Bethel Church, Boston

Bethel Church at North Square, Boston, around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The church in 2014:

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Built at North Square in 1833 by the Boston Port and Sailor’s Aid Society, this church provided Boston’s sailors with a place of worship, and also included a store to benefit sailors and their families. During the 19th century, several notable visitors attended the church, including Jenny Lind, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens.  In the 1880s, the building was sold to the Roman Catholic Church, and was reopened in 1890, after some exterior renovations as seen in the 2014 photo.

School Street, Boston

The Second Universalist Church on School Street in Boston, taken in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

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These two photos show some of the drastic changes on School Street in downtown Boston.  The church was demolished in 1872, and the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank building, which was built in 1858, was replaced with the current building in 1925.  The name of the bank is still visible on the building today, although the bank itself no longer exists – it was acquired by Citizens Bank in 1993.  None of the buildings from the first photo survive today, although there are a few very old buildings in the area today that are just outside the view of these photos, including the Old Corner Bookstore, at the end of School Street and just to the left, and the Old South Meeting House, which is to the right behind the buildings in the foreground.

Beach Street, Boston

Looking west on Beach Street toward Harrison Avenue in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Beach Street in 2014:

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Taken before the neighborhood was redeveloped as a major commercial district, the first photo shows a variety of early 19th century architecture, with a combination of a hotel (the Boston Hotel on the left), a church (Beach Street Church), and residential buildings.  Notice also the awning that advertises “cool soda” at the business on the right.  Today, this area has undergone total redevelopment, and is now in the midst of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Chauncy Street, Boston (1)

Looking southwest on Chauncy Street in Boston, toward modern-day Avenue de Lafayette from Bedford Street, taken around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Chauncy Street in 2014:

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Another work of noted photographer Josiah Johnson Hawes, the first photo shows a very different Chauncy Street than the present-day view. The church at the corner is the Rowe Street Baptist Church, which was built in 1847. The church, along with all of the other buildings in the photo, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872, which is one of the reasons why none of the building in the 1860 scene survive to this day.

Great Boston Fire (7)

A view of Trinity Church on Summer Street in Boston, taken in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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A photo from a similar angle, taken in the aftermath of the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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Taken from almost the same location as the photos in this post, and from the opposite direction of the ones here, these photos illustrate not only the damage after the Great Boston Fire, but also what the scene looked like before the fire.  As mentioned previously, the church was built in 1829, where Boston’s Downtown Crossing shopping district is located today.  The area was heavily damaged in the fire, and the church’s congregation relocated to the present-day Trinity Church at Copley Square later in the 1870s.  Today, nothing remains from the first two photos, and even the historic former Filene’s building in the center of the photo is a shell of its former self – literally.  The interior of the building was completely demolished, leaving only the facade as seen in the photo.  As evidenced by the construction work in the photo, the renovation work is ongoing as of July 2014.

Great Boston Fire (6)

Looking up Summer Street toward Washington Street, following the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The location in 2014:

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Taken near the location of the photos in this post, but facing the opposite direction, the 1872 photo shows some of the damage to the present-day Downtown Crossing area, which is actually mild compared to the damage along other sections of Summer Street.  On the right is the Trinity Church, which was probably the oldest building in the first photo, having been built in 1829.  Following the fire, the area was rebuilt, and by the end of the 19th century became a major shopping center.  It is still that way today, with many department stores and other retailers along Summer Street and Washington Street.  The entire area is closed off to most vehicular travel, making the narrow Boston roads more pedestrian-friendly.