Alexander House, Springfield, Mass

The Alexander House on State Street in Springfield, around 1905. Image from Springfield, Present and Prospective (1905).

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The site in 2015:

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The Alexander House was one of many elegant homes that once lined this section of State Street between Chestnut Street and the Armory.  Most of them have long since been replaced, but the Alexander House is still standing, just in a different location.  Its history is explained in more detail in this post, which shows is current appearance around the corner from here, but it was built in 1811 and is one of the oldest existing buildings in the city.

Former owners of the house included portrait artist Chester Harding as well as former Springfield mayor Henry Alexander, Jr., for whom the house is named.  However, its future was threatened in the early 2000s, when a new federal courthouse was proposed for this location.  So, the house was moved about 100 yards away, behind the courthouse on Elliot Street.  The large trees that once stood in front of the house couldn’t be moved, though, so architect Moshe Safdie literally built around them, designing the courthouse so that the trees could be saved as a central element.

Southwick Congregational Church, Southwick Mass

Southwick Congregational Church on College Highway in Southwick, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The church in 2015:

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If this historic church in Southwick resembles a scaled-down version of Springfield’s Old First Church, there is good reason for that – both were designed by Northampton architect Isaac Damon, and out of all of his surviving work, Southwick is probably the closest thing to a twin of Springfield’s.  The belfry design on the two churches is nearly identical, and the rest of the steeple design here in Southwick looks like a miniature of the one on Old First Church.  Both churches also have a triangular portico supported by four columns, although again Southwick’s is on a smaller scale.  Some of Damon’s other churches included the old Northampton church, which burned in 1876, the First Congregational Church in Blandford, and Southwick’s Methodist Episcopal Church, both of which still exist.  Southwick’s church was founded in 1773, and the present-day building was built in 1824 to replace the first, which had burned the year before.  Nearly two centuries later, it has survived with few alterations, and it doesn’t look much different from its appearance in the early 1890s.

Old Church and Courthouse, Northampton, Mass

Looking up Main Street from Pleasant Street in Northampton, toward the old church and courthouse in 1864. Photo from Reminiscences of Old Northampton (1902).

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The location in 2018:

The 1864 photo is one of the oldest existing photographs of downtown Northampton, and none of the buildings from that scene survive today, 151 years later.  To the left in the 1864 photo is the old church, which was built in 1812.  It was Northampton’s fourth meeting house, and it replaced the 1737 building that had been built during the pastorate of Jonathan Edwards.  It was from here that the influential pastor and theologian helped to spark the Great Awakening revival that spread across the American colonies and in Europe, but by the turn of the century the town was in need of a new building.  The 1812 church was designed by Northampton architect Isaac Damon, who just a few years later would design Old First Church in Springfield, 15 miles to the south.  However, while Old First Church survives to this day, the Northampton church seen in the 1864 photo burned in 1876, and was replaced two years later by the current brownstone church.

On the far right of the 1864 photo is the old Hampshire County Courthouse.  I don’t know when it was built, but it is virtually identical to the 1821 Hampden County Courthouse, seen on the far left of the 1882 photo in this post.  Because of its similar appearance, the Hampshire County Courthouse was probably built around the same time, shortly after some major changes to the county’s borders.  Originally, Hampshire County included all of Western Massachusetts, but it was steadily broken up into multiple counties, beginning in 1761 when Berkshire County was established to the west.  Then in 1811, Franklin County was created in the northern part of the Connecticut River Valley with Greenfield as the county seat, and a year later Hampden County split off to the south, with Springfield as the county seat.  I don’t know what happened to the old courthouse seen here, but it was gone by 1886, when the present-day Hampshire County Courthouse opened on roughly the same spot at the corner of Main and King Streets.

In between the two prominent buildings in the 1864 scene is a relatively small commercial block, the Whitney Building.  The photograph was actually commissioned by George D. Eames, the owner of the building, and was probably intended to advertise the building’s prominent location in town.  Part of the building housed the offices of the Hampshire Gazette, and the newspaper was published in the basement.  This is evidently the reason for the large sign on the building that reads “Caloric Printing Establishment.”  The Whitney Building was demolished in 1876, and a bank building was put in its place.  Today, the 1916 Northampton Institute for Savings building occupies the site where the Whitney Building once stood.

Massachusetts State House, Boston

The Massachusetts State House, as it appeared around 1899. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Massachusetts

Its appearance 114 years later, in March 2013:

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The front appearance of the State House is more or less the same as it appeared when it was completed in 1798, although several major additions have changed the other three sides of the building.  One of the additions, completed in 1895, was directly behind the original 1798 structure, and isn’t visible from this angle.  The other additions, the two wings on the left and the right that appear in the 2013 building, were not built until 1917.

Park Street Church, Boston

The view of Park Street church, taken in about 1904, looking up Tremont Street with Boston Common on the left. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Street Scenes

A few years later, probably around 1909-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene around 1923. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Tremont Street in 2014:

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Built in 1810, Park Street Church was the tallest building in the United States from its construction until 1846.  Although it’s not as prominent in the skyline as it was when the earlier photos were taken, it still stands out when walking along Tremont Street and the Boston Common.  The church is still in active use, having had a number of notable pastors, including noted abolitionist Edward Beecher, the brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

One less obvious landmark in both photos is the Park Street subway station.  Opened in 1897, it was, along with the nearby Boylston Street station, the first subway station in the world, and was still fairly new when the first photo was taken.  The entrances and exits are the same in both photos, and the station remains a busy MBTA station on the Green Line and Red Line.

On the other side of Tremont Street, many of the buildings from the earlier photos are still around today.  The most obvious is the R.H. Stearns Building, the tall building on the far right of the 2014 photo.  The building was home to the R.H. Stearns department store from 1908 until 1977, when it closed, but the building itself is still there.  In the first photo, the department store was in a different building, with the two towers and the large flag.  This building was demolished to make way for the present building in 1908.

Old First Church, Springfield, Mass

The view of Old First Church in Springfield, Massachusetts from Court Square, around 1908. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Churches

The same view in 2013:

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Old First Church has been one of Springfield’s most prominent landmarks for nearly 200 years.  It is Springfield’s fourth meeting house, all of which have been located on or around present-day Court Square.  The current building was completed in 1819, and was home to the First Church of Christ until 2007, when the congregation disbanded.  During that time, the church hosted notable guests including Daniel Webster, abolitionist John Brown, singer Jenny Lind, and evangelist D.L. Moody.  In 1848, the body of former president John Quincy Adams lay in state in the center aisle, as he was being brought back to Quincy from Washington, D.C.

After the congregation disbanded in 2007, the City of Springfield purchased the historic building, and rent it out for various events.  Note the missing railing near the top of the steeple – it was removed following damage from the June 1, 2011 tornado. Otherwise, the exterior of the building remains much the same as it was over 100 years ago.  To the right, barely visible in the 2013 photo, is a brick structure that appears very different.  Physically attached to the church, it was gutted and renovated in 1947, which among other things included removing most of the Victorian-era windows and details.

2014 note: the railing near the top of the steeple was restored in October 2014