State House, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The Connecticut State House on the New Haven Green, viewed from the southwest around 1875. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Connecticut at one time had two capital cities, with legislative sessions alternating between Hartford and New Haven. Each city had its own capitol building, and over the years New Haven had several different ones that were all located on the Green. The last of these, which is shown in the first photo, was completed in 1831. It featured a Greek Revival design, with columned porticoes on both the north and south ends of the building, and it was the work of Ithiel Town, a noted architect who was also responsible for the nearby Center Church and Trinity Church.

The dual capital arrangement lasted until the 1870s, when it became clear that the state no longer needed two capital cities that were just 35 miles apart. Both Hartford and New Haven wanted to become the sole capital, but the decision was left to the voters of Connecticut, who chose Hartford in a statewide referendum. The New Haven State House was used for the last time in 1874, and starting the following year the legislature met exclusively in Hartford’s Old State House. A new state house, located in Bushnell Park in Hartford, was completed in 1878, and it has remained in use ever since.

In the meantime, the now-vacant state house here in New Haven was the subject of several redevelopment plans, including preserving the it and turning it into a library. However, the fate of the building polarized many New Haven residents, with some admiring it for its architectural and historical significance, while others saw it as a daily reminder of the city’s defeat in the race for the state capital. Notwithstanding an 1887 referendum, in which city voters appropriated $30,000 to restore the building, the city council chose to demolish it two years later instead. This portion of the Green has remained undeveloped ever since, and today the only surviving remnant from the first photo is the iron fence in the foreground.

State House, New Haven, Connecticut

The Connecticut State House on the New Haven Green, seen from the south side of the building, sometime around the 1870s or 1880s. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1895).

The scene in 2018:

During the early colonial period, the modern-day state of Connecticut actually contained two separate colonies. In the northern part of the state was Connecticut Colony, which was centered around Hartford on the Connecticut River. To the south, along the shores of Long Island Sound, was New Haven Colony, which was centered around its namesake town. These two colonies were ultimately merged in 1664, but the divide between Hartford and New Haven persisted for many years. In 1701, the two towns were designated as co-capitals of the Connecticut Colony, and legislative sessions altered between them, with the May session being held in Hartford each year, and the October session here in New Haven.

Two capital cities also meant two capitol buildings, and New Haven had a series of different state houses that were all located here on the New Haven Green. The last of these, which is seen in the first photo, was completed in 1831, replacing an earlier brick state house that had been in use since 1763. Its design was the work of Ithiel Town, a prominent Connecticut architect whose earlier New Haven works had included Trinity Church and Center Church, both of which are still standing nearby on the Green. Together, these three buildings demonstrated Town’s wide range of abilities, between the Federal-style Center Church, the Gothic-style Trinity Church, and the Greek Revival-style State House.

Town’s imposing design for the State House gave the building the exterior appearance of an Ancient Greek temple. It was built of stone, and had porticoes on both the north and south sides of the building, with classically-inspired columns, entablatures, and pediments. On the interior, the building included space for both the state and county governments. The basement and the first floor housed county offices, along with the county courtroom, a jury room, and various committee rooms. The upper floor had the two legislative chambers, with the House of Representatives at one end of the building and the Senate at the other, and there was also a room for the secretary and two rooms for the governor.

Following its completion in 1831, New Haven’s State House served, along with the older Hartford State House, as one of the state’s seats of government for more than 40 years. However, by the 1860s it was clear that maintaining two separate capitol buildings was both expensive and redundant. Railroads had significantly shortened the travel time between the two cities, which are a mere 35 miles apart, and the practice of having two capital cities apparently had more to do with each city’s sense of prestige than with any major convenience. Both cities lobbied hard to become the sole capital, and even Meriden threw its hat into the ring as a sort of compromise candidate. In the end, though, the question was settled by the voters of Connecticut, who chose Hartford as the capital, perhaps in part because of that city’s promise to contribute land and $500,000 toward the construction of a new State House.

The final legislative session at the New Haven State House was held here in 1874, and the following year Hartford took over as the state’s only capital. The new State House was completed in 1878, and still stands in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. In the meantime, the old 1797 State House was used as Hartford City Hall for many years, and it has since been preserved as a museum. However, here in New Haven the public sentiment was strongly divided over the fate of the city’s former State House. Having been vacated by both the state government and the county courts, the building was in need of a new use, and many argued in favor of preserving it and converting it into a public library. Perhaps with this proposal in mind, city voters approved an 1887 referendum to spend $30,000 on repairs to the building. However, the city council overruled this decision, and determined to demolish the iconic structure instead.

Even in the 1880s, long before the modern historic preservation movement gained widespread appeal, this was a highly controversial decision, with many praising the building’s architecture and its symbolic significance to the city of New Haven. Among the outside voices calling for its preservation was the Boston Advertiser, which published an editorial to that effect in 1889. In it, the newspaper argued:

That old State House is a priceless memento of a glorious past. It is a perpetual reminder that New Haven was originally an independent colony, and that, for nearly two centuries and a half it shared with Hartford the honor of being a state capital. Within those walls were uttered words whose echoes reached the continent and beyond the sea. Its style of architecture suggests the classic learning which, from the beginning, has been more faithfully taught in that locality than anywhere else in the world. . . . To tear down that building would be to obliterate one of the chief milestones on the path of time.

