Providence River, Providence, RI

Looking upstream on the Providence River, with downtown Providence in the background, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The river in 2016:

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This view is just downstream of the one in the previous post, and shows some of the same features, including the 1896 Banigan Building and the Crawford Street Bridge. At the time, the bridge was the head of navigation for the Providence River, so the first photo shows several steamboats docked here. These boats were a common sight at the turn of the 20th century, providing excursion trips to vacation destinations such as Newport, Block Island, and other destinations in Narragansett Bay, Long Island, and beyond.

Two of the three steamers in the first photo are identifiable. The one on the right is the Warwick, which had been built in 1873 and was in service for nearly 50 years until 1920. En route to Newport in January, the old boat sprung a leak, and later sank at its dock in Newport. Likewise, the What Cheer on the far left of the first photo also fell victim to old age around the same time. Built in New Jersey in 1867, the What Cheer operated in Narragansett Bay for many years before being sold to a New York company. Two years later, the old sidewheel steamer sank at the pier at Glen Island, and was deemed to be beyond repair.

Today, very little is left from the first photo. The only readily identifiable building in both photos is the Banigan Building, although the Customshouse, seen just to the left of it in the 2016 scene, would have also been standing in the first photo. Otherwise, not much remains. The industrial buildings to the left are gone, including the one with the lettering that reads “Phenix and US Club Ginger Ale.” There are no longer any coastal steamers on the river, although, as mentioned in the previous post, the river itself has seen great improvement. In the first photo, most of it in the distance was hidden under the Crawford Street Bridge, which was probably just as well at the time, considering how polluted it was with sewage and industrial waste. Today, the nearly quarter-mile wide bridge is gone, the river is cleaner, and it is now an integral part of downtown Providence’s cityscape.

Old Union Station, Worcester, Mass

Worcester’s old Union Station, seen around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This building was Worcester’s original Union Station, serving the Boston & Albany Railroad along with several other railroads. It was completed in 1875 in a Gothic Revival style designed by the Boston architectural firm of Ware & Van Brunt. Along with the usual passenger station amenities, it included a train shed over the tracks, along with a 212-foot clock tower at the corner of the building.

The station served Worcester for over 35 years, but by the early 20th century the city’s busy railroad traffic made it necessary to elevate the tracks through downtown. This, in turn, required a new station, which opened in 1911 just west of here. Most of the old station was demolished at this point, but the tower itself was saved. Unlike the two towers of the new station, which had to be taken down just 15 years later because of their deteriorated condition, the old 1875 tower stood here until 1959, when it was demolished to build Interstate 290.

Today, the 1911 Union Station, with replica towers, is still standing just to the right of the rotary, and in the distance the highway passes over the spot where the original station once stood. The only remnant from the first photo is the railroad itself, which can be seen on the right side of the photo, with MBTA commuter rail passenger cars passing over the bridge in the distance.

Union Station, Worcester, Mass

The Union Station in Worcester, around 1911-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Union Station in 2016:

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Although Worcester’s Union Station looks largely the same now as it did over a century ago, the building has undergone dramatic changes in between. It was built in 1911, when the railroad tracks through downtown Worcester were raised above street level, requiring the replacement of the original 1875 Union Station, located just east of here. Although owned by the New York Central Railroad through their Boston & Albany subsidiary, the station served all of the railroads in Worcester, including the Providence & Worcester and the Boston & Maine. This new building was designed by the firm of Watson & Huckel, and its Beaux Arts architecture was very different from the Romanesque style of its predecessor, reflecting a major shift in architectural tastes from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries.

Although the twin towers of the building were its most iconic feature, the original ones lasted barely 15 years, and had to be removed in 1926 because of damaged caused by vibration from passing trains. The station, without the towers, remained in use for nearly 50 years, but by the mid-20th century passenger rail travel was in decline, and in 1972 it finally closed.

For more than 35 years, the station sat abandoned and decaying. Over time, the panes of glass in the skylight above the main concourse fell out, and for many years the interior was completely exposed to the elements. However, through decades of neglect the exterior remained structurally sound, and after several years of restoration work, the station reopened in 2000, complete with replicas of the towers that had been missing for nearly 75 years. Today, the restored building is a prominent Worcester landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, and from this angle is virtually indistinguishable from its original appearance.

