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 2015:

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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.

Custom House, Boston

Boston’s Custom House, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2014:

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Although no longer used as a US Customs office, the Custom House still looks much the same as it did when it was completed in 1849, aside from the addition of a 32-story skyscraper on top of it.  When it was built, it was on the waterfront, roughly level with Quincy Market, which was also located along the water.  It was a convenient location, as it facilitated the inspection of ship cargoes.  Today it is several blocks away from Long Wharf, but it continued to be used by Customs for many years.

By the time the first photo was taken, the increase in shipping to Boston necessitated expanding the Custom House, which led to the construction of the Custom House Tower in 1915. At the time, Boston  restricted the height of buildings to 125 feet, but as a federal building it was exempt from these restrictions.  As a result, it was the tallest building in Boston until the completion of the Prudential Tower in 1964.  US Customs left the building in 1986, and it is now a Mariott hotel.

Quincy Market, Boston (3)

Quincy Market, facing west toward Faneuil Hall, sometime in the 1800s.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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Another view of Quincy Market, showing the difference between the business-oriented market in the 1800s, and the tourist-oriented scene today.  In this particular 2014 view, it was taken during the Urban Raid, a 5k race and obstacle course that went through the City Hall area of Boston.

Quincy Market, Boston (2)

Another Quincy Market scene, facing west, looking toward Faneuil Hall, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2014:

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Another view of Quincy Market, with the 1904 photo showing the various food vendors outside the building.  Today, the market is oriented toward tourists instead of Boston residents, although the exterior of the building is largely the same.  The South Market building, on the extreme left-hand side of the photos, is also there, as is the corresponding North Market building on the opposite side of Quincy Market.

Quincy Market, Boston (1)

The view of Quincy Market looking east from in front of Faneuil Hall, sometime in the 1800s.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same view of Quincy Market in 2014:

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Built in 1825, Quincy Market has been a major commercial center for nearly 200 years.  However, its role and the surrounding neighborhood have certainly changed.  Originally, as seen in the first photo, it was a place for Bostonians to buy and sell food products, ranging from fruits and vegetables to cheese and meat.  It was also built right along the waterfront; today it is several blocks from Boston Harbor.  But, the building hasn’t moved – the waterfront has.  Over the years, Boston has significantly expanded its land area, both through annexing surrounding towns but also through landfill, which included dumping dirt, rocks, construction debris, and even old ships into the harbor and building atop it.

Because of that, Quincy Market is no longer has a waterfront location, but it is still a commercial center, although today it consists of fast food vendors that primarily cater to tourists and workers from nearby City Hall.  The Quincy Market area also offers shopping, gift stores, and in this particular scene, photos with Spider-Man.  It is also located along the Freedom Trail, which is marked by the brick path in the foreground.

Old First Church, Springfield

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