City Hall, Salem, Mass

City Hall, at 93 Washington Street in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

City Hall in 2017:

During the early 19th century, Salem was among the largest cities or towns in the country, ranking among the top ten in the first four federal censuses. It was also the second-largest in New England during this time, behind only Boston, and in 1836 it was incorporated as the second city in the state, with a population of 15,886. At the time, the municipal government occupied the town hall at Derby Square, but construction soon began on a purpose-built city hall here on Washington Street, just north of the intersection of Essex Street.

The building, which was completed in 1838, was designed by noted architect Richard Bond, whose other Salem works included the 1854 Tabernacle Congregational Church (demolished in 1922), as well as the 1841 county courthouse on Federal Street. Bond’s design for City Hall had a Greek Revival exterior, with a granite facade on the Washington Street side and brick walls on the rest of the building. The main entrance is flanked by four Doric pilasters, supporting an entablature that features seven laurel wreaths, with a gilded eagle atop the building. On the interior, the building was constructed with city offices on the first floor, and the mayor’s office and city council chambers on the second floor.

The first mayor of Salem was Leverett Saltonstall I, a prominent politician who had previously served as president of the Massachusetts Senate and would later go on to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1838 to 1843. He was also the great grandfather of Leverett A. Saltonstall, who would serve as governor of Massachusetts and as a U. S. Senator during the mid-20th century. Other notable early mayors included Stephen C. Phillips and Charles W. Upham, both of whom also served in Congress, and Stephen P. Webb, who served as mayor from 1842 to 1845 and 1860 to 1862, while in the interim serving as mayor of San Francisco from 1854 to 1855.

The first photo was taken at some point in the post-Civil War era, most likely in the late 1860s or early 1870s, and shows the front facade of City Hall, along with a horse-drawn trolley on Washington Street. The building was significantly expanded in 1876, with an addition that doubled its length, although its appearance from this angle remained unchanged. Another addition came a century later in the late 1970s, but likewise this did not affect the Washington Street side of the building.

Today, this building remains in use as the Salem City Hall, with a well-preserved exterior that shows hardly any changes from the first photo. Now over 180 years old, it is the oldest continuously-used city hall building in the state, and it survives as a good example of Greek Revival-style architecture. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it is also a contributing property in the Downtown Salem Historic District.

Essex County Courthouses, Salem, Mass

The courthouses on Federal Street in Salem, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

This block of Federal Street features four generations of Essex County courthouses, all lined up next to each other on the north side of the street. They represent a wide variety of architectural styles, and the two oldest are seen here in this view. The older of these is the granite, Greek Revival-style courthouse on the right side, which was completed in 1841. It was designed by noted architect Richard Bond, who was responsible for several other important buildings in Salem, including City Hall and the nearby Tabernacle Congregational Church. As built, the interior had a courtroom on the upper floor, with county offices on the lower floor, although this later changed as more courthouses were built here.

The second courthouse was built just 20 years later, but with architecture that sharply contrasts with that of its neighbor. Completed in 1862, it featured a brick exterior with an Italianate design, and was the work of architect Enoch Fuller. However, the exterior was heavily modified from 1887 to 1889, including a new wing on the rear of the building, a tower on the right side of this addition, and a new three-story entryway on the front of the building. Although similar to the original design of the courthouse, these additions had more of a Romanesque appearance, which gave the building an unusual blend of architectural styles.

The third courthouse is barely visible on the far left side of both photos. It was completed in 1909, shortly before the first photo was taken, and it has since been joined by a fourth courthouse on the other side of it, which opened in 2012. All four of the buildings are still standing, although the two oldest have been vacant since the new courthouse was completed. Neither have seen any significant exterior changes since the first photo was taken more than a century ago, and both are part of the Federal Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. However, there are still no definite redevelopment plans for the buildings, and the 1841 courthouse was damaged by a fire in May 2018, less than a year after the second photo was taken.

Josiah Gilbert Holland House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 115 High Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, this house was the home of author Josiah Gilbert Holland, a noted historian, novelist, poet, and editor who lived in Springfield for much of his literary career. Holland was born in 1819 in Belchertown, Massachusetts, and was an 1844 graduate of the Berkshire Medical College. He moved to Springfield after graduating, where he married his wife, Elizabeth Chapin, and briefly practiced medicine. However, he soon abandoned the profession and turned to writing. He published a weekly newspaper, the Bay State Courier, for six months in 1847, but he and Elizabeth subsequently moved to the south, where he worked as a teacher in Richmond and as superintendent of schools in Vicksburg. He had little professional experience for the latter position, and Vicksburg had little in the way of public schools, but Holland was able to establish a system that was based on public education in northern states.

