Marlborough Street, Newport, Rhode Island

Looking west on Marlborough Street from Farewell Street in Newport, around 1911. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

This scene on Marlborough Street includes several notable Newport landmarks, with the most significant being the White Horse Tavern on the far right. This building is perhaps the oldest in the city, dating back to before 1673. It was just a two-story, two-room house at the time, but it was later expanded, and by 1687 it was being operated as a tavern by William Mayes, Sr. His son, William Mayes, Jr., had a career as a pirate before returning to Newport, retiring from piracy, and taking over the operation of the tavern in 1703. Within a few years, though, his sister Mary and her husband, Robert Nichols, owned the property, and it would remain in the Nichols family for nearly two more centuries.

In the years before the Colony House was built in the 1730s, the colonial legislature often met here at the White Horse Tavern, which acquired its current name around this same time. Some 40 years later, it was used to house British soldiers during the American Revolution, and after the war the building was expanded to its current size, including the addition of the large gambrel roof. It would continue to be owned by the Nichols family until it was finally sold in 1895. The first photo was taken only about 16 years later, and at this point it had been converted into a rooming house.

The White Horse Tavern was already an old building in 1807 when the other prominent landmark in this scene, St. Paul’s Methodist Church, was completed. Long known for its religious tolerance, Rhode Island was among the first places where Methodism took root in America in the late 18th century. However, the Newport congregation caused a considerable stir in the Methodist community when they built this church. Although similar to other New England churches of the era, it was far more elaborate than the plain meeting houses that early Methodists worshipped in. It is considered to be the first Methodist church in America to have a steeple, bell, and pews, and early Methodist leader Bishop Francis Asbury is said to have “lifted his hands with holy horror when he first saw it and predicted that a church which began with a steeple would end with a choir and perhaps even an organ.”

Bishop Asbury was ultimately proved right in his prediction about the organ, with the congregation installing one in the church in the 1850s. However, an even more significant change had come about 15 years earlier in 1842, when the entire building was raised eight feet and a new, full-story foundation was built beneath it to make space for a parish hall. Otherwise, the exterior of the church has not significantly changed, although the building was heavily damaged by a fire in 1881. However, it was subsequently restored, and the first photo was taken about 20 years later.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, most of the historic buildings on both sides of Marlborough Street have been demolished. Even the White Horse Tavern itself was threatened with demolition. Badly deteriorated and neglected more than 50 years after it became a rooming house, it was nearly demolished in the 1950s to build a gas station here on the corner. Instead, though, it was purchased by the Preservation Society of Newport County, who restored it and reopened it as a tavern in 1957. It remains in operation today, and is marketed as America’s oldest tavern. Further down the street, St. Paul’s Methodist Church is also still standing, and still houses the same congregation. The 2017 photo shows it in the midst of a restoration project, but otherwise it is largely unchanged from the first photo, and both it and the White Horse Tavern are now contributing properties in the Newport Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark district.

Broadway from Spring Street, Newport, Rhode Island

Looking north on Broadway from near the corner of Spring Street in Newport, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

When the first photo was taken, the west side of Broadway was lined with a variety of wood-framed commercial buildings that dated back to the 19th century. The ones in the foreground, at the corner of Marlborough Street, appear to have been the oldest, with the gambrel-roofed building on the far left probably over a century old at this point. The building just to the right of it, with the three dormer windows, may have been almost as old, and was probably built in the early decades of the 19th century. Just beyond it, the gable-roofed building was somewhat newer, dating to around the 1840s, and the larger, more ornate building on the right side was probably built around the 1860s or 1870s.

The first photo shows signs for a number of different businesses in these storefronts. The one on the left was William S. Hazard’s meat market, while G. B. Smith’s furniture repair company was located out of the back of the building. Continuing to the right was Sam Lee Laundry, followed by an ice cream shop with a sign on the sidewalk that reads “Try our ice cream.” A carriage blocks the view of the next storefront, but the gable-roofed building to the right of it has a sign for the Newport Paper Company. A young boy was apparently posing for the camera, and can be seen seated on a hitching post in front of Sam Lee Laundry.

