Corner of Blackstone and Hanover Streets, Boston

The corner of Blackstone Street and Hanover Street, in 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

1950s

The same corner in 2011:

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There’s something rather depressing about comparing these two photos – the bustling marketplace, contrasted with the shuttered storefronts and empty streets.  However, the appearance neighborhood as a whole has improved significantly since 1956 – the first photo was actually taken right in front of the Central Artery – the massive elevated highway that was eventually replaced by the much-maligned yet more aesthetically pleasing Big Dig.  Where I was standing to take the 2011 photo is right about where the highway ran through – if I had taken the photo 10 years earlier, the buildings in the foreground would’ve been barely visible.

I hadn’t seen the 1956 photo before taking this photo; what drew me to the building was the fading 19th century advertisements still visible on the bricks.  The two most prominent are for Bostonia Cigars (top and right-hand side), and W.P.B. Brooks & Co. Furniture Carpets &c.  I couldn’t find out much about either company, but it appears both from the appearance of the advertisements and also some quick online searches about the companies that they existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The building itself, which was constructed around 1835, is actually the same building that has the Boston Stone mounted on its wall, on the opposite side of where this photo was taken.  Behind it is the Blackstone Block, a rare group of buildings from the 18th and 19th century that still maintains the original 1600’s street network.  It is completely surrounded by much newer construction, but it is a small enclave of historic structures.  On the opposite side of this area is one of Boston’s oldest buildings, the home of the Union Oyster House.

This building itself actually used to have more floors, but at some point before the 1956 photo it was trimmed down to just three.  However, recent photos of this same building taken in the past year have shown that a couple more floors have actually been added on to the top of it, which would suggest that its future is brighter than the boarded up storefronts and deserted streets would seem to suggest.

Corner of State & Dwight, Springfield

The view looking northwest from the corner of State Street and Dwight Street, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Buildings

The same street corner in 2015:

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There is absolutely nothing in the first photo that still exists today, so identification of its location eluded me for a while, until I zoomed in to a high-resolution scan of the photo and noticed the “Dwight Street” sign.  The building in the first photo was, at the time, the YMCA building in Springfield.  According to the date on the building, it was constructed in 1894.  So far, I have been unable to find information about when it was demolished, but it was certainly no later than 1972, when the MassMutual Center (at the time the Civic Center) was built.  The building is now the home of the Springfield Falcons (hockey) and the Springfield Armor (basketball), and was the home of the NFL’s Hartford Whalers for several seasons after the roof of the Hartford Civic Center collapsed in 1978.  Incidentally, notice the fire hydrant to the far right of both photos.  The hydrant itself isn’t the same, but they are probably in the same location, which makes it possibly the only fixed landmark in both photos.

Maple Street, Springfield

The view looking down Maple Street toward State Street, between 1905 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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If the street network seems a little different here, it’s because it is.  When the first photo was taken, Maple Street and Chestnut Street (which are essentially the same road – they just switch names after crossing State Street) were together a major two-way, north-south road running along the top of the hill overlooking downtown.  Dwight Street was,  likewise, a major north-south road that ran from the North End until terminating at State Street.  However, in 1972, Dwight Street was extended diagonally up the hill to meet Maple Street, and turned into a one-way street carrying southbound traffic.  Maple/Chestnut, north of this intersection, then became a parallel, northbound one-way street.  South of here (the opposite direction of this photo), Maple Street is still a two-way road.

In any case, this is part of the reason why the left-hand side of this photo looks so dramatically different from the 1905-15 photo; the houses and apartment buildings were later demolished to make room for the extended Dwight Street.  The right-hand side of the street, however, remains essentially the same; the apartment building in the foreground is the most obvious, but there is also another building behind it, and the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Building barely visible at the corner of State and Maple.

The other major change between the two photos is the massive 34-story Chestnut Park apartment building, which was built between Dwight and Chestnut Streets on State Street.  It is the third-tallest building in Springfield and the tallest residential building.

St. Michael’s Cathedral, Springfield

The view of St. Michael’s Cathedral, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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From the same spot in 2013:

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The tree is somewhat blocking it, but St. Michael’s Cathedral is still there today, looking as good as it did when it was built in the 1860’s.  It was the first Roman Catholic church in Springfield, and it is currently the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts, which covers all four counties in Western Massachusetts.  The 1908 photo shows the church and the rectory, both of which still exist, but it also shows St. Luke’s Sanitarium, to the left of the church, which no longer exists.  Note, however, the break in the curb along the sidewalk that once led to the building.

On an arborist note, the short but wide tree on the far right of the 2013 photo appears to be the same one in the 1908 photo.  In addition, this may be pure conjecture, but the tree that now all but obscures the church from this angle appears to be visible in the 1908 photo.  There is a young sapling that is barely noticeable in the photo, and it appears to be in the same location as the present-day tree.  The current tree looks like it could be around 100 years old – could it be the same tree?

Corner of State & Maple, Springfield

The corner of State Street and Maple Street in Springfield, between 1900 and 1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same street corner in 2013:

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These photos were taken from the opposite side of State Street from the photos in this post, and show some of the changes that the Quadrangle area has undergone in the past 100+ years.  Some things remain – Christ Church Cathedral and the statue of Samuel Chapin are the two obvious ones.  Even minor details such as the short, bowling pin-looking granite posts on either side of the sidewalks are still there.  But, the big difference, aside from the traffic lights and complete lack of cobblestone in the 2013 photo, is the main Springfield Library building.

The library building in the early 20th century photo was built in the 1860’s as the first public library in Springfield.  Very shortly after this photo was taken, however, construction began on the new library (this happened in 1909, thus establishing the upper limit of the date range for the photo).  But, rather than demolishing the old structure, and to allow the library to function while the new building was being constructed, the old one was moved directly back, into the present-day Quadrangle.  The new library was dedicated in 1912, and the books were moved to the old one.  Whether the old building was demolished right after that, or whether it was used for something else in the intervening years, I don’t know at this time.

Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Government

The scene in 2014:

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The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.

Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2014 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.