Holland served as superintendent in Vicksburg for a year and three months, but he and Elizabeth returned to Springfield in the spring of 1849, in order to care for her dying mother. Here, Holland resumed his journalistic career, after Springfield Republican editor Samuel Bowles hired him as an assistant editor of the newspaper. During the early 1850s he wrote History of Western Massachusetts, which was originally printed in the newspaper in serial format before being published in a two-volume book in 1855. The following year, Holland was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the old city hall at Court Square, where he gave an hour-long speech that, among other things, criticized the city’s lack of noteworthy architectural works. He objected to the designs of public buildings as well as private homes, and noted that “a common horse-block has just as many, and just the same, architectural ideas in it” as an entire street full of the city’s finest homes.

Around the time that he gave this speech, though, Holland lived here in this very modest Greek Revival-style home, which had very little architectural distinction of its own. The house was likely built sometime in the late 1830s or 1840s, during the time when this style was common for houses in Springfield. It does not appear in the 1835 map, but it was in existence by 1851, when that year’s map shows it as being owned by an A. Howe. Josiah and Elizabeth Holland likely moved into the house a few years later, and at some point it came to be known as “Buff Cottage.” By the 1860 census the Hollands were living here with their young children Annie, Katie, and Theodore, plus two servants. At the time, the value of Holland’s real estate was listed at $9,000, plus a personal estate of $13,000, for a total net worth equal to about $600,000 today.

During the time that Holland lived in this house, his literary career gained him national attention. His first novel was The Bay Path, a work of historical fiction that was set in early Springfield. It was published in 1857, and was followed a year later by the long narrative poem Bitter Sweet, which was written here in this house. This poem would become one of his most popular works, and was described in 1894 by biographer Harriette Merrick Plunkett as “Dr. Holland’s reflections on the mysteries of Life and Death, on the soul-wracking problems of Doubt and Faith, on the existence of Evil as one of the vital conditions of the universe, on the questions of Predestination, Original Sin, Free-will, and the whole haunting brood of Calvinistic theological metaphysics.” She declared it to be “truly an original poem,” comparing it to the works of Robert Burns or Sir Walter Scott, and cited the praise that it had earned from poet James Russell Lowell. However, the poem, along with many of Holland’s other works, also received its share of criticism from those who found his writing style to be excessively sentimental and moralistic.

Holland’s other works during this period included three collections of essays, Letters to Young People, Single and Married (1858), Gold Foil, Hammered from Popular Proverbs (1859), and Letters to the Joneses (1863), all of which were published under the pseudonym Timothy Titcomb. In 1860, he wrote his next novel, Miss Gilbert’s Career: An American Story, which highlighted the Victorian belief that a woman’s greatest career was to be a wife. The Civil War started a year later, and Holland’s editorial duties at the Republican consumed much of his time throughout the war. He even became the de facto editor-in-chief of the newspaper during part of the war, taking on these responsibilities during Samuel Bowles’s overseas trip to Europe.

As Holland became a more established literary figure, he put some of his newfound wealth into building a new house that was both much larger and more architecturally prominent than his home here on High Street. It was completed in 1862, and was located in the northwestern corner of the city, near the border of Chicopee, on what is now Atwater Terrace. At the time, this part of the city was far removed from the city center and only sparsely populated, so Holland’s choice of a location was puzzling to some. One person is even reported to have questioned “Who would ever want to live there, except some hare-brained poet like Dr. Holland?” The design of the house was unique among the many 19th century mansions in Springfield, featuring a Swiss Chalet-style design, and it was named “Brightwood” because of its painted wooden exterior. This name would later be applied to the entire northwestern corner of the city, and today the neighborhood is still known as Brightwood.

The Holland family would only live at Brightwood for five years, before embarking on a two-year vacation to Europe and then relocating to New York City, but Holland wrote several of his best-selling books while living here in this house. Perhaps the most notable work of his career was Life of Abraham Lincoln, which was published in 1866. A year earlier, Holland had been asked to give a eulogy of Lincoln at a memorial service here in Springfield, held just four days after his assassination. The eulogy proved powerful, and just a month later Holland was traveling to Springfield, Illinois to research Lincoln’s life.

The resulting book was the first lengthy biography of the 16th president, and sold around 100,000 copies. It was one of many such biographies that were published soon after Lincoln’s assassination, most of which were poorly written, but Holland’s book is generally considered to have been the best of these. As described by Allen C. Guelzo in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Holland’s book was “a landmark Lincoln biography, the first of any substantial length as a biography, the first with any aspirations to comprehensiveness,” and “the first life of the ‘inner Lincoln,’ setting the stage for a genre of Lincoln studies that remains compelling and fruitful to this day.”

