Broadway Looking South from Vesey, New York City

The view looking south on Broadway between 1905 and 1908, toward the Singer Building, which was under construction at the time. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view in 2014:

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When it was completed in 1908, the Singer Building was the tallest in the world, although it lots its title just a year later, when the uptown Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower was completed.  It was the headquarters of the Singer Manufacturing Company, of sewing machine fame.  It was demolished in 1968, and to this day holds the title of the tallest building ever intentionally demolished by its owner (the qualifications being necessary because of the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11, right across the street from the location of the Singer Building).  It was replaced by the architecturally-insignificant One Liberty Plaza, the black skyscraper in the center of the photo.  Because of its location opposite the World Trade Center site (the right-hand side of the building from this perspective), it received some minor damage following the September 11 attacks.  Incidentally, there is at least one building that is visible in both photos – the Trinity Building, with the cupola, visible just beyond One Liberty Plaza, was completed in 1905 and still stands today.

Draper Hotel, Northampton Mass

The Draper Hotel in Northampton, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2014:

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This building was built in 1871, on the site of the earlier Warner House hotel, which had burned the year before. The new building was originally known as the Fitch House, hence the “F” at the top of the building just below the pediment, but by the time the first photo was taken it had become the Draper Hotel. Today, only the westernmost third of the building remains; the hotel closed in 1955, and the two sections on the right side were demolished and replaced with the present-day one-story building.

SS Nantasket and Custom House Tower, Boston

Boston’s Custom House Tower as seen from the waterfront, with the steamer Nantasket in the foreground, probably in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The scene in 2013:

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Boston’s skyline has changed substantially, but the Custom House Tower remains much the same as it appeared when it was completed in 1915.  It was the tallest building in Boston until the Prudential Tower was built in 1964, and to this day, remains the 17th tallest in the city.  Although no longer used as a custom house, it is now a Marriott hotel.

The Boston Public Library dates this photo to around 1934, but it had to have been earlier than that, because the Nantasket burned in a fire in November, 1929, along with almost the entire rest of the company’s fleet.

Times Square

Times Square, as it appeared around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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The tall building toward the right-hand side of the 1905 photo is actually still there – it’s the Times Square Building, and was the headquarters of the New York Times in the early 20th century, hence the name “Times Square.” The New York Times hasn’t used the building in a century, but it’s still there, covered in billboards, and with the famous New Years ball at the top. Because of the building’s narrow dimensions, it’s actually more profitable to cover it in billboards and electronic signboards instead of renting it out.  Otherwise, all of the other buildings in the first picture are either gone or are completely hiding behind billboards and signs.  I think I like the 1905 photo better.

Corner of Main & State Streets, Springfield

The northeast corner of Main and State in Springfield, sometime in the 19th century.  Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The same location, around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The corner in 2014:

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Many of these Springfield street scenes follow a predictable pattern over the past 150 years or so – first, a pre-Civil War Federal style commercial block, followed by a larger, more ornate building in the latter part of the 19th century, and finally some sort of modern, 20th century structure.  In this case, we clearly see all three generations of commercial development at the corner of Main and State, culminating with the MassMutual Center of the 1970s.  Of particular interest is the building in the second photo – above the entrance is a sign that reads “G. & C. Merriam & Co Publishers,” the publishers of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Today, the company is still headquartered in Springfield, just up the hill on Federal Street.  See this post and this post for a few other angles of the neighborhood that is now the MassMutual Center.

Chicopee Bank Building, Springfield

The Chicopee Bank Building, at the corner of Main and Elm, sometime before 1889.  Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, between 1889 and 1895. Photo courtesy of James Ward Birchall Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The original building was built in 1835, at the same time as the other three-story commercial buildings on and around Court Square. It was demolished in 1889 and replaced by the current structure, which survives with minimal changes. The building to the left, however, has been trimmed down in height. On the other side, along Elm Street, the 1835 Byers Block survives as a remnant of what the old Chicopee Bank building once looked like.