Trinity Church, Boston (1)

Trinity Church at Copley Square in Boston, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Copley Square in 2015:


Trinity Church has been the defining feature at Copley Square since it was completed in 1877, and over the years it has remained the one constant in this scene.  It was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, and its architecture helped to spark the Richardsonian Romanesque style that was popular in the late 1800s, especially in the Northeast. The congregation itself is much older than the church building, though; the Episcopalian parish was established in 1733, and for many years it was located on Summer Street.  However, the Great Boston Fire of 1872 destroyed the building, along with the homes of many of the church members.  Many began relocating to the newly-developed Back Bay, so Trinity Church, along with many other city churches, moved as well.

Today, the church still stands essentially unaltered from its original appearance, even as the city has grown up around it.  Behind the church is the old John Hancock Building, now known as the Berkeley Building.  It was completed in 1947, and in 1976 its much taller successor, the current John Hancock Tower, was completed just to the right of the church.  The base of the tower is less than 100 feet from the church, and its construction actually caused substantial damage to the church by disrupting the soil and groundwater levels.  The tower later had other design faults, including problems with the 4′ x 11′ glass windows detaching from the building and falling to the streets below; the problem was eventually resolved by replacing all 10,344 windows, and thankfully there were no injuries from falling glass.

County Jail, Lowell, Mass

The Middlesex County Jail on Thorndike Street in Lowell, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

It’s hard to find too many buildings with a more unusual combination of uses, but this building has seen it all over the past 159 years.  Opened as a jail in 1856, it could house just over 100 inmates, most of whom were serving relatively short sentences for minor crimes.  Architecturally, it is an early example of Romanesque Revival, a style that was popularized several decades later by Henry Hobson Richardson, and can be seen in many public buildings of the late 19th century.  The building was in use as a jail until 1919, when dwindling numbers of inmates meant the county couldn’t justify keeping it open.

Concerned that they might once again need it, Middlesex County held off on selling it until 1926, when the Catholic Church purchased it and converted it into a prep school, Keith Academy.  Since the interior layout of a jail is generally not effective for schools, the entire building was gutted in the conversion to Keith Academy, leaving the exterior mostly untouched but completely changing everything else.  The school closed in 1970, and the building later underwent another conversion, to condominiums.  Today, it houses 56 condominium units, and although the jail turned school turned housing complex has gone through a lit of changes in over a century and a half, from the outside it doesn’t look much different from when the first inmates arrived in 1856.

Old City Hall, Springfield, Mass

Springfield’s old City Hall, sometime before 1905. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The view in 2014:


Although settled in 1636, Springfield wasn’t incorporated as a city until 1852. Four years later, the first city hall was built here, on the north side of Court Square. It was dedicated with much fanfare on January 1, 1856, and stood here for nearly 50 years. During this time, the city offices were housed on the first floor, with the police department in the basement and a 2,300-seat auditorium on the upper floor. The auditorium was used for a variety of events, including one that resulted in the destruction of the building. On January 6, 1905, a fire started in the auditorium, allegedly caused when a monkey overturned a kerosene lantern. Regardless of the cause, though, the building was a total loss, and eight years later the present-day Springfield Municipal Group was dedicated, with new City Hall, Symphony Hall, and campanile tower in between.

Hampshire County Courthouse, Northampton

The Hampshire County Courthouse in Northampton, Mass., around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same building in 2014:


The Hampshire County Courthouse hasn’t changed much since 1904, nor has it changed much since it was completed in 1886.  It bears strong resemblance to the Hampden County Courthouse that was built about 12 years earlier, and unlike that building, this one retains its top floor and its dormers adjacent to the tower.  Around the time that the earlier photo was taken, the Clerk of Courts was a local attorney and former City Council member named Calvin Coolidge, who would eventually go on to work a much more notable job in a much larger and more prominent building.   One difference between 1904 and now, although not visible in the photo, is a statue of said former Clerk of Courts, now on the grounds of the courthouse.

Albany City Hall, Albany, NY

City Hall in Albany, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


City Hall in 2009:


Albany’s current City Hall was built in 1883 to replace an earlier building that burned in a fire.  It was designed by noted architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and not much has changed about its appearance in the past 100 years, other than the addition of the clock face on the tower.

Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).


The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2014:


The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.

Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2014 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.