College Green, Brown University, Providence, RI

The College Green at Brown University, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1065_1906c-loc

The scene in 2016:

1065_2016
Brown University is one of the oldest colleges in the United States, and one of the nine that date back to the colonial era. It was established in 1764 as Rhode Island College (or, in its original charter, the slightly wordier name of “the College or University in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England, in America”). Originally, it was located in the town of Warren, but in 1770 the school moved to its current campus in Providence.

The first building at the new campus is the one in the center of the photo. Known today as University Hall, it opened in 1770, and has served a variety of roles over the years. During the American Revolution, it even housed soldiers prior to the departure for Yorktown near the end of the war. Today, it is used for administrative offices, including the offices of Brown’s president.

On the right side of the photo is the Greek Revival-style Manning Hall, which is another one of the older buildings on the campus. It was completed in 1834 as a library and chapel, and over the years its uses expanded to include a museum, studio, and lecture space. Today, it includes the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology as well as the Manning Chapel.

The newest building in this scene is Slater Hall, on the far left. It was built in 1879, making it more than a century newer than its colonial neighbor. It is named for its benefactor, Horatio Nelson Slater, and was designed as a dormitory by the Providence architectural firm of Stone & Carpenter. Today, it remains in use as a dormitory, and like the other two buildings in this scene, very little has changed in its exterior appearance.

John Brown House, Providence, RI

The home of John Brown on Power Street in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1063_1906c-loc

The house in 2016:

1063_2016
Not to be confused with the more famous John Brown who led the raid on Harpers Ferry, this house was the home of Rhode Island merchant John Brown. Although they shared a name, these two New Englanders could not have been more different; while one was executed after an attempt to violently overthrow slavery, the other, who lived here, built his fortune from enslaving people.

Rhode Island’s John Brown was born in Providence in 1736, and had a profitable career as a merchant, including with the slave trade. Slavery was not illegal in New England during the colonial era, and although it was not nearly as widespread as in the south, many New England merchants nonetheless became wealthy through the slave trade. Brown was also involved in trade with China, and during the American Revolution he invested in privateers that raided British shipping.

Even before the Revolution, though, Brown showed an interest in the patriot cause. In 1772, he was one of the leaders of the Gaspee Affair, an early conflict between the colonists and British authorities. The HMS Gaspee was a British schooner that had been patrolling Narragansett Bay in an effort to stop the widespread smuggling that was occurring in the colony. While pursuing a smuggler, the Gaspee ran aground in nearby Warwick, prompting Brown and a group of other men to board the vessel and burn it. Although it occurred nearly three years before the Revolution actually started, it was an early sign of the growing tension in the colonies.

Following the war, Brown built this Georgian-style mansion on College Hill, near the campus of Rhode Island College. Brown was involved in the early years of the school’s history, and served as its treasurer for several decades. Other members of the Brown family were also highly influential, and in 1804 the school was renamed in honor of John Brown’s nephew, Nicholas Brown, Jr.  John Brown’s house was among the first of many elegant mansions that would soon appear in the College Hill neighborhood, and the area later became the city’s premier residential neighborhood.

The house was designed by Brown’s brother, Joseph, who had also designed Providence’s historic First Baptist Church building, and it was completed in 1788. During the time that Brown lived here, he was the subject of controversy over his slave trade practices. Some members of his family, such as his brother Moses, were abolitionists who opposed his occupation, but he also soon ran afoul of new slave trade laws, which forbade outfitting American ships to be used in the slave trade. Brown was the first to be tried under this new law, and in 1797 he was found guilty and forced to forfeit his ship. This conviction notwithstanding, Brown was elected to the US House of Representatives the following year, and served one term from 1799 to 1801.

After Brown’s death in 1803, the house remained in his family for nearly a century. By the time the first photo was taken, it was owned by Marsden J. Perry, a prominent bank and railroad executive who purchased it in 1901. He made some modifications to the house, but overall it retained its original appearance, both on the interior and exterior. Perry died in 1935, and it was sold to John Nicholas Brown, the great-grandson of Nicholas Brown, the college namesake. He aimed to preserve the historic house, and in 1942 he donated it to the Rhode Island Historical Society, who has owned it ever since. Today, with the exception of the ivy on the walls, essentially nothing has changed about this scene, and the home is now open to the public as a museum.

Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (3)

One more view of the Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1054_1908c-loc

The scene in 2016:

1054_2016
This view of the Josiah Day House is similar to the previous one, showing what it looked like around the time that the Ramapogue Historical Society acquired it as a museum in the first decade of the 20th century. Since then, the area around the house has changed, and West Springfield’s town common is no longer lined with the tall trees that appeared in the first photo. However, the Day House is still standing, and remains a museum, with an interior furnished with 18th and 19th century antiques, many of which belonged to the Day family, who lived in this house for four generations from 1754 to 1897. For more information on the history of the house, see this earlier post.

Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (2)

Another photo of the Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1053_1900-1910-loc

The house in 2016:

1053_2016
As mentioned in the previous post, the Josiah Day House is the oldest building in West Springfield, dating back to 1754. This angle of the house shows the wooden 1810 addition, which was built for Aaron Day, Jr. and his wife Anne. Aaron was the grandson of the home’s original owner, and he and Anne raised their six children here in the first half of the 19th century.

