Brick Market, Newport, Rhode Island

The Brick Market on Thames Street, opposite Washington Square in Newport, in 1890. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Downtown Newport is renowned for its many colonial-era buildings, but one of the finest is the Brick Market, located along Thames Street at the western end of Washington Square. It is a prominent architectural landmark, and is one of only a handful of surviving buildings that are known to have been designed by Peter Harrison, one of the first formally-trained architects in America. Born in England in 1716, Harrison came to Rhode Island in 1740 but returned to England a few years later, where he studied architecture. Upon returning to the colonies, he designed several prominent buildings in New England, including King’s Chapel in Boston, Christ Church in Cambridge, and the Redwood Library and Touro Synagogue here in Newport.

The Brick Market was the last of his confirmed works, and is shows the influence that English architecture had on his designs. The building’s design was based on the Old Somerset House in London, with Harrison copying elements such as the arcade on the lower floor, the pilasters on the upper floors, and even the alternating arched and triangular window pediments. He designed the Brick Market in the early 1760s, and construction began in 1762. However, financial difficulties delayed the construction, and it was not completed until 1772.

Upon completion, the building consisted of an open-air market on the ground floor, similar to other contemporary New England marketplaces such as Faneuil Hall, while upper floors were used for offices and dry goods storage. However, over the years the building’s use changed several times, starting in the 1790s when the upper section was converted into a theater. Then, in 1842, the building was converted into Newport’s city hall, which included removing the third floor and replacing it with seating galleries. It was still in use as city hall when the first photo was taken in 1890, and it would remain so for another decade, until the current city hall was completed in 1900.

By the early 20th century the Brick Market was in poor condition, but it was restored in the 1920s by Norman Isham, an architectural historian and professor who specialized in preserving colonial-era buildings in Rhode Island. The building is now owned by the Newport Historical Society and operated as the Museum of Newport History, where it stands amid modern shopping plazas. All of the other historic buildings on the west side of Thames Street between Marlborough Street and Memorial Boulevard have since been demolished, and today the only other building still standing from the first photo is the one on the far left, at the corner of Thames and Touro Streets. Known as the Henry B. Young Building, it was built in 1861 but was heavily altered in the 20th century, including the removal of the top floor, and today it bears little resemblance to the building from the first photo.

130 Hayden Station Road, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 130 Hayden Station Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

The origins of this house are somewhat of a mystery, although it appears to date back to about 1760. It is several years older than the much larger Captain Nathaniel Hayden House on the right side of the photo, although both houses have matching brick, Georgian-style architecture. Nathaniel Hayden owned both houses, and there are several theories as to what this small cottage was originally used for. One possibility is that it was Hayden lived here for a few years before his larger house was completed in 1763, but a more probable explanation is that this cottage was used as his shop for his shoemaking business.

Like the larger house on the property, this cottage remained in the Hayden family for many years. Nathaniel’s grandson, Samuel Hayden, owned the property until his death in 1900. His only child, Lucretia, appears to have owned it until her death in 1918, but by the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the property was no longer in the Hayden family. However, very little has changed in this scene, and both buildings are still well-preserved, more than 250 years after they were built. Because of this, both the house and cottage were individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Captain Nathaniel Hayden House, Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 128 Hayden Station Road in Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

Brick colonial houses are not particularly common in rural New England, but the town of Windsor has an unusual number of such homes that are still standing. This particular house was built around 1763 by Nathaniel Hayden, whose great-great grandfather William Hayden had settled in this area of Windsor more than a century earlier. Nathaniel had grown up across the street from here in his father’s house, but when he was 24 he married Anna Filer, and the couple moved into this new house around the same time.

Like his father, Nathaniel was a farmer, shoemaker, and tanner, but he also served as a captain in the town militia. At the start of the American Revolution, he led a group of 23 Windsor men who marched out following the Lexington Alarm, and he later served as a captain in the Continental Army, where he participated in the Battle of Long Island. However, tragedy struck the Hayden family in early 1776, when Nathaniel’s wife Anna died, at the age of 35.

Two years after Anna’s death, Nathaniel remarried to Rhoda Lyman. He had no children from his first marriage, but he and Rhoda had four children together: Nancy, Nathaniel, Naomi, and Pliney. Nathaniel lived here until his death in 1795, at the age of 57, but the house would remain in his family for many years. Rhoda outlived her husband by nearly 40 years, and lived here along with the younger Nathaniel and his wife Lucretia, whom he married in 1808.

Nathaniel and Lucretia had five children, all sons, who grew up here in this house. Two of their sons, Nathaniel and George, moved out of this house after their marriages, but remained in the Windsor area. Two others, Edward and Uriah, traveled to California in 1849, seeking their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Like most of their fellow Forty-Niners, though, they only had moderate success. Edward would remain in California, but Uriah eventually returned east, where he lived in New York state.

Of the five sons, only the youngest, Samuel, remained here in the family house. He was only nine years old when his mother Lucretia died in 1831, but he lived here with his father and his uncle Pliney, eventually caring for both men in their old age. He married his wife, Sarah L. Halsey, in 1849, and they had one child, Lucretia, who was born in 1851 and named for her grandmother. Nathaniel died in 1864 at the age of 83, and Pliney lived here until his death 11 years later at the age of 89, after having been blind for the last few years of his life.

Lucretia married in the early 1870s, but was widowed at a young age, and by the 1880 census she was living here in this house with her parents. Samuel would remain here in this house until his death in 1900, and his wife Sarah died eight years later. Lucretia appears to have continued to live here for the next decade, until her death in 1918. She had no children, so her death marked the end of over 150 years and four consecutive generations of ownership by the Hayden family.

By the time the first photo was taken around the late 1930s, the house was owned by Willard Drake, a mason whose property also included the neighboring John Hayden House. At the time, it was already recognized as a historically-significant home, and very little has changed in this scene since then. Now over 250 years old, the Nathaniel Hayden House still stands as a good example of a brick, Georgian-style home, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Moses Wells House, South Windsor, Connecticut

The house at 1712 Main Street in South Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The house in 2017:

The exact date of construction for this house seems somewhat uncertain, with different sources providing widely varying dates. The National Register of Historic Places inventory lists it as having been built in 1735 and the first owner as Nathan Day, but the WPA survey, done when the first photo was taken, lists three possible years, including 1780, 1680, and the impossibly early date of 1635. According to this survey, an ell likely dates back to the 17th century, while the main portion of the house was built later.

The 1735 date also seems too early for this style of house, which closely resembles the 1784 Jonathan Ellsworth House on the other side of the Connecticut River. Because of this, the 1780 date seems the most likely, and it appears to have been built for Moses Wells, a local hat merchant. At the time, the house was in the town of East Windsor, but in 1845 it became part of South Windsor when the new town was created.

The subsequent ownership of the house seems unclear, but by the time the first photo was taken it had seen some changes to the exterior, including the small front porch, the side porch, and a new front door. About 80 years later, however, much of the exterior has been restored, including removing the porches, adding Georgian-style window lintels, and installing historically appropriate doors and windows. Along with the other houses in the neighborhood, it now forms part of the East Windsor Hill Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

John Hancock House, Boston

The John Hancock House on Beacon Street in Boston, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

This grand mansion was built in the mid-1730s for Thomas Hancock, a wealthy Boston merchant. At the time, Beacon Hill was on the outskirts of Boston, and this house was the westernmost one on Beacon Street. Here, Thomas and his wife Lydia created what amounted to a country estate, with gardens, orchards, and pastureland that extended up the southern slope of hill, and was directly across the street from Boston Common. Despite the pastoral setting, though, the was within easy walking distance of Boston’s wharves, where Hancock conducted his business. The house itself was built of granite, and was an outstanding example of Georgian architecture, complete with a balcony that offered sweeping views of Boston and the the surrounding harbor.

Thomas and Lydia had no children of their own, but in 1744 Thomas’s brother John died, and his seven-year-old son, also named John, moved to Boston and lived here in this house. After graduating from Boston Latin School in 1750 and Harvard College in 1754, John Hancock joined his uncle’s firm, eventually taking over the business after Thomas’s death in 1764. Along with the business, he also inherited his uncle’s estate here on Beacon Hill, and he went on to live here for the rest of his life.

