Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, Washington DC

The inauguration of Abraham Lincoln on the east steps of the US Capitol, on March 5, 1861. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Washington DC

The same view in 2012:

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Although today regarded as one of the greatest US presidents, in 1861 there was much uncertainty surrounding the impending presidency of Abraham Lincoln – several southern states had already succeeded, and more would do so in the coming months, and in just over a month the Confederacy would open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, thus beginning the Civil War.  During this time, the Capitol was under construction – other views of the inauguration show the fact that the dome was still very much incomplete, and this is often seen as a metaphor of the United States at this time – still very much a work in progress. Today, presidential inaugurations are held on the other side of the Capitol, and a lot has changed on the east front, as mentioned in the previous post about the Capitol.

US Capitol East Face, Washington DC

The east face of the US Capitol, as seen in 1846. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Daguerreotype Collection.

1840s

166 years later, in 2012:

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This is probably the oldest photo I’ve posted so far on this blog, and it illustrates just how many changes have been made to the US Capitol since it opened in 1800.  In fact, the Capitol of 1846 was very different from the original building – it was heavily damaged in 1814 when the British burned much of Washington.  By 1826, it had been reconstructed, this time with the central dome and the rotunda underneath it.

By 1850, construction began on the expansion of the building – the original legislative chambers were no longer big enough for the senators and representatives of the newly-formed states, so the present-day chambers were added on in new wings.  The original chambers are still there, and the location can still be seen in the 2012 photo, to the left and right of the dome.  The dome itself it probably the most obvious change – the newly-expanded building looked rather silly with such a short dome, so it was rebuilt between 1855 and 1866.

One difference that isn’t as noticeable is the front portico and the columns.  Although they appear to be the same, the entire east portico was expanded and rebuilt 33.5 feet outward, starting in 1958.  During this expansion, the columns themselves were replaced, and the original ones are now on display at the National Arboretum a little over 2 miles away.

Union Station, Washington DC

Union Station in Washington, DC, between 1910 and 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same building in 2012:

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Union Station was built in 1907, by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  Since then, a lot has changed in the city, but the building has remained the same.  Neither the Pennsylvania nor the Baltimore & Ohio Railroads exist anymore, but the station is now a major Amtrak hub, and is the southern terminal of the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from DC to Boston, and is the busiest passenger rail line in the country.  The modes of transportation to the trains, however, has changed a lot in the past 100 years.  While the first photo shows trolleys unloading passengers at the station, they have been replaced by cars and buses in the 2012 photo.

White House, Washington DC

The White House, as it appeared in either the 1880s or 1890s. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Other Places

The same view in 2012:

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The White House doesn’t look all that different from what it looked like in the late 19th century, and yet almost everything about it has changed.  The East Wing and West Wing, which aren’t visible in the 2012 photo, didn’t exist at the time of the first photo, nor did the third floor on the roof, or the second floor balcony behind the pillars.  But, the most dramatic changes in the past 120 or so years came in the late 1940’s, when the badly-deteriorated wood frame was in danger of collapse.  The entire interior was gutted, the wood frame was replaced with steel, and the interior put back into place afterward (see this photo of bulldozers and dump trucks at work inside the White House).  The exterior, however, remains much the same as it did after the reconstruction following its burning during the War of 1812.

National Mall from the Washington Monument

The National Mall, looking toward the Capitol Building, as seen from the Washington Monument between 1906 and 1915:

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The same view in 2006:

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Again, the view isn’t exact – the 2006 photo is zoomed in a little further than the original photo, but it captures much the same area, including the Capitol, the Smithsonian Castle, and the Museum of Natural History.  The Library of Congress is also barely visible behind and to the right of the Capitol, although the Supreme Court Building is notably missing from the first photo – it wouldn’t be built until 1935. The National Mall, though, didn’t have the same carefully-manicured appearance in the early 1900’s as it does today – at the time, it was very much a work in process.

Looking northeast from the Washington Monument

The view looking northeast from the top of the Washington Monument, between 1906 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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A similar (although not quite exact) view from 2006:

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The two photos don’t quite line up perfectly, but since I took the present-day photo over seven years ago without having the older one in mind, I would say I came pretty close.  The early 20th century photo, though, shows the view of DC a little further to the right than what I actually took in 2006.  Still, though, there are a few landmarks visible in both – in particular, the Old Post Office Pavilion located on the far right of the 2006 photo.  Otherwise, much has changed – the low-rise buildings in the foreground were replaced by the massive present-day government buildings that were built in the 1930’s, and currently house the US Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency.