National Savings and Trust Company Building, Washington, DC

The northeast corner of New York Avenue and 15th Street NW in Washington, DC, around 1910-1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Photo Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The origins of the National Savings and Trust Company date back to 1867, when Congress chartered the National Safe Deposit Company. It was located in an earlier building here at this corner, and it housed safe deposit boxes for Washington residents to store their valuables, at a time when this type of service was still a relatively new concept. Three years later, this company was joined by the National Savings Bank, which was located in the same building.

The two companies enjoyed a prominent location, diagonally across from the Treasury Building and only a block away from the White House, and in 1888, they moved into a new building here on this site, as shown in the first photo. It was built in brick, was five stories in height, and it originally extended 130 feet along 15th Street to the left, and 65 feet along New York Avenue to the right. It featured a Queen Anne-style design, with a distinctive clock and cupola atop the corner, and it was the work of noted Philadelphia architect James H. Windrim.

In 1890, the two companies merged to form the National Safe Deposit, Savings and Trust Company, which was later simplified to the National Savings and Trust Company in 1907. As the name was getting shorter, though, the bank was continuing to grow. In 1911, probably soon after the first photo was taken, the bank purchased the adjacent Lenman Building, seen on the right side of the scene. It was subsequently demolished, and in 1916 the bank built a 50-foot addition on the site, followed by another 50-foot addition in 1925. However, these 20th century additions featured the same architectural style and building materials as the original building, so the three sections are nearly indistinguishable from each other.

The expanded building would continue to serve as the headquarters of the National Savings and Trust Company throughout the 20th century, although in 1987 it changed its name to Crestar Bank. The company has since been acquired by SunTrust Bank, but this building remains in use as a branch of SunTrust, more than 130 years after it first opened its doors to banking customers. Overall, aside from the early 20th century additions, the appearance of the building has not changed much during this time, and in 1972 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Trinity Block, Springfield, Mass

The Trinity Block, at 266-284 Bridge Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The building in 2018:

This building was completed in 1923, and it features an ornate, colorful exterior that is decorated with cast stone and terra cotta. The design was the work of local architect Samuel M. Green, and the building was named the Trinity Block, since it was built on the former site of the Trinity Methodist Church, which had been demolished in 1922. The building housed a variety of retail tenants on the ground floor, and the upper floors were used for professional offices.

The first photo was taken about 15 years after the building’s completion, and it shows some of the stores that were located on the ground floor at the time. The most visible of these is F. J. Jensen & Sons, a candy company, bakery, and restaurant that occupied the storefront on the far left. Other businesses in the building during this time included a commercial financing company, a credit bureau, a furrier, an optician, and a shoe store.

Today, the buildings further in the distance along Bridge Street are gone, but the Trinity Block is still standing, with few exterior changes since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago. Shortly after the second photo was taken in 2018, work began on a major renovation of the building, which includes the restoration of the terra cotta exterior. As of October 2019, the work is still ongoing, and the front facade is still behind scaffolding. Because of its architectural significance, the Trinity Block was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and much more recently, in 2019, it was designated by the city as a single-building local historic district.

Ambrotype Saloon, Springfield, Mass

An ambrotype saloon on the east side of Main Street, between Bridge and Worthington Streets in Springfield, probably sometime in the 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo depicts a small, trailer-like building that appears to have originally been a traveling photographic studio, as suggested by the words “Ambrotype Saloon,” which are barely visible on the side of the building. Common in the mid-19th century, during the early years of commercial photography, these horse-drawn studios – known as saloons – traveled across the countryside in search of business. They were often built by the photographers themselves, and they frequently served as both a workplace and living quarters for their nomadic owners.  A 1917 article in The Youth’s Companion, written by C. A. Stevens, provides the following description:

Those “saloons” were picturesque little structures, not much more than five feet wide by fifteen feet long; they were mounted on wheels. On each side was a little window, and overhead was a larger skylight; and a flight of three steps led up to a narrow door at the rear. The door opened into the “saloon” proper, where the camera and the visitor’s chair stood; forward of that was the cuddy under the skylight, in which the photographer did his developing.