After moving to New York, Holland became one of the founders and the first editor of Scribner’s Monthly, which later became The Century Magazine. He continued his role as both editor and author throughout the 1870s, alternating between publishing novels and volumes of poetry. His final book was The Puritan’s Guest, a collection of poems that was published in 1881. He died on October 12 of that year, at the age of 62, and his body was returned to Springfield, where he was interred in Springfield Cemetery, just a short walk from where he once lived here on High Street.

In the meantime, at some point during the 1860s the house here on High Street was sold to Timothy Henry, a livery stable owner who lived here for many years with his wife Julia. He died in 1883, but Julia continued to live here until her death in 1900, more than 30 years after she and Timothy moved into the house. Following her death, however, the house went through a series of owners and residents throughout the early 20th century. It steadily declined until, when the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, it was being used as a lodging house. The 1940 census shows that it was being rented for $50 a month by Elizabeth Cody, a 64-year-old widow. She, in turn, rented space to two young women, one of whom worked as a bank clerk while the other was a stenographer.

By the time the first photo was taken, the once-famous resident of the house had long since been forgotten. Although ridiculed by many within the literary community during his lifetime, Holland had nonetheless been popular with the general public throughout the late 19th century. However, by the turn of the 20th century his overly sentimental, melodramatic style and Victorian-era moral lessons had fallen out of fashion, and his works drifted into obscurity.

Ironically, it was a reclusive friend and correspondent of Holland – the Amherst poet Emily Dickinson – who would go on to achieve lasting fame as the area’s preeminent 19th century poet. She died only five years after Holland, having had just a few poems published in her lifetime, yet her posthumously-published work eventually established her place within the Western canon of literature. This proved the exact opposite of Holland’s fame and reputation, who in 1940 was dismissed by biographer Harry Houston Peckham as “the major prophet of the unsophisticated, the supreme apostle to the naive.”

Holland’s two former homes in Springfield did not fare much better than his literary legacy. This house on High Street was evidently still standing as late as the 1960s, since the address was listed in city directories of the period, but at some point in the late 20th century it was demolished and replaced with a parking lot for the Wesson Memorial Hospital, which is located across the street from where the house once stood. However, this house ultimately outlived Holland’s grand Brightwood mansion on Atwater Terrace. After moving to New York, Holland had sold it to industrialist George C. Fisk, and the property remained in the Fisk family until well into the 20th century. It eventually fell victim to the Great Depression, though, and proved too costly for the few surviving family members to maintain, so it was finally demolished in 1940.

Unitarian Church, Springfield, Mass

The Unitarian church at the corner of State and Willow Streets in Springfield, probably sometime in the 1860s. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

 

For nearly 200 years, the Congregational Church was essentially the only church in Springfield. Aside from small groups of religious minorities such as Baptists and Methodists, who arrived at the turn of the 19th century, nearly all of Springfield’s residents were affiliated with the First Church. However, this hegemony began to break apart in the early 19th century, when the New England Congregationalists saw a schism between the traditional Trinitarians and the newer, theologically-liberal Unitarians.

Here in Springfield, the First Church had two fairly liberal pastors throughout much of the 18th century, beginning with Robert Breck, who served from 1736 to 1784. Breck’s ordination had been highly controversial, due to the perceived unorthodox beliefs of the young clergyman. He was popular among the Springfield congregants, but many of the pastors of surrounding towns – including Jonathan Edwards of Northampton – had advised against him, and some of his opponents had Breck arrested for heresy on the day of his scheduled ordination.

The charges against Breck were ultimately dropped, and he was duly ordained, serving the church for nearly 50 years. After his death, he was replaced by another young liberal pastor, Bezaleel Howard, who served for 18 years before announcing his resignation in 1803, due to poor health. He agreed to remain with the church until his replacement was found, but this process likely took longer than Howard had anticipated. By this point, the Unitarian-Trinitarian controversy had become the dominant issue in New England churches, and it took six years – and 37 candidates – before Samuel Osgood was selected as pastor in 1809.

Osgood, a 24-year-old Dartmouth graduate, had been the unanimous choice of the congregation, who had viewed him as being theologically liberal. However, as the divide grew between the two factions, Osgood ultimately favored the orthodox Trinitarian theology, alienating some of the most influential citizens of Springfield in the process. The majority of the church sided with Osgood, but the Unitarians were both vocal and wealthy, and included prominent businessmen such as merchant Jonathan Dwight, Sr. As a result, around 117 Unitarians separated from the First Church in 1819, forming the Third Congregational Society of Springfield. This name came from the fact that Chicopee, home of the Second Congregational Church, was still a part of Springfield at the time.

