Chapin Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on Chapin Street, from the corner of Oak Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

Chapin Street was developed in the mid-1880s, less than a decade before the first photo was taken. The street, which runs one block from Oak Street to Linden Street, was built through land that had once belonged to Dr. Charles Chapin, who lived in a house at the end of the road on Linden Street. Chapin was a Harvard-educated physician, but he was also a businessman who served as a state legislator, a U.S. Marshal, and a director of the Vermont Mutual Insurance Company and the Vermont Valley Railroad. He lived here until his death in 1875, and his wife Sophia died five years later.

Soon after Sophia’s death, the property was sold and subdivided. The old house survived, and still stands today, but the rest of the land became building lots for new houses. The new street was named in honor of Chapin, and was developed around the same time as Williston Street, which runs parallel to Chapin Street on land once owned by merchant Nathan B. Williston. Both streets featured ornate, Queen Anne-style homes, most of which were completed by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. A streetcar line was also built on the street in the 1890s, although this apparently happened after the first photo was taken.

The first photo shows a few people walking along an otherwise quiet residential street. In the foreground, three women walk arm-in-arm along the sidewalk, while a man walks further in the distance. On the left side of the street, a boy appears to be sitting on some sort of a bicycle, and far in the distance a pair of horses are harnessed to a wagon. In the distance, beyond the newly-built homes, is the northern slope of Mount Wantastiquet, which forms a scenic backdrop for much of downtown Brattleboro.

Today, most of the houses are hidden by trees from this view, but all of the ones from the first photo appear to still be standing. Chapin Street remains a well-preserved example of a late 19th century middle class neighborhood, and the houses still retain their decorative exterior designs with multi-colored paint schemes. The street itself has changed somewhat over the years, though. The trolley tracks have come and gone, the street has been widened and paved, and the sidewalk on the left is gone, but overall the scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo.

Flat Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on Flat Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

During the second half of the 19th century, Brattleboro became an important manufacturing center, thanks in large part to the water power provided by the fast-moving Whetstone Brook. Much of the town’s industrial development was centered along this brook, including here on Flat Street, which runs along its northern banks. At the time that the first photo was taken, the properties on both sides of the street were owned by George E. Crowell, a prosperous businessman who lived in a large mansion to the northwest of here, at the corner of High and Green Streets. The right side of the street included a cabinet shop, which appears to have been the building on the far right. Further beyond this building, out of view in the first photo, was a carriage shop as well as the Brattleboro Jelly Company, which produced cider jelly and cucumber pickles.

The most visible building in the first photo was the six-story Carpenter Organ Company building. Built around the mid-1860s for the Brattleboro Melodeon Company, this factory was purchased about 20 years later by the Carpenter Organ Company, which still occupied the building when the first photo was taken. At the time, organ manufacturing was a major part of Brattleboro’s economy, and Carpenter was one of several such companies in the town. George Crowell was one of the owners of this company, but he sold his interest in 1914. By then, pump organs were falling out of fashion, and the company only remained in business for a few more years, closing around 1917.

Today, there is nothing remaining in this scene from the first photo, except for Flat Street itself. The old Carpenter Organ building is long gone, as are all of the other industrial buildings on either side of the street. Like most of the other old New England mill towns, there is very little manufacturing left in Brattleboro, and it has been many decades since any organs were produced in the town. The site of the Carpenter factory is now a parking garage, disguised to make its exterior resemble an old brick mill. On the other side of the street, parking lots are now located where the cabinet shop, carriage shop, and jelly company used to be, although at least one of the historic factory buildings on Flat Street – the C. F. Church building – has since been converted into commercial use, and is located just out of view to the right of the 2017 photo.

Methodist Church, Brattleboro, Vermont

The Brattleboro Methodist Church at 16-20 Elliot Street, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

Methodism first took root in Brattleboro in 1834, when the first Methodist Episcopal Church began worshipping in the town. Its first church building was completed three years later on Canal Street, but within a few years this building was owned by the Baptists, Adventists, and then Universalists before becoming a private house in the 1850s. A second Methodist church was later established, with a brick building on School Street, but this was later sold and converted into apartments, and is apparently still standing opposite Moore Court.

Following this sale, the Methodists held services in the town hall for some time, but in 1880 they moved into this newly-built church on Elliot Street. Like several of the other buildings along this section of Elliot Street, it featured High Victorian Gothic-style architecture, with a mostly brick exterior that was trimmed with light-colored stone for contrast. It was designed by Warren H. Hayes, a noted architect whose works included a number of churches – particularly Methodist ones – that were built across the country during the late 19th century. Although more modest than some of Hayes’s works, this building reflects the typical church design of the era, with an asymmetrical facade featuring a tall tower in one corner and a shorter turret in the other.

Aside from the church itself, other buildings in the first photo include the Leonard Block, which is located just to the left of the church, and the former People’s National Bank Block, which is further to the left at the corner of Main Street. Both of these were built in the early 1880s, around the same time as the church, and were located on the former site of the Revere House, which had been destroyed in a fire in 1877. Across the street, on the far left side of the first photo, is the Market Block, which can be seen from a different angle in the previous post. This building, with its large mansard roof, was built in 1873 and was originally owned by merchant and real estate developer Edward Crosby, who also built the nearby Crosby Block on Main Street.

