Front Steps, First Presbyterian Church, Holyoke, Mass

A group of children sitting on the front steps of the First Presbyterian Church, at 237 Chestnut Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

As discussed in the previous post, the First Presbyterian Church of Holyoke was established in 1886, and moved into this newly-completed Romanesque Revival-style building two years later. It was built of contrasting granite and brownstone blocks, and had two front entrances on the Chestnut Street side. This particular scene shows the northwestern entrance, which is on the right side of the building when facing it from the street, and it provides good detail of the rough-faced blocks that make up the exterior of the building.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the church was completed, and shows a group of five young children sitting on the front steps. Although the children are unidentified, their parents likely worked in some of the many factories in Holyoke, and they themselves probably ended up working in the factories too. Some may have even attended this church for the rest of their lives, since the building was owned by the First Presbyterian Church for more than a century after the photo was taken.

Today, around 125 years later, not much has changed in this scene. The church is still standing, and this entrance has seen only minor changes, such as a new door and the addition of railings on the steps. The building is a good example of Romanesque Revival architecture, and it is one of many historic 19th century churches in Holyoke. Although the original congregation sold it in 2002, is still in use as a church, and is now the home of the Centro de Restauracion Emanuel.

Main Street Pedestrians, Brattleboro, Vermont

Pedestrians on the sidewalk of Main Street, near the corner of Elliot Street in Brattleboro, in August 1941. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA/OWI Collection.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo was taken in August 1941 by Jack Delano, a prominent photographer who was, at the time, working for the Farm Security Administration. Among the projects of this New Deal-era agency was hiring photographers to document living conditions in rural America in the wake of the Great Depression, and Delano traveled throughout Vermont during the summer of 1941. He took a number of photographs in downtown Brattleboro, showing everyday life in the small town on the eve of World War II. These two young people were the subjects of several of his photographs, and his original caption reads “On the main street of Brattleboro, Vermont, during the tourist season.”

The first photo does not show much of the surrounding streetscape, but several historic buildings are visible across the street. To the left of the lamppost is the stone building at 109-113 Main Street, which was built around 1850 and features an exterior facade that contrasts with the more conventional brick of the surrounding buildings. On the right side of the photo is the Union Block, which was built around 1861 and was evidently named in recognition of the patriotic sentiment at the start of the Civil War. Both of these stores housed discount department stores when the first photo was taken, with F. W. Woolworth on the left and M. H. Fishman on the right.

More than 75 years after the first photo was taken, this scene has not significantly changed. Most of the historic commercial blocks on Main Street are still standing, including the two in this scene, and even the present-day fire hydrant is still in the same location as the one in the first photo. The only noticeable difference – aside from the modern cars – is the change in the businesses occupying the storefronts. The era of downtown department stores is long gone, and both Woolworth and Fishman have since gone out of business. However, unlike many other downtowns, Brattleboro has managed to retain a thriving Main Street, and the storefronts here now house an eclectic mix of different businesses.

Governor’s Carriage, Newport, Rhode Island

A group of men pose in front of the Old Colony House in Newport, around 1880. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The Providence Public Library’s information on this photo does not provide any context for the first photo, aside from the title of “Governor’s Carriage Newport” and the approximate date of 1880. It does not seem clear, for example, why this carefully-posed photo would include the governor’s carriage yet not the governor himself, but it was taken in front of the Colony House, which at the time functioned as one of Rhode Island’s two state houses, with the other being located in Providence.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the Colony House was built in 1741, and was the work of Newport architect Richard Munday. The exterior was heavily influenced by the work of Christoper Wren, and the interior featured an open hall on the first floor and legislative chambers on the upper floor. For many years, Rhode Island did not have a fixed capital city, with the legislature instead holding sessions on a rotating basis in each of the state’s five county seats. When in Newport, the legislature met here in this building, and continued doing so even after 1854, when the rotation was reduced to just Providence and Newport.

This unusual arrangement continued throughout the 19th century, and the building was still in use by the state government when the first photo was taken around 1880. The practice of alternating legislative sessions finally ended in 1900, though, and Providence became the state’s sole capital city. For the next 26 years, though, the building was used as the courthouse for Newport County, until the current county courthouse was completed in 1926. Located directly to the right of the Colony House, the new courthouse was built with a Colonial Revival style that bears strong resemblance to its predecessor, and the two buildings still stand side-by-side at the eastern end of Washington Square.

