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.

Brewer Building, Springfield, Mass

The Brewer Building at 119-125 State Street, near the corner of Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This four-story commercial block was built in 1893, and featured a distinct Romanesque architectural style, with features such as rounded arches, sandstone trim, and a castle-like turret on the left side. It was owned by businessman and state legislator Edward S. Brewer, and it housed a variety of commercial tenants over the years, with shops on the ground floor and professional offices on the upper floors. During the early 20th century, these included an optician, watchmaker, barber, tailor, jeweler, dentist, and an insurance company.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, tenants included the Surprise Barber Shop on the left side of the ground floor, Dean’s Music House in the storefront just to the left of the arch, and A. I. Blitz Furrier on the second floor. However, just a few years later the building was badly damaged by a fire in 1945. It was not a total loss, but the two upper floors were removed, resulting in its current appearance. The facade was later covered in panels to match mid-20th century architectural trends, although these were removed in 1981 and the exterior was restored. Today, despite the loss of its upper floors, the building still has some resemblance to its 19th century appearance, and even its original outline is still visible on the walls of the neighboring Masonic Building.

George J. Brooks Library, Brattleboro, Vermont

The George J. Brooks Library on Main Street in Brattleboro, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

George Jones Brooks was born in 1818 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but when he was three years old his family relocated to Chesterfield, New Hampshire, directly across the river from Brattleboro. He grew up there, and subsequently worked at a store in Brattleboro, before heading west around the age of 20. He first settled in Hillsboro, Illinois, where he was a farmer for about 12 years. Then, in 1850, he joined the thousands of other young men who were flocking to San Francisco after the discovery of gold in California.

Unlike most of the other migrants, though, Brooks was not looking to get wealthy through gold, but rather through paper. His brother, Horace Brooks, was a wholesale paper manufacturer in New York, and he suggested that George open a business in San Francisco. Like almost every other commodity, paper was in short supply in the still-primitive boomtown, and in later years Brooks would tell of times when every scrap of paper on the west coast was located in his store. This scarcity, combined with his virtual monopoly, earned him significant profits, and by the time Brooks left the paper business in 1862 he had become a wealthy man.

Brooks eventually returned to Brattleboro, where he built the elegant Brooks House hotel, which still stands just a little south of here. Then, in 1885, he purchased the former Francis Goodhue House here on Main Street, in order to build a library on the site. The old house was soon demolished, and construction began on the first permanent home of Brattleboro’s public library, which had previously been located in the Town Hall. Upon completion, the building was presented to the town as a gift, but unfortunately Brooks did not live to see it finished; he died on December 23, 1886, just weeks before the dedication ceremony.

Like many other public buildings of the era, the George J. Brooks Library featured Romanesque Revival architecture. It was the work of Maine architect Alexander Currier, and the building was actually larger than it appears in the first photograph. As built, the front section included a ladies’ reading room on the right side, a men’s reading room on the left, and a vestibule and lobby in the center. The library itself was located in a large wing on the rear of the building, which was nearly the same size as the front section, and included the main floor plus a balcony. The basement originally housed a natural history museum, but this was later converted into a children’s library.

It did not take very long for the library to outgrow the original space, though, and in the early 20th century it was expanded with a large addition in the rear. Following this expansion, it continued to be used for many years, but by the 1960s the building was again overcrowded, and the adjacent post office wanted the property in order to build a parking lot. So, a new Brooks Memorial Library building opened just to the north of here in 1967, and the old building was demolished four years later. The parking lot is still here today, and the only surviving remnant from the first photo is the First Baptist Church on the far left, which is still standing on the other side of the Masonic Lodge.

Unitarian Church, Holyoke, Mass

The Unitarian Church at the corner of Maple and Essex Streets in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The first Unitarian church in Holyoke was established in 1857, but it only lasted for about a year, and the city’s Unitarians would not form another church for more than 15 years. Finally, in 1874, the Liberal Christian Congregational Society was established with 55 members, and the church met in several different temporary locations for the next two years. In 1875, the Holyoke Water Power Company donated this lot at the northeast corner of Maple and Essex Streets, and construction of a church building began later that year.

The building was completed in 1876, and originally consisted of just the section on the left side of the first photo, to the left of the tower. However, in 1889, the building was significantly expanded to the right, with a matching addition that more than doubled its capacity. The church remained here until about 1930, but by 1931 it was demolished to build the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company building, which still stands here on the site. Its exterior has been altered over the years, and the first floor windows and doors have been bricked up, but it remains as one of the few Art Deco-style buildings in Holyoke.

Maple Street from Essex Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north on Maple Street from the corner of Essex Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Maple Street runs parallel to High Street, which is located a block to the east. While High Street was developed as a major commercial center, Maple Street was primarily residential in the late 19th century. The first photo shows several homes on the left side, a group of brick rowhouses in the distance on the right, plus two churches closer to the foreground on the right side. Most of these buildings were fairly new when the first photo was taken, and probably none of them had been built before the 1870s. Perhaps the oldest building is the Unitarian Church on the far right, which was built in 1876, although it was significantly expanded in 1889. Further in the distance, near the center of the photo, is the Second Congregational Church, which was built in 1885 after the congregation moved out of its old building at the corner of High and Dwight Streets.

Today, the Second Congregational Church, now the United Congregational Church of Holyoke, is the only noticeable building still standing from the first photo, although most of it had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1919. All of the other 19th century buildings are gone, and today this block includes the 1930 Elks building on the left, the 1936 War Memorial beyond it, and the 1931 New England Telegraph and Telephone Company building on the right, which stands on the site of the Unitarian Church. Further in the distance is a group of early 20th century apartment buildings, and in between is a single 19th century rowhouse, which is barely visible to the left of the church tower. Built around 1880, it is the sole survivor of the long block of rowhouses that can be seen in the first photo, and it is now surrounded on both sides by parking lots.

Mount Tom Hose Company, Holyoke, Mass

The Mount Tom Hose Company building on Canal Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The Mount Tom Hose Company was established in 1851 as the first volunteer fire department in Holyoke. At the time, Holyoke was just beginning to be developed as a major industrial center, and the new fire department would protect both the rapidly-growing population as well as the many factories that were being built along the city’s canal system. The current Romanesque Revival-style building was completed in 1887 here on Canal Street, in a centrally-located area right next to the railroad station, which can be seen just beyond it to the left in both photos. The Mount Tom Hose Company later became Fire Station Number 4, and, although no longer in use as a fire station today, the building still retains its original exterior appearance from the first photo.

Just to the right of the fire station is an earlier brick, Second Empire-style building. Dating back to the early 1870s, this building housed the offices for the Holyoke Water Power Company, which operated the city’s canals and provided electricity for factories and for municipal use. Originally, the building was only one story, but it was expanded in the late 1870s or early 1880s, with the addition of a second floor and a mansard roof above it. Although not noticeable from this angle, the building has had more additions since the first photo was taken, and it remained in use by the Holyoke Water Power Company until 2001, when the company was acquired by the publicly-owned Holyoke Gas & Electric.