Court Square, Springfield (6)

Springfield’s Court Square, sometime in the 1880s or earlier. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in the 1890s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The scene in 2014:119_2014

The three photos show the progression of the appearance of Court Square in the past 125+ years. In the first photo, the buildings along Elm Street are all 1830’s-era three story commercial buildings, most of which were replaced by the Court Square Theater in 1892, which can be seen in the second photo, a rare view of the building before the 1900 expansion on the right side. That is essentially the only change between the second photo and today’s scene – not much has changed with the four major buildings in this angle. One notable survivor on the far left is the Byers Block, which was built in 1835 and is the last remaining part of the Elm Street commercial blocks from the first photo. Wedged in between two much larger late 19th century building, it is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, although not the oldest building in the photo – Old First Church on the far right dates to 1819.

Trinity Church, Boston

Trinity Church in Boston, in 1920. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The church in 2013:

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Located at Copley Square in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, Trinity Church was built between 1872 and 1877, to replace the parish’s previous church, which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872.  The church was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and is generally regarded as his magnum opus.

The surrounding of the church have changed, even though the building itself has remained essentially the same.  Originally, Huntington Avenue (foreground in the 1920 photo) cut diagonally in front of the church; this was changed in 1966, and the former roadway is now part of a park in front of the church.  Behind the church is the Berkeley Building, also known as the Old John Hancock Building, and not to be confused with the John Hancock Tower, which is located immediately to the right of Trinity Church, just out of the picture.

Court Square, Springfield (5)

Court Square in Springfield, sometime in the 1860s or early 1870s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The same scene in 2013:

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Court Square has been the center of activity in Springfield since its founding.  The first meeting house was built just to the left in the foreground, and all of the subsequent churches have been built on Court Square.  The square was established as a park in 1821, two years after Old First Church was built.

The building on the right-hand side of the photo is the old Hampden County Courthouse, which was built in 1821 and used as a courthouse until the 1874 courthouse was built just to the left of Old First Church. The 1874 structure is still in use as the juvenile and housing court, but the preesent-day courthouse is visible beyond and to the right of the church in the 2013 photo.  The old 1821 courthouse was later used as an Odd Fellows hall, and was demolished at some point in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. The small building in between was the church’s chapel, which was replaced by the present-day brick structure in 1874.

Church of the Unity, Springfield

The Church of the Unity in Springfield, sometime in the 1870’s or 1880’s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The location of the church in 2012:

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The Church of the Unity was a building of architectural significance – it was the first commission of noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and was built between 1866 and 1869.  However, it was demoished in 1961 and replaced with a parking lot for the main branch of the Springfield Public Library.

Park Street Church, Boston (2)

Park Street Church with Old Granary Burying Ground, sometime in the 1860s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2011:

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As mentioned in this post, which shows the view of the church from the opposite side, Park Street Church was once the tallest building in the United States, from its construction in 1810 until 1846.  It remained the tallest building in Boston until around the time that the first photo was taken.  The tallest building in Boston is also visible in the 2011 photo – the John Hancock tower, which was built over 100 years after the first photo was taken.

The church itself hasn’t changed much, and neither has the Old Granary Burying Ground next to it.  The cemetery was opened in 1660, and many notable figures from the Revolutionary War period are buried there, including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Robert Treat Paine, and the victims of the Boston Massacre.

Old South Meeting House, Boston

The view looking north on Washington Street toward Old South Meeting House, sometime shortly before the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The same view, in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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Around 1875. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same scene in 2011:

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The Great Boston Fire of 1872 was the most disastrous fire in Boston history.  It came just a year after the Great Chicago Fire, although Boston’s fire couldn’t hold a candle to Chicago’s (pun intended) when it came to the death toll and property losses.  Boston’s fire killed about 30, destroyed 776 buildings, and caused about $73.5 million in damages (about $1.4 billion in 2013 dollars).  Chicago, by comparison, killed 200-330, destroyed 17,500 buildings, and caused about $222 million in damage (around $4.2 billion today).

Still, Boston’s fire was extensive in its damage – it destroyed much of downtown Boston, including sections of Washington Street as seen in the first two photos.  However, the historic Old South Meeting House, built in 1729, survived thanks to volunteers using wet blankets to fend off the flames.

By the time the 1875 photo was taken, Boston was rebuilding, but so was Old South Church.  Because the fire destroyed so many homes, people began relocating to the newly filled in Back Bay, and the church followed them, constructing the oxymoronically-named New Old South Church at Copley Square.  No longer needed, the historic building was sold and was to be demolished.  However, given the building’s role in the events leading up the the Revolutionary War, Bostonians rallied to preserve it, making it one of the first such buildings to be preserved for its historical significance.

In the last two photos, most of the buildings in the foreground remain the same, although the skyline in the background has changed.  The building immediately to the right of the church is actually the same in the last three photos, and it looks similar to the burned-out building that occupied the spot before the fire.  I don’t know whether it is the same facade, or if it was just rebuilt with a similar style, but at the very least the existing building dates to the immediate aftermath of the fire.  As for the church, today it functions as a museum, although the congregation holds its annual Thanksgiving service at the building.