Today, much of downtown Newport has remained remarkably well-preserved, but this particular scene along Broadway has seen more drastic changes over the past 113 years. Only one building, the 1840s gable-roofed one in the center of the scene, is still standing from the first photo. The two buildings on the left are long gone, and the site is now a small plaza at the corner of Broadway and Marlborough Street. Further in the distance, these buildings were demolished by the late 1920s to build the Paramount Theatre, which opened in 1929. This project also included the construction of one-story commercial buildings on either side of the theater, and these are still standing today. The theater building is also still there, partially visible in the distant center, but it was converted into apartments in the 1980s.

Brick Market, Newport, Rhode Island

The Brick Market on Thames Street, opposite Washington Square in Newport, in 1890. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Downtown Newport is renowned for its many colonial-era buildings, but one of the finest is the Brick Market, located along Thames Street at the western end of Washington Square. It is a prominent architectural landmark, and is one of only a handful of surviving buildings that are known to have been designed by Peter Harrison, one of the first formally-trained architects in America. Born in England in 1716, Harrison came to Rhode Island in 1740 but returned to England a few years later, where he studied architecture. Upon returning to the colonies, he designed several prominent buildings in New England, including King’s Chapel in Boston, Christ Church in Cambridge, and the Redwood Library and Touro Synagogue here in Newport.

The Brick Market was the last of his confirmed works, and is shows the influence that English architecture had on his designs. The building’s design was based on the Old Somerset House in London, with Harrison copying elements such as the arcade on the lower floor, the pilasters on the upper floors, and even the alternating arched and triangular window pediments. He designed the Brick Market in the early 1760s, and construction began in 1762. However, financial difficulties delayed the construction, and it was not completed until 1772.

Upon completion, the building consisted of an open-air market on the ground floor, similar to other contemporary New England marketplaces such as Faneuil Hall, while upper floors were used for offices and dry goods storage. However, over the years the building’s use changed several times, starting in the 1790s when the upper section was converted into a theater. Then, in 1842, the building was converted into Newport’s city hall, which included removing the third floor and replacing it with seating galleries. It was still in use as city hall when the first photo was taken in 1890, and it would remain so for another decade, until the current city hall was completed in 1900.

By the early 20th century the Brick Market was in poor condition, but it was restored in the 1920s by Norman Isham, an architectural historian and professor who specialized in preserving colonial-era buildings in Rhode Island. The building is now owned by the Newport Historical Society and operated as the Museum of Newport History, where it stands amid modern shopping plazas. All of the other historic buildings on the west side of Thames Street between Marlborough Street and Memorial Boulevard have since been demolished, and today the only other building still standing from the first photo is the one on the far left, at the corner of Thames and Touro Streets. Known as the Henry B. Young Building, it was built in 1861 but was heavily altered in the 20th century, including the removal of the top floor, and today it bears little resemblance to the building from the first photo.

Spring and Pelham Streets, Newport, Rhode Island

Looking west on Pelham Street from the corner of Spring Street in Newport, around 1883. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Newport is well-known for its many Gilded Age mansions, but long before it was a summer playground for the rich and famous it was a prosperous seaport. Unlike the massive homes and spacious lawns of the Bellevue Avenue area, the center of Newport features narrow colonial-era streets, lined with historic 18th and 19th century houses. Spring Street, which runs from left to right through this scene, is one of the primary north-south streets in downtown Newport, and both it and its many cross streets have been remarkably well-preserved over the years, with few significant changes in the past two centuries.

When the first photo was taken, this scene was a mix of modest colonial-era buildings and larger, more elegant 19th century homes. The house at the corner was probably built sometime in the 1700s, as was the small gambrel -roofed house just beyond it on the right side, which predates the American Revolution. The exact date of this smaller house is unclear, but it was built sometime before 1771, and was the home of Lucina Langley. Just beyond the Langley house is a much more modern house at 41 Pelham Street. It was the home of Anthony Stewart, Jr., and it was built in 1859, although it appears to have been modified before the first photo was taken.

More than 130 years after the first photo was taken, the only significant change in this scene is the house on the corner. The original colonial-era house was demolished shortly after the photo was taken, and its replacement is still standing today. Completed in 1883, this house was originally the home of William M. Austin, a house painter who had a prosperous business here in Newport. He was a lifelong resident of the city, and served on the city council, representing Ward 4 from 1884 to 1890. He and his wife Emily had three children: Percy, Susan, and Edward. Susan died young, long before the family moved into this house, but their two sons followed their father into the painter’s trade, eventually taking over the business after William’s death in 1897.