Later in 1819, the Unitarians moved into this newly-completed church building at the corner of State and Willow Streets. Both the land and the building had been donated by Jonathan Dwight, and the building was designed by local architect Simon Sanborn. It bore a strong resemblance to the new First Church building, which had been completed several weeks earlier at Court Square, and it reflected the Greek Revival style of architecture, which was becoming popular for churches and other public buildings during this era.

The first pastor of the Unitarian church was William B. O. Peabody, who was just 21 years old when he was ordained in October 1820. He served the church for the next 27 years, until his death in 1847, and during this time he also had a successful career as an author. He wrote several books, plus a number of poems and hymns, and he was also a regular contributor to the North American Review literary magazine. None of Peabody’s 19th century successors were able to match his longevity with the congregation, but the second-longest pastorate here in this church building was that of Francis Tiffany, who served from 1852 until 1864, when he left to accept a position as professor of English and rhetoric at Antioch College in Ohio. Like Peabody, he also became a published author, writing a biography of social reformer Dorothea Dix in 1890.

The Unitarians worshiped here in this building for nearby 50 years, but by the 1860s they had begun planning the construction of a new building further up the hill, opposite where the Springfield City Library now stands. In the process, they helped to start the career of Henry H. Richardson, who would become one of the most influential architects in American history. Although he did not have any major commissions at the time, Richardson was allowed to enter the design competition thanks to Chester W. Chapin, a railroad and bank executive who was a prominent member of the Unitarian church. Chapin’s son-in-law had attended college with Richardson, and this connection enabled the young architect to submit his plans for a new church, which were ultimately the ones chosen in the competition. The new building, known as the Church of the Unity, was completed in 1869, and Richardson’s work helped to establish his reputation as an architect.

The other building in the first photo, just to the right of the church, is the Springfield Bank. This brick, two-story Greek Revival structure was built around in 1814, the same year that the Springfield Bank was established as the first bank here in Springfield. It was one of the many business interests of Jonathan Dwight, who was one of its founders and its first president, serving from 1814 to 1817. The building was also the first home of the Springfield Institution for Savings, which was established in 1827. It was the first savings bank in Springfield, and it shared this building with the Springfield Bank until 1849, when it moved into the newly-completed Foot Block at the corner of Main and State Streets. In the meantime, the Springfield Bank remained here in this building until 1863, when it was reorganized as the Second National Bank. This new bank relocated three years later, and the old building later became a store owned by grain merchant John W. Wilder.

Only four years after the Unitarians moved up the hill to their new building, the old church burned down on the night of October 12, 1873. The site was later redeveloped with a large brick commercial building known as the Kirkham and Olmstead Block, which was in turn replaced by the two-story building that is now standing here. However, the old bank building survived well into the 20th century, despite being converted to other commercial use. The 1920 atlas shows it still standing, but it was demolished sometime before 1933, when the Art Deco-style Springfield Safe Deposit and Trust Company building was completed on the site. This building, now the Community Music School, is still here today, and is visible on the far right side of the 2017 photo.

First Congregational Church, Chicopee, Mass

The First Congregational Church on Chicopee Street in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Today, this church is known as the First Congregational Church of Chicopee, but the building actually predates Chicopee by several decades. It was completed in 1826 as the Second Congregational Church of Springfield, back when the present-day city of Chicopee was the northern section of Springfield. This section of Chicopee Street, located just east of the Connecticut River, was the site of the earliest settlement in Chicopee, in the second half of the 17th century. For around 75 years, residents of the village had to travel more than five miles to the center of Springfield in order to attend church services, but a new church was established here in 1751. The first meeting house was completed the following year, and stood here until it was replaced with the current church.

The new church came at the request of newly-installed pastor Alexander Phoenix, who agreed to become the pastor of the church only if the old building was repaired or rebuilt. The congregation chose the latter option, spending $4,400 to construct a new church.  The work was done by Alva Whitmarsh and Seba Shepherd, who were associates of noted builder and architect Isaac Damon. Their design reflected the Greek Revival style of architecture, which was becoming popular during this period, particularly for churches and other public buildings, and it also bore a strong resemblance to many of Damon’s own churches, including the First Congregational Church in Springfield.

