High Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on High Street, toward Main Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo portrays an idyllic small-town scene, with horse-drawn carriages traveling along a rutted dirt road that was lined with trees. Two elegant Queen Anne-style homes stand on the far right side of the photo, while the Brooks House, perhaps the town’s finest hotel of the era, is visible at the bottom of the hill, at the corner of Main Street. Further in the distance, on the other side of the Connecticut River, is Mount Wantastiquet, which rises to an elevation of 1,388 feet and forms a dramatic backdrop to downtown Brattleboro.

Today, nearly 125 years later, this scene has not significantly changed, although it has lost some of its picturesque charm from the first photo. High Street is now a major road, carring Vermont Route 9 through downtown Brattleboro, and the bottom of the hill has been developed with early 20th century commercial and apartment blocks, including the 1918 Manley Apartment Building on the left side. However, the Brooks House is still there, as are the two homes on the right, although their sloping front lawns have been replaced by a large concrete retaining wall. Across the street on the left side, the sidewalk is narrower and closer to the street than it was in the 1890s, but the granite blocks and steps are still there on the left side of the sidewalk.

Revere House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The Revere House, at the southwest corner of Main and Elliot Streets in Brattleboro, around 1860-1877. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The same location, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene around 2017:

The first photo shows the Revere House, a hotel that was built in 1849 by James Fisk, Sr. Born in Rhode Island, Fisk grew up in Adams, Massachusetts, and as an adult he moved first to Pownal and then to Bennington, Vermont. He became a successful peddler, traveling throughout western New England and eastern New York, where he sold silk dresses and other high-end dry goods. He moved to Brattleboro in 1843, and about six years later he built the Revere House. By this point, the Fisk family included James’s second wife Love, their daughter Mary, and Fisk’s son from his first marriage, James, Jr.

The Fisks moved into the Revere House after its completion, and the younger James, who was about 15 at the time, worked as a waiter here in the hotel. He later joined his father’s peddling business, before becoming a salesman for the Boston-based Jordan Marsh and Company. James, Jr. went on to make his fortune during the Civil War, obtaining contracts with the federal government to supply textiles for army uniforms, while also smuggling scare cotton from the south. With his earnings, he speculated heavily, gaining and losing significant sums in the process.

Fisk eventually became one of the most notorious of the Gilded Age “robber barons.” Using dubious tactics, he and fellow investor Jay Gould managed to gain control of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Erie Railroad, and in 1869 the two men triggered a nationwide economic panic in an unsuccessful attempt to corner the gold market. However, his career as a financier was cut short less than three years later, when he was murdered by Edward Stiles Stokes, who was a rival for the affections of Fisk’s mistress, Josie Mansfield.

Although Fisk was living in New York City at the time of his murder, his body was returned to Brattleboro for burial. An estimated 5,000 mourners – equivalent to the entire population of the town at the time – were on hand when his funeral train arrived in town at almost midnight, and his body was brought to the Revere House. The next morning, on January 9, 1872, his funeral was held here at the hotel, followed by his burial at the Prospect Hill Cemetery on South Main Street.

By this point, the Fisk family had moved out of the Revere House, and the building burned down only a few years later, in 1877, after a fire broke out in the hotel stables. The site was quickly rebuilt, though, and the current building was completed in 1880 as the home of the People’s National Bank. Unlike the plain Greek Revival-style hotel that preceded it, this building had an ornate design that was based on High Victorian Gothic architecture, and included an elaborate cornice with turrets, along with a highly contrasting exterior of red brick and white marble.

When the first photo was taken, People’s National Bank occupied the left side of the ground floor, with Brattleboro Savings Bank on the right. The upper floors housed professional offices, including the studio of noted local photographer Caleb L. Howe. People’s National Bank remained here until 1923, when they merged with Vermont National Bank, which was located directly across the street from here. After a series of mergers, the name has since come full circle, and the former Vermont National Bank building is now the location of a People’s United Bank branch.

Today, the old People’s National Bank building still stands here at the corner of Main and Elliot Streets. Its appearance has been somewhat altered over the years, most notably with the removal of the upper part of the cornice. However, it still remains a unique example of High Victorian Gothic architecture in downtown Brattleboro, and it is one of the many 19th century commercial buildings that still line Main Street. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, the building is now part of the Brattleboro Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Crosby Block and Brooks House, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking north on Main Street, from near the corner of Elliot Street in Brattleboro, around 1871-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

This block, on the west side of Main Street between Elliot and High Streets, was the scene of one of the most disastrous fires in Brattleboro history, which occurred on October 31, 1869. All of the buildings along this section of Main Street, mostly wood-frame stores and hotels, were destroyed in the fire, including the Brattleboro House hotel and several other important commercial blocks. However, the property was quickly redeveloped, and within two years the ruins had been replaced by two large, brick commercial buildings, with the Crosby Block on the left and the Brooks House further in the distance on the right.

