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.

Tontine Hotel, New Haven, Connecticut

The Tontine Hotel, at the corner of Church and Court Streets in New Haven, around 1900-1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows the Tontine Hotel, which had been a New Haven landmark for nearly a century before the photo was taken. It was built sometime in the mid-1820s – sources differ on the exact date – and its design was the work of noted local architect David Hoadley. The Tontine was a prominent hotel in its early years, and its notable visitors during this time included Indian chief and orator Red Jacket, who gave a speech here in 1829, and Daniel Webster, who came here in 1832.

However, perhaps the most significant group of guests came a year later, when President Andrew Jackson came to New Haven in June 1833, accompanied by then-Vice President Martin Van Buren, Secretary of War Lewis Cass, Secretary of the Navy Levi Woodbury, and Governor William L. Marcy of New York. The party arrived in New Haven by steamboat at around 1 p.m. on the afternoon of June 15 and went to the State House, where the president was addressed by the governor and the mayor. Jackson was then escorted through the streets in a procession that took a circuitous route through the city, eventually ending here at the Tontine. Jackson spent the night at the hotel, and in the morning he attended Sunday services at Trinity Church before departing for Hartford.

The Tontine Hotel was still in business when the first photo was taken some 70 years later. At the time, it was known as White’s New Tontine, as its proprietor was George T. White. An advertisement in the 1902 city directory declared it to be “Under New Management. All the Modern Improvements. Refurnished Throughout,” and rooms ranged from $1.00 to $2.00 per night. The first photo also shows a restaurant in the basement of the hotel. The signs indicate that it was a buffet that offered “White’s steaks, chops and game in season,” and the directory described it as a “cafe, restaurant, and rathskeller” that was open from 6 a.m. until midnight. In addition to this restaurant, there are several other amenities visible in the first photo, including a barber shop and a “boot blacking emporium” that were both located on the left side of the building.

Despite its historic significance, though, the site of the Tontine Hotel was eyed for redevelopment soon after this photo was taken. It was demolished by around 1913, in order to make way for a new federal courthouse and post office. Unlike the fairly modest brick hotel, the new courthouse was an imposing marble structure. It had a Classical Revival design, including a large front portico with ten Corinthian columns, and it was the work of noted architect James Gamble Rogers. The cornerstone was laid in 1914, in a ceremony that featured a speech by former president and future chief justice William Howard Taft, but the building was not completed until 1919, a year after the second photo was taken.

Like the architecturally-similar New Haven County Courthouse, which stands nearby at the northeastern corner of the Green, the federal courthouse was threatened with demolition in the mid-20th century. However, like the county courthouse, it was ultimately preserved, and it underwent a major renovation in the 1980s. The post office moved out in 1979, but otherwise the building remains in use, as one of thee federal courthouses in the District of Connecticut. In 1998, it was renamed the Richard C. Lee United States Courthouse, in honor of the longtime mayor of New Haven who helped to preserve the building, and in 2015 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Third Congregational Church, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The former Third Congregational Church, on Church Street in New Haven, in 1903. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Herbert Randall Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The Second National Bank of New Haven on the same site, around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in the previous post, the Third Congregational Church was established in 1826, and was located in several different buildings over the next three decades. In 1856, the church moved into this new building on Church Street, opposite the New Haven Green. It was designed by architect Sidney Mason Stone, and the exterior featured a Romanesque-style design that would become popular for churches during the second half of the 19th century. The congregation worshiped here until 1884, when the church merged with the nearby United Church, which still stands on the Green.

In 1890, the vacant church was purchased by the city, and the interior was converted into the first long-term home of the New Haven Free Public Library. At some point before the first photo was taken, a new, much shorter steeple was also added to the building, although it does not seem clear whether this happened before of after it became a library. Because it was designed as a church, though, it proved inadequate as a library. At the time, most libraries had closed stacks, which required patrons to specifically request materials at the circulation desk. However, the limitations of this building resulted in open stacks. This allowed the general public to browse all of the collections, but it also meant that a number of books went missing during the two decades that this building was in use.

The city finally completed a new library building in 1911, which is still standing today at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets. Around the same time, the old building here on Church Street was purchased by the Second National Bank of New Haven, and was subsequently demolished. The bank then constructed an eight-story office building on the site, which was designed by the architectural firm of Starrett & van Vleck and completed in 1913. The first photo was taken a few years later, and was published in A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County. According to this book, it was the second-largest of New Haven’s ten banks, with a headquarters here on Church Street that was described as “the finest banking and office building in the city.”

The Second National Bank had its offices here in this building throughout much of the 20th century, but in 1978 it was renamed Colonial Bank and moved to Waterbury. The company would subsequently go through a series of mergers, eventually becoming part of BankBoston, Fleet Bank, and finally Bank of America. In the meantime, though, the former Second National building is still standing here on Church Street, with few changes since the second photo was taken. It remains in use as an office building, and its current tenants include the New Haven newsroom of NBC Connecticut.

