Tennis and Racquet Club, Boston

The Tennis and Racquet Club at the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets in Boston, on April 5, 1912. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

700_1912-04-05 coba

The building in 2015:

700_2015
This building has been home to the Tennis and Racquet Club since it opened in 1902, 10 years before the first photo was taken.  As the Back Bay developed as one of the city’s premier neighborhoods in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a number of private social clubs sprung up for the neighborhood’s wealthy residents.  The Tennis and Racquet was one such social and athletic club, and it is still active today in this historic building, with its original court tennis and racquets courts in the large, mostly windowless area above the second floor.

Mechanics Hall, Boston

The Mechanics Hall building on Huntington Avenue in Boston, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

679_1906c loc

The site in 2015:

679_2015
Mechanics Hall was a convention center and civic arena located in Boston’s Back Bay, in a triangular-shaped lot between Huntington Avenue to the south, the Boston & Albany rail yard to the north, and West Newton Street to the west.  It was completed in 1881, and was designed by William Gibbons Preston, whose other works in Boston included the Rogers Building on the original MIT campus, and the old Museum of Natural History building.

The building was owned by the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, and included a large auditorium that was used for various conventions, shows, track meets, wrestling matches, and other events.  It was even briefly home to Boston’s first professional basketball team: the 1925-1926 Boston Whirlwinds of the American Basketball League, who began their only season in the Matthews Arena before moving their home games here and then later to a Knights of Columbus Hall in Somerville. The team ended up disbanding partway through the season, after playing just 16 games.

The first photo shows the trolley line running down the median of Huntington Avenue.  This section of the trolley was put underground in 1941, and Mechanics station was built here to serve the building.  However, Mechanics Hall was becoming obsolete, and by the 1950s the neighboring rail yard was being eyed for redevelopment as the Prudential Center.  As part of the project, Mechanics Hall was demolished in 1959, and today the skyscraper at 111 Huntington Avenue occupies part of the former building’s location, as seen to the right in the 2015 photo.

Museum of Natural History, Boston

The Museum of Natural History building on Berkeley Street in Boston, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

678_1904c loc

The building in 2015:

678_2015
This historic building on Berkeley Street is one of the oldest buildings in the Back Bay neighborhood.  It was constructed in 1863 on a block that was set aside for the Museum of Natural History and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Eventually, two MIT buildings would be built in this block between Berkeley and Clarendon Streets, the first of which was the 1866 Rogers Building.  The Rogers Building’s architecture matched the Museum of Natural History, and it can be clearly seen in the distance in the first photo.

MIT remained here until 1916, when they relocated to their much larger campus across the Charles River in Cambridge.  The Rogers Building, along with the neighboring Walker Memorial Building, were demolished in 1939 to build the New England Mutual Life Insurance Building, which is still standing in the distance in the 2015 photo.  The museum was located in this building until 1951, when it was renamed the Boston Museum of Science and moved to its present location on the Charles River.  After the museum left, it has been used by several different companies as a retail store, including Bonwit Teller and Louis Boston.  In 2013, the home furnishing company Restoration Hardware opened their Boston gallery in the building, which still remains well-preserved and relatively unchanged after over 150 years and a number of ownership changes.

American Legion, Southington, Connecticut

American Legion members and other spectators watch the 1942 Memorial Day parade in Southington from in front of the American Legion hall.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA-OWI Collection.

638_1942-05 loc

The scene in 2015:

638_2015
As mentioned in previous posts, the Office of War Information thoroughly documented Southington in May 1942, in order to produce a pamphlet to distribute overseas that would show life in a “typical” American town.  Of the nearly 300 photos available online through the Library of Congress, many of them focus on the town’s Memorial Day observances along Main Street.  This was the first Memorial Day after the United States entered World War II, and most of the American Legion members pictured here were probably veterans of World War I.  They were the generation who had fought in World War I, lived through the Great Depression, and were now facing the reality of their sons having to fight World War II; undoubtedly this last thought was on the minds of many of them that day.

Today, the American Legion hall is still there, with new doors and windows but otherwise not much different from 1942.  Some of the members today might be the children of the men in the first photo who served in World War II, or perhaps grandchildren who served in Vietnam a generation later.  At least a few of the young children in the first photo might still live in Southington today; if so, they would be in their late 70s or early 80s by now.

Veterans’ Association, Weirs Beach, NH (2)

The Veterans’ Association buildings along Lakeside Avenue in Weirs Beach, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

584_1900-1906 loc

Lakeside Avenue in 2015:

584_2015
As mentioned in the previous post, Weirs Beach became the annual meeting place for New Hampshire’s Civil War veterans, who established the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association.  Beginning in the 1870s, the organization held its annual reunions here, and over time the different regiments built their own buildings for their members to stay in.  Many of these buildings fronted present-day Lakeside Avenue, as seen in the first photo.  Starting in the foreground is the Headquarters, located at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue, followed by the 3rd Regiment, 7th Regiment, 9th & 11th Regiments, and the Cavalry Headquarters.

All of these buildings were built between 1885 and 1888, and all survive except for the 3rd Regiment Building, which was lost in the same 1924 fire that destroyed the New Hotel Weirs.  The only other significant loss from the first photo is the statue, which was dedicated in 1894 and destroyed by lightning in 1931.  Today, the property is still owned by the New Hampshire Veterans’ Association, and although many other buildings on the site have since been destroyed or demolished, the view along Lakeside Avenue still looks a lot like how it did over a century ago.

Springfield Rescue Mission, Springfield Mass

The former WCA boarding house at 19 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

454_1938-1939 spt

The building in 2015:

454_2015

The building at 19 Bliss Street has had a variety of roles over the years.  It was built in 1884, as a boarding house for the Women’s Christian Association.  As Springfield’s population and economy grew in the late 19th century, so did the demand for workers.  The WCA provided a place for young, single women to live while working in the city, and this building served that purpose until the larger YWCA building was completed a block away on Howard Street in 1907.  The old building was then used as a private boarding house for many years, as seen in the first photo.  In 1962, the Springfield Rescue Mission acquired the building, and it has been used by them ever since.  There have been a few changes over the years, the most obvious of which is the removal of the front porch; the “shadow” of the porch can still be seen on the front of the building.  Another fairly recent change was the installation of new windows, which required some brick infilling of the window openings; this can be seen the clearest with the windows on the far left side.  It wasn’t planned this way, but notice how the cars in both photos are in essentially the same locations, representing changes in automobiles over the course of three quarters of a century.  Also of note is the tree in the foreground, which appears to be the same tree that was there in the first photo.

However, the historic building sits literally right in the middle of the planned MGM casino, so it is among the buildings that will be demolished.  In exchange for the building, MGM purchased a new location for the Rescue Mission, the former Orr Cadillac dealership on Mill Street, which will allow the organization to expand from 40 to 60 beds.  Currently, the Bliss Street property scheduled to be the last to be demolished, sometime in December of 2015.