State Street from Commerce Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking east on State Street toward the Connecticut River, from the corner of Commerce Street, on November 19, 1905. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Section of State St. from Commerce St. (East)

The scene in 2016:

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It was hard to pinpoint the exact location of this photo, because Interstate 91 has completely obliterated the old street layout along the Connecticut River. The highway now runs directly through the 1905 scene here, but the present-day photo was taken from the plaza above the highway. So, it is the same spot as the first photo, just elevated probably about 20-30 feet.

Today, State Street extends across the Founders Bridge into East Hartford, and is a major thoroughfare in and out of the city. However, at the turn of the last century it ended here at the river, in much more humble surroundings than the busy commercial center just a few block away at the other end of the street. In the foreground is a bridge for the railroad tracks that ran along the Connecticut River, and just beyond it, in the center of the photo, was a warehouse for the Hartford & New York Transportation Company, a steamboat line that operated on the river. One of the boats is partially visible in the distance at the foot of State Street, at the city’s steamboat landing.

Steamboats have long since disappeared from the Connecticut River, along with all of the buildings here. Some were probably damaged or destroyed in the major floods of the 1930s, but any that did survive would have been gone by the 1960s, when I-91 was built through here. Today, this plaza above the highway provides riverfront access for pedestrians, and also connects to the walkway on the Founders Bridge. The only surviving remnant from the first photo is the railroad, which is still active but now mostly hidden beneath the highway.

Temporary Bridge, Hartford, Connecticut

The bridge across the Connecticut River at Hartford, seen from the East Hartford side on September 9, 1903. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Temporary bridge, East Hartford end

The scene in 2016:

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For many years, the only bridge across the Connecticut River at Hartford was here at the site of the Bulkeley Bridge. In 1818, a covered bridge was built here, and it survived until May 17, 1895, when it was destroyed in a fire. With no other crossings available, a makeshift bridge was quickly built upstream of the ruins, opening just three weeks later. Before the end of the year it was washed away, but was replaced with the temporary bridge that is seen in the first photo.

As inconvenient as the loss of the old covered bridge may have been, it allowed Hartford the opportunity to build an elegant new bridge that reflected the city’s prosperity and importance. When the first photo was taken, work had already begun on building the Bulkeley Bridge and reconstructing Morgan Street on the Hartford side of the bridge. The temporary bridge was demolished after the new one was completed in 1908. The bridge has since been joined by two others in Hartford, but it still plays an important role in the city’s transportation, carrying Interstate 84 and US Routes 6 and 44. At over 100 years old, it is possibly the oldest bridge in the Interstate Highway System, predating the actual establishment of the highway system by nearly 50 years.

Morgan Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking west on Morgan Street from near the corner of Front Street (today’s Columbus Boulevard), on August 21, 1903. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

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The view just two months later, on October 25, 1903. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Morgan St., west of railroad bridge

The scene in 2016:

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For many years, the only bridge across the Connecticut River at Hartford was here at the foot of Morgan Road, just behind the photographer. The original covered bridge that had been built here in 1818 burned down in 1895, and although a temporary replacement was soon built here, a more permanent bridge was in the works. The city ultimately chose a stone arch bridge, which was completed in 1908 and is still standing as the Bulkeley Bridge. As part of the project, they designed broad avenues on either side of the bridge, which required demolition along Morgan Street.

As seen in the first two photos, Morgan Street was fairly narrow, and passed through the working-class neighborhood on the east side of the city. Looking to improve this and provide a more impressive entryway into the city, they demolished the buildings on both sides of the street to widen it. Although taken only two months apart, the first two photos here show the demolition progress, with at least five of the buildings gone by the time the second photo was taken. The buildings that were still standing were covered in advertisements, including the one on the far left that has posters for plays entitled “The Christian” and “A Working Girl’s Wrongs.”

In later years, further transportation improvements would reshape Morgan Street again. With the coming of the Interstate Highway System, this spot just west of the Bulkeley Bridge became the intersection of I-91, Connecticut’s primary north-south route, and I-84, one of the main east-west routes in the state. Any of the early 20th century efforts to make Morgan Street a grand boulevard were completely undone by the 1970s, when I-84 was built directly above the street. Today, instead of being lined with the tenement houses and merchant storefronts that once stood here, the street is now surrounded by parking garages and elevated highways.