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.

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.

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The statue in 2015:

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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

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.

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The view in 2015:

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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.

Flynt Memorial Fountain, Monson, Mass

The fountain at the corner of Main and Fountain Streets in Monson, probably around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The fountain in 2015:

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As mentioned in previous posts, the town of Monson became a significant industrial center in the 1800s. Most of this involved manufacturing textile products or straw hats, but the Flynt family built a prosperous business out of quarrying granite.  The company was started around 1825 by Rufus Flynt, and after his death in 1836, his son William took over the company at the age of 18.  Incidentally, the Flynts also had a connection to another prominent family in town.  William’s middle name was Norcross, which was his mother Sarah’s maiden name.  She was the daughter of William Norcross and the sister of Joel Norcross, whose house on Main Street is still standing today.  Joel was the grandfather of Emily Dickinson, which means William was her second cousin, once removed.

William N. Flynt remained in control of the company for the next 39 years, during which time it became one of the area’s leading producers of granite.  Monson buildings such as the Memorial Town Hall, St. Patrick’s Church, the Universalist Church, and the library were built of Flynt granite, as was the Hampden County Courthouse in Springfield along with many other public buildings in the northeast.

Shortly after his retirement, Flynt donated this fountain to the town.  It is located directly across the street from his company store, and it reads “Presented to the town by W.N. Flynt. 1882. Pro bono publico.”  The Latin phrase translates as “for the public good,” and in its early years this fountain served the public good as a watering trough for horses.  Given the marked decline in horse traffic on the streets of Monson, though, it has since been used as a decorative planter.