Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass (3)

Looking west across the Old North Bridge over the Concord River in Concord, around 1875-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in an earlier post, the Old North Bridge over the Concord River was the site of the Battle of Concord at the beginning of the American Revolution. It occurred on April 19, 1775, only a few hours after the opening shots of the war in nearby Lexington, and it was the first American victory of the war, resulting in the British abandoning their search for colonial munitions and returning to Boston.

Because of its historical significance, the battlefield is now marked with two monuments. On the east side of the river, directly behind the spot where this photo was taken, is a granite obelisk dedicated in 1837, and on the west side of the bridge is the statue The Minute Man, visible in the distance of all three photos. This statue was the work of prominent sculptor Daniel Chester French, and it was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the battle on April 19, 1775, in a ceremony that included dignitaries such as President Ulysses S. Grant.

Aside from the monuments, the most significant landmark here on the battlefield is the bridge. The original one was removed in 1788, and from 1793 to 1875 there was no bridge on this site after the roads were rerouted. However, as part of the centennial celebrations of 1875, a new one was built around the same time that the statue was installed. This bridge, shown here in the first photo, bore no resemblance to the original one. It was designed by noted architect William R. Emerson, and it featured a rustic Victorian-style design, with cedar logs for railings and two half-arbors at the middle of the bridge.

The centennial bridge was ultimately destroyed in a storm in 1888, and it was replaced by a simpler yet sturdier wooden bridge, as shown in the second photo. It was similar to, although not identical to, the original bridge here at this spot, and it stood here until it too was destroyed in 1909. Its replacement, built later in 1909, lasted until 1955, when it sustained serious damage in a flood. The current bridge was completed the following year, and it was designed to be a replica of the original colonial-era bridge.

In 1975, this bridge became a focal point for the bicentennial celebrations here in Concord. As was the case a century earlier, the event included a visit from the president, with Gerald Ford speaking from a platform here at the eastern end of the bridge, which was located just out of view on the right side of the scene. Since then, very little has changed here. The battlefield has been well-maintained in its 1775 appearance, and today the site probably looks more like it did on the day of the battle than in either of the two earlier photos. Much of this is due to the efforts of the National Park Service, which has administered the battlefield since 1959, when the bridge and the surrounding area became a part of the Minute Man National Historical Park.

Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass (2)

The Old North Bridge over the Concord River, with the memorial obelisk in the foreground, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this is the site of the Battle of Concord, a short but significant skirmish between British redcoats and the colonial militia on April 19, 1775. Along with the Battle of Lexington, which had occurred several hours earlier, this marked the beginning of the American Revolution, and it was here at Concord that the British suffered their first fatalities of the war. This was also the first American victory of the war, as it forced the British to abandon their efforts to seize colonial munitions and retreat back to Boston.

The major landmark here at the battlefield was the North Bridge, which crosses the Concord River about a half mile north of downtown Concord. Prior to the battle, the British forces controlled both sides of the bridge, but they ultimately retreated to the east side, here in the foreground of the photo, as a larger colonial force approached from the west. By the time they exchanged fire, the redcoats were standing here on the east bank, while the militiamen were across the river on the west bank.

The original North Bridge was removed in 1788, and it was replaced by a new bridge that stood here until 1793, when the road leading to the bridge was rerouted. For most of the 19th century, there was no bridge here, and the only significant marker on the battlefield was this obelisk, which was installed in 1836 here on the east side of the river. It was dedicated a year later, on July 4, 1837, and the ceremony is best known for the poem “Concord Hymn,” which was written by Ralph Waldo Emerson and sung here during the event. Emerson, who had not yet achieved widespread literary fame at this point, was the grandson of the late William Emerson, the town minister who had witnessed the battle from his nearby house. The poem is particularly remembered for its opening stanza, in which Emerson describes the farmers-turned-soldiers firing “the shot heard round the world” here at the the bridge.

The bridge itself was not replaced until 1874, when a new one was constructed as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the battle. This also coincided with the dedication of a new monument on the other side of the river, located just out of view beyond the trees on the left side of both photos. Known as The Minute Man, it was designed by sculptor Daniel Chester French, it has since become one of the major symbols of the American Revolution, with its image forms the basis for the United States National Guard logo.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the 1874 bridge had been destroyed and replaced by a new one that was completed in 1888. This one was destroyed in 1909, and a new one was constructed later in the year. The current bridge here was built in 1956, and underwent extensive restoration in 2005. Unlike the earlier bridges, it is intended to be a replica of the original bridge that stood here during the battle.

