Bridge Street, Northampton, Mass

The view looking west on Bridge Street, from near the corner of Market Street in Northampton, around 1890. Image from Picturesque Hampshire (1890).

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows downtown Northampton as it appeared around 1890, prior to the construction of a railroad bridge over Bridge Street. At the time, the tracks crossed directly over the street, and the crossing was marked by both signs and gates. This was a busy area for both street and railroad traffic; the crossing is located at the eastern end of the downtown area, and Bridge Street was the main road out of Northampton to the east. In addition, the crossing was the site of the junction between the New Haven & Northampton and the Connecticut River Railroads, and an 1873 map shows six tracks passing over Bridge Street.

At the time, the two railroads maintained separate passenger depots, which were located out of view to the left, on the other side of the tracks along Strong Avenue. However, this arrangement would change only a few years after the first photo was taken, when the tracks were raised and Bridge Street was slightly lowered in order to build a bridge that would eliminate the busy grade crossing. This work was completed in 1897, and it coincided with the completion of a new Union Station that replaced the two older stations.

Today, more than 125 years after the first photo was taken, many of the commercial buildings in the distance are still standing. Some of the other buildings were constructed soon after the photo was taken, including the yellow brick Masonic Building, located just beyond the bridge on the right side of the scene. Completed in 1898, it is perhaps best known as the building where Calvin Coolidge had his law offices prior to his political career. Closer to the foreground, the most significant change from the first photo is the railroad bridge, which still carries rail traffic over Bridge Street. However, while it has prevented rail and street traffic from interfering with each other, it has caused problems of its own with its low clearance. Despite prominent signage, trucks frequently end up stuck in the underpass, and locals have dubbed it the “truck-eating bridge.”

Sheffield Scientific School, New Haven, Connecticut

Looking south on Prospect Street toward Grove Street, with the Sheffield Scientific School on the left side of the street, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Sheffield Scientific School was founded in 1847 as the Yale Scientific School, and was intended to provide an alternative to the  traditional liberal arts focus of Yale itself. In 1860, the school moved into the former Yale School of Medicine building, which was located in the distance at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets. The building had been extensively renovated by railroad executive and philanthropist Joseph E. Sheffield, and the school was subsequently renamed in his honor.

In the following decades, the Sheffield Scientific School steadily expanded, with new buildings that were constructed here along the east side of Prospect Street. The first of these was North Sheffield Hall, which was built in 1873. It stands in the center of the first photo, and it was followed in 1893 by Winchester Hall, which stands just beyond it with the turret on the corner. Two years later, the Sheffield Chemical Laboratory was completed on the other side of North Sheffield, and it stands in the foreground of both photos. All three of these buildings featured similar Romanesque architecture, and they were the work of noted architect J. Cleaveland Cady, who was responsible for designing a number of college and other institutional buildings across the northeast.

New buildings continued to be constructed for the Sheffield Scientific School throughout the early 20th century, including Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, which replaced the original school building at the corner of Grove Street in 1932. These three buildings remained in use for many more years, though, even after the school was fully merged with Yale University in 1956. However, both North Sheffield and Winchester Halls were demolished in 1968 in order to make room for the Becton Laboratories, the large Brutalist-syle building in the distant center of the 2018 photo.

Today, only the Sheffield Chemical Laboratory still stands from the first photo. It was significantly renovated in 1986 for use by the computer science department, and it was renamed Arthur K. Watson Hall, in honor of the former IBM president and U. S. Ambassador to France. In 1993, the building was targeted by the Unabomber, and one of his mail bombs detonated here in the office of Professor David Gelertner, badly injuring him. The building itself sustained little damage, though, and it continues to be used as the home of the computer science department, with few noticeable exterior changes from the first photo.