The first photo shows the Crosby Block as it appeared within about 15 years of its completion in 1871. It was owned by grain and flour merchant Edward Crosby, and was designed by local architect George A. Hines, whose plans reflected the prevailing Italianate style for commercial buildings of this era. Only about two thirds of the building is visible in this scene, as it was once 26 window bays wide, extending all the way to the corner of Elliot Street. As was often the case in downtown commercial blocks, it was originally a mixed-use building, with stores on the ground floor, professional offices on the second floor, and apartments on the third floor.

Further in the distance, on the right side of the scene, is the Brooks House, which was also known as the Hotel Brooks. Although completed in the same year as the Crosby Block, it featured far more elaborate Second Empire-style architecture that contrasted with the modest design of its neighbor. Designed by noted architect Elbridge Boyden, the hotel was reportedly the country’s largest Second Empire-style building outside of New York City at the time, and was a popular Gilded Age summer resort. It was owned by George Jones Brooks, a merchant who had grown up in the Brattleboro area but later made his fortune in San Francisco, as a merchant during the Gold Rush. However, he later returned to Brattleboro, where he built this hotel and also later founded the Brooks Memorial Library.

More than 130 years after the first photo was taken, this scene has remained remarkably unchanged. The facade of the southernmost section of the Crosby Block, just out of view to the left, was rebuilt in the late 1950s and is now completely unrecognizable from its original appearance. However, the section of the building in this scene has been well-preserved, and still continues to house a variety of shops on its ground floor. On the right side of the scene, the Brooks House is also still standing. The interior was completely rebuilt in the early 1970s and converted into offices and apartments, but the exterior was preserved. More recently, the upper floors were heavily damaged by a fire in 2011, but the building has since been restored and still stands as a major landmark in downtown Brattleboro.

Kendall House, Chicopee, Mass

Looking south on Springfield Street, toward the Kendall House Hotel in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows the view looking south on Springfield Street toward the center of Chicopee, with the Chicopee River behind the photographer and the Ames Manufacturing Company facility just out of view to the left. The most notable building in the first photo is the Kendall House hotel, which is seen on the left side of the photo, just beyond the bridge over the canal. The hotel was built around 1834-1835, by prominent businessman Chester W. Chapin, and it dates back to the early days of Chicopee’s industrial development. At the time, Chicopee was still part of Springfield, and this particular area was known as Cabotville. The village was named after the Cabot Manufacturing Company, which was, in turn, named for Boston merchant Samuel Cabot, and this hotel was likewise originally named the Cabot House.

As built, the Cabot House had a fairly plain, Federal-style exterior that was common for commercial buildings of the era, with a brick exterior, three and a half stories, and a gabled roof. It opened as the first hotel in Cabotville, and for the first few years it was operated by Gardner Kimball. In 1836, he hired Marvin Chapin (no close relation to Chester) as a clerk. A native of Somers, Connecticut, Marvin Chapin had just returned to the area after spending time on a surveying crew in Florida, and after just a few weeks here he purchased the Cabot House from Kimball. He and his brother Ethan operated the hotel for several years, but in 1842 they purchased property on Main Street in Springfield and built the Massasoit House, which opened the following year. The Massasoit House went on to become one of the leading hotels in Western Massachusetts, and the Chapins subsequently sold the Cabot House to Madison Kendall.

The hotel later became known as the Kendall House, and enjoyed a prominent location in the center of Chicopee. The Chicopee Falls Branch of the Connecticut River Railroad opened in 1845, with a depot directly in front of the hotel, and three years later Chicopee was incorporated as a separate town. The current City Hall was later built across the street from the Kendall House, and in the meantime the factories here along the riverfront continued to expand, placing the hotel in the center of the city’s industry, commerce, transportation, and government.

The first photo shows the Kendall House with its front section of three and a half stories, a rear section with two and a half stories, and a two-story porch. Adjacent to the hotel, in the center of the photo, was a similar building, known as Chapin’s Block, which was probably built around the same time as the Kendall House. The railroad depot is not visible from this angle, but the white crossing signs can be seen in the center and far left of the photo. The Ames Manufacturing Company, whose factory was soon to be purchased by Spalding, was located just to the left of this scene, and the Dwight Manufacturing Company was just to the right on the opposite side of Springfield Street. Some of the children on the street may have been child laborers for Dwight Manufacturing, similar to those who were documented by photographer Lewis Wickes Hine several decades later.

Around 125 years after the first photo was taken, this scene has changed significantly. Chapin’s Block in the center of the photo is long gone, as are the buildings further in the distance to the right. The road bridge over the canal is new, and the railroad tracks are no longer there, having last been used in 1983. However, the Kendall House is still standing, although it is significantly altered from its original appearance. The gabled roof was removed after a fire in the early 20th century, and replaced with a flat roof and a cornice. The front porch is also gone, and the back part of the building has since been expanded into three full stories. Until recently, the building housed Quicky’s Restaurant and 38 single room occupancy units, but in 2017 the interior was completely renovated and converted into 41 studio apartments.