During the heyday of these photographic saloons, the most popular types of images were daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. The daguerreotype was the first widespread form of photography, and it was common throughout the 1840s and 1850s before being superseded by the ambrotype, which was primarily used in the 1850s and early 1860s. With both of these techniques, each photograph was unique. Like Polaroid images a century later, the image was exposed directly onto the surface, so there were no negatives and no way to reproduce an image, aside from photographing it.

By the time the above photograph was taken in the 1870s, both the daguerreotype and ambrotype had long since been replaced by newer photographic processes. The traveling saloon was also becoming a thing of the past, and this particular one had evidently found a permanent home here on Main Street in Springfield. Its wheels were either gone or hidden behind wood paneling, and it appears to have been connected to a building in the rear of the lot.

According to the handwriting on the back, the building was, at the time, the studio of Warren S. Butler, a photographer who appears in city directories as early as 1872. This is likely the earliest possible date for the first photo, although the city directories do not provide a specific location for his studio until 1877, when he was listed here at this address. Despite the words on the side of the building, it is unlikely that Butler would have been producing ambrotypes here during the 1870s. Instead, his primary photographic medium would have been albumen prints such as cartes de visite and cabinet cards, both of which appear to be visible in the window. Unlike the earlier methods, these were made using negatives, which allowed photographers to produce multiple prints of the same image.

Aside from Butler’s appearance in city directories starting in 1872, there are several other clues that suggest the first photo was taken no earlier than the early 1870s. To the left of the studio is a florist shop that was run by Edmund W. Clarke, who, like Butler, does not appear in any directories until 1872. However, perhaps the most conclusive evidence is the presence of two large brick buildings in the background. Located on the southern side of Worthington Street, these buildings do not appear on the 1870 city map, and were likely constructed at some point in the 1870s.

Similarly, the latest possible date for the first photo is about 1886, the last time that Edmund W. Clarke’s florist shop appears at this address in the city directories. Butler is listed here as late as 1887, but both of these buildings were demolished by the end of that year, when this entire half of the block was cleared in order to build the Fuller Block. This five-story brick building was among the finest commercial blocks in the city when it was completed, and it still stands today, occupying a prominent location at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets.

Main and Bridge Streets, Springfield, Mass

The northeast corner of Main and Bridge Streets in Springfield, Mass, around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

Up until the mid-19th century, the commercial center of Springfield was along Main Street in the immediate vicinity of Court Square, where most of the important stores, banks, hotels, and other businesses were located. This began to change with the arrival of the railroad in 1839, when a railroad station opened on Main Street, about a half a mile north of Court Square. A second commercial center soon sprung up near the station, with a particular emphasis on hotels and restaurants for travelers.

By 1850, Springfield was experiencing steady growth, but its population was still under 12,000 people at the time, and the Main Street corridor in the downtown area was still not fully developed. There were plenty of businesses and large buildings clustered around Court Square and the railroad station, but the blocks in between consisted of just a few commercial buildings, interspersed by homes, churches, and vacant lots. It would not be until the city’s post-Civil War population boom that this entire section of Main Street would be lined with larger buildings.

The first photo was taken sometime soon after the end of the war, and it shows a couple of the modest, wood-frame buildings that once stood along this part of Main Street. They were located at the corner of Bridge Street, about halfway between Court Square and the railroad station, and they would have been the first things that an eastbound traveler to Springfield would see on Main Street, after coming across the old covered bridge and walking up Bridge Street. Dwarfed by a massive tree – probably an elm – on the left side, these small, two-story buildings were probably constructed sometime in the 1850s. By the time the first photo was taken, they housed, from left to right, sign painter James C. Drake, wholesale cigar dealer C.H. Olcott, and stove dealer Edmund L. DeWitt.

