known as the Old Brick Row, these buildings alternated between long dormitories and shorter academic buildings. Connecticut Hall eventually became exclusively a dormitory, and was known as South Middle College. In the midst of this expansion, Connecticut Hall was altered around the turn of the 19th century, and the original gambrel roof was replaced with a peaked roof, as seen in the first photo.

The Old Brick Row was at the center of Yale for much of the 19th century, but by 1870 the school had adopted a new plan that called for new Gothic-style buildings along the perimeter of the campus, with a large open quadrangle in the middle, where the Old Brick Row stood. The buildings around the quadrangle were largely completed by the mid-1890s, and demolition of the old buildings began around the same time. By the turn of the 20th century, only three remained, and two of these – North College and the Lyceum – would be demolished in 1901. This left South Middle College as the sole survivor of the Old Brick Row, and at this point it was almost entirely walled in behind modern buildings, including Welch Hall on the left, Osborn Hall in the distant center, and Vanderbilt Hall on the right side of the first photo.

The old building was nearly demolished, but this threat sparked an outcry in favor of its preservation. As a result, it was instead renovated, soon after the first photo was taken. The most noticeable change on the exterior was the reconstruction of the gambrel roof, and the building was renamed Connecticut Hall. It would continue to be used as a dormitory throughout the first half of the 20th century, but it underwent another major renovation in 1952-1954, when the interior was gutted and converted into office space. Today, the building still stands, and it currently houses the offices of the Department of Philosophy. Now over 250 years old, it is the oldest surviving building on the Yale campus, along with being one of the oldest college buildings in the United States.

Farnam Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Farnam Hall on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1894. Image from Yale University Views (1894).

Farnam Hall in 2018:

For much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Yale campus was dominated by the Old Brick Row, a group of buildings than ran parallel to College Street between Chapel and Elm Streets. However, in 1870 the school began converting the campus into a quadrangle, surrounded by new buildings along the perimeter. The first of these new buildings was Farnam Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1870 near the northeastern corner of the campus. Like the older buildings, its exterior was constructed of brick, but it featured a Gothic-style design that was very different from the comparatively plan buildings of the Old Brick Row. It was the work of Russell Sturgis, a prominent architect who would go on to design the other nearby buildings, including the Battell Chapel, Durfee Hall, and Lawrance Hall.

The first photo was taken less than 25 years after its completion, but very little has changed since then. Farnam Hall is now the oldest dormitory in use at Yale, and it currently houses freshmen students of Jonathan Edwards College. The only noticeable difference between the two photos is the loss of the two cupolas on the roof, but otherwise the building has remained well-preserved. The adjacent buildings – Battell Chapel on the left and Lawrance Hall on the right – are also still standing, and together these they form the northeast corner of the quadrangle, which is now known as the Old Campus.

Durfee Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Durfee Hall, on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Durfee Hall in 2018:

As discussed in previous posts, the Yale campus underwent dramatic changes during the last three decades of the 19th century. The Old Brick Row, which had been the defining feature of the school since the late 18th century, was steadily replaced by new buildings that surrounded a central quadrangle. One of the first of the new buildings was Durfee Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1871. Its design was the work of noted architect Russell Sturgis, who also designed several other buildings at Yale, including the adjacent Battell Chapel and the nearby Farnam and Lawrance Halls.

The four-story Dufree Hall was built with 20 bedrooms and 10 common rooms on each floor, with all of the common rooms on this side of the building, facing the campus, and all of the bedrooms on the north side, facing Elm Street. This arrangement was similar to the older dormitories at Yale, but otherwise its design was a significant departure from tradition, with ornate Gothic-style architecture and a brownstone exterior that contrasted with the older, comparatively Old Brick Row.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. Durfee Hall is still standing, without any noticeable exterior alterations, and so is the Battell Chapel on the right side. Along with the other dormitories on the Old Campus, Durfee Hall is now used as freshman housing, with students living here for a year before moving into one of the residential colleges for the rest of their time at Yale. Over the years, its residents have included Anderson Cooper, who lived here during his freshman year, and it was even the home of the fictional Rory Gilmore in the television show Gilmore Girls.

Lyceum, New Haven, Connecticut

The Lyceum, on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1901. Image taken by William Henry Jackson, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo was the work of noted photographer William Henry Jackson. Although best known for his late 19th century views of the American West, Jackson later became the president of the Detroit Publishing Company, a leading postcard company of the turn of the 20th century. During his time with the company, he continued to photograph sites around the country, including a visit to New Haven around 1901, where he took the first photo, showing the Old Campus of Yale University.

The dramatic changes at Yale during the late 19th century have been discussed in earlier blog posts, but perhaps no view better illustrates this transition than the first photo, which contrasts the old, soon-to-be-demolished Lyceum on the right, and the new Phelps Hall on the left. The Lyceum was built in 1803 as part of the Old Brick Row, a group of seven brick buildings that once comprised most of Yale. It was originally designed as a recitation hall, but it also served other functions over the years, including housing the school library from 1804 until 1824. In addition, the building received several distinguished visitors in the early 19th century, including the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 and President Andrew Jackson in 1833.