Not everyone in New Haven saw the State House in such a light, though. Apparently still embittered at losing the capital contest to Hartford some 15 years earlier, the New Haven Register responded to the Advertiser with an editorial of its own, arguing:

It will be news to most New Haveners to be told that the State House is a “priceless memento of the glorious past.” It is not, nor has it ever been priceless. It is a memento of New Haven’s folly in allowing Hartford to gobble up the capital. It is a perpetual reminder that New Haven in the past has shown a deplorable lack of public spirit in important crises. It is not a “chief milestone on the path of time.” Rather it is an encumbrance, a public nuisance, a bone of contention, an eyesore, a laughing stock, a hideous pile of brick and mortar, a blot on the fair surface of the Green. The Boston paper doesn’t know what it is talking about.

Both of these excerpts are quoted from The New Haven State House, a book that was published in 1889 shortly after the building was demolished. Interspersed within this history of the building were a number of advertisements, several of which attempted to use the demolition as a marketing strategy. One such ad declared “Two Great Mistakes! The greatest mistake ever made by New Haven people is shown by the destruction of the State House. The Second Mistake is in supposing that B. Booth has only second hand and auction goods at 388, 390 and 392 State St.” Another simply stated “The State House Gone. The City Market Remains,” and a third was for a photographic studio that promised “the Best Views of the Old State House that were made.”

Following the demolition of the State House, the area was cleared and reverted to open park land, as part of the New Haven Green. However, this western portion of the Green, known as the Upper Green, was also the city’s colonial-era burial ground, where an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people were buried. The headstones have long since been removed – aside from a small portion of the graveyard that is located in the basement of Center Church – but the remains themselves are still interred here under the Green. Today, though, there is little here to suggest the presence of a burial ground, or the former presence of a state capitol building. However, the New Haven Green is not without historic buildings, as three early 19th century churches still stand on the far right side of this scene, including the two designed by Ithiel Town.

Old Town Hall, Enfield, Connecticut

The old town hall on Enfield Street in Enfield, around 1896. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1896).

The scene in 2018:

This building was completed in 1775 as the third meeting house of the Enfield Congregational Church. It was originally located on the opposite side of the street from here, and was built with a steeple, but without the Greek Revival-style portico that was later added to the front of the building. It was used by the church for more than 70 years, but by 1848 it had become too small. A new church building, which still stands across the street, was completed the following year, and the old church was preserved and moved to its current location, thanks to funding provided by local carpet manufacturer Orrin Thompson.

Following the move, the building became Enfield’s town hall. Reflecting architectural tastes of the mid-19th century, the building was renovated to include a portico at the front entrance, and the original steeple was presumably removed during the same time. The interior was also renovated, including converting the balcony into a second floor. The building was used as a town hall for much of the 19th century, until a new town hall opened in 1892.

The first photo was taken a few years later, around 1896. Following its use as the town hall, the building deteriorated for many years, but was restored in the 1920s and used as a community center for many years. However, by the 1960s it had again fallen into disrepair, and was in serious danger of demolition. It was ultimately restored again in the 1970s, by the Enfield Historical Society, and in 1981 it was opened as the Old Town Hall Museum. Today, the building still serves as a museum, along with being the headquarters of the Historical Society. It is one of the oldest surviving public buildings in the area, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Perry Mill, Newport, Rhode Island (2)

The Perry Mill, looking north along Thames Street from the corner of Fair Street in Newport, around 1902. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

As discussed in the previous post, the Perry Mill was built in 1835, on Thames Street in the southern part of downtown Newport. It was originally a textile mill, and was one of several such mills built during this period, in an effort to revive the city’s struggling economy. Newport’s shipping business had fallen on hard times since the American Revolution, and the Perry Mill was an attempt to compete with New England’s rapidly-growing industrial cities. However, Newport’s location on an island in the middle of Narragansett Bay proved a barrier to railroad transportation, and its fledgling manufacturing base never achieved the prominence of nearby mainland cities such as Providence and Fall River.

Despite this, Newport’s economy did ultimately recover, largely through becoming a Gilded Age summer resort community. By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, some of the wealthiest families in the country had summer homes here in Newport, although most of these were to the south of the downtown area. This section of Thames Street remained decidedly working-class, as shown by the businesses here, which included a coal dealer on the left, a flour and grain dealer on the ground floor of the Perry Mill, and a grocer in the building just beyond the mill.

Today, much of this scene has changed, particularly the buildings just beyond the Perry Mill, which were demolished in the mid-20th century to build America’s Cup Avenue. The mill building itself also underwent some changes, with the removal of the gabled roof and fourth floor. For many years, the property was owned by General Electric, but it was subsequently converted into retail use, and the upper part of the building was reconstructed. The brick section on the left side is also a 20th century addition, but otherwise the only noticeable sign of change is the slightly different shade of stone between the three lower floors and the fourth floor.

