Park Street Church, Boston

The view of Park Street church, taken in about 1904, looking up Tremont Street with Boston Common on the left. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Street Scenes

A few years later, probably around 1909-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene around 1923. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Tremont Street in 2014:

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Built in 1810, Park Street Church was the tallest building in the United States from its construction until 1846.  Although it’s not as prominent in the skyline as it was when the earlier photos were taken, it still stands out when walking along Tremont Street and the Boston Common.  The church is still in active use, having had a number of notable pastors, including noted abolitionist Edward Beecher, the brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

One less obvious landmark in both photos is the Park Street subway station.  Opened in 1897, it was, along with the nearby Boylston Street station, the first subway station in the world, and was still fairly new when the first photo was taken.  The entrances and exits are the same in both photos, and the station remains a busy MBTA station on the Green Line and Red Line.

On the other side of Tremont Street, many of the buildings from the earlier photos are still around today.  The most obvious is the R.H. Stearns Building, the tall building on the far right of the 2014 photo.  The building was home to the R.H. Stearns department store from 1908 until 1977, when it closed, but the building itself is still there.  In the first photo, the department store was in a different building, with the two towers and the large flag.  This building was demolished to make way for the present building in 1908.

Court Square, Springfield (3)

Long before it was the Hampden County Hall of Justice, East & West Columbus Ave., I-91, and a parking garage, the land behind Old First Church was an ordinary city block, until the early 20th century, when it was cleared to create an extension of Court Square.  Although this open space was itself carved up for the various projects that followed, the 1909 photo below shows a view of it shortly after it was cleared. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Panoramic Photographs Collection.

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This 2012 photo was taken at close to – although not exactly the same spot.

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The original was taken from what is now East Columbus Ave., so instead of standing in the middle of the road I took it from the sidewalk, looking at the last remnant of the western extension of Court Square:The rear section of Old First Church factors heavily in both of these photos.  As the only surviving building from the 1909 photo, it nonetheless has undergone renovations.  While the church itself is largely the same as it was in 1819, the brick addition, which was built in 1874, shows changes between the two photos.  Although it first appears that a third story was added, there was in fact no changes to the height of the structure.  Rather, it appears that the entire section was gutted, and rebuilt to allow for three floors.  If you look closely, you can see the bricked-up places where the old windows used to be, in between the modern windows.  A plaque on the inside of the church indicates that this renovation was done in 1947.  Presumably during the same renovations, the brick steeple on the right-hand side was removed.  The church’s main white steeple is there in the 1909 photo, although it is mostly hidden behind the small tree in the center.  Other than the church though, all of the other buildings in the photo have since been demolished, some of which were where City Hall was built only a few years later.

Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield

Taken between 1905 and 1915, this photo shows Christ Church Cathedral as it appeared a century ago. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view as of December 2012:

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Not much has changed in these two views; even the art building of the Springfield Museums is still there, and the building barely visible to the far left also appears to be the same in both photos. The one major difference, of course, is the tower of the church. Originally built in 1876 with a tower (although I have yet to find an image of the original tower), the tower cracked within a year and was taken down for safety reasons. It would not be rebuilt until 1927.

Corner of State & Maple, Springfield

The view from Chestnut Street looking across State Street toward the corner of Maple Street, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2012:

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The first photo shows several important Springfield buildings. Starting in the distant left is the old Central High School, which later became Classical High School. To the right of it is the old Springfield High School, then the Church of the Unity, and finally, the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company building. This building, completed just a few years earlier in 1905, was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns, and is an excellent example of classical revival architecture in Springfield.

Today, Classical High School is still standing, with a new wing that was added in 1922 after the old high school building next to it was demolished. The school itself closed in 1986, and the building was converted into condominiums. The Church of the Unity was demolished in 1961 to make room for an apartment complex that was ultimately never built, and today it is a parking lot opposite the Springfield City Library. The only building that has remained unchanged from the first photo is the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company building. For many years it was used as offices for the Springfield School Department, but it is currently vacant. Because of its historical and architectural significance, though, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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