Temple Street, New Haven, Connecticut

The view looking north on Temple Street from near the corner of Chapel Street in New Haven, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This block of Temple Street passes through the New Haven Green, and in front of three historic churches that stand on the Green. The southernmost of these, the 1816 Trinity Church, is just out of view on the far left side of the scene, but the 1814 Center Church, along with the more distant 1815 United Church, are both visible on the left side of the street. The latter two churches have very similar designs, with each one featuring a brick exterior and Federal-style architecture. Both of these photos also show the eastern portion of the Green, with a number of people walking across it or sitting on benches. The longer exposure time of the first photo is shown by the blurred images of several people walking on the right side, while the people seated on the left remain sharp and clear.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much of this scene has remained largely unchanged, particularly in the foreground and on the left. All three churches are still standing and in active use by their congregations, and they are contributing properties in the New Haven Green Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark. However, there have been some significant changes to this scene, particularly in the distance on the right side. This block of Elm Street was once known as Quality Row, and had a number of elegant early 19th century mansions that are visible in the first photo. These included the Nathan Smith House, which stood second from the right. It was built around 1815, and was once the home of U. S. Senator Nathan Smith, but it was demolished – along with the rest of Quality Row- by the 1910s, soon after the first photo was taken. The block is now occupied by the 1911 New Haven Free Public Library on the left, and the 1914 New Haven County Courthouse on the right.

Pelham Street, Newport, Rhode Island

Looking east on Pelham Street, toward the corner of Spring Street in Newport, around the early 1880s. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

These photos show the same scene as those in an earlier post, just from the opposite view along Pelham Street. Here, a mix of 18th and 19th century homes line either side of the narrow street, with the United Congregational Church standing in the distance at the corner of Spring Street. Probably the oldest of these is the Langley-King House, which is partially visible on the extreme left of the photo. It was built around 1710, expanded around the mid-18th century, and eventually restored in the early 1970s. Next to it is the three-story John Gidley House, which was built around 1744, and further in the distance are several other homes that date to around the 18th century.

On the right side of the street, probably the newest house in the first photo is the Anthony Stewart, Jr. House. It was built around the 1860s or early 1870s, and its Victorian-era Mansard roof and bay windows stand in sharp contrast to the colonial-era buildings all around it. Its neighbor to the right, the c.1804 Jonathan Bowen House, also features a Mansard roof, although this was evidently added at some point after the first photo was taken. Further in the distance on the right is the small gambrel-roofed Lucina Langley House, which was built sometime before 1771 and still stands at 43 Pelham Street. However, its neighbor to the left, at the corner of Spring Street, was demolished sometime soon after the first photo was taken, and was replaced by the present-day William M. Austin House in 1883.

Perhaps the most historically significant building in this scene is the United Congregational Church. This Romanesque Revival-style brownstone church was completed in 1857, and was the work of noted New York architect Joseph C. Wells. At the time, the interior was largely plain, in keeping with the Puritan traditions of the Congregational Church, but this changed in 1880, when the prominent artist John La Farge was commissioned to redesign the interior. His only restriction was that he could not include illustrations of figures, or any Christian symbols, as these could be seen as violations of the second commandment’s prohibition of graven images. As a result, La Farge drew heavily upon Byzantine and even Islamic tradition, incorporating intricate geometric patterns and other abstract designs into his work. This ultimately included 20 stained glass windows, along with a number of murals on the walls and ceiling, and it was completed shortly before the first photo was taken.

Today, more than 130 years after the first photo was taken, remarkably little has changed in this scene. All of the houses are still here, except for the one on the right at the corner of Spring Street, and the church is also still standing. It is now partially hidden by trees and by the Austin House, but the only significant change is the loss of the pyramidal roofs atop the towers, which were destroyed in the 1938 hurricane and were never replaced. All of the buildings in this scene are now part of the Newport Historic District, a National Historic Landmark district that was created in 1968. However, the United Congregational Church was also individually designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2012, in recognition of La Farge’s interior design of the building.