These buildings stood here until the mid-1880s, and they were probably among the last surviving wood-frame buildings on Main Street in the downtown area. However, they were demolished to make room for the Fuller Block, a large five-story brick building that was completed in 1887. Like the other new commercial blocks that were constructed in the late 19th century, it housed retail shops on the ground floor, with professional offices on the upper floors. However, it featured a unique Romanesque-style design that incorporated Moorish elements, such as the horseshoe arches above the fifth floor windows, and a large onion dome that originally sat atop the right-hand corner of the roof.

Today, some 150 years after the first photo was taken, there are no surviving landmarks except for the streets themselves. However, the Fuller Block that replaced these older buildings is still standing, and aside from the loss of the onion dome its exterior has remained well-preserved. It is one of the finest 19th century commercial blocks in the city, and in 1983 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Wells Block, Springfield, Mass

The building at 250-264 Worthington Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This brick, four-story Italianate building was built in 1876 by Abner B. Abbey, a coal and lumber dealer. However, the expense of the building ended up being too much for him, and the following year it was sold at a foreclosure auction to Jerome Wells, a merchant from Chicopee who was also the president of the First National Bank. He rented the building to both commercial and residential tenants, with two storefronts on the first floor and apartments on the three upper floors.

During the 20th century, the upper floors were used primarily as a boarding house, which in 1916 was named the Avon Hotel. By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, the hotel was being run by Clara LeDuc, who rented rooms to 10 boarders. Based on the 1940 census records, they held a range of working-class jobs, including several restaurant workers, a theater custodian, a machinist, a painter, a cotton mill knitter, a boiler maker’s helper, and a photographer. Of those who were employed full-time, their salaries ranged from the machinist, who made $740 per year ($13,400 today), to the painter, who made $1,400 ($25,300 today). Along with the boarders, Clara also lived here with her father Adalard Demers and her husband, William, who earned $1,450 as a steamfitter at the Armory.

The 1940 census also shows at least one other boarding house that was located here in the building. It was run by Nettie Laurance, a 56-year-old widow whose niece, Dorathy Bickford, lived here with her and worked as the housekeeper. They had eight tenants at the time, most of whom had jobs similar to those in the Avon Hotel. Below these two boarding houses, the two ground floor storefronts were occupied by linoleum dealers Cunningham & O’Shaughnessy on the left, and paint dealer A.E. Hale & Co. on the right. Other nearby stores included the Reliable Shoe Repairing Company in the one-story building on the left, and the Wells & Wells gift shop on the far right.

In 1946, the upper floors were badly damaged by a fire, and they were largely vacant for many years. However, the ground floor remained in use during this time, and for much of the late 20th century the storefront on the left was the home of the Budget Box thrift store. More recently, though, this section of Worthington Street has been reinvented as downtown Springfield’s dining district, and both of the storefronts in this building now house restaurants. Overall, the building’s exterior appearance has not changed much since the first photo was taken some 80 years ago, and both it and the neighboring building to the right are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mohican Building, Springfield, Mass

The building at 254-262 Bridge Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This two-story commercial building was built around 1909, and it housed the Mohican, a meat and grocery store whose name is prominently visible on the cornice. During its early years, the store was run by James J. Shannon, an Irish immigrant who worked as the manager from as early as 1913 until at least 1930. However, the property itself was owned by the Trinity Real Estate Trust, which was affiliated with the neighboring Trinity Methodist Church. This church had stood just to the right of the store until 1922, when it was demolished following the congregation’s move to Forest Park.

The first photo was taken at some point in the late 1930s. By then, the store was managed by Grant M. Harris, a Holyoke resident who was only about 30 years old at the time. There are a number of signs in the windows, advertising prices for various meats and other products, including cheese for 23 cents a pound, hamburg meat for 19 cents, and steak for 31 cents. Above the storefront is a large Art Deco-style sign that was probably added to the building at some point in the 1920s or 1930s.

The Mohican store evidently closed in the late 1950s, and the site subsequently became Saint Francis of Assisi, a Roman Catholic chapel. According to city records, the current building on the site was constructed in 1958. However, it does not seem clear whether this is a completely new building, or if the old grocery store was heavily altered with a new, mid-century facade. Either way, this building is still standing today, and it still serves as the Saint Francis of Assisi Chapel.