In 1870, Yale adopted a new campus plan, which called for new buildings along the perimeter of the Old Campus, and a quadrangle in the center. The Old Brick Row stood in the middle of this proposed quadrangle, so the old buildings were steadily demolished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to clear the site. By the time the first photo was taken, many of these buildings were already gone, including North Middle College and the Second Chapel, which had stood in the foreground before being demolished in 1896.

The Lyceum was still standing when the first photo was taken, although the modest Federal-style building looked very out of place in a setting that was otherwise dominated by large, Gothic-style buildings. These included Phelps Hall on the left, which was completed in 1896 with a design that resembled a medieval gatehouse. To the right of Phelps Hall was Welch Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1891, and in the distance on the far right side was Vanderbilt Hall, another dormitory that was built three years later.

The Lyceum was ultimately demolished in 1901, along with the nearby North College. This left South Middle College, which was located directly south of the Lyceum, as the only remaining building from the Old Brick Row. It too was threatened with demolition in the early 20th century, but it was ultimately preserved, undergoing a major restoration in 1905. Although hidden from view behind the Lyceum in the first photo, it is now visible on the right side of the scene in the 2018 photo. Renamed Connecticut Hall, it now stands as the oldest building on the Yale campus, and it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Jonathan Mix House, New Haven, Connecticut

The house at 155 Elm Street in New Haven, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, WPA Architectural Survey Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This section of Elm Street features a row of three historic houses that date back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Furthest in the distance, at the corner of Temple Street, is the brick Ralph Ingersoll House, which was built in 1829. To the left of it is the 1767 John Pierpont House, which is one of the oldest houses in New Haven, and closest to the foreground is the 1799 Jonathan Mix House. Together, these three homes are among the few survivors of Quality Row, a term that was once given to the many fine mansions that lined Elm Street along the northern end of the New Haven Green.

Jonathan Mix, the original owner of the house in the foreground, was a New Haven native who was born in 1753. He served in the American Revolution, and spent time as a prisoner of war on the notorious British prison ship Jersey, before returning to New Haven at the end of the war. He and his wife Anna raised a large family, with ten children who were born between 1778 and 1797, at least one of whom died young. Anna died in 1799 at the age of 40, and the following year Jonathan married his second wife, Elizabeth, with whom he had one child.

This house was evidently built around the time of his second marriage, but it does not seem clear how long Jonathan Mix actually lived here. One Mix family genealogy from 1886 indicates that he “lived in the house on Elm street . . . now occupied by Dr. Carmalt” [175 Elm Street], and that he “built the house now owned by Eli W. Blake” [here at 155 Elm Street]. This probably suggests that Mix lived at present-day 175 Elm Street until around 1799, and then moved into this house upon its completion. However, he would not remain in New Haven for much longer, because in 1808 he relocated to New York, where he died in 1817.

As mentioned in the description from the Mix genealogy, this house was later owned by Eli Whitney Blake. He was a nephew of inventor Eli Whitney, but Blake was also a noted inventor in his own right, with innovations such as a mortise lock and a stone-crushing machine. The latter was a particularly important contribution to 19th century America, because it enabled the construction of paved roads. Blake also had connections to the Mix family, which may have been how he acquired this house. His older brother, Elihu Blake, married Jonathan Mix’s youngest child, Adeline, and one of their children was William Phipps Blake, a prominent geologist who also wrote the 1886 Mix genealogy book.

The 1870 census shows Blake living here with his wife Eliza and their son George. His occupation was listed as “Inventor of the Stone Crusher,” but at the time he was also involved with Blake Brothers, a hardware manufacturing company in the New Haven neighborhood of Westville. Among their many products was an early corkscrew, which had been invented by his brother Philos. By this point, Eli was a fairly wealthy man, and the 1870 census values his real estate at $20,000, plus a personal estate of $10,000, for a net worth equivalent to about $600,000 today.

Eliza died in 1876, and Eli continued to live in this house until his death in 1886, at the age of 91. The house was subsequently owned by his daughter Mary, who lived here with her husband George Bushnell, a Congregationalist minister. He died in 1898, but Mary was still here during the 1900 census. She lived until 1916, but in 1901 she sold the property to the Graduate Club, a New Haven social club that had been founded in 1892.

The first photo was taken sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s, as part of a WPA survey to document historic buildings across Connecticut. Not much has changed since then, and all three of these historic Elm Street homes are still standing. The other two homes are owned by Yale, but the Jonathan Mix House continues to be used as the clubhouse for the Graduate Club, although the organization was renamed the Elm City Club following a 2012 merger with the Quinnipiack Club.