North Street, Pittsfield, Mass (2)

Looking south on North Street in Pittsfield from the corner of Depot Street, around 1908-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This view shows the same section of North Street as this earlier post, just seen from the opposite direction. As with the other view, many of the buildings from the first photo were replaced in the early decades of the 20th century. The most prominent of these lost buildings is the old First Baptist Church, seen a couple blocks away in the center of the photo. It was built in 1850 and stood here until the 1920s, when the congregation moved to their current church building a few blocks away on South Street. The old church was replaced with the Onota Building, a commercial block that was completed in 1928 and is still standing.

Of the buildings that survive from the first photo, the most prominent is the First Agricultural National Bank, the columned building on the left side. This bank had been established in Pittsfield in 1818, and in 1908 they moved into this imposing five-story marble building, which has remained unchanged on the exterior except for a late 1920s addition in the back. On the other side of the street is the Central Block, located on the far right side of the photo. It was built in 1881, and is still standing, although hard to see from this angle. Much further in the distance, at Park Square, are two other surviving 19th century buildings: the Berkshire County Savings Bank building on the left, and the Berkshire Life Insurance Company building on the right.

Park Square, Pittsfield, Mass (4)

Looking east toward Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Pittsfield’s Park Square has been featured in several other posts, but the first photo here gives a good elevated view of the oval park in the center of the city. The photo was probably taken from one of the upper floors of the Hotel Wendell, which stood on the west side of the square from 1898 to 1965. From here, guests could overlook the small park, along with the important government and religious buildings that surround it. On the left side of the photo, starting closest to the foreground, was the First Church, City Hall, and St. Stephen’s Church. On the far right, barely in view, is the Berkshire County Courthouse, and even further to the right, just outside of the view of the camera, is the Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield’s public library.

Over a century later, not much has changed in this scene. The trees make it harder to tell, but Park Square is still largely the same as it was in 1906, including the Civil War monument on the west side. Electric trolleys no longer circle the square, but it remains a busy intersection in the middle of the city. The Hotel Wendell is long gone, but all of the other historic buildings from the first photo are still there, although most are hidden by the trees. Because of this level of historic preservation, the square and the buildings around it were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as the Park Square Historic District.

North Street, Pittsfield, Mass

Looking north on North Street from Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893)

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The scene in 2016:

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The east side of North Street in the present-day scene is lined with historic buildings, but essentially none of these were built yet when the first photo was taken. At the time, Pittsfield was growing at a steady pace. It had become the seat of Berkshire County in 1868, and by 1891, with a population of over 1891, it was incorporated as a city. The population growth would continue at an even faster pace for the next few decades, resulting in the disappearance of many old 19th century buildings along North Street and the construction of new ones.

Among the first to go in this scene was the building on the far right, at the corner of North and East Streets. It came down only a few years after the first photo was taken, and was replaced with the Berkshire County Savings Bank Building. Completed in 1896, it is still standing as a major landmark in downtown Pittsfield. Opposite the bank, on the left side of the photo, is one of the few survivors from the first scene. The Berkshire Life Insurance Company Building was built in 1868, and although it was significantly expanded in 1911, it is still standing at the corner of North and West Streets.

St. Stephen’s Church, Pittsfield, Mass

St. Stephen’s Church at the corner of East and Allen Streets in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893)

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The church in 2016:

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As seen in a previous post, St. Stephen’s Church is one of several historic 19th century buildings at Park Square, in the center of downtown Pittsfield. The Gothic Revival church was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston firm of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Completed in 1890, it replaced an earlier Episcopalian church that had been built on virtually the same spot in 1832, the same year as the old town on the left side of the scene. The town hall has survived to the present, but the old church had to be demolished to build Allen Street, seen in the center of the photos.

When the first photo was taken, St. Stephen’s Church was just a few years old. More than 120 years later, most of its surroundings, except for the old town hall, are different, but not much has changed with the church itself. The building underwent a restoration in 1999, which included repairs to the stained glass windows that had been designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast. The church is still in use as an active Episcopalian parish, and it is a contributing property in the Park Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Street, Pittsfield, Mass (2)

Looking north on South Street toward the corner of West Street, around 1905-1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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These photos were taken from nearly the same spot as the ones an earlier post, just further to the right side of the road. The scene shows the central business district of Pittsfield, the largest city in the Berkshires. On the far right is Park Square, and beyond it is the Berkshire County Savings Bank Building, a six-story office building that was completed in 1896 and is still standing. Across the street, in the center of the photo, is the Berkshire Life Insurance Company Building, which was built in 1868 and expanded in 1911, soon after the first photo was taken.

Although these buildings are still standing, the ones in the foreground on the left side are not. At the corner of West Street was the Hotel Wendell, completed in 1898. It contrasts with the much smaller, much older commercial buildings further to the left. They are an odd assortment of sizes and architectural styles, but were apparently stitched together into a single building. The storefront tenants had as much variety as the building’s facade, and included the Pittsfield Coal Gas Company, Seid Send Laundry, Hotel Wendell Valet, and J.A. Maxim Antiques and Bric-a-Brac. These buildings were all demolished by 1930, when the Hotel Wendell expanded to the left. However, the hotel closed in 1965 and was demolished soon after. Its present-day replacement, the Crowne Plaza and the Berkshire Commons, was completed in 1971 and now stands on the site.

South Street, Pittsfield, Mass

Looking north on South Street in Pittsfield, toward Park Square, around 1911-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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Although a century has passed since the first photo was taken, the appearance of downtown Pittsfield has not significantly changed. The buildings in this scene are built around Park Square, which is partially visible on the right side and is the main focal point in the center of the city. Looking ahead in the distance is North Street, which is lined with 19th and early 20th century commercial blocks.

Pittsfield is the largest city in the Berkshires, and when the first photo was taken the region was a resort destination for wealthy families across the northeast, especially from New York. As a result, Pittsfield thrived, and the first photo shows a number of prominent buildings in the foreground.

To the left was the Hotel Wendell, which was built in 1898 at the corner of South and West Streets. It was the city’s premier hotel in the first half of the 20th century, and in 1930 it was expanded, replacing the much smaller buildings on the far left. Within a few decades, though, times had changed for grand downtown hotels across the country, and in the 1960s the hotel closed and was demolished.

Just beyond the Hotel Wendell, at the corner of North and West Streets, is the Berkshire Life Insurance Company Building. Constructed in 1868, it was significantly expanded in 1911, shortly before the first photo was taken. It is still standing today, along with the Berkshire County Savings Bank Building, which was built in 1896 across the street on the right side of the photo. Both of these buildings are now part of the Park Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.