The last of their children, Lydia, died in 1897. She was the last of four consecutive generations of Days to live in the house, and in 1902 the family put the property up for sale. It was purchased by the Ramapogue Historical Society, who preserved it as a museum. Today, the house is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is one of West Springfield’s historic treasures. For more details on the history of this house, see the previous post.

Josiah Day House, West Springfield, Mass (1)

The Josiah Day House on Park Street in West Springfield, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1052_1900-1910-loc

The house in 2016:

1052_2016
This house is the oldest existing building in West Springfield, and probably the oldest brick building in Hampden County. It was built by Josiah Day in 1754 as a rare example of a brick saltbox-style house, and is probably the oldest such house in the United States. The house actually predates West Springfield itself, which had been settled in 1660 as part of Springfield, but was not actually incorporated as a separate town until 1774. By this point, the village on the west side of the river, with its fertile soil for farming, had grown larger and more prosperous than Springfield itself, and for many years its residents had been calling for separation.

Josiah Day was one of the residents who had petitioned the colonial General Court of Massachusetts for separation from Springfield, but he never lived to see West Springfield become its own town. He died in 1770, and his son Aaron inherited the house. Aaron and his wife Eunice moved into the house after their marriage in 1775, just months before the start of the American Revolution.

Although far removed from any major battles, the Day house nonetheless saw several important events relating to the war. In January 1776, Henry Knox passed in front of the house along his journey from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. He and his men were hauling 60 tons of cannons to fortify Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston, and just two months later these guns forced the British to evacuate Boston. Two years later, the Day House saw the results of another American victory in the war. Following the British defeat at Saratoga, General Riedesel and his Hessian troops were captured and marched to Boston, and along the way they stopped and encamped here in West Springfield on October 30 and 31, 1777, on the common in front of the house.

The closest that the Day House came to witnessing direct military action came nearly a decade later, during Shays’ Rebellion. This uprising, which took place in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787, was the result of high taxes and foreclosures against farmers in the region, and during this time the rebels succeeded in closing courthouses to prevent foreclosure cases from coming to trial. Although Daniel Shays of Pelham was the primary leader of the uprising, Luke Day of West Springfield was also one of the leaders. Luke and Aaron Day were second cousins, and while planning for the assault on the Springfield Arsenal, the climactic event of the rebellion, Luke trained his soldiers on the common in front of the house. According to local tradition, he also used his cousin’s house as his headquarters while he planned the attack.

In the meantime, Aaron and Eunice Day continued living in this house for decades. In 1810, they expanded the house with a wooden addition in the back for their oldest son, Aaron, Jr., who had married Anne Ely that year. Eunice died in 1818 and Aaron, Sr. in 1827, and the house was passed down to the younger Aaron. He and Anne raised their six children here, and Lydia, their last surviving child, lived in the house until her death in 1897. A few years later, the house was sold by the Day family after four consecutive generations of ownership.

While so many other colonial buildings in the area were being demolished around the turn of the 20th century, the Day House was purchased by the Ramapogue Historical Society, around the same time that the first photo was taken. This early effort at historic preservation has been successful, and today the house is still owned by the society. It is open to the public as a museum, and the interior is furnished with antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which had once belonged to members of the Day family.

Frary House, Deerfield, Mass

The Frary House on Old Main Street in Deerfield, around 1900-1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1051_1900-1904c-loc

The building in 2016:

1051_2016
The Old Deerfield Historic District is a National Historic Landmark, which is the highest level of recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. The well-preserved New England village features 53 historic buildings, with over 30 that date back to the American Revolution or earlier. Among these is the Frary House, seen here in these photographs.

When the first photo was taken, the house was believed to have been built in 1698 by Samson Frary, one of the original settlers of Deerfield. However, dendrochronology has since shown that it was built around 1758, although it is possible that portions of the house may date back to 1698. If so, it would make it one of possibly two houses that predate the 1704 Indian attack on the village. Either way, though, the house is unquestionably old, and historically significant.

The left side of the building is the oldest, and dates back to about 1758, when it was owned by Salah Barnard. He operated a tavern out of the house, and in 1775 Benedict Arnold stopped here on his way north to capture Fort Ticonderoga. The American Revolution had started just weeks earlier, and Deerfield had a large number of loyalist residents, yet Arnold managed to acquire provisions for his men here at the tavern while at the same time maintaining the secrecy of his mission.

The most significant change to the building came around 1795, when Barnard added a larger tavern to the right side of the building. Like many other New England taverns of the era, it not only provided food, drink, and lodging for visitors; it also served as the social center of the town, and would have been used as a meeting place for a variety of local events. Salah Barnard died the same year that the addition was completed, and his son Erastus inherited the building and operated the tavern for the next ten years, until he moved away from Deerfield.

The property was eventually purchased in 1890 by Charlotte Alice Baker, a descendant of Samson Frary, the building’s purported original owner. She hired the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge to restore it to its original colonial appearance, and the work was complete by the time the first photo was taken. Today, the Frary House/Barnard Tavern is owned by Historic Deerfield, a museum that owns a number of historic properties in the village.

Along with the Frary House and Barnard Tavern, this scene shows one other historic home. Just to the right of the tavern is the Nims House, which predates the Frary House by over a decade The original house on this site was built around 1685 by Godfrey Nims, but was destroyed in the 1704 Indian raid. It was rebuilt in 1710, and portions of this house might still be standing, but most of the present-day home dates back to sometime between the 1720s and 1740s. It remained in the Nims family until the 1890s, and it is now owned by Deerfield Academy, who uses it for faculty housing.