Since then, this scene has remained essentially unchanged. His house is still there, and now operates as the Austin House Inn. Further down Pelham Street, both the Langley and Stewart houses are still standing, as are the other historic 18th and 19th century homes on the street. Like much of downtown Newport, this area retains its colonial-era appearance, and the neighborhood now forms the Newport Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1968.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Chicopee, Mass

The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, seen from the corner of South and Springfield Streets in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The church in 2017:

During the mid-19th century, Chicopee began to develop into a major industrial center, with factories located along the Chicopee River at Chicopee Falls and further downstream here in the center of town. With the factories came immigrant workers, starting with the Irish and followed in later years by French-Canadians and Poles. Primarily Roman Catholic, these immigrants brought significant cultural changes to the Connecticut River Valley, which had been predominantly Congregationalist and almost exclusively Protestant until this point.

The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus was one of the first Roman Catholic churches in the area, and was built between 1857 and 1859, just to the south of the center of Chicopee. Its Gothic-style design was the work of Patrick Keely, an Irish-born architect who designed nearly 600 Catholic churches across the United States and Canada, including St. Michael’s Cathedral in nearby Springfield. Along with the church itself, the property also included the rectory, which was built around the same time and can be seen in the left center of the photo. This was followed in the late 1860s by a school for girls and a convent, and in 1881 by a school for boys, all of which were located on the opposite side of the church.

By the time the first photo was taken, around the early 1890s, both the Irish and French-Canadian immigrant groups were well-established in the area, and Polish immigrants had just started to arrive in large numbers. Primarily Catholic, many of them joined this church, and the parish records showed that Polish families accounted for nearly 30 percent of the baptisms and more than half of the marriages here at the church between 1888 and 1890. However, the Polish community soon formed a church of their own, establishing the St. Stanislaus parish in 1890 and dedicating its first building in 1895.

Around 125 years after the first photo was taken, the church is still standing, along with the rectory. although they are mostly hidden by trees in this view. The only significant change to the church over the years has been the steeple, which was struck by lightning and was replaced by the current copper spire in 1910. However, the church has been closed and boarded-up since 2011, when a renovation project uncovered deteriorating masonry and significant termite damage. The following year, the Holy Name School was closed amid declining enrollment, and in 2015 the school buildings and the convent were demolished. The church itself was not part of the demolition plan, although it remains vacant and its future seems uncertain.

Springfield Street and Casino Avenue, Chicopee, Mass

Looking north on Springfield Street from the corner of Casino Avenue in Chicopee, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

These views show the same scene as the ones in the previous post, just from the opposite angle. As mentioned in that post, this section of Chicopee was developed in the late 19th century by Frank E. Tuttle and James L. Humphrey, with Tuttle living in the large house in the center of the photo. This house was built in 1888, and most of the other ones in this area date to around the same time. Development was still ongoing when the first photo was taken in the early 1890s, and several more homes would be built in this scene by the early 20th century.

The Queen Anne-style house on the left was built in 1885, and was the home of William W. McClench, an attorney who served as the second mayor of Chicopee in 1892. He had been the unsuccessful Democratic candidate in the city’s first mayoral race, but in the next election he was nominated by both political parties and was unanimously elected mayor. In 1893, he returned to his law practice, forming a partnership with Frederick H. Gillett, a Congressman who later went on to serve as Speaker of the House from 1919 to 1925.

William McClench and his wife Katherine had three children: Marion, Cora, and Donald, and they lived here in this house until 1900, when they moved to a house on Sumner Avenue in Springfield. In 1898, William had become the general counsel for the Springfield-based Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, and he would later become second vice president and, in 1908, the president of the company.

Much has changed here in the 125 years since the first photo was taken, and the neighborhood is now the home of Elms College, which is located just out of view on the right side of the photo. Both of the houses from the first photo are still standing, although both have had significant exterior alterations. The Tuttle house has been the Grisé Funeral Home since the 1920s, and now has a cupola, artificial siding, and changes to some of the porches. The McClench house also has modern siding, along with an enclosed porch, and most of its original Queen Anne-style details are now gone. However, despite these changes, both houses are now part of the Springfield Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.