Today, this area is now part of the Minute Man National Historical Park, a largely linear park that stretches along the route that the British took from Lexington to Concord and back. As a result, the Concord battlefield has remained well-preserved in its colonial-era appearance, with few changes in more than a century since the first photo was taken. The neighboring Old Manse, where William Emerson and his family watched the battle, has also been preserved, and it stands directly behind the spot where this photo was taken.

Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass (1)

The Old North Bridge over the Concord River, with the memorial obelisk in the foreground, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

This view shows the scene looking west across the Concord River, at the site of the Battle of Concord, which occurred on April 19, 1775. Along with a brief skirmish in Lexington earlier on the same day, this battle marked the beginning of the American Revolution, and the site is now marked by several monuments and a replica of the original Old North Bridge that stood here at the time of the battle.

The battle was the result of a British attempt to seize colonial munitions that were stored in Concord. Late on the previous night, a force of some 700 British soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith had left Boston, bound for Concord. This prompted Paul Revere and several other messengers to make their famous midnight ride, warning the minutemen in the surrounding towns. By dawn, the British had reached Lexington, where a group of minutemen had assembled on the Lexington Green. The two sides exchanged fire, the first shots of the war, and the result was eight colonists dead and ten wounded, compared to one British soldier who received a minor wound.

From Lexington, the British continued on their way to Concord, where they began searching for the hidden supplies. Three of the companies ended up here at the North Bridge, which they guarded while other soldiers continued to search. However, by this point the colonial militiamen had begun assembling in a field on the west side of the bridge, visible in the distance on the right side of this scene. This led the outnumbered British to withdraw across the bridge to the east side of the river, here in the foreground. They briefly attempted to tear up the planks of the bridge, but they soon abandoned this effort.

The colonial forces, under the command of Colonel John Barrett, advanced on the bridge from the west, although they were under orders to not fire unless fired upon. Captain Walter Laurie, who commanded the British forces here at the bridge, never gave an order to fire, but some of his men opened fire, killing two militiamen. This prompted the colonists, who were by this point positioned on the west bank of the river, to return fire. In the process, three British soldiers were killed, nine were wounded, and the rest of them began retreating back to the center of Concord. The entire battle took less than three minutes, but it marked the first victory of any kind for the colonists during the war, and the first British fatalities of the war.

This battle would prove to be the only military engagement in Concord during the war, and within less than a year the British forces had evacuated Boston, never again to return to Massachusetts. Here in Concord, life steadily returned to normal after the war, and in 1788 the original North Bridge was demolished and replaced with a new one, evidently without much regard to its historic significance. However, this new bridge did not last very long; it was removed in 1793 when the nearby roads were rerouted.

With the bridge gone, and the old road becoming pastureland, there was little visual evidence of the battle that had occurred here. Probably the first major celebration here at this site came in 1824, on the 49th anniversary of the battle. The event was marked by a parade to the battlefield, and a speech that was delivered here by Ezra Ripley, the pastor of the First Parish Church. He lived right next to here, in a house that later became known as the Old Manse, and his wife Phebe had witnessed the battle from the house, back when she lived here with her first husband, William Emerson.

Despite this celebration, though, it would be more than a decade before the site of the battle was marked by a permanent monument. In 1835, Ezra Ripley donated some of his property here at the spot where the bridge had once stood, and the following year an obelisk, shown here in these two photos, was added to the site. It stood 25 feet in height, and it was designed by Solomon Willard, whose other works included the much larger Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. It was mostly comprised of granite, with the exception of a marble slab here on the eastern face, which reads:

Here on the 19 of April, 1775, was made the first forcible resistance to British aggression. On the opposite Bank stood the American Militia. Here stood the Invading Army and on this spot the first of the Enemy fell in the War of that Revolution which gave Independence to these United States. In gratitude to God and In the love of Freedom this Monument was erected AD. 1836.