Today, this scene has not significantly changed in nearly 125 years, and all of the buildings from the first photo are still standing except for the two small wood-frame buildings on the right side. The exterior of the church has not seen too many changes, aside from awnings and the addition of a wheelchair ramp, but the interior has been altered. Just as the two earlier Methodist church buildings were repurposed into other uses, this church is likewise no longer used for religious purposes. The congregation moved to a new location in 1970, and the old building was first converted into a theater and then into commercial space. It is now the Hotel Pharmacy, and features rows of shelving where the pews once stood. However, the interior still includes the stained glass Gothic windows, vaulted ceiling, and other reminders of its former use. Along with the other surrounding buildings, the church is now a contributing property in the Brattleboro Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Elliot Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on Elliot Street, toward Main Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The majority of downtown Brattleboro’s central business district is along Main Street, but the commercial center spills around the corner onto several cross streets, including Elliot Street, as seen here. Most of these buildings date back to the second half of the 19th century, and include a variety of brick commercial blocks, typically around three stories in height. When the first photo was taken, there were still several older wood-frame buildings, such as the ones on the far left and far right, but these were steadily being replaced by more modern ones.

There are at least four identifiable buildings from the first photo that are still standing today. On the left is the two-story central fire station, which was built in 1873 and was used by the fire department until 1949, when a new station was built just a little to the west of here. Beyond it is the three-story Market Block, with its large, distinctive mansard roof. This was also built in 1873, and was owned by Edward Crosby, who developed much of this area in the wake of the disastrous fire of 1869. On the other side of the Market Block, at the corner of Main Street, was the Crosby Block, which was built in 1871 and was also owned by Edward Crosby. Probably the oldest brick building in the first photo is visible in the distant center, on the other side of Main Street. Known as Cutler’s Block, it is located at 95-97 Main Street, and was built around the early 1840s.

Today, nearly 125 years after the first photo was taken, this scene has not changed significantly. Mount Wantastiquet still towers over downtown Brattleboro in the distance, and many of the 19th century buildings are still standing. The wood-frame buildings on the far sides are gone, but most of the other ones are still there, although with some alterations. The old fire station now has a one-story storefront on the front of the building, and in the late 1950s a portion of the Crosby Block at the corner was heavily altered with a new brick and metal exterior. Overall, though, the scene is still recognizable from the first photo, and most of these buildings are now contributing properties in the Brattleboro Downtown Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

High Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking east on High Street, toward Main Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The first photo portrays an idyllic small-town scene, with horse-drawn carriages traveling along a rutted dirt road that was lined with trees. Two elegant Queen Anne-style homes stand on the far right side of the photo, while the Brooks House, perhaps the town’s finest hotel of the era, is visible at the bottom of the hill, at the corner of Main Street. Further in the distance, on the other side of the Connecticut River, is Mount Wantastiquet, which rises to an elevation of 1,388 feet and forms a dramatic backdrop to downtown Brattleboro.

Today, nearly 125 years later, this scene has not significantly changed, although it has lost some of its picturesque charm from the first photo. High Street is now a major road, carring Vermont Route 9 through downtown Brattleboro, and the bottom of the hill has been developed with early 20th century commercial and apartment blocks, including the 1918 Manley Apartment Building on the left side. However, the Brooks House is still there, as are the two homes on the right, although their sloping front lawns have been replaced by a large concrete retaining wall. Across the street on the left side, the sidewalk is narrower and closer to the street than it was in the 1890s, but the granite blocks and steps are still there on the left side of the sidewalk.

Green Street, Brattleboro, Vermont

Looking north on Green Street toward High Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

Downtown Brattleboro is located right along the Connecticut River, with Main Street running parallel to the the river. However, the topography quickly rises to the west of the river, and much of the downtown area is built into the side of a hill, as shown in this scene. When the first photo was taken, this area consisted primarily of modest, wood-frame houses, in contrast with the large brick commercial blocks that were located just a block to the east on Main Street. At the bottom of the hill is High Street, one of the main east-west roads in the town, and further in the distance the two steeples mark the location of Main Street. The one closer to the foreground is the First Baptist Church, which was completed in 1870, and the one further in the distance on the right is the Centre Congregational Church, which was built in 1842 and had its current steeple added in 1864.

The buildings on the right were demolished within about 15 years after the first photo was taken. They were replaced by the present-day building, which was completed around 1910. It was owned by the neighboring Hotel Brooks, and was used as an automobile repair and rental business, which was run by John and Robert Manley. The main entrance to the building was at the bottom of the hill on High Street, but there was a second entrance here on Green Street, on the far right side of the 2017 photo, which allowed direct access to the third floor. Known as the Brooks House Garage, this building was advertised as “the largest and most complete garage in Vermont,” and offered day and night repair work, tires, and “Cars to rent by the hour, day and week.” They were also agents for Stoddard-Dayton, Mitchell, Maxwell, and Ford car companies,  and the advertisement in the Automobile Blue Book promised that “Tourists Will Receive Special Attention.”

Today, the only identifiable feature from the first photo, aside from Green Street itself, is the First Baptist Church steeple, with its spire still rising above the roofline of the old Brooks House Garage. The Centre Congregational Church is also still there, although its steeple is no longer visible from this angle. Otherwise, this scene is completely changed from the first photo, and the two most visible buildings are the garage on the right and the Shriners Hall on the left, which was evidently built here sometime in the early 20th century, on the site of a house that had stood here when the first photo was taken.