Mather-Eliot House, Boston

The Mather-Eliot House on Hanover Street, near North Bennet Street in Boston’s North End, around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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In his 1887 book, Rambles in Old Boston, New England, Edward Griffin Porter describes the house in the first photo as a “fragment of an ancient wooden dwelling, crowded almost out of sight by the larger brick buildings.”  The house at 342 Hanover Street was built in 1677 by noted Puritan minister Increase Mather, after his previous house was destroyed in the fire of 1676.  His son, Cotton Mather, grew up here, and later went on to be a prominent minister as well.  The Mathers only lived here for 11 years, but later on the house was owned by two other famous ministers, Andrew and John Eliot.  The house was still standing in 1899, but was demolished by 1908.  As seen in the 2014 photo, a 7-Eleven now occupies the first floor of the building that sits on the site now.  The building to the left of the Mather-Eliot House is long gone, but the one on the right, which was built in 1884, is still there.

Incidentally, after the fire of 1676 destroyed Increase Mather’s old house, a new house was built on the same site around 1680, and survives today – it is best known as the Paul Revere House.

Noah Lincoln House, Boston

The Noah Lincoln House at the corner of North Bennet and Salem Streets in the North End, around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The corner in 2014:

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Also known as the Avis House, the Noah Lincoln House was built around 1716, just a short distance down Salem Street from where Old North Church would be built only a few years later.  It was modified somewhat by Noah Lincoln in the early 1800s, and the third floor was added.  According to a turn-of-the-century book, it was still standing in 1899, but was probably demolished soon after and replaced with the present building.

William Gray House, Boston

The William Gray House, at the corner of Prince Street and Lafayette Avenue in Boston’s North End, around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The location in 2014:

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The house in the first photo, known as the William Gray House, was built around 1750, and was used by the British as a hospital after the Battle of Bunker Hill.  It survived until around the turn of the 20th century – it appears in the 1898 Boston atlas, but is gone by the 1908 atlas.  Nothing else from the first photo survives today, although Lafayette Avenue is still there, to the left.  Despite its name, it is actually a narrow alley that is barely wide enough to fit a single vehicle between the curbs – a holdover from Boston’s pre-automobile street network.

Ebenezer Hancock House, Boston

The Ebenezer Hancock House in Boston’s Blackstone Block, before 1886. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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Boston’s Blackstone Block is in an odd location; the collection of historic 18th and 19th century buildings and narrow, 16th century alleys sits as sort of a time capsule, surrounded by modern development.  On one side is the Government Center area, where street scenes like this were demolished wholesale and replaced with concrete monoliths and open paved areas, and on the other side is the Central Artery, where the elevated highway was originally built in the 1950s before being put underground as part of the Big Dig.

However, the Blackstone Block appears virtually unchanged in over 125 years.  A few notable landmarks are visible in these photos, including the Ebenezer Hancock House in the center.  In the 19th century, it was home to William H. Learnard’s shoe store, who operated out of the building from the 1820s until 1886.  He wasn’t the only person to own a shoe store here, though.  The building functioned as a shoe store from 1798 until 1963, and is today used for offices.  Originally, though, it was a house, and was built around 1767 and later owned by Ebenezer Hancock, the brother of John Hancock.

Also of note in this photo is the Boston Stone, seen in the background, embedded in the wall of the building to the left of the Ebenezer Hancock House.  Supposedly, this stone, which actually predates the circa 1835 building, was once used as the zero milestone for Boston, but this doesn’t appear to be likely.  The building, though, is probably the one thing that has changed the most since the first photo was taken.  At some point in the mid 20th century, the building was trimmed down to just three stories.  Today, it has all of its floors again, but this is a recent addition; photos in this post, from the other side of the building, show that the extra stories weren’t there in 2011.

D.L. Moody Residence, Northfield Mass

The former residence of D.L. Moody, on the grounds of Northfield Seminary around 1904.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The house in 2014:

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D.L. Moody was an influential Christian evangelist throughout much of the late 19th century.  He was born in Northfield, Massachusetts in 1837, in a house just up the hill behind this building.  He later lived in Boston and Chicago, in addition to traveling around the country and to Europe as part of his evangelistic tours.  He returned to Northfield in 1875, and in 1879 he opened the Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies, which later became the Northfield campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School.  This house, which he lived in after his return to Northfield, is part of the campus, which has been vacant since 2006, when the school consolidated to just the Mount Hermon campus in nearby Gill.

Maple Street Homes, Springfield Mass

Several homes on Maple Street in Springfield, 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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Around the turn of the last century, Maple Street was one of the best places in Springfield to live. This side of the street was particularly desirable, because of the view looking toward downtown Springfield and across the Connecticut River. Today, that isn’t the case. Although the view is still there, it is no longer one of the city’s premier residential areas, and the two mansions in the first photo no longer exist.

Located directly across the street from the former MacDuffie School campus, this area was right in the path of the June 1, 2011 tornado that tore across western Massachusetts. These houses, however, were gone long before then.  The one on the right was at the time the home of businessman and city library president Nathan D. Bill, and was built in the 1880s as the Andrew Fennessy House. It was destroyed in a suspicious fire in 1969, after having been vacant for several years. Today, only the concrete driveway is still there, and can be seen better on Google Maps. The house just beyond it was built in 1882 and belonged to Walter H. Wesson, the son of Daniel Wesson, co-founder of Smith & Wesson. In 1982, this historic house was also heavily damaged in a fire, and was subsequently demolished.