Warner House, Northampton, Mass

The Warner House hotel on Main Street in Northampton, sometime around the 1860s. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The Warner House, seen on the left side of the first photo, had been perhaps the most prominent hotel in early 19th century Northampton. The wooden, three-story Federal-style building dated back to the 1790s, when it was built by Asahel Pomeroy, who operated it as a tavern. It was ideally located in the center of Northampton, where several major stagecoach routes crossed, including an east-west route from Boston to Albany, and a north-south route from New Haven and Hartford to Brattleboro and other points north.

In 1821, the tavern was purchased by Oliver Warner, and it continued to serve as both a stagecoach stop as well as a popular gathering place for locals. Probably its most famous visitor during this time was the Marquis de Lafayette, who stayed here in 1825 during his grand tour of the United States. The Revolutionary War hero arrived in Northampton to much fanfare, and attended a reception and dinner in his honor here at the Warner House. He later gave a speech from the balcony, and spent several days in Northampton before continuing on his journey east.

Another 1820s visitor was Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, a German prince who had fought for the Netherlands in the Seven Years’ War a decade earlier. He later published an account of his 1825-1826 visit to the United States, which included a stop here at the Warner House. In the English translation of the book, he gives a detailed description of both the hotel and Northampton itself:

About a mile from Northampton we passed the Connecticut river, five hundred yards wide, in a small ferry-boat, which, as the night had already set in, was not very agreeable. At Northampton we took lodgings at Warner’s Hotel, a large, clean, and convenient inn. In front of the house is a large porch, and in the first story a large balcony. The gentlemen sit below, and the ladies walk above. Elm trees stand in front of the house, and a large reflecting lamp illuminates the house and the yard. This, with the beautiful warm evening, and the great number of people, who reposed on the piazza, or went to and from the house, produced a very agreeable effect. The people here are exceedingly religious, and, besides going to church on Sundays, they go thrice during the week. When we arrived, the service had just ended, and we saw some very handsome ladies come out of the church. Each bed-chamber of our tavern was provided with a bible.

By the middle of the 19th century, railroads had supplanted stagecoaches as the primary means of intercity transportation, but the Warner House continued to be one of Northampton’s leading hotels. It was one of three Northampton hotels listed in the 1851 The Mt. Holyoke Hand-book and Tourist’s Guide; for Northampton, and its Vicinity, which wrote that:

Warner’s Hotel is in the centre of the town, and in the midst of the trading part of the community. The house was inadequate in size to its business, and a large and very handsome addition has just been made to it, the rooms of which are spacious, airy and pleasant. The venerable proprietor has made a spirited and liberal outlay, by which he has added much to the beauty of the town, as well as promoted to public convenience; and we trust he will receive that ample remuneration he so well deserves.

This “handsome addition” was likely the three-story brick building on the right side of the photo, which was built in the prevailing Italianate style of architecture, in sharp contrast to the 18th century tavern building. With this expansion, the hotel remained in business for the next two decades. However, the 1870s saw several disastrous fires in downtown Northampton, including one that started here in the Warner House. The fire burned for four hours, destroying the old hotel building, the newer brick addition to the right, and the Lyman Block on the left, and it caused about $125,000 in damage.

In the wake of the fire, the site was rebuilt as the Fitch House, a large four-story brick, Italianate-style hotel building that was completed in 1871. The hotel was later named the Mansion House, and then the Draper Hotel,and it remained in business until it finally closed in 1955. The eastern two thirds of the Draper Hotel was subsequently demolished, and the current one-story building was built in its place, but the westernmost section of the building is still standing, and can be seen on the left side of the present-day photo.

Main Street, Springfield, Mass

Looking north on Main Street from near the corner of Pynchon Street in Springfield, sometime around 1900-1905. Image courtesy of the James Ward Birchall Collection.

The scene in 2017:

When the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, Springfield was a prosperous, rapidly-growing city, and this section of Main Street was the heart of its downtown shopping district. Major department stores included Forbes & Wallace – whose original building is seen second from the left in the first photo – and W. D. Kinsman, located further in the distance at the corner of Bridge Street. In 1906, a few years after the first photo was taken, these stores would also be joined by another competitor, Steiger’s, which opened its flagship store a couple blocks north of here at the corner of Hillman Street.

Along with large department stores, this scene also included smaller, specialized retailers. On the far right was D. H. Bingham & Co., a clothing store that had opened here in 1867 in a building previously occupied by the offices of the Springfield Republican. Other early 20th century stores in the foreground included Johnson’s Bookstore, which was located next to D. H. Bingham, and the W. J. Woods Co., another clothing store located further in the distance at the corner of Main Street and Harrison Avenue. The scene also featured several hotels, including most prominently the Haynes Hotel on the left side in the foreground.

Most of the buildings in the first photo were built in the late 19th century, during a period of rapid growth that saw Springfield’s population double roughly every 20 years. However, very few of the buildings along this section of Main Street are still standing today, aside from the Haynes Hotel on the left and several of the buildings on the right in the foreground. The old Forbes & Wallace building is gone, along with its early 20th century replacement, and today Monarch Place occupies the site. Further in the distance, the Tower Square skyscraper now fills the entire block between Boland Way and Bridge Street, and there are no other 19th century buildings on the left side until the Fort Block, which is barely visible more than four blocks away, in the distant center of the photo.