Perry Mill, Newport, Rhode Island

The Perry Mill, seen from the corner of Thames and Cannon Streets in Newport, around 1914-1916. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo was taken sometime in the mid-1910s, during the construction of the present-day Newport Post Office. It shows a group of commercial buildings, most of which were probably built around the mid-19th century, and the signs advertise for a variety of businesses, including B. Richards Gents Furnishings in the building to the left, and a fish market and Lee Yun Laundry in the buildings to the right. There also appears to be a barber shop in the storefront just to the left of the fish market, as indicated by the striped poles on the exterior.

However, the most prominent building in the first photo is the Perry Mill, which stands diagonally across the intersection in the center of both photos. It was built in 1835 as a textile mill, at a time when Newport had been experiencing several decades of economic stagnation. The city’s once-prosperous shipping industry had been badly hurt by the American Revolution, and never fully recovered. By the early 19th century, much of New England’s economy had shifted from trade to industry, and inland manufacturing centers had begun to eclipse colonial-era seaports such as Portsmouth, Salem, and Newport.

Architecturally, the Perry Mill was very different from most other New England mills of this period. Instead of a brick exterior, it was built of stone, and featured details such as lintels over the windows, quoins on the corners, and a fanlight just underneath the gable. It was the work of Scottish-born stonemason Alexander MacGregor, and was one of the few major building projects in Newport during this period. However, despite hopes that the mill would revive the city’s economy, Newport never became a major industrial center. Its location on an island, which had benefitted its merchant fleets, proved a liability in the age of railroads, and Newport would not see widespread prosperity until the second half of the 19th century, when the city reinvented itself into one of the country’s most exclusive summer resort communities.

The mill was still standing in its original appearance when the first photo was taken, but at some point in the 20th century it was heavily altered with the removal of the gabled roof and fourth floor. From 1943 to 1984, the building was owned by General Electric, but it was subsequently converted into retail space, and now houses shops and restaurants. As part of this renovation, the upper part of the building was reconstructed, and the only noticeable evidence of this change is the slightly lighter-colored stone above the third floor.

Today, the Perry Mill stands alone in this scene, with none of the other buildings surviving from the first photo. The post office, which was barely under construction when the first photo was taken, is still there, but the rest of the area has dramatically changed. In the mid-20th century, the four-lane America’s Cup Avenue was built along the waterfront of Newport, running along the west side of Thames Street for part of its route. This meant that many Thames Street buildings had to be demolished, including the ones on the right side of the first photo. However, just before reaching the Perry Mill, America’s Cup Avenue makes a sharp left turn, becoming Memorial Boulevard West. This was constructed around the same time, and involved demolishing all of the buildings on the south side of Cannon Street, including the one on the left side of the photo. As a result, the Perry Mill was spared by these projects, and it remains a prominent landmark along Newport’s waterfront.

Hadley Company Mills, Holyoke, Mass (2)

The Hadley Company Mills, seen from the Route 116 bridge over the Third Level Canal in Holyoke, in 1936. Image taken by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U. S. National Archives.

The scene in 2017:

As mentioned in the previous post, this mill complex was built starting in the late 1840s, and was originally owned by the Hadley Falls Company, which was responsible for developing Holyoke into a major industrial center. The company built the dam on the Connecticut River, along with the extensive canal system that powered the factories, including the Third Level Canal, which is seen here. In addition, the Hadley Falls Company built a large group of worker tenement houses, directly across the canal from this factory.

The canal system, along with many of the buildings that the Hadley Falls Company constructed, are still standing today. However, despite its profound influence in the history of Holyoke, the company proved to be very short-lived. The Panic of 1857, and the subsequent economic recession, hit the company hard, and in 1859 its assets were sold at auction. The company was literally sold for pennies on the dollar, with shareholders receiving just $1.32 for each $100 share, and its property was acquired by the Holyoke Water Power Company.

By 1863, this mill complex was used by the Hadley Company, a thread manufacturer that produced a variety of threads, yarns, and twine. It is hard to tell when each section of the facility was built, but the part in the left side – with the gabled roof and dormer windows – appears to have been the oldest section. The section on the right side does not appear in an 1853 map of Holyoke, but it was added by 1870. However, the top two floors have a different shade of bricks, suggesting that they may have been added at a later date.

The Hadley Company continued to produce thread here in this facility until 1898, when it was one of many thread manufacturers that were consolidated into the American Thread Company. It continued to be run as a division of American Thread for the next 30 years, but it closed in 1928, with about a thousand workers losing their jobs on the eve of the Great Depression. The first photo was taken only about eight years later, by prominent photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine. He documented life across the country during the Great Depression, including a visit to Holyoke, where he photographed a number of mills and their employees.

By the mid-20th century, the former Hadley Company mills were the home of Graham Manufacturing Company, which was later acquired by Johnson & Johnson. Today, the mill buildings on the property have several different owners, but the main building here on the canal has not seen many changes in more than 80 years since the first photo was taken. Overall, the only significant alterations to the exterior have been the loss of the cupola and the addition of what appears to be an elevator shaft, just to the left of the fire escape on the right side.