Public Garden, Boston (3)

The view of the Boston Public Garden, looking northeast from just inside the entrance at Commonwealth Avenue, taken around 1900. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

803_1900c bpl

The scene in 2015:

803_2015
This statue of George Washington has appeared in several earlier posts here and here, and the scene shows the statue with Beacon Hill in the distance. The only easily recognizable building from the first photo is the Massachusetts State House; the distinctive dome and triangular pediment beneath it can be seen just to the left of the palm tree on the right side of the first photo. The State House is still there, but its view is now blocked by larger trees in the park. Incidentally, if the palm trees in the first photo look out of place in Boston, it’s because they are. Although they are not native to anywhere near New England, tropical plants such as pal trees and the elephant ear plants in the 2015 scene have long been a summer feature at the Public Garden, and in the winter they are stored in greenhouses to protect them from the cold.

George Washington Statue, Public Garden, Boston

The side view of the George Washington statue in the Boston Public Garden, facing north toward Beacon Street, sometime in the 1800s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

802_1800sc bpl

The statue in 2015:

802_2015
As mentioned in this earlier post, this statue of George Washington has stood at the Commonwealth Avenue entrance to the Public Garden since 1869. It was designed by sculptor Thomas Ball, a Boston native who also designed the Charles Sumner statue in the Public Garden, and the Emancipation Memorial at nearby Park Square. Since then, not much has changed about the statue or the surrounding park. The trees now obscure the view of the houses in the distance, but many of them are still standing today, along Arlington Street to the left and Beacon Street in the center and right.

Public Garden, Boston (2)

Looking west from the bridge in the Boston Public Garden toward Commonwealth Avenue in 1895. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

801_1895 bpl

The scene in 2015:

801_2015
For as much as Boston has changed in the past 120 years, this scene has stayed remarkably the same. It is taken facing the opposite direction from the photos in this post, and the statue in the distance is the same one visible from the other side in that post. This bridge over the lake has been a feature in the Public Garden since it was added in 1867, and it was designed by noted Boston architect William G. Preston. Two years later, the statue of George Washington was added, and it is one of many statues that decorate the park.

Beyond the Public Garden is the eastern end of Commonwealth Avenue, which was designed with a wide, park-like median. It serves as a major centerpiece for the Back Bay neighborhood, and the townhouses on either side of the street have been highly coveted since the area was first developed. Many of these historic homes are still standing today, although it is hard to see in the 2015 photo here. The ones to the left, at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Arlington Street, have since been demolished and replaced by a modern high-rise, but most of the ones on the right are still there, including the ones at the corner. Built mostly in the 1860s, these are among the oldest homes in the Back Bay, and this location along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall and across from the Public Garden has long been desirable real estate in the city.

Public Garden Lake, Boston

Looking west across the lake in the Boston Public Garden, sometime in the late 1800s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

800_1877-1910c bpl

The view in 2015:

800_2015
Boston’s Public Garden, as mentioned in this post, was the first public botanical garden in the United States when it was established in 1837. It was located along the edge of the city’s original shoreline, and like the rest of the Back Bay it was a tidal marsh when European settlers first arrived in 1630. By the 1850s, though, the city was looking to expand west by filling in the Back Bay, and one of the initial projects was the landscaping of the Public Garden, which was done in the early 1860s by landscape architect George Meacham.

In the years since the first photo was taken, the Public Garden itself hasn’t changed much. It still has the artificial lake in the center, surrounded by walkways, flower beds, and statues. The lake’s famous swan boats are not visible here, but they began operation in 1877 and are still in use during the summer months. Also not visible from here is the bridge over the lake, which was added in 1867 a little to the right of this scene, and is still there today.

The greatest difference between these two photos, obviously, is the skyline beyond the Public Garden. When the first photo was taken, the eastern portion of the Back Bay had been developed, and the Arlington Street Church, built in 1861, was the most obvious landmark in this scene. The church is still standing, as are the townhouses just to the right of it along Arlington Street, but otherwise all of the other buildings from the first photo are gone. The buildings to the left of the church are on Boylston Street, and most of the Victorian townhouses were demolished long ago as the street became an important commercial area. In the distance, skyscrapers such as the old and new John Hancock buildings and the Prudential Tower show how the southern section of the Back Bay has been extensively redeveloped starting in the second half of the 20th century.

Public Garden, Boston

Looking east in the Public Garden from the Arlington Street entrance, facing the statue of George Washington, around 1917-1934. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

783_1917-1934c bpl

The view in 2015:

783_2015
Boston Common was established in 1634 as the first public park in the country, and just over 200 years later, in 1837, the Boston Public Garden was created just to the west of it, as the first public botanical garden in the United States. The carefully-landscaped garden includes a pond, a bridge, a wide variety of plants, and several statues, including one of George Washington seen in these two photos.  The bronze statue has stood here since 1869, and it was designed by noted Boston sculptor Thomas Ball, whose other works include the Emancipation Memorial at nearby Park Square.

Some of the landscaping has changed at this entrance to the garden, and there are no floral arrangements like the one the men are working on in the first photo, but the most dramatic change in the past 80 or so years is the city skyline in the distance. When the first photo was taken, height restrictions prevented large skyscrapers from being built in the city, and the only one visible was the Custom House Tower, which, as a federal building, was immune to the city’s restrictions. Today, though, the restrictions are long gone, and Boston’s skyline continues to grow; the Millennium Tower, under construction to the right in the 2015 scene, will become the third-tallest in the city and the tallest in downtown when it is completed later in 2016.

Miles Morgan Statue, Springfield

This photo, taken around 1908, shows the Miles Morgan statue on Court Square.  The statue itself was created in 1882, commemorating one of the early founders of Springfield, and is one of two notable statues dedicated to Springfield’s founders (the other, located next to the main library, is of my ancestor, Samuel Chapin). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Statues

This photo, taken in June 2013, shows what the same scene looks like today.

004_2013

The statue remains, but everything else around it has changed; none of the buildings in the 1908 photo still exist today.  Most of the ones in the background are on the current spot of the Sheraton, and the vacant lot in the foreground is, of course, no longer vacant. Just a few years earlier, Springfield City Hall sat on that site, and within a few more years, the new Springfield City Hall would be built, as part of the Municipal Group that includes City Hall, Symphony Hall, and the Campanile Tower. The old city hall, though, was not intentionally demolished – on January 6, 1905, it burned down, and the alleged culprit was, of all things, a monkey that overturned a kerosene lantern. Like Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, this may or may not have been the case, but either way the outcome was the same, and Springfield ended up needing a new city hall. See this post for a view taken around the same time, but facing the other direction. For another once-prominent Springfield landmark, notice the white, nearly windowless building on the far right in the distance. The side of it reads “Gilmore Opera House.” Built in 1865, it became the Capitol Theatre in 1920, and it was demolished in 1972.