Hewes House, Boston

The Hewes House on Washington Street across from Milk Street, around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


This area sustained some damage during the Great Boston Fire of 1872, but the Hewes House, seen in the first photo, was gone before then.  According to the Bostonian Society in a 1902 book, the house was constructed in 1656 and demolished in 1870.  If accurate, the 1656 date would put its construction within 26 years of the founding of Boston, making it several decades older than downtown Boston’s current oldest building, the Paul Revere House.  It was also 73 years older than its neighbor across the street, Old South Meeting House.  Evidently, the house was named after Shubael Hewes, an 18th century Bostonian who lived here for many years.  At the time, this section of Washington Street was known as Marlboro Street; the street long predates George Washington, so it wasn’t until 1788 that it was renamed.

Somerset Street, Boston

Looking south on Somerset Street in Boston, around 1860, with Ashburton Place on the right. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Somerset Street in 2014:


Located on the edge of Beacon Hill, Somerset Street has completely changed in the past 150 years. Once a predominantly residential street, the rowhouses on the left have been replaced by the John Adams Courthouse, which is home to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. To the right, the First Baptist Church of Boston once stood just beyond the intersection of Ashburton Place; it was built in 1854 and was the home of the congregation until 1877, shortly before they moved to their current location in the Back Bay.  At the corner of Somerset and Ashburton today is one of the buildings for Suffolk University, and just a block over on Ashburton is the Massachusetts State House.

Bethel Church, Boston

Bethel Church at North Square, Boston, around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The church in 2014:


Built at North Square in 1833 by the Boston Port and Sailor’s Aid Society, this church provided Boston’s sailors with a place of worship, and also included a store to benefit sailors and their families. During the 19th century, several notable visitors attended the church, including Jenny Lind, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens.  In the 1880s, the building was sold to the Roman Catholic Church, and was reopened in 1890, after some exterior renovations as seen in the 2014 photo.

Central House, Boston

The Central House on Brattle Square, Boston, in 1860.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Located next to the Quincy House, immediately to the right of the building in the 1860 photo of this post,  the Central House was at one point its own hotel, but was later absorbed into the Quincy House.  Eventually, like the rest of the Quincy House, this section was expanded to seven stories in the 1880s, although it isn’t apparent whether the existing floors were added on to, or if the brick section was entirely demolished.  In any case, the entire neighborhood is gone, along with the street network, so this photo and the other one of the Quincy House are recreated based on estimates from comparing historic and modern maps; no landmarks remain from either of the two 1860 photos.

Quincy House, Boston

The Quincy House on Brattle Street in Boston, taken in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Located just as short distance from Scollay, Adams, Dock, and Faneuil Hall Squares, the Quincy House enjoyed a prominent location in downtown Boston.  The hotel was built around 1819, and was constructed of granite, only a few years before similar materials were used to build Quincy Market just a few block away.  In its heyday, it was one of the best hotels in Boston, and was also used by many different labor unions as a meeting place.

The 1860 photo, taken by photography pioneer Josiah Johnson Hawes, shows the hotel’s original appearance, before a renovation in the 1880s that added an additional three stories and a clock tower, as seen in this photo from the City of Boston Archives. However, by the 1920s the aging hotel suffered from increased competition, and closed in 1929. The building itself was demolished in 1935, less than 30 years before the entire neighborhood was taken down to build City Hall and the City Hall Plaza, as seen in the 2014 photo.

School Street, Boston

The Second Universalist Church on School Street in Boston, taken in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2015:


These two photos show some of the drastic changes on School Street in downtown Boston.  The church was demolished in 1872, and the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank building, which was built in 1858, was replaced with the current building in 1925.  The name of the bank is still visible on the building today, although the bank itself no longer exists – it was acquired by Citizens Bank in 1993.  None of the buildings from the first photo survive today, although there are a few very old buildings in the area today that are just outside the view of these photos, including the Old Corner Bookstore, at the end of School Street and just to the left, and the Old South Meeting House, which is to the right behind the buildings in the foreground.