Northampton from Mount Holyoke, Hadley Mass

Looking west from the summit of Mount Holyoke toward Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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Not a whole lot has changed in this scene in the past 115 years. From this distance, there aren’t too many noticeable changes in the city of Northampton, which has grown in population by more than 50% since 1900. The area near the river has hardly changed at all; this floodplain continues to be used as farmland.  Even Interstate 91, which passes through between the farms and the city, isn’t noticeable in the present-day scene.  In fact, the only really obvious difference here is something that is entirely natural – the island that has formed in the middle of the Connecticut River.

Old Church and Courthouse, Northampton Mass

Looking up Main Street from Pleasant Street in Northampton, toward the old church and courthouse in 1864. Photo from Reminiscences of Old Northampton (1902).

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The location in 2015:

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The 1864 photo is one of the oldest existing photographs of downtown Northampton, and none of the buildings from that scene survive today, 151 years later.  To the left in the 1864 photo is the old church, which was built in 1812.  It was Northampton’s fourth meeting house, and it replaced the 1737 building that had been built during the pastorate of Jonathan Edwards.  It was from here that the influential pastor and theologian helped to spark the Great Awakening revival that spread across the American colonies and in Europe, but by the turn of the century the town was in need of a new building.  The 1812 church was designed by Northampton architect Isaac Damon, who just a few years later would design Old First Church in Springfield, 15 miles to the south.  However, while Old First Church survives to this day, the Northampton church seen in the 1864 photo burned in 1876, and was replaced two years later by the current brownstone church.

On the far right of the 1864 photo is the old Hampshire County Courthouse.  I don’t know when it was built, but it is virtually identical to the 1821 Hampden County Courthouse, seen on the far left of the 1882 photo in this post.  Because of its similar appearance, the Hampshire County Courthouse was probably built around the same time, shortly after some major changes to the county’s borders.  Originally, Hampshire County included all of Western Massachusetts, but it was steadily broken up into multiple counties, beginning in 1761 when Berkshire County was established to the west.  Then in 1811, Franklin County was created in the northern part of the Connecticut River Valley with Greenfield as the county seat, and a year later Hampden County split off to the south, with Springfield as the county seat.  I don’t know what happened to the old courthouse seen here, but it was gone by 1886, when the present-day Hampshire County Courthouse opened on roughly the same spot at the corner of Main and King Streets.

In between the two prominent buildings in the 1864 scene is a relatively small commercial block, the Whitney Building.  The photograph was actually commissioned by George D. Eames, the owner of the building, and was probably intended to advertise the building’s prominent location in town.  Part of the building housed the offices of the Hampshire Gazette, and the newspaper was published in the basement.  This is evidently the reason for the large sign on the building that reads “Caloric Printing Establishment.”  The Whitney Building was demolished in 1876, and a bank building was put in its place.  Today, the 1916 Northampton Institute for Savings building occupies the site where the Whitney Building once stood.

Grace Coolidge at home in Northampton Mass

First Lady Grace Coolidge at her home in Northampton in 1928. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The view in 2014:

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Massasoit Street, where the Coolidges lived from 1906 until 1930, remains largely unchanged – even the concrete slabs on the walkway appear to be the same ones that Mrs. Coolidge stepped on in the 1928 photo.  See also this post and this post for other photos of the Coolidges at their home.

Grace & John Coolidge, Northampton Mass

First Lady Grace Coolidge and her son John, at their Northampton home in 1928. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The view in 2014:

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According to the caption, this photo was taken during Mrs. Coolidge’s visit to her mother, who was apparently staying in their half of the duplex on Massassoit Street in Northampton while Calvin Coolidge was serving as president and living in slightly different accommodations.  Presidency aside, the Coolidges lived here from 1906 until 1930. Calvin died in 1933 at their new Northampton home, The Beeches, and Grace died in 1957. John Coolidge, however, lived until 2000, when he died at the age of 93.

Calvin & Grace Coolidge at home in Northampton

Calvin & Grace Coolidge in March 1929, after returning home from Washington DC. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The view in 2014:

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After serving as president from 1923 to 1929, Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace returned to their home at 21 Massasoit Street in Northampton Mass.  They lived here in the left-hand side of the duplex from 1906 until 1930, and the first photo above shows them after they returned home from Washington DC, following the conclusion of Coolidge’s second term as president.  In 1930, they moved into a much larger and more secluded house, The Beeches, located at 16 Hampton Terrace, where Calvin Coolidge died in 1933.

Draper Hotel, Northampton Mass

The Draper Hotel in Northampton, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2014:

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Built in 1868 as the Fitch Hotel, it was known as the Draper Hotel by the time the 1907 photo was taken.  Today, only the westernmost third of the building remains; the rest of it was demolished at some point, probably in the 1940s or 1950s, based on the architecture of the nondescript one-story building that replaced it.