Trinity Church, Newport, Rhode Island

Trinity Church, seen looking east along Frank Street in Newport, around 1901. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

Newport features an impressive collection of colonial-era buildings that have survived to the present day, but one of the most significant of these is Trinity Church, which is seen in these two photos. It was built in 1725-1726 as an Anglican church, replacing an earlier building that the congregation had previously used, and it was the work of local architect and builder Richard Munday. His design was based on the churches of London architect Christopher Wren, and it also bears a strong resemblance to Old North Church, which had been built just a few years earlier.

Although the building itself was completed in 1726, the spire was not added until 1741, and it had to be rebuilt in 1768. Another change came in 1762, when the church was expanded by 30 feet. In order to do this, the building was divided in half, the rear section was moved back, and the addition was built in the middle of the two halves. However, it has seen few significant changes since then, and it remains remarkably well-preserved, both on the exterior and interior.

Unlike in most other New England towns, Newport’s colonial-era churches were not built at the head of large public squares. This was an effect of Rhode Island’s legacy of religious tolerance, in order to avoid showing preference to one denomination over another. Because of this, houses of worship tended to have less prominent locations. Here, Trinity Church was situated on a narrow lot bounded by Spring, Church, and Frank Streets. The church building itself filled up most of the lot, with just enough room for a small churchyard on the north and west sides. As the first photo shows, this left the church crowded on all sides, and nearly hidden from view by an assortment of modest houses and commercial buildings.

This situation continued for much of the 20th century. However, a fire in 1973 destroyed the building at the corner of Thames and Frank Streets. This loss helped to spur the redevelopment of the entire block, and during the 1970s the Newport Restoration Foundation acquired properties in the two-block area between Mill and Church Streets. This project was led by the Newport Restoration Foundation’s founder, the tobacco heiress Doris Duke, and it eventually involved the removal of all the buildings here on Frank Street. These buildings held little historical or architectural value, and they were replaced by Queen Anne Square, a public park that stretches from the front of Trinity Church down to Thames Street.

Today, the narrow, cobblestoned Frank Street is still there, although the western end of it is now a pedestrian walkway through Queen Anne Park. With the street no longer cluttered with buildings, Trinity Church is now easily visible from Thames Street and the waterfront area, and it stands as the only surviving structure from the first photo. The nearly 300 year old church is now one a contributing property in the Newport Historic District, a National Historic Landmark district that encompasses much of downtown Newport. However, it is also individually listed as a National Historic Landmark, making it one of 18 buildings in Newport to be recognized as such.

Thames Street from Cannon Street, Newport, Rhode Island

Looking east on Cannon Street from the corner of Thames Street in Newport, around 1915. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo shows the view looking up the hill along Cannon Street, a narrow side street that stretched one block from Thames Street to Spring Street. At the time, the street was lined with a variety of houses, most of which appear to have been built during the 19th century. On the left side, at the corner of Thames Street, was a bicycle shop, and several bicycles are visible in the window, just above the dog on the sidewalk. Aside from the bicycles, the cars in the distance are the only other sign of modernity, as the rest of this scene had probably not undergone any significant changes in several decades.

However, this scene would change dramatically within only a year or two after the first photo was taken. Around 1916, the buildings in the foreground were demolished to build a new post office, which now stands on the left side of the present-day photo. Further changes came in the mid-20th century, when Cannon Street was significantly widened to become Memorial Boulevard West. All of the buildings on the south side of the street were either demolished or relocated, but the few remaining ones here on the north side were largely unaffected, aside from being renumbered with Memorial Boulevard West addresses.

Today, the only surviving building that is easily recognizable from the first photo is the yellow Victorian-style house just to the right of the center in the 2017 photo. According to the Newport Historic District inventory, it was built around 1850. However, it must have been significantly altered later in the 19th century, because its Mansard roof and small turret are more in line with architectural styles of the 1870s and 1880s. The house is hard to see in the first photo, but it is partially visible just behind the first car. At the time, it was the home of Mary Maloney, an Irish immigrant who worked as a laundress and lived here with her sister, her niece, and her nephew. The house has since been converted into a bed and breakfast, and it is now the Burbank Rose Inn.