The Colony, New Haven, Connecticut

The Colony, the residence hall of the Berzelius society, on Hillhouse Avenue in New Haven, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Berzelius was established in 1848 as a secret society at the Sheffield Scientific School. Although the school would later be absorbed into Yale University, it was originally only loosely-affiliated with Yale, and the Berzelius was the first such society to be established at Sheffield. Like the secret societies at Yale, it had a meeting hall, but in 1898 the society added a residence hall, which was known as the Colony. It stood at 17 Hillhouse Avenue, and it is shown in the first photo only a few years after its completion. The design was the work of noted architects Henry Bacon and James Brite, both of whom had previously worked for the prominent firm of McKim, Mead and White. The two men formed a brief partnership from 1897 to 1902 before going their separate ways, with Bacon eventually gaining fame as the architect of the Lincoln Memorial.

This building remained in use by the Berzelius as a residence hall until the early 1930s, when the society sold the property to Yale. However, they retained their meeting hall, and the Berzelius remains an active secret society on the Yale campus. In the meantime, though, this building was used by the school as a dormitory, and then as offices, before being demolished in 1969. The present-day building was subsequently constructed on the site, and today it is one of several nearby buildings that comprise Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

New Haven County Courthouse, New Haven, Connecticut

The New Haven County Courthouse, at the corner of Elm and Church Streets in New Haven, around 1918. Image from A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County (1918).

The courthouse in 2018:

This courthouse was built in 1914, and it stands as an excellent example of the Beaux-Arts and Classical Revival styles of architecture that were popular in the early 20th century, particularly for government buildings. It was the work of local architect William H. Allen, and he designed it to resemble an ancient Greek temple, with classically-inspired features such as Ionic columns on the front and sides of the building, and a front portico with a pediment that was decorated with carved figures. These figures are allegorical representations of Justice, Victory, Precedence, Accuracy, Common Law, Statutory Law, Progress, and Commerce, and they were the work of noted sculptor John Massey Rhind.

Around the time that the building opened in March 1914, the Hartford Courant published a lengthy article about it, which included the following description of the interior:

Its lower walls are of marble, as are the stairways and the walls of the court rooms. The highest walls are tinted and are artistic and pleasing to the eye. A great dome of various colored glass adds to the beauty of the rotunda and the offices are all large and well appointed and handsomely furnished. Every piece of furniture in the building is of mahogany and all the trim is of the same wood. The offices of the county commissioners, sheriff, clerks of the court and the common pleas and superior and supreme court are on the first and second floors. The supreme court room on the second floor is a handsome place: the most beautiful by far of all the courtrooms, because of its large and impressive appearance. Each of the judges will have a private room and there will be all of the comforts and conveniences of home, including a modern tub and shower bath upstairs.

Over the years, this courthouse has been the site of several notable cases. These included Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark Supreme Court decision that originated here in this courthouse in 1961, when Estelle Griswold and C. Lee Buxton were each fined $100 for violating Connecticut’s anti-contraception laws. This case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which overturned the conviction and set a major precedent for the right to privacy. Other important events here included the 1970 Black Panther Trials, which occurred after the arrest of nine Black Panther Party members in connection with the 1969 murder of Alex Rackley. The trials sparked large protests, with tens of thousands of demonstrators gathering on the New Haven Green outside of the courthouse, and most of the high-profile defendants were ultimately either acquitted or had the charges dropped.

The building was threatened by possible demolition in the 1950s, at a time when urban renewal projects were transforming the downtown areas of many cities across the country. However, it ended up being modernized instead, and it continues to be used as a county courthouse. Overall, very little has changed in its exterior appearance since the first photo was taken, and some of the nearby buildings are also still standing, including the Ives Memorial Library on the left side. Because of its historical and architectural significance, the courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The Breakers, Newport, Rhode Island (3)

The view of The Breakers in Newport, seen from the south side of the property, around 1895. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo was apparently taken around the same time as the one in the previous post, and shows the southeastern and southwestern sides of The Breakers, around the time that it was completed in 1895. The Classical Revival-style mansion was the work of noted architect Richard Morris Hunt, and the grounds of the 14-acre property were designed by landscape architect Ernest W. Bowditch. Some of this landscaping is visible in this scene, including the south parterre, which was planted with a variety of flowers in its formal garden.

The Breakers was the largest of the many opulent mansions that were built in Newport during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it was originally the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II and his wife Alice. Cornelius had inherited a substantial fortune from his father, William Henry Vanderbilt, and his grandfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and upon his death in 1899 he had a net worth of about $73 million – equivalent to about $2.2 billion today. The house would remain in the family for several more generations, with their daughter Gladys Széchenyi inheriting the property after Alice’s death in 1934, and Gladys’s daughter Sylvia inheriting it in 1968.

During this time, the house itself remained well-preserved, but the grounds underwent some changes. The 1938 hurricane caused only minimal damage to the house, but it significantly altered Bowditch’s landscaping. Over the years, the landscaping also suffered from neglect, and by the late 1950s the garden here on the south parterre were replaced with turf. Beginning in 1948, The Breakers was leased to the Preservation Society of Newport County for the nominal sum of $1 per year, and it was opened to the public for tours. The family continued to occupy the third floor of the house, but in 1972 Sylvia sold the property to the Preservation Society for $365,000, with the stipulation that she be allowed to use the third floor apartment for the rest of her life.

Today, the grounds look very different compared to their appearance over 120 years ago. However, the garden on the south parterre was replanted at some point after the Preservation Society acquired the property, and it now features a symmetrical design similar to what Bowditch had envisioned. In the meantime, the house itself has remained well-preserved on both the exterior and interior, and in 1994 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. It is also the most popular tourist site in Rhode Island, drawing around 400,000 visitors each year.