647-665 Boylston Street, Boston

The buildings from 647 to 665 Boylston Street, between Dartmouth and Exeter Streets, on April 11, 1912. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The scene in 2015:

The first photo shows a neighborhood in transition.  When this section of the Back Bay was developed in the 1880s, Victorian brownstone rowhouses were predominant along Boylston Street.  However, as the street evolved into a major commercial area, the front steps and bay windows were not well-suited for early 20th century storefronts.  It is hard to tell whether the buildings from the first photo were demolished and rebuilt, or if only the facades were reconstructed, but either way most of the buildings from the 1912 photo would be dramatically altered within the next decade.

There are already some signs of this already happening; the building at 661 Boylston, just to the left of the tall one, is nearing completion in the 1912 photo, with a sign in the window advertising that it will have electric elevators inside.  Three of the other buildings would soon follow, and they were either demolished or radically reconstructed by the early 1920s.  The only surviving brownstone in this scene is the one on the far right, at 647 Boylston.  It was built in 1886, probably around the same time as the other buildings in the first photo, and is located adjacent to the New Old South Church parish house, which is partially visible on the far right of both photos.

This scene is also significant because it shows the location of finish line of the Boston Marathon, in front of the building on the far left.  During the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, the first explosion occurred just out of view from here, two buildings to the left of the finish line.

Town Green, Southington, Connecticut

The town green in Southington, seen from across Main Street facing west, in May 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.


The same view in 2015:

The first photo shows two houses that once stood on the west side of the town green.  They appear to have been built in the late 1800s, and were probably single family homes originally.  The one on the right was probably the older of the two; its Italianate architecture was popular for American homes in the 1860s and 1870s.  The house to the left, with its tower and many different gables, resembles the Queen Anne style that became popular in the 1880s and 1890s.

The older house still stands today, although it is now a real estate agency and a Masonic lodge.  It has clearly been modernized on the exterior, but it still retains some of its original features.  The American Legion building to the right of it, seen closer in this post, is also still standing, but the Queen Anne house to the left has since been demolished, and a large commercial building now occupies the lot.

H. H. Perry House, Agawam, Mass

The H. H. Perry House on River Road near the corner of Leonard Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

This house was built around 1880, replacing an earlier house that had been known as the Old Red House.  Although identified as the H. H. Perry house, by the time the first photo was taken it was owned by Eudice J. Dyotte, a Canadian immigrant who appears here on county maps from both 1894 and 1912.  Today, the old barn is gone, as is the back porch and the shutters,and the house appears to have siding instead of clapboards, although it is hard to tell from this distance.

William Allen House, Agawam, Mass

The William Allen House on Main Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

The William Allen House is one of several similar houses along Main Street, including the Rufus Colton House and the Captain Charles Leonard House.  All three houses were built around 1800 (this one is a little older, having been built around 1795), and all three may have been designed by, or were at least based on the designs of noted architect Asher Benjamin.  The most distinctive feature on the houses is the Palladian window above the front door, but the Allen House is a little different from the others because of its gabled roof, as opposed to the hip roof on the Colton and Leonard houses.

The Allen House, like the other two, was built for a militia officer, Lieutenant William Allen.  By the time the first photo was taken, it was the home of Frank E. Campbell, a farmer who grew tobacco in his fields behind the house.  The fields have long since been subdivided and developed into houses, but the old farmhouse still stands on Main Street, without a whole lot of changes in the past 120 years.  The only major change was a 1960s restoration, which returned the house to its early 1800s appearance by, among other things, removing the Victorian-era front porch.

Chapin House, Agawam, Mass

The Chapin House on Elm Street in Agawam, around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The house in 2015:

This house on Elm Street was built around 1850, and is an excellent example of the Carpenter Gothic style of architecture that was popular in rural and suburban American houses in the mid to late 1800s.  The only noticeable change from the first photo is the porch, which once wrapped around from the right side to the front door.  I’m not sure whether this porch was original to the house anyway, and in either case this house is well-preserved and is a contributing property in the Agawam Center Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rufus Colton House, Agawam, Mass

A view of Main Street in Agawam from the corner of Elm Street, with the Rufus Colton House in the distance on the left, seen around 1895-1896. Image courtesy of the Agawam Historical Association.

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The scene in 2015:

Built in 1806, the Rufus Colton House is architecturally similar to the nearby Captain Charles Leonard House, which was built a year earlier.   Both are believed to have been designed by Asher Benjamin, and like the Leonard House it was built for a local militia officer, Lieutenant Rufus Colton.  Beginning around 1830, it was owned by Martin King (not Martin Luther King, just Martin King), who operated a tavern here for some time.  Main Street was once part of the Boston Post Road, connecting Boston to New York and points south, so it is likely that a good part of King’s business was from travelers on the road.

Today, Main Street is busier, with paved streets replacing the dirt roads of the 1890s, but the Rufus Colton House remains well-preserved after over two centuries.  It may or may not have been designed by Asher Benjamin, but either way it is an excellent example of Federal architecture, and it retains many of its original elements, including the hip roof, the fan window over the door, and the Palladian window in the center of the second floor.  In 2001, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Agawam Center Historic District.