Dwight Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Dwight Hall on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

During the first half of the 19th century, the most prominent feature on the Yale campus was the Old Brick Row, a group of seven buildings that ran parallel to College Street on what is now known as the Old Campus. Constructed in the 18th and early 19th centuries, these brick buildings included dormitories, along with academic buildings that housed recitation rooms, laboratories, chapels, and a library. The Old Brick Row served the school well for many years, but one of the first significant additions to the campus came in the 1840s, with the construction of a new library building. Located away from the Old Brick Row, on the High Street side of the block, the new library was both physically and architecturally set apart from the older buildings. It featured an ornate Gothic Revival-style design, which contrasted sharply with the older, more plain Federal-style buildings, and its style also foreshadowed the future development of a Gothic-style quadrangle that would eventually displace the Old Brick Row.

The library building, which was later named Dwight Hall after former presidents Timothy Dwight IV and Timothy Dwight V, was constructed between 1842 and 1846. It was the work of noted New Haven architect Henry Austin, and it was among the first major commissions of his career. Prior to its construction, the library had been located in several different Old Brick Row buildings, including the Atheneum from 1763 to 1804, the Lyceum from 1804 to 1824, and then in the Second Chapel starting in 1824. However, this building was the first building on campus to be built specifically as a library, and its design was intended, at least in part, to protect the school’s rare books and archival materials from fire. Its location, far from the Old Brick Row, would have kept it safe in the event of a fire in the older buildings, and the library itself was built to be as fireproof as possible, with features such as a brownstone exterior, tin roof, and internal firewalls.

Within a few decades of the library’s completion, the Old Campus began to undergo a major transformation. The buildings of the Old Brick Row were steadily demolished, and the entire block was eventually encircled by late 19th and early 20th century Gothic-style buildings, creating an open quadrangle where the old buildings had once stood. The library was spared demolition, and was incorporated into this new campus plan, as was South Middle College, a part of the Old Brick Row that had been built in 1752. Later renamed Connecticut Hall, it is the oldest building on the Yale campus, and the library is now the second oldest.

This building served as the Yale library for many years, although it eventually became too small for the school’s growing collections. The library was expanded with the construction of Chittenden Hall in 1890 and Linsly Hall in 1906, and the latter is partially visible on the left side of both photos. However, even this arrangement proved inadequate over time, and in 1931 the library moved into the newly-completed Sterling Memorial Library. The old library was then converted into a chapel, and was renamed Dwight Hall. Over the years, the building has also served as the headquarters and namesake of Dwight Hall at Yale, a community service organization that is comprised of a wide variety of advocacy groups, charities, and related service-based campus groups.

Today, aside from changes in its use, Dwight Hall is not significantly different from its appearance in the first photo, taken more than a century ago. Linsly Hall, which is now combined with the adjacent Chittenden Hall, is still standing on the left side as well, and other features from both photos include the statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, who became president of the college in 1846, the same year that Dwight Hall was completed. This statue has become somewhat of a Yale landmark, as rubbing Woolsey’s left foot is said to bring good luck. This has resulted in a foot that is significantly shinier than the rest of the statue, a phenomenon that has even been referenced on the television show Gilmore Girls.

Overall, the only major difference between these two photos is the Harkness Tower, which is visible in the distance on the right side of the 2018 photo. Completed in 1922, this 216-foot tower was named in honor of Yale graduate and prominent Standard Oil investor Charles William Harkness, and was donated by his family after his death in 1916. The 2018 photo also shows some of the work that has recently been done on Dwight Hall. The building temporarily closed in 2017, and underwent its first major renovation since its conversion from a library to a chapel. This work was still in progress when the first photo was taken in the spring of 2018, but it was completed several months later, and the building reopened in the fall of 2018.

Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke, Mass

The Holyoke Public Library, seen from the corner of Maple and Essex Streets in Holyoke, around 1910-1915. Image from Illustrated & Descriptive Holyoke Massachusetts.

The library in 2017:

The Holyoke Public Library was established in 1870, and originally consisted of around 1,200 books that were housed in the Appleton Street School. Then, in 1876, the library moved to a room in city hall, where it was located for the next 25 years. However, in 1897 the Holyoke Water Power Company offered this lot, bounded by Maple, Cabot, Chestnut, and Essex Streets, to the library. The only stipulation was that the library must, within three years, raise enough money to construct a building on the site. This goal was ultimately achieved, thanks in part to the contributions of some of Holyoke’s prominent industrialists, including silk manufacturer William Skinner and paper manufacturer and former Congressman William Whiting, who each gave $10,000. Another $10,000 came from the prominent financier J. P. Morgan, whose ancestors had once lived in Holyoke.