The monument was formally dedicated on July 4, 1837, with a ceremony that included a keynote speech by Congressman Samuel Hoar. However, the event is best remembered for “Concord Hymn,” a poem that was sung here. It was written for the occasion by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the grandson of William Emerson, and it was among his earliest notable literary works. Although he would later be known primarily as an essayist and founder of the Transcendentalism movement, the poem remains perhaps his single best-known work, particularly the opening stanza:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

At the time, there was still no bridge here, and it would be several more decades before one was finally reconstructed. This ultimately occurred in 1874, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the battle. As part of this project, a new bridge was designed and a new monument was dedicated on the west side of the river, marking the militiamen’s position during the battle. This monument, visible in the distance of both photos, features a bronze statue designed by noted sculptor Daniel Chester French. Known as The Minute Man, it consists of a colonial militiaman leaving behind a plow and carrying a musket, representing the farmers who came to the defense of their country. Beneath the statue is a pedestal, designed by James Elliot Cabot, with the first stanza of Emerson’s poem inscribed on it.

The 1874 bridge was destroyed in a storm in 1888, and it was subsequently rebuilt. This bridge, which is shown in the first photo, stood here until 1909, when it too was destroyed. The next bridge here was a concrete structure, completed later in 1909, and it survived until 1955 before being severely damaged by a flood. Its replacement, which was built in 1956, is still standing today, although it underwent a major restoration in 2005. Unlike the earlier bridges, it is a replica of the original one, and it has remained here at this site for longer than any of its predecessors.

In 1959, the bridge, the monuments, and the surrounding battlefield became part of the Minute Man National Historical Park, which encompasses a number of historic sites relating to the battles of Lexington and Concord. The park gained significant attention during the American bicentennial celebrations, and in 1975 President Gerald Ford gave a speech here at the bridge to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle. Today, under the administration of the National Park Service, this scene has remained well-preserved, with few significant changes since the first photo was taken more than a century ago. The site of the battle continues to be a major tourist destination, and the park as a whole draws upwards of a million visitors each year to Lexington and Concord.

Canal Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking southwest on Canal Street, toward the corner of Lyman Street in Holyoke, in 1936. Image taken by Lewis Hine, courtesy of the U. S. National Archives.

The scene in 2017:

The first photo was taken by the prominent photographer and social reformer Lewis Hine, who is best known for his early 20th century work with the National Child Labor Committee. However, later in life he also documented life across the country during the Great Depression, including a visit to Holyoke in 1936. At the time, the city was a leading producer of paper and textiles, and most of his photos focus on Holyoke’s industry. This photo shows the scene along Canal Street, with the Second Level Canal on the right. The Boston and Maine Railroad crosses through the middle of the photo, and in the background is the Whiting Paper Company, which was located in a building that had previously been occupied by the Lyman Mills. Hine’s original caption provides a short description of the photo:

Mt. Holyoke [sic]Massachusetts – Scenes. An old mill of absentee ownership, liquidated and sold at a great bargain to a new owner, who would not sell or rent, uses only a small part; railway transportation; electric power transmission. Lyman Mills (Now Whiting Company), 1936

The Lyman Mills company was incorporated in 1854, in the early years of Holyoke’s industrial development. It was located in the area between the First and Second Level Canals, on the south side of Lyman Street, and over the years its facility grew to include a number of mill buildings. The earliest of these, not visible from this angle, were built in 1849-1850, and were originally used by the Hadley Falls Company before being acquired by Lyman Mills. Other buildings, including the large one in the distance on the right side of the scene, were added later in the 19th century, and the company became a major producer of textiles. It also employed a significant number Holyoke residents, including many of the city’s French Canadian immigrants, and by the turn of the century it had a workforce of over 1,300 people.

However, as Hine’s caption indicates, the Lyman Mills corporation was liquidated in 1927. Although still profitable despite increased competition from southern manufacturers, the shareholders were evidently more interested in selling the company’s assets instead of continuing to operate it as a textile mill. Over a thousand employees were put out of work on the eve of the Great Depression, and the property was sold to the Whiting Paper Company, whose original mill was located directly adjacent to the Lyman Mills complex.