John Hancock went on to become one of the most prominent Patriots in the years leading up to the American Revolution, and in 1774 he was elected as a Massachusetts delegate to the Second Continental Congress. From 1775 to 1777, he served as the President of the Continental Congress, and it was in this capacity in 1776 that he famously signed the Declaration of Independence. Following his time in Congress, he briefly served in the war as a major general in the Massachusetts militia, and in 1780 he was elected as the first governor of Massachusetts. Widely popular, he easily won re-election every year until 1785, when he resigned due to ill health.

Later in 1785, James Bowdoin was elected as his successor, but his two years as governor were marked by a failing economy and a poor response to Shays’ Rebellion in 1786-1787. As a result, Hancock ran against him in the 1787 election and won easily, and he went on to win re-election every year until his death in 1793. During this time, he pardoned those involved in Shays’ Rebellion, and he was also an influential proponent of the U.S. Constitution, which was narrowly ratified by the state in 1788, probably thanks to his support. In the absence of an official governor’s mansion, Hancock’s house served that purpose well, and he received a number of distinguished visitors here, including the Marquis de Lafayette in 1781 and George Washington in 1789.

By the time John Hancock died in 1793, this house was no longer at the outskirts of Boston, and Beacon Hill was in the process of being transformed into an exclusive neighborhood of elegant townhouses. Portions of the estate were steadily sold, including land to the east of the house, which became the site of the Massachusetts State House. Other parcels were sold for new homes, and by the early 19th century the house was surrounded by more modern homes. Hancock’s widow, Dorothy, had remarried in 1796, and she lived here in this house until 1816. The house remained in the family, though, with John Hancock’s nephew, also named John, owning the house until his death in 1859.

The first photo was taken sometime around the time when the younger John Hancock died, and it shows his granddaughter, Elizabeth Lowell Hancock Moriarty, standing on the second floor balcony. Despite being over a century old, the house still retained its stately elegance, and was recognized as an important landmark. There had been several different proposals for using the house, including the possibility of purchasing it as an official governor’s mansion. The family even offered the property to the state for the low price of $100,000, but many balked at the idea of such an expense, and the idea was dropped.

The property was finally sold in 1863, with the intention of redeveloping it with modern townhouses. The state was offered one last chance to move the house to a new location, but again there was significantly opposition to the $12,000 expense, and the historic house was ultimately demolished in the summer of 1863. Had it survived, the house would have become one of the city’s iconic Revolutionary War landmarks, on par with such places as the Old State House, the Paul Revere House, and Old North Church. Instead, though, its demolition did help to spur preservation movements for some of these other landmarks, including the Old South Meeting House, which survived similar redevelopment threats a decade later.

In 1865, two townhouses were built on the site of Hancock’s house. However, these houses did not last nearly as long as their predecessor, because in 1917 they were demolished to build a new wing of the Massachusetts State House. Since then, not much has changed. The 1798 state house, with its various additions over the years, remains in use as the state capitol building, and the surrounding Beacon Hill neighborhood is still home to many of Boston’s wealthy residents, nearly 300 years after Thomas Hancock first made his home here.

Hezekiah Chaffee House, Windsor, Connecticut (2)

The Hezekiah Chaffee House at 108 Palisado Avenue in Windsor, on January 21, 1937. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The house in 2017:

The front side of this house was featured in a previous post, and this view here shows the back of the house, which has hardly changed in the past 80 years since the first photo was taken. The house is perhaps the finest example of 18th century architecture in Windsor, and it was originally built around 1765 for Dr. Hezekiah Chaffee, a prominent local physician. He lived here until his death in 1819, but the house itself remained in the family for another century.

In 1926, a little over a decade before the first photo was taken, the house became the Chaffee School, the girls-only counterpart to the nearby Loomis Institute. After the schools merged to form the current Loomis Chaffee School in 1970, the house was sold to the town of Windsor. It is now a museum, run by the Windsor Historical Society, and and it is a centerpiece of the Palisado Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.