The building was designed by noted local architect James A. Clough, who provided the plans free of charge. The exterior was built of limestone, and included classically-inspired elements such as a columned portico, which gave the building the appearance of a Greek temple in the midst of a modern industrial city. It was completed in 1902, and Whiting, who had served as the library’s president since 1870, gave the dedication address. At the time, the the library’s collections had grown to more than 20,000 volumes, and the building featured space for periodicals, reference works, and a children’s department. Within a decade, it would also house a natural history museum, which was later moved to the Wistariahurst museum.

The first photo shows the library as it appeared around the early 1910s. Since then, it has continued to serve as the city’s library for more than a century, although it has recently undergone significant changes. Between 2011 and 2013, it was renovated and expanded, with a large addition to the rear on the Chestnut Street side of the building. This project involved demolishing the old wing that housed the library stacks, and replacing it with a modern steel and glass structure that sharply contrasts with the original architecture of the building. However, the rest of the building was preserved as part of the renovations, and very little has changed from this view, aside from a small portion of the addition that is visible on the far right.

Indian Orchard Branch Library, Springfield, Mass

The branch library on Oak Street in the Springfield village of Indian Orchard, probably around 1910. Image from the Russ Birchall Collection at ImageMuseum.

The library in 2017:

Springfield’s public library system dates back to 1857, when the City Library Association was founded. Two years later, the library opened in a room in the old city hall, where it remained until the first permanent public library building was completed on State Street in 1871. Throughout the 19th century, this would remain the only public library in Springfield, but the city also had a number of private libraries, some of which were open to the public. Here in Indian Orchard, a factory village in the northeastern corner of the city, the Indian Orchard Mills Corporation opened a private library in 1859. This library was open to the public, and would serve the residents of the neighborhood until 1901, when a public branch library was opened.

This public library was the first branch library in the city, and was originally located on the ground floor of the Wight & Chapman Block, at the corner of Main and Oak Streets. However, it proved so popular that within a few years it was regularly overcrowded, and a more permanent location was needed. The solution came in 1905, when steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $260,000 to the city in order to build a new central library and three branch libraries. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Carnegie donated funding to build 2,509 libraries around the world, including 43 in Massachusetts, and his 1905 Springfield grant was the single largest one that he made in the state.

Of these four new libraries, the Indian Orchard branch was the first to be completed, opening its doors on March 26, 1909. It featured a Classical Revival design that was popular for libraries of the era, and was the work of Springfield architect John W. Donohue. A prolific local architect, Donohue specialized in designing Catholic churches and other ecclesiastical buildings, but the library was one of his few major secular commissions during his long career. His design also won him national attention, and was featured in The American Architect in 1911.

Nearly 110 years after it opened, the Indian Orchard library is still in use, and it is now one of eight branch libraries in the city. It was threatened with closure in 1982 and in 1990, but it ultimately remained opened and was expanded, undergoing a major renovation and addition that was completed in 2000. This included a large new wing on the back of the building, which is partially visible in the distance on the right side of the 2017 photo. However, the original section of the building was preserved, and today this scene has not significantly changed since the first photo was taken. Because of its historical and architectural significance, the library is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

George J. Brooks Library, Brattleboro, Vermont

The George J. Brooks Library on Main Street in Brattleboro, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2017:

George Jones Brooks was born in 1818 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but when he was three years old his family relocated to Chesterfield, New Hampshire, directly across the river from Brattleboro. He grew up there, and subsequently worked at a store in Brattleboro, before heading west around the age of 20. He first settled in Hillsboro, Illinois, where he was a farmer for about 12 years. Then, in 1850, he joined the thousands of other young men who were flocking to San Francisco after the discovery of gold in California.

Unlike most of the other migrants, though, Brooks was not looking to get wealthy through gold, but rather through paper. His brother, Horace Brooks, was a wholesale paper manufacturer in New York, and he suggested that George open a business in San Francisco. Like almost every other commodity, paper was in short supply in the still-primitive boomtown, and in later years Brooks would tell of times when every scrap of paper on the west coast was located in his store. This scarcity, combined with his virtual monopoly, earned him significant profits, and by the time Brooks left the paper business in 1862 he had become a wealthy man.

Brooks eventually returned to Brattleboro, where he built the elegant Brooks House hotel, which still stands just a little south of here. Then, in 1885, he purchased the former Francis Goodhue House here on Main Street, in order to build a library on the site. The old house was soon demolished, and construction began on the first permanent home of Brattleboro’s public library, which had previously been located in the Town Hall. Upon completion, the building was presented to the town as a gift, but unfortunately Brooks did not live to see it finished; he died on December 23, 1886, just weeks before the dedication ceremony.

Like many other public buildings of the era, the George J. Brooks Library featured Romanesque Revival architecture. It was the work of Maine architect Alexander Currier, and the building was actually larger than it appears in the first photograph. As built, the front section included a ladies’ reading room on the right side, a men’s reading room on the left, and a vestibule and lobby in the center. The library itself was located in a large wing on the rear of the building, which was nearly the same size as the front section, and included the main floor plus a balcony. The basement originally housed a natural history museum, but this was later converted into a children’s library.