Founded in 1865 by William Whiting, this company went on to become one of the largest paper manufacturers in the country, and Whiting enjoyed a successful political career as mayor of Holyoke and as a U. S. Congressman. After his death in 1911, his son, William F. Whiting, took over the company and oversaw the expansion into the former Lyman Mills buildings in the late 1920s. The younger Whiting was a longtime friend of Calvin Coolidge, and in August 1928 Coolidge appointed him as the U. S. Secretary of Commerce, replacing Herbert Hoover, who would be elected president a few months later. Whiting served in this role for the remainder of Coolidge’s presidency, until Hoover’s inauguration on March 4, 1929.

The conversion of the Lyman Mills into paper production, along with Whiting’s brief tenure as Secretary of Commerce, occurred just a short time before the stock market crash of October 1929. By the time the first photo was taken seven years later, the country was still in the midst of the Great Depression. Like the rest of the country, Holyoke was hit hard by the Depression, but the Whiting Paper Company managed to survive and remain in business for several more decades. However, Holyoke continued to see economic decline throughout the mid-20th century, with most of its major manufacturers closing or relocating, and the Whiting Paper Company finally closed in 1967, just over a century after it had been established.

Today, however, this scene has hardly changed in more than 80 years since Lewis Hine took the first photo. Although no longer used to produce textiles or paper, the Lyman/Whiting complex is still standing in the distance, and has been converted into a mixed-use property known as Open Square. Closer to the foreground, the same railroad bridges still carry the tracks over Canal Street and the Second Level Canal, and even the transmission towers are still standing, although they do not carry any electrical wires anymore.

Lyman Street Bridge, Holyoke, Mass

Looking north toward the Lyman Street bridge over the Second Level Canal in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

Holyoke was developed in the mid-19th century as one of the first planned industrial cities in the country, and was powered by a network of canals that were constructed starting in 1847. The Second Level Canal, seen here, runs parallel to the city’s street grid, and it is crossed by six of the major streets in downtown Holyoke. The northernmost of these is Lyman Street, which crosses the canal here, and the first photo shows a low, two-span bridge that was probably constructed of iron. The railroad bridge just beyond it was also iron, and carried the Connecticut River Railroad through Holyoke, passing diagonally across both the canal and the intersection of Lyman and Canal Streets on the right side of the photo. This lattice truss bridge was built in 1887, and later became part of the Boston and Maine Railroad after the company acquired the rail line in 1893, soon after the first photo was taken.

Today, this scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo, although both of the 19th century bridges are gone. The old railroad bridge was replaced in 1928 by a steel Warren truss bridge, which is still in use today, and the current Lyman Street bridge was built in 2011. Further in the distance, several of the 19th century mill buildings are still standing on Gatehouse Road. The long building on the left side of the photo, once the home of the Whiting Paper Company, is still there. It was heavily altered at some point after the first photo was taken, and the right side of the building collapsed during a severe thunderstorm in 2011. However, the left side is still standing, along with the small, two-story brick building on the far left side of both photos.

Mosher Street from Main Street, Holyoke, Mass

Looking east on Moster Street from the corner of Main Street in Holyoke, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2017:

The railroad bridge in the foreground is located just south of Holyoke’s historic railroad station, and carries the Connecticut River Railroad over Mosher Street. This railroad line, which was acquired by the Boston and Maine Railroad soon after the first photo was taken, is the primary north-south railroad route through western Massachusetts, linking the major cities and towns of the Connecticut River Valley with Vermont to the north and Connecticut to the south.

Several blocks away in the distance of the first photo is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, which was built in 1887 at the northeast corner of Mosher and West Streets. It was one of many Catholic churches built in Holyoke during this time, and both the church and its parish school served the large numbers of Catholic immigrants who came to Holyoke as mill workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first pastor of the church, Michael J. Howard, died in 1888, only a year after the church building was completed, and he was succeeded by Thomas D. Beaven, who served the parish until 1892, when he became bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.

Today, only the railroad itself still exists from the first photo. The church was demolished in 1976, and the rest of the buildings between the railroad and the church are also gone. A large apartment building now dominates the left side of the 2017 photo, and the surrounding streets now consist primarily of modern duplexes, interspersed by occasional historic buildings. The old railroad station, just out of view to the left, is still standing, although it has been vacant for many years. Passenger rail was recently restored to Holyoke, with Amtrak’s Vermonter now running through the city, although it currently uses a small platform located a block south of here at Dwight Street, instead of the abandoned 19th century station.