The first service in the new church was held on January 4, 1826. It was equipped with a stove for heat – something that was still a novelty in many New England churches – but this stove was apparently a source of controversy. Judge E. W. Chapin, in a letter that was read to the church at its annual meeting in 1897, related a story that his mother had told him regarding this stove, writing that “Some woman opposed the innovation, fearing the heat would be too oppressive. The stove, however, was put up, but for some reason no fire was built in it the first Sabbath. This, however, was not known by the woman, who was so overcome by anticipated heat that she was compelled to leave the church during the service.”

In 1841, the church acquired the house immediately to the left of it, in the distance of both photos. This house had been built in 1830 as the home of Silas Stedman, and was later owned by George Hooker before being sold to the church for use as its parsonage. The church was still a part of Springfield at the time, but in 1848 Chicopee was partitioned off as a separate town, and the church became the First Congregational Church of Chicopee. By this point, the main population centers of the town had shifted to the south and east, to the factory villages of Cabotville and Chicopee Falls, but this church building remained in use here at the traditional center of the town.

The first photo shows Chicopee Street as it appeared around 1892, with the church in the center and the parsonage beyond it to the left. Around 125 years later, this scene has not changed dramatically. The trees are gone, the road has been paved, and a newer house now stands on the right side of the church, but overall this scene still looks much the same as it did at the end of the 19th century. Both the church and parsonage remain standing, and both are still owned by the First Church of Chicopee, which continues to worship here nearly 200 years after the building was completed.

Revere House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The Revere House, at the southwest corner of Main and Elliot Streets in Brattleboro, around 1860-1877. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The same location, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene around 2017:

The first photo shows the Revere House, a hotel that was built in 1849 by James Fisk, Sr. Born in Rhode Island, Fisk grew up in Adams, Massachusetts, and as an adult he moved first to Pownal and then to Bennington, Vermont. He became a successful peddler, traveling throughout western New England and eastern New York, where he sold silk dresses and other high-end dry goods. He moved to Brattleboro in 1843, and about six years later he built the Revere House. By this point, the Fisk family included James’s second wife Love, their daughter Mary, and Fisk’s son from his first marriage, James, Jr.

The Fisks moved into the Revere House after its completion, and the younger James, who was about 15 at the time, worked as a waiter here in the hotel. He later joined his father’s peddling business, before becoming a salesman for the Boston-based Jordan Marsh and Company. James, Jr. went on to make his fortune during the Civil War, obtaining contracts with the federal government to supply textiles for army uniforms, while also smuggling scare cotton from the south. With his earnings, he speculated heavily, gaining and losing significant sums in the process.

Fisk eventually became one of the most notorious of the Gilded Age “robber barons.” Using dubious tactics, he and fellow investor Jay Gould managed to gain control of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Erie Railroad, and in 1869 the two men triggered a nationwide economic panic in an unsuccessful attempt to corner the gold market. However, his career as a financier was cut short less than three years later, when he was murdered by Edward Stiles Stokes, who was a rival for the affections of Fisk’s mistress, Josie Mansfield.

Although Fisk was living in New York City at the time of his murder, his body was returned to Brattleboro for burial. An estimated 5,000 mourners – equivalent to the entire population of the town at the time – were on hand when his funeral train arrived in town at almost midnight, and his body was brought to the Revere House. The next morning, on January 9, 1872, his funeral was held here at the hotel, followed by his burial at the Prospect Hill Cemetery on South Main Street.

By this point, the Fisk family had moved out of the Revere House, and the building burned down only a few years later, in 1877, after a fire broke out in the hotel stables. The site was quickly rebuilt, though, and the current building was completed in 1880 as the home of the People’s National Bank. Unlike the plain Greek Revival-style hotel that preceded it, this building had an ornate design that was based on High Victorian Gothic architecture, and included an elaborate cornice with turrets, along with a highly contrasting exterior of red brick and white marble.

When the first photo was taken, People’s National Bank occupied the left side of the ground floor, with Brattleboro Savings Bank on the right. The upper floors housed professional offices, including the studio of noted local photographer Caleb L. Howe. People’s National Bank remained here until 1923, when they merged with Vermont National Bank, which was located directly across the street from here. After a series of mergers, the name has since come full circle, and the former Vermont National Bank building is now the location of a People’s United Bank branch.

Today, the old People’s National Bank building still stands here at the corner of Main and Elliot Streets. Its appearance has been somewhat altered over the years, most notably with the removal of the upper part of the cornice. However, it still remains a unique example of High Victorian Gothic architecture in downtown Brattleboro, and it is one of the many 19th century commercial buildings that still line Main Street. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the building is now part of the Brattleboro Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.