Hancock Tavern, Boston

The Hancock Tavern on Corn Court, Boston, around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same site in 2014:

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Throughout the 19th century, rumors abounded that this building, known as Hancock Tavern, was the meeting-place prior to the Boston Tea Party.  However, while old, this building was not that old – a 1917 estimate put its date of construction between 1807 and 1812. Even the site has no direct connection to the Tea Party – the previous building had been a four room house, with no record of any tavern existing there in the 1770s. In short, as one historian put it in 1903, “As an old landmark the Hancock Tavern is a failure.”

The first photo is intriguing, however, because it shows a glimpse of what 19th century Boston looked like, with narrow, winding cobblestone streets that seem to literally vanish into the city blocks.  The scene wouldn’t last for much longer after the first photo was taken, though.  It was demolished by 1903 and replaced with a more modern building; the narrow Corn Court alley went with it as well.  Today, the site has been completely redeveloped again, and is located just south of Faneuil Hall, between Faneuil Hall, State Street, Congress Street, and the South Market building.

Sun Tavern, Dock Square, Boston

The Sun Tavern at Dock Square, across from Faneuil Hall in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Dock Square and the Sun Tavern around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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According to the sign above the building in the first photo, the Sun Tavern was built in 1690, although some estimates that I have seen have dated its construction even earlier.  In either case, the building was extremely old by the time it was photographed in 1898,  It was a tavern by the first decade of the 18th century, although possibly earlier, and was at the time located right next to the town dock, hence the name of Dock Square.  It wouldn’t be until over 50 years after it opened that its familiar neighbor, Faneuil Hall, was built, and another 80 years after that before Quincy Market was built atop what was once Boston Harbor.

The building survived until about 1910 (it appears in the 1908 atlas, but is gone by the 1912 one), and sometime in the 1920s or 1930s a good portion of Dock Square was torn down.  The rest would come down in the 1960s, when the area that once made up Dock Square, Adams Square, and Scollay Square was demolished to build Boston City Hall, seen on the right-hand side of the 2014 photo.

Corner of State and Walnut, Springfield Mass

The corner of State Street and Walnut Street, looking east, sometime around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The scene in 2014:

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The building on the left in the first photo is the Rockingham House, which is discussed in this post.  To the right is the Gunn Block, which was built in 1836 and has served a variety of purposes over the years, originally as a store selling “West Indies Goods” but later as a meeting place, offices, a bar, and apartments.  Today it is vacant, but it currently being restored and redeveloped by the organization Develop Springfield.

Rockingham House, Springfield Mass

The Rockingham House, on the southeast corner of State Street and Walnut Street, sometime around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The same location in 2014:

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Built in 1796 diagonally across from the Armory, the Rockingham House was originally called the Armory House, for obvious reasons.  Along with being used as a lodging place for people associated with the Armory, it was primarily used by teamsters in the early part of the 19th century.  Long before railroads and Jimmy Hoffa, teamsters were the primary means of overland transportation from Springfield to Boston.  It was common for them to bring loads from riverboats up the hill.  The inn was conveniently located right at the top of the hill, so they would often stay overnight there before heading out the next morning.

Once the railroads linked Springfield to Boston in 1839, this part of the inn’s business declined, and it began to be used instead as a boarding house.  As mentioned in the 1884 King’s Handbook of Springfield, “It ceased to be a stopping-place for transient guests some time ago, but is still a pleasant home for some residents who do not care to keep house.”

Obviously, the Rockingham House no longer exists, although it wasn’t demolished to build a Burger King.  Rather, it was replaced by a gas station – a 1974 article from the Springfield Republican indicates that it was demolished “several years ago.”

Fraunces Tavern, New York City

Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Broad and Pearl Streets in New York City, between 1900 and 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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After its reconstruction, around 1907-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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In 2014:

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Claimed to be the oldest building in Manhattan, the building was constructed in 1719, and was used as a tavern in the second half of the 18th century and well into the 19th century.  However, the building suffered some serious fires in the mid 19th century, and was consequently reconstructed several times.  By the turn of the century, it looked nothing like its original appearance.  In fact, when it was finally “restored” in 1907, it was redesigned based on what was presumed to be colonial appearance; its actual 18th century configuration is unknown.  I don’t know how much of the original structure is left, but I would hazard a guess that it is an architectural equivalent to the ship of Theseus, with the question being, if a building has, over time, had every single part of it replaced, is it still the same building? And if not, at what point did it cease to be the same building? But, if it is the same building, what would happen if, theoretically, all of the original pieces were recovered and reconstructed, say, across the street. Which would be the “real” building? Inquiring minds want to know.

Buckman Tavern, Lexington

The Buckman Tavern in Lexington, Mass., between 1890 and 1901.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Between 1910 and 1920.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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In 2013:

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Built about 1690, Buckman’s Tavern was the gathering place for many of the militiamen on the morning of the Battle of Lexington, on April 19, 1775. Not much has changed in the appearance of the building since then, let alone since the above photos were taken. However, the air conditioning unit in one of the first floor windows is not an original period item.