Corner of Blackstone and Hanover Streets, Boston

The corner of Blackstone Street and Hanover Street, in 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The same corner in 2011:

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There’s something rather depressing about comparing these two photos – the bustling marketplace, contrasted with the shuttered storefronts and empty streets.  However, the appearance neighborhood as a whole has improved significantly since 1956 – the first photo was actually taken right in front of the Central Artery – the massive elevated highway that was eventually replaced by the much-maligned yet more aesthetically pleasing Big Dig.  Where I was standing to take the 2011 photo is right about where the highway ran through – if I had taken the photo 10 years earlier, the buildings in the foreground would’ve been barely visible.

I hadn’t seen the 1956 photo before taking this photo; what drew me to the building was the fading 19th century advertisements still visible on the bricks.  The two most prominent are for Bostonia Cigars (top and right-hand side), and W.P.B. Brooks & Co. Furniture Carpets &c.  I couldn’t find out much about either company, but it appears both from the appearance of the advertisements and also some quick online searches about the companies that they existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The building itself, which was constructed around 1835, is actually the same building that has the Boston Stone mounted on its wall, on the opposite side of where this photo was taken.  Behind it is the Blackstone Block, a rare group of buildings from the 18th and 19th century that still maintains the original 1600’s street network.  It is completely surrounded by much newer construction, but it is a small enclave of historic structures.  On the opposite side of this area is one of Boston’s oldest buildings, the home of the Union Oyster House.

This building itself actually used to have more floors, but at some point before the 1956 photo it was trimmed down to just three.  However, recent photos of this same building taken in the past year have shown that a couple more floors have actually been added on to the top of it, which would suggest that its future is brighter than the boarded up storefronts and deserted streets would seem to suggest.

Buckman Tavern, Lexington, Mass

The Buckman Tavern in Lexington, Mass., between 1890 and 1901.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Between 1910 and 1920.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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In 2013:

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Built about 1690, Buckman’s Tavern was the gathering place for many of the militiamen on the morning of the Battle of Lexington, on April 19, 1775. Not much has changed in the appearance of the building since then, let alone since the above photos were taken. However, the air conditioning unit in one of the first floor windows is not an original period item.

Long Wharf, Boston

Long Wharf in Boston, around 1910. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Long Wharf around 1930. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The same view in 2006:

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Boston’s Long Wharf was originally much longer than it is now, although the wharf didn’t get shorter – the city grew outwards. At the beginning of the 18th century, a longer wharf was needed to extend further into the harbor, in order to accomodate deeper oceangoing ships. Originally, it started where Faneuil Hall is today, but as time went on, the city expanded by filling in Boston Harbor, sometimes with dirt and rocks, and sometimes with sunken ships and construction debris. Either way, the city ended up filling in much of the space between Long Wharf and other wharves, and the city built up around it. In the 1930’s, the wharf was much the same as it is today, but at the time this part was used by the United Fruit Company, hence the cargo ships. Today, the cargo ships are gone, replaced by ferries to other parts of Boston and surrounding communities. Some of the older buildings remain, including the granite 1848 Custom House Block, which is visible on the far left of both photos.  The cargo ships in the two photos, however, do not exist anymore.  I don’t know what happened to the Vera, the steamer in the first photo, but a ship of the same name was sunk by a German U-boat in World War I.  The same fate definitely did happen to the ship in the 1930 photo, the Oriskany, though; it was sunk by a U-boat in 1945 off the coast of England.

Union Oyster House, Boston

Union Oyster House in Boston, sometime in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:

Restaurants

The historic building around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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In 1930, courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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Sometime between 1934 and 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The Union Oyster House in 2010:

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The above four photos show over 100 years of the history of the oldest restaurant in the United States, the Union Oyster House in Boston.  Although the restaurant opened in 1826, the building itself is far older, having been built around 1704.  The second floor was once used as the publishing office of the Massachusetts Spy in the 1770’s, and in 1796 the future King Louis Philippe of France lived in exile, also on the second floor.  Since becoming a restaurant, the Union Oyster House (originally Atwood & Bacon Oyster House, as seen in the 1898 photo) has served many notable patrons, including Daniel Webster, John F. Kennedy, and other members of the Kennedy family.

Massasoit House, Springfield

The Massasoit House in Springfield, around 1882. Photo from Springfield Illustrated by James D. Gill (1882)

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The same scene around 1908, with the stone railroad arch in the distance. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2017:

 

This scene on Main Street in Springfield was prime real estate when the first two photos were taken.  The hotel building in those photos, the Massasoit House, opened in 1843, right next to the railroad depot (the building partially hidden by a tree in the right-center of the 1882 photo), just four years after the railroad came to Springfield.  It was the perfect place for a hotel, because the railroad depot made this location the transportation hub of the city, and the Massasoit House had its share of notable guests over the years, including Charles Dickens, Daniel Webster, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, and Jefferson Davis.  However, in 1926 the building was sold and turned into the Paramount Theatre.  Most of the structure was demolished, but there are a few surviving sections of the original 1843 building.

One thing lacking in the 1882 photo is the iconic stone arch, which wasn’t built until 1890.  It helped to alleviate congestion on Main Street by elevating the railroad, and it also coincided with the opening of a new Union Station just a short walk away on Lyman Street.  By the 1908 photo, the railroad arch is there, and the scene captures an interesting combination of transportation modes.  Along with the railroad in the distance, it shows trolleys alongside a roughly equal number of automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, during the period of transition from draft animals to internal combustion engines.  Today, as seen in the 2014 photo, buses have replaced the trolleys, and automobiles clearly won out over horses; not a single horse-drawn carriage is to be seen on Main Street anymore.

Hotel Worthy, Springfield

The Hotel Worthy, at the corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Hotels

The building in 2017:

 

Unlike many of the other views of downtown Springfield from the turn of the last century, almost nothing has changed in this scene.  Taken from the corner of Main and Worthington, with Worthington to the left and Main to the right, most of the buildings in this photo have survived.  The only exception is the building to the immediate right of the Hotel Worthy, which is now a public square.  The historic hotel itself is now an apartment building, and the buildings beyond it to the left down Worthington Street now house a variety of bars and restaurants.  One of these, Smith’s Billiards, has actually been open since before the 1908 photo was taken, and it is supposedly the oldest pool hall in the United States.