City Hall, Providence, RI

Providence City Hall as seen from Fulton Street, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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City Hall in 2016:

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Providence’s City Hall, located at the western end of Exchange Place, was the city’s first permanent municipal building. For many years, the city government had used the colonial-era Market House on the opposite side of the Providence River, but after decades of disputes over the location of a new building, this site was finally chosen in the 1870s. It was completed in 1878, and was designed in the Second Empire style by Samuel J.F. Thayer, a Boston architect who probably took some inspiration from Boston’s own City Hall.

Many years later, the building remains in use as City Hall, and has seen some notable visitors in the process. In 1902, several years before the first photo was taken, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech from the steps of the building. More than a half century later, in 1960, John F. Kennedy also gave a speech here, the day before he was elected president. Today, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is the only feature in the first photo that has not changed. Even the statue on the right side has undergone changes. It was dedicated in 1871 as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, but was moved in 1913, and did not return to its original location until 1997.

Soldiers’ Monument, Worcester, Mass

The Soldiers’ Monument on the Worcester Common, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This scene shows the Soldiers’ Monument from the opposite direction of the view in an earlier post. As mentioned in that post, the monument was designed by sculptor Randolph Rogers and dedicated in 1874, during a time when memorials to fallen Union soldiers were appearing on town commons across New England. It was placed at the northeast corner of the common, across from the Salem Street Congregational Church, which can be seen in the distance to the right. Although information on this church is scarce, the congregation appears to have been established in 1848, and based on the architecture of the building it was probably built around this same time. Also in this scene, on the left side, are several commercial buildings, with signs for carriage and sleigh harnesses, horse clothing, furniture, and even one for “Talking Machines.”

Today, the only landmark left from the first photo is the monument itself. All of the buildings in this scene have since been demolished, and in the early 1970s the Worcester Center urban renewal project was built here, in the area east of the common. It included the office building in the background of the 2016 photo, along with a shopping mall and parking garage. The mall closed in 2006, though, and parts of the complex have since been demolished. As of 2016, the area is now being redeveloped as CitySquare, another downtown Worcester revitalization project.

Worcester Common, Worcester, Mass (2)

Another view of the Worcester Common, taken looking west from the corner of Church and Front Streets, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The Common in 2016:

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Taken from the northeast corner of the Common, on the other end of Church Street from an earlier post, this view shows the Soldiers’ Monument in the center, with City Hall to the left and Front Street to the right. The monument is the oldest feature in the first photo; it was dedicated in 1874 in honor of Worcester’s fallen soldiers and sailors of the Civil War, and was designed by prominent sculptor Randolph Rogers.

Along with the monument, several other buildings remain from the first photo, including the 1898 City Hall. On the far right, partially hidden by trees, are two 19th century commercial buildings. Both were designed by Fuller & Delano, a Worcester-based firm that was responsible for many other significant buildings in the city. The tall red brick building is the Chase Building, which was built in 1886 and, although the top floors were later altered, it is still standing. To the right of it, at the corner of Commercial Street, is the Ransom C. Taylor Block, built around 1897.

Today, the only particularly obvious change to this scene is the Worcester Plaza building in the distance. Originally built as the Worcester County National Bank Tower, it was completed in 1974, and is tied for the record of the tallest building in the city.

Columbus Circle, New York City

Looking north at Columbus Circle, with the statue of Christopher Columbus in the foreground, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Columbus Circle in 2016:

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Not much has remained the same at Columbus Circle since the first photo was taken; even the configuration of the circle itself has seen some dramatic changes. The one constant in both photos, though, is the Christopher Columbus monument in the center of the circle. It was designed by sculptor Gaetano Russo and dedicated in 1892 in honor of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s voyage. When the first photo was taken, it was easily the most prominent landmark in the scene, but today it has a backdrop of high-rise buildings along Broadway and Eighth Avenue, including the Trump International Hotel and Tower, located directly behind the monument in the 2016 photo.

Lost New England Goes West: Union Square, San Francisco

Union Square, seen from the corner of Post and Stockton Streets shortly after the April 18, 1906 earthquake. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Union Square in 2015:

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Today, Union Square is one of the premier shopping areas in San Francisco, but 110 years ago it was, like the rest of the city, covered in earthquake debris and surrounded by burned-out buildings. The most prominent building in the first photo is the St. Francis Hotel, on the right side of the scene. Completed only two years earlier, the building survived the earthquake itself with minimal damage, but a combination of damaged firefighting infrastructure and poor city leadership allowed fires to spread throughout much of the city. The hotel was completely gutted by the fire, as the first photo shows, but it remained structurally sound. Soon after the photo was taken, a temporary hotel was built in the middle of the square, where it housed guests until the burned-out hotel reopened a year and a half later. Now known as the Westin St. Francis, it has been expanded several times, and today it still stands overlooking Union Square.

Another Union Square landmark from the first photo is the Dewey Monument, located in the center of the square. It was designed by sculptor Robert Aitken, whose later works included the pediment atop the US Supreme Court Building, and it was dedicated in 1903 by Theodore Roosevelt, in honor of Spanish-American War hero Admiral George Dewey and recently-assassinated President William McKinley. The 85-foot tall monument survived both the earthquake and the subsequent fires, and it is still standing in Union Square today, although it is now partially hidden by the palm trees around it.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

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.

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The scene in 2015:

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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.