It did not take very long for the library to outgrow the original space, though, and in the early 20th century it was expanded with a large addition in the rear. Following this expansion, it continued to be used for many years, but by the 1960s the building was again overcrowded, and the adjacent post office wanted the property in order to build a parking lot. So, a new Brooks Memorial Library building opened just to the north of here in 1967, and the old building was demolished four years later. The parking lot is still here today, and the only surviving remnant from the first photo is the First Baptist Church on the far left, which is still standing on the other side of the Masonic Lodge.

Wales Public Library, Wales, Mass

The Wales Public Library, at the corner of Main and Church Streets, around 1922-1925. Image courtesy of the Nevins Memorial Library.

The scene in 2017:

The origins of the Wales Public Library date back to 1897, when it began as a collection of books in the corner of a general store. The town had a population of a little over 700 at the time, with woolen mills employing many of its residents. However, these companies began to leave around the turn of the 20th century, and by 1910 the population had dropped by more than half, to just 345 residents in that year’s census. Throughout this time, the small public library continued to operate out of the general store, but around the early 1920s this house was donated to the town, in order to provide a more permanent home for the library.

The early history of this house seems difficult to trace. The state’s MACRIS database of historic buildings gives 1841 as the date of construction, while the library itself gives a date of 1825. Either way, it was apparently built by a Stephen Fisk, although maps from the mid-19th century show it as belonging to the Shaw family. By the second half of the century, the house was right in the midst of the town’s manufacturing center, and was directly adjacent to the woolen mill of the Shaw Manufacturing Company. Around 1875, the Wales Baptist Church relocated to this area, constructing a large church just up the hill from this house, which can be seen in the distance on the right side of the first photo.

At some point in the early 20th century, this house was acquired by the church, which, in turn, gave it to the town for use as a library. It opened in 1922, following a conversion that included changing the window configuration on the first floor. This helped to balance the building’s appearance, as it previously had one window on the left and two on the right, although the second floor windows were unchanged, resulting in a slightly asymmetrical front facade.

The first photo was taken soon after the library opened, and very little has changed in its appearance since then. The church in the distance is long gone, but this building remains in use as the Wales Public Library, with only minor exterior alterations. However, both the town’s population and the library’s collections have grown substantially in almost a century since the building opened, and today the library faces both overcrowding of its shelves and the structural deterioration of the building itself. Because of this, the library is in need of a new building, although to date there have been no definitive plans for relocating.

Wales Baptist Church, Wales, Mass

The Wales Baptist Church on Church Street, seen in the distance from the other side of Main Street, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The present-day town of Wales was settled sometime around the 1720s, and was, at the time, a part of Brimfield. It was subsequently incorporated as a separate town in 1775, and was known as South Brimfield until 1828, when it was renamed Wales. As was the case across New England in the colonial era, the area’s settlement soon led to the establishment of a church. However while nearly all of these churches were Congregational, Wales was a rare exception. Its first church, formed in 1736, was Baptist, making it among the first Baptist churches in this part of the state. Other denominations would later establish churches here in Wales, but the Baptists would remain the predominant religious group for many years.

In 1802, the Baptists constructed a new meeting house on the southern part of Main Street, near the corner of Union Road. Along with the Baptists, the building was used by other denominations, including Universalists and Congregationalists, and it also served as the town hall. It would continue to be used as the town hall until 1965, and it is still standing today, but the Baptists moved out of the building around 1875, when they built a new church about a mile away on Church Street, which is seen here in the first photo. At the time, this area had become the town’s manufacturing center, and there were several woolen mills in the vicinity of the church, including one that was located just out of view to the right of the scene.

The first photo shows the church as it appeared around the 1890s. The town’s population had peaked about a decade earlier, with a population of 1,030 during the 1880 census. However, the town lost many of its manufacturing jobs by the turn of the 20th century, and the population rapidly declined. Within 30 years, the town lost two-thirds of its residents, with the 1910 census showing a population of just 345. Not until after World War II did Wales see significant growth again, and the town would not surpass its 1880 population until the 1980 census.

The early 20th century population loss hurt Wales’s churches, particularly the Baptists, who had built this large church building at the height of the town’s prosperity. They would continue to worship here until around the early 1930s, when the dwindling congregation joined with the Methodists, whose church was located a little to the south of here on Main Street. The Baptists later took ownership of the former Methodist church, and today the Wales Baptist Church continues to hold its services there, more than 280 years after the congregation was first established.

As the present-day photo shows, the old 1875 church building is no longer standing. It was evidently demolished at some point after the early 1930s, although the short, dead end road on the irght side of the scene still bears the name of Church Street. Today, the only surviving building from the first photo is the house in the foreground, at the corner of Main and Church Streets. Built in the first half of the 19th century, this house later became the Wales Public Library in 1922, and it remains in use today. The first floor windows were altered during its conversion to a library, but otherwise it still stands as the only recognizable feature from the first photo.