Great Boston Fire (6)

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


The location in 2014:


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.

Great Boston Fire (5)

The church after the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Photo Courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The same location in 2014:


Boston’s old Trinity Church on Summer Street was built in 1829, and stood until it was gutted in the Great Fire of 1872.  Following the fire, the church members had largely relocated out of the burned area and to new developments in the Back Bay, so the church went with them.  The relatively modest granite church building was replaced by the present-day Trinity Church at Copley Square, perhaps the best-known work of noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson.  Today, this location is at the heart of the Downtown Crossing shopping district, and as of July 2014 the building to the left was undergoing renovations, hence the fencing in the foreground.

Great Boston Fire (4)

Looking down Milk Street, with Old South Meeting House on the left, following the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

The same location in 2014:

The first photo really illustrates just how close the historic Old South Meeting House came to being destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872.  However, firefighters managed to save the building, which survived with minimal damage, including some broken windows as seen in the photo.  This scene shows the upper limit of the fire, which started several blocks south of here on Summer Street and extended all the way up to Milk Street.  A similar view of this scene, taken around 1911, can be seen in this post; the photo was taken a little further down the road, about where the three people are standing on the far right-hand side of the 2014 photo here.

Arlington Street Church, Boston

Arlington Street Church in Boston, around 1862.  Photo taken by J.J. Hawes, courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


The church around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The church in 2014:


For the first two centuries of Boston’s history, this location was right on the waterfront. However, as the city grew in population, they needed more land, so by the 1850s, the city started filling in the Back Bay, adding new real estate along the Charles River from the Public Garden (seen in the lower right of the 1904 photo) to the Kenmore Square area.  The Arlington Street Church, completed in 1861, was one of the first buildings to be constructed on the newly-created land.  The first photo shows the neighborhood just as it began to be developed; plenty of empty land beyond the church is visible in the space between it and the apartment building to the right.  Today, it remains an active church, and aside from no longer having ivy on its walls, it looks very much the same as it did 110 years ago.

Church of the Unity, Springfield Mass

The Church of the Unity, photographed in 1959. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey collection.


The same view in 2014:


The Church of the Unity is also featured in this post, although the photo in that one is close to 100 years older than this “before” one is.  As mentioned there, this church was significant as the first commission of architect Henry Hobson Richardson, and was built between 1866 and 1869.  However, it was demolished only two years after this photo was taken, and was replaced with a parking lot for the Springfield Public Library.

Corner of State & Dwight Streets, Springfield Mass

The view looking at the northeast corner of Dwight Street and State Street, sometime in the 1870s.  Photo from Springfield: Present and Prospective, published in 1905.

The same scene in 2014:


The church on State Street in the first photo is the old Episcopalian Christ Church, which was built in 1839. When the congregation outgrew the building, the present-day church was constructed just up the hill (visible just to the right of the old church in the distance). I don’t know when the old church was demolished, but the location is now home to Springfield’s tallest apartment building.