Tremont House, Boston

The Tremont House on Tremont Street in Boston, sometime in the 1890s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


The Tremont House in the first photo was built in 1829, and it holds a significant place in American history – it was the first hotel with running water and indoor plumbing. It opened to much fanfare, with mayor Josiah Quincy (of Quincy Market fame) presiding over the event. The guest list included a number of distinguished Bostonians, including Congressmen Daniel Webster and Edward Everett. Webster would go on to become one of the most influential men in 19th century America, and Everett also went on to bigger and better things, serving as governor, ambassador, senator, and Secretary of State. He gave a speech at the ceremony, and some 34 years later he would be the keynote speaker at another event – the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, although his two hour speech was overshadowed by President Lincoln’s two minute remarks.

The building stood at the corner of Tremont and Beacon Streets until 1895, and during its existence it had a number of notable guests, including Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexis de Tocqueville, and President Andrew Jackson. It was also where, in 1848, Abraham Lincoln, at the time a virtually unknown Illinois Congressman, stayed during a visit to Boston. Coincidentally, years later John Wilkes Booth would also stay at the hotel, not long before he assassinated Lincoln.

Hull Street, Boston

Children keep cool next to a block of ice on Hull Street in Boston’s North End, sometime in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


Hull Street in 2014:


Not much has changed on Hull Street in the past 80 years – the neighborhood has become wealthier, but it remains predominantly Italian-American, as it was when the 1930s photo was taken.  At least some of the children in the photo were probably either Italian or Jewish, and it is likely that some of them have children or grandchildren who live in the area.  In fact, some of them might still be alive today, and who knows – perhaps one of them lives here on Hull Street, where they can now sit in air conditioned homes to stay cool, instead of hovering around a block of ice.  Everything else is the same, from the houses to the left, to the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground on the right, and the apartment building beyond it.  In fact, the curb stones are probably the same ones that the ice cart rested against.

Explosion, Corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, Boston

An explosion at the corner of Tremont and Boylston during the construction of the Tremont Street Subway on March 4, 1897.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


The corner of Boylston and Tremont is the location of a sharp 90 degree curve on the Green Line, where the underground tracks turn off of Boylston and onto Tremont.  In 1897, however, this was still under construction.  During this time, one of the gas lines at the intersection began leaking.  The escaped gas accumulated in the empty space underground, until a horse-drawn streetcar, the one marked “Mount Auburn”in the photo, ignited the gas as it passed above ground.  The explosion killed six people and caused significant damage to the surrounding buildings, including the Hotel Touraine, which was still under construction in the first photo and stands to this day.  The subway itself would go on to open on September 1, and the location of the explosion became the Boylston station.

Faneuil Hall and Dock Square, Boston (2)

Faneuil Hall, taken from Dock Square in Boston in 1930. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


The scene in 2014:


Similar to the scene in the photos in this post, this view shows Faneuil Hall as the one constant in an otherwise very different scene.  It was probably the oldest building in the 1930 photo by at least 100 years, but 84 years later it has outlasted all of the other buildings, many of which were taken down during various urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s, including the construction of the Central Artery.

Faneuil Hall and Dock Square, Boston (1)

Faneuil Hall, taken from Dock Square in Boston in 1930. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


The scene in 2014:


Faneuil Hall and the Custom House Tower are still there, but otherwise this scene has changed dramatically.  Taken from in front of modern-day City Hall, the scene in the first photo shows the Faneuil Hall area when it was still a major commercial center in the city, as opposed to a destination primarily for tourists and city workers on their lunch break.  Today, Congress Street cuts through the area where Dock Square once was, and behind the photos, City Hall towers over the area.

Dock Square toward Union Street, Boston

Dock Square looking toward Union Street in Boston, in 1865. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the ones in this photo, just slight ahead and to the right.  The first one shows the variety of businesses that were located in Civil War-era downtown Boston, ranging from feathers and furniture to hardware and whips.  The tracks in the foreground are for a horse-drawn trolley line; this was an early version of Boston’s present-day subway network, before the trolleys were electrified and put underground.