St. John’s Episcopal Church, Northampton, Mass

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Elm Street in Northampton, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2017:

St. John’s Episcopal Church was established in 1826, initially meeting in the town hall until their own church building was completed on Bridge Street in 1829. The congregation worshipped there for more than 60 years, but by the early 1890s they had outgrown that building and were in need of a new one. The funding for such a church was provided by George Bliss, a wealthy New York banker who had grown up in Northampton and had attended St. John’s back when services were held at the town hall.

George Bliss purchased this lot on Elm Street, adjacent to Smith College, and he paid for the construction of the church, which was designed by noted New York architect Robert W. Gibson. Like many other churches of the era, it features Romanesque  Revival architecture, with features such as a tall tower in the corner, rounded arches, and a rough-faced stone exterior. The church was completed in 1893, and Bliss attended the consecration service along with his business partner, Levi P. Morton, who had served as Vice President of the United States under Benjamin Harrison from 1889 to 1893.

More than 110 years after the first photo was taken, the church has not significantly changed. Although surrounded on all sides by the Smith College campus, it remains in use as an Episcopal church, with close ties to the college. The church appears to be missing the weathervane that was atop the tower in the first photo, but otherwise all of the other architectural details have been preserved, even down to the gargoyles that extend from the corners of the tower.

Thames and Pelham Streets, Newport, RI

The southeast corner of Thames and Pelham Streets in Newport, in 1895. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Known as the Newton Building, this Romanesque-style commercial block was built sometime between 1883 and 1893 at the corner of Pelham and Thames Streets. The first photo was taken when the building was still fairly new, but it shows the damage that it had sustained during a hailstorm. Nearly every pane of glass is broken on the upper floors of the Pelham Street side, and several people can be seen in the second-floor windows, looking at the photographer. At the time, the building’s commercial tenants included the Adams Express Company and the New York and Boston Despatch Express Company, along with Frank L. Powell’s pharmacy at the corner storefront.

More than 120 years after the first photo was taken, this building remains remarkably well-preserved, aside from minor alterations to the storefront and the addition of a fire escape on the left side. The paint does hide some of the original details, though, since Romanesque-style architecture usually featured unpainted stones of varying colors, but overall it stands as a good example of late 19th century commercial architecture. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the Newton Building is now part of the Newport Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

Park Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass (2)

The Park Congregational Church at the corner of Saint James Avenue and Clarendon Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this church was built around 1889 as Park Congregational Church, and was used by this church until they merged with South Congregational Church in 1973. That same year, they sold the building to Faith Baptist Church, but it was gutted by a fire just three weeks later. The wooden upper section of the church was destroyed, but the lower brick section survived the fire, and the church was rebuilt a few years later.

Today, the building stands vacant and deteriorated, with hardly any resemblance to its appearance in the first photo. The surviving walls have been heavily altered, but there are still a few remnants of the original design, including the steps to the side entrance, the arched windows on the left side, and a few of the windows on the right side. Despite these dramatic alterations, though, the church is a contributing property in the McKnight Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, right around the same time that the church was rebuilt.

Park Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass

The Park Congregational Church at the corner of Saint James Avenue and Clarendon Street in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The church in 2017:

The McKnight neighborhood in Springfield was developed in the late 19th century, just to the east of the Armory and a little over a mile from downtown Springfield. The large, elegant homes, landscaped streets, and easy access to trolley lines made it a desirable neighborhood for many of the city’s prominent residents, with hundreds of families moving here by the end of the 19th century. The neighborhood was almost exclusively residential, but there were also a number of new churches that were established in the neighborhood, including Park Congregational Church, which is seen here in these photos.

The church was established in 1889, and this building was completed around the same time. Its design reflected the popular Romanesque architecture of the era, and it was constructed with a variety of materials, including a stone foundation, brick lower walls, and shingled upper walls. It was situated in a prominent location at the corner of Saint James Avenue and Clarendon Street, and it was named for the Thompson Triangle, the largest park in the neighborhood, which is located directly opposite the church.

The first photo was taken soon after the building’s completion, and it shows a round turret at the northwestern corner of the building. However, this was removed by the time the second photo was taken nearly 50 years later, and the building instead had square, one-story additions on either side of the Clarendon Street entrance, on the left side of the photo. The other notable change in the second photo is the cupola, which was added to the top of the roof.

This building continued to be the home of Park Congregational Church for more than 30 years after the first photo was taken, but in 1973 the church merged with the South Congregational Church. Shortly after the merger,  this property was sold to Faith Baptist Church, which had previously been located at 76 Oak Street. However, in April 1973, just three weeks after Faith Baptist moved in, this building was gutted by a fire. The brick section of the walls survived the fire, though, and the building was subsequently reconstructed around them, with a dramatically different architectural style that included a low, mostly flat roof, and a tall, narrow tower at the Saint James Avenue entrance.

Despite its heavily modified appearance, the church building became a contributing property in the McKnight Historic District in 1976, when the neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It would remain the home of Faith Baptist Church into the early 2000s, but in 2006 the congregation merged with Christian Hill Baptist Church, which is located nearby on Bowdoin Street. This building was later sold in 2013, but it appears to have remained vacant ever since, and it is currently boarded up and in poor condition, as seen in the 2017 photo.

Pembroke Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI

Pembroke Hall on Meeting 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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Pembroke Hall was the first permanent building for Pembroke College, which had been established in 1891 as Brown University’s college for women. This building was completed in 1897, and was the college’s only building for the next ten years. As the school expanded, though, Pembroke Hall became exclusively used for academics, with a library on the top floor. In 1971, Pembroke College merged with Brown University, and the building was renovated again, to house administrative offices. A third major renovation came in 2008, when the interior was rebuilt with classrooms, conference rooms, and office space for the Cogut Center for the Humanities and for the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women. Through it all, though, the nearly 120 year old building’s exterior has remained completely unchanged, aside from the missing weathervanes atop the dormers.

Sayles Hall, Brown University, Providence, RI

Sayles Hall on the campus of Brown University, 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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Sayles Hall was built on the College Green at Brown University in 1881, and was donated by Pawtucket textile manufacturer William F. Sayles. He named it in honor of his son, William Clark Sayles, who died in 1876 during his sophomore year at Brown. The building’s Romanesque architecture was typical for institutional buildings of the era, and was designed by Providence architect Alpheus C. Morse. The front of the building features classrooms, while the much larger back portion is an assembly hall.

It is partially obscured by trees in the present-day view, but the exterior of Sayles Hall looks the same today as it did when it was completed over 130 years ago. Its assembly hall has been used over the years for everything from alumni dinners to winter baseball practices, and it remains in use today for lectures, concerts, and other events.