Parsons Tavern, Springfield, Mass

Parsons Tavern on Court Street in Springfield, sometime in the 1800s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

Taverns

The scene in 2014:

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When Springfield was first settled in 1636, it was at a strategic location along several different transportation routes.  As the years went by, the modes of transportation changed, but Springfield remained an important crossroads.  By the late 1700s, there were three major routes from New York to Boston, the northernmost of which went through Boston.  Although a less direct route than the other two, the Springfield route reportedly offered the best taverns, and in Springfield the best was Parsons Tavern.

The tavern was originally built on what is today the southeastern corner of Court Square, and was operated by Zenas Parsons.  During its time in operation, it hosted at least two presidents, the first of whom was George Washington in October, 1789.  Washington was on his way to Boston, and made a stop in Springfield to inspect the Armory.  He stayed overnight at Parsons Tavern, and wrote in his diary that “A Colo. Worthington, Colo. Williams (Adjutant General of the State of Massachusetts), Genl. Shepherd, Mr. Lyman and many other Gentleman sat an hour or two with me in the evening at Parson’s Tavern where I lodged and which is a good House.”  Years later, in 1817, President James Monroe also visited the tavern, not long before it was moved in order to make way for Court Square.

The tavern survived until at least the 1890s, but it was gone by the early 1900s, but today its former location is a parking lot at the G.A.R. Hall across East Columbus Avenue from Symphony Hall.  Springfield is still a major transportation hub, although as the 2014 photo shows, we’ve come a long way from stagecoach routes and taverns.  Interstate 91 now passes through this scene, and probably has more people travel on it in one day than Parsons Tavern had during its entire existence.

Paul Revere House, Boston

The Paul Revere House in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The house in 2014:

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The first photo was taken sometime before the 1898 photo in this post, from a slightly different angle. It is the oldest building in downtown Boston, having been built around 1680. However, it changed in appearance over the centuries, and it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the house was restored to its original appearance. Today, the house is open for tours, and is a major landmark along the Freedom Trail.

General Crane House, Boston

The General Crane House on Tremont Street in Boston, probably in 1894. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the photos in this post, but this angle just focuses on the old General Crane House.  Although only about 12 years have passed, the historic house has not fared well – in the 1894 photo it appears to have been relegated to billboard duty, advertising for several plays, including The Little Trooper staring Della Fox, and Jacinta starring Louise Beaudet.  Both actresses were prominent in the 1890s, and they appeared in these plays around 1894-1895.  The building itself had once been home to John Crane, a Revolutionary War general and Boston Tea Party participant.  It was still standing when the Tremont Street Subway was constructed under the street, but it didn’t last too much longer – it was gone by 1908.

Seaver House, Boston

The Seaver House on the west side of Tremont Street across from Hollis Street, around 1882. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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This view was taken from almost the same spot as the one in this post, which shows the scene before Tremont Street was widened.  Most of the buildings on Tremont Street in the 1882 photo above were built following the widening of the street, but none of them survive today. However, that doesn’t mean this neighborhood of Boston has completely changed.  It is part of Boston’s Theater District, a distinction that it held as far back as the 1800s.  In fact, the first photo is able to be dated to around 1882 based on the Fritz in Ireland playbill, which is posted on the wall on the far left-hand side of the first photo.  The wood-frame house in the left-center of the photo is the General Crane House, and was home to John Crane, a Boston Tea Party participant and Revolutionary War veteran.  By the time of the 1882 photo, it was home to the William Davis & Co. candy store.  Notice also the rails running through the cobblestone streets, and the blurred image of a horse-drawn trolley.  The trolleys would eventually be electrified and buried beneath Tremont Street in the late 1890s; today, the tunnel is still there, but it is no longer in service.

Sheaffe House, Boston

The Sheaffe House at the corner of Columbia and Essex in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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Located in the southern part of downtown Boston, the Sheaffe House was built in 1734 by Thomas Child, who owned a distillery a few block away.  The house was later owned by his son-in-law, William Sheaffe, for whom the house is named.  Sheaffe died in 1771, and his wife opened the house as a boarding house to support the family.  One of the residents was Lord Percy, a British officer who fought at Lexington & Concord and the Battle of Long Island.  Thanks to Lord Percy, one of Sheaffe’s children, Roger Hale Sheaffe, attended military school in London and eventually reached the rank of general in the British army.

The house was demolished sometime before 1887, and the brick building on the left-hand side of the 2014 photo replaced it.  The building, 88 Kingston Street, has been substantially renovated – I’m not sure if anything survives but the facade.  To the right is the One Lincoln Street building, an office building that was built in 2003 and is one of the tallest buildings in the Financial District.

Sun Tavern, Dock Square, Boston

The Sun Tavern at Dock Square, across from Faneuil Hall in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

Taverns

Dock Square and the Sun Tavern around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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According to the sign above the building in the first photo, the Sun Tavern was built in 1690, although some estimates that I have seen have dated its construction even earlier.  In either case, the building was extremely old by the time it was photographed in 1898,  It was a tavern by the first decade of the 18th century, although possibly earlier, and was at the time located right next to the town dock, hence the name of Dock Square.  It wouldn’t be until over 50 years after it opened that its familiar neighbor, Faneuil Hall, was built, and another 80 years after that before Quincy Market was built atop what was once Boston Harbor.

The building survived until about 1910 (it appears in the 1908 atlas, but is gone by the 1912 one), and sometime in the 1920s or 1930s a good portion of Dock Square was torn down.  The rest would come down in the 1960s, when the area that once made up Dock Square, Adams Square, and Scollay Square was demolished to build Boston City Hall, seen on the right-hand side of the 2014 photo.