Although no longer used as either a state house or as a county courthouse, the building is still owned by the state, and has been a part of several important events over the years. In 1957, President Eisenhower – who spent several summers here in Newport while serving as president – gave a short speech from the front steps here, and 40 years later both the exterior and interior of the building were used for scenes in the 1997 film Amsted, which was set in 1840s New Haven but filmed here in Newport because of the city’s well-preserved historic downtown.

Today, the Colony House is considered a landmark of Georgian-style architecture, and it is one of the best-preserved public buildings of its era in America. The building was already around 140 years old when the first photo was taken, and nearly 140 years have elapsed since then, but there is essentially no difference in its appearance between the two photos. In recognition of this, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960, and the building is currently operated as a museum by the Newport Historical Society.

Lost New England Goes West: Chinatown, San Francisco (2)

The corner of Grant Avenue and Washington Street in San Francisco, around 1920-1930. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Arnold Genthe Collection.

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The view in 2015:

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While the Arnold Genthe photo in the previous post showed San Francisco’s Chinatown before the 1906 earthquake, this view a block away shows the neighborhood some 20 years after it was rebuilt. By this time, though, Chinatown was seeing the effects of many years of anti-Chinese immigration policies, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which made it almost impossible for Chinese women or families to immigrate to the United States. When the first photo was taken, the neighborhood’s population was at an all-time low, and this would not begin to rise again until after World War II, when the Exclusion Act was repealed due to American alliances with China during the war.

Today, it is the largest Chinese community in the world outside of Asia, and in the past 90 years or so this particular view has hardly changed. The building is still standing, as are the ones in the distance to the left, and even minor details such as the fire escapes and the lamppost are the same as they were in the 1920s. The influence of Chinese culture is still very apparent, and Grant Avenue in particular, as shown here, is a major tourist destination in San Francisco.

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.

Lost New England Goes West: Chinatown, San Francisco (1)

The corner of Jackson Street and Grant Avenue in San Francisco, around 1896-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Arnold Genthe Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest Chinese community in the world outside of Asia, and it was also America’s original Chinatown. Immigrants from China arrived here around the same time that almost everyone else did, during the Gold Rush of the late 1840s and early 1850s. Later on, many other Chinese people came to find work on projects such as the Transcontinental Railroad, and this neighborhood became an ethnic enclave within the city.

Photographer Arnold Genthe was primarily known for his portrait work, and his clients included many notable politicians, writers, and entertainers. In addition, he photographed the immediate aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, including the one in the previous post, but his works also included hundreds of photos of Chinatown that were taken beginning in the 1890s. His collection, which includes the first photo here, provides the only real glimpse into everyday life in Chinatown before the earthquake.

This scene, along with the rest of Chinatown, was completely destroyed in the earthquake, and some politicians sought to use the disaster to rebuild Chinatown further from the center of the city. However, the plans ultimately failed, and Chinatown was rebuilt here, where it continues to be a vibrant community as well as a popular tourist destination in the city.

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.

Collins Inn Livery Stable, Wilbraham, Mass

The livery stable at the Collins Inn on Boston Road in North Wilbraham, around 1895. Image courtesy of the Wilbraham Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

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This is the same building seen in the previous post, just from a different angle and several years later.  Although the photo is undated, there is at least one clue that gives a good indication of when it was taken.  Just below the large “Livery” sign, there are posters for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, which was performing in Springfield on “Thursday, May 23.”  There appears to have been a performance in Springfield on that day in 1895, and it was a Thursday, so the photo was probably taken around that time.

In the days before automobiles, livery stables such as these would have provided stabling and feed for horses, and the carriages out front show a variety of horse-drawn carriages that would have been used at the time.  One of the carriages has two young children sitting in it, so perhaps the man posing with the horse is about to hitch it to that carriage.  He is presumably an employee of the stables, which was operated as part of the Collins Inn next to it.

At the time that the first photo was taken, cars were just starting to be developed, but within about 20 years they would essentially replace horses, putting livery stables like these out of business.  Perhaps not coincidentally, the Collins Inn closed in 1915.  I don’t know when the stables were demolished, but it seems fitting that the modern equivalent, a gas and repair station, now stands on the site.