Andrew McQuade House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 17 George Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2016:

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This house is probably the oldest on George Street, and dates back to at least 1870, when Andrew McQuade and his family were living here. He and his wife Ellen were both Irish immigrants who came to the United States as teenagers in the early 1850s. They were married in 1860, and by 1870 they were living here with their five children. Andrew’s occupation was listed as a teamster, and in the 1870 census his house was valued at $5000.

The house remained in the McQuade family for many years afterward. Andrew was still living here as late as 1910, when his occupation was listed as “Truckman,” reflecting the changing role of teamsters with the development of trucks. He died sometime before 1920, but Ellen remained here until at least 1930, by which point she was 88 years old. The most recent published census is 1940, which was done just a year or two after the first photo was taken. By then, Andrew and Ellen’s daughter Mary was living here, along with a lodger who was renting a room. She also rented another section of the house to a couple who paid $30 per month in rent.

In all, this house remained in the McQuade family for no less than 70 years, and was a single-family home for most of that time. However, it now consists of two separate housing units, and the exterior of the house has seen some changes. The most notable difference is that old porch is gone, replaced by two smaller ones. Along with this, there are several missing or altered windows, and the front gable now has an open pediment. Otherwise, though, the house still looks much the same as it was when the McQuade family moved in around 150 years ago.

Front Green, Brown University, Providence, RI

The Front Green at Brown University, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The Front Green in 2016:

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The Front Green is on the east side of Prospect Street, and is just west of the College Green, with the buildings on the right side dividing these two open spaces. These three buildings are among the oldest on the Brown campus, and were mentioned in the earlier post on the College Green. The two most prominent in this scene are University Hall, in the right center of the scene. Built in 1770, it was the school’s first building after moving to the current Providence campus. Just beyond it, in the center of the photo, is Manning Hall, which was built in 1834 as a library and chapel.

In the past 110 years, essentially nothing has changed in this scene. All of the buildings on the right are still there, as are several campus structures in the distance, which are barely visible on the left side of the photos. In the lower left of the scene is Robinson Hall, which was built in 1878 at the corner of Prospect and Waterman Streets opposite the Front Green. Just to the left of it, on the Front Green itself, is the Carrie Tower. This 95-foot tower is the newest addition to the scene, and was built in 1904 in honor of Caroline Mathilde Brown, who was the granddaughter of Nicholas Brown, the man for whom the college was named.

Providence Athenaeum, Providence, RI

The Providence Athenaeum on Benefit Street in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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Today, public libraries can be found in virtually every town in New England as well as throughout the rest of the country, but they were virtually unheard of prior to the second half of the 19th century. Even here in Providence, the first public library did not open until 1878. Before this, many cities had private libraries, which were funded through membership dues. In Providence, two such libraries were the Providence Library Company and the Providence Athenaeum, which merged in 1836 to form the present-day Athenaeum. Two years later, the library opened their current building here on Benefit Street near the corner of College Street, just down the hill from Brown University.

One of the most notable incidents in the history of this building came within ten years after it opened. In 1848, Edgar Allan Poe was courting Sarah Helen Whitman, a Providence poet who, at 45 years old, was six years Poe’s senior. He proposed to her in a Providence cemetery (naturally, for Poe), and she eventually accepted, provided that he sobered up. During their engagement, they frequently visited the Athenaeum together. During one such visit on December 23, 1848, two days before their planned wedding, Whitman received a note saying that Poe had been drinking the night before and that morning. Here in the library, she called off the wedding, and soon after Poe returned to Richmond, never to see Whitman again. He was dead less than a year later in bizarre circumstances, a few days after being found delirious and wandering the streets of Baltimore.

Nearly a century after Poe’s visits, the Athenaeum was frequented by another prominent horror fiction writer, Providence native H.P. Lovecraft. Largely influenced by Poe’s writings, Lovecraft was well aware of the Poe connection to the building, writing in one letter to author Frank Belknap Long:

Providence, which spurn’d Eddie living, now reveres him dead, and treasures every memory connected with him. The hotel where he stopt, the churchyard where he wander’d, the house and garden where he courted his inamorata, the Athenaeum where he us’d to dream and ramble thro’ the corridors—all are still with us, and as by a miracle absolutely unchang’d even to the least detail.

Lovecraft lived here on College Hill, just a short walk from both the John Hay Library and the Athenaeum, and he often visited both. Aside from mentioning it in his letters, he also included it in several of his works, alongside other Providence landmarks.

As for the Athenaeum building itself, it is still in use by the library more than 175 years after it opened. It has seen several additions, though, to house the library’s growing collections. The first came in 1914, and was located at the southeast corner of the building, on the back and to the right when seen from this angle. The second addition, visible on the right side of the 2016 photo, opened in 1979 with an architectural design that, like the 1914 addition, matched the original 1838 design of the building. Today, it is one of the many historic buildings still standing in the College Hill neighborhood, and it forms part of the College Hill Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Westminster Arcade, Providence, RI

The south side of the Westminster Arcade on Weybosset Street in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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The exterior of this imposing granite Greek Revival building bears no resemblance to its modern descendants, but the Westminster Arcade is believed to have been the nation’s first indoor shopping mall. Completed in 1828, it is just 74 feet wide but spans the entire length of the block between Weybosset and Westminster Streets. On the inside, three floors of shops run the length of the building on either side, with a large central area in between them, topped with skylights. In this sense, the interior is strikingly similar to the modern shopping mall, as seen in this 1958 view from the Historic American Buildings Survey:

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Over the years, the Arcade has been renovated several times, but has retained its commercial role for nearly 200 years. It survived demolition in 1944, and was restored in 1980, a few years after being named a National Historic Landmark. However, by this point downtown commercial centers across the country were struggling with competition from suburban malls and shopping centers, and the Arcade was no exception. It experienced high tenant turnover, and the upper floors were particularly difficult to attract businesses.

The Arcade finally closed in 2008, but another renovation was soon in the works. The building reopened five years later, with a new mixed-use design that featured shops on the first floor and micro apartments on the two upper floors. These apartments, most of which range from 225 to 300 square feet, are particularly useful for students and recent graduates of the many colleges and universities in Providence. Despite the many renovations over the years, though, essentially nothing has changed with the columned facades on either end of the building, and even the interior has, despite changing storefronts into apartments, maintained its original 19th century appearance.

Westminster Street from Eddy Street, Providence, RI

Looking west on Westminster Street from Eddy Street in 1865. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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Westminster Street in 2016:

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Taken over 150 years apart, these two views both show Westminster Street as a busy commercial center in downtown Providence. The camera’s exposure time for the first photo was too long to capture the pedestrians and vehicles passing by, but their blurred streaks give the impression of a bustling, fast-paced scene. Today, the scene is crowded with vehicles of a different kind, and almost nothing is left from the first photo. Most of the buildings here today date back to the 19th century, but they were built a decade or two after the first photo was taken. Because of this, the 1865 photo gives a glimpse of the street as it appeared before it was completely altered by developments of the 1870s and 1880s.

The first photo was taken the same year that the Civil War ended, and in the postwar years Providence experienced a dramatic population increase. For most of the 19th century, the city’s population had been doubling roughly every 20 years. This trend continued after the war, with the city growing from just over 50,000 in 1860 to over 100,000 in 1880, and then to over 200,000 by the first decade of the 20th century. In the process, street scenes like the one here on Westminster Street were changed, with the plain early 19th century buildings giving way to larger, more elegant ones of the Victorian era.

The most prominent building in the first photo is the First Universalist Church, on the right side at the corner of Union Street. It was built in 1825, designed by Providence architect John Holden Greene to replace the previous church on the same site, which had burned down earlier in the year. The congregation was still meeting here 40 years later when the first photo was taken, but in 1872 they moved to their current building on Washington Street. Soon after, the old church was demolished and replaced with one of the commercial blocks on the right side of the 2016 photo.

Today, none of the commercial buildings from the first photo survive. The oldest one is the red brick building at 239 Westminster Street, visible in the upper right center of the photo. Although it was altered later in the 19th century, the oldest part of the building dates to 1866. On the other side of the street, visible directly behind the lamppost, is the Burgess Building. Completed in 1870, this is the oldest one in the present-day scene that remains relatively unaltered. None of these are old enough to have appeared in the first photo, though. The only building of any kind that is still standing from the 1865 scene is Grace Church, visible a few blocks away on the right side of the street. This Gothic Revival church was designed prominent architect Richard Upjohn and completed in 1846, and although it is mostly blocked from view in the present-day scene, the top of its spire can still be seen in the distance.

College Green, Brown University, Providence, RI

The College Green at Brown University, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Brown University is one of the oldest colleges in the United States, and one of the nine that date back to the colonial era. It was established in 1764 as Rhode Island College (or, in its original charter, the slightly wordier name of “the College or University in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England, in America”). Originally, it was located in the town of Warren, but in 1770 the school moved to its current campus in Providence.

The first building at the new campus is the one in the center of the photo. Known today as University Hall, it opened in 1770, and has served a variety of roles over the years. During the American Revolution, it even housed soldiers prior to the departure for Yorktown near the end of the war. Today, it is used for administrative offices, including the offices of Brown’s president.

On the right side of the photo is the Greek Revival-style Manning Hall, which is another one of the older buildings on the campus. It was completed in 1834 as a library and chapel, and over the years its uses expanded to include a museum, studio, and lecture space. Today, it includes the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology as well as the Manning Chapel.

The newest building in this scene is Slater Hall, on the far left. It was built in 1879, making it more than a century newer than its colonial neighbor. It is named for its benefactor, Horatio Nelson Slater, and was designed as a dormitory by the Providence architectural firm of Stone & Carpenter. Today, it remains in use as a dormitory, and like the other two buildings in this scene, very little has changed in its exterior appearance.