Mount Vernon, Virginia (2)

Another view of the Mount Vernon mansion, seen from the bowling green on the west side of the house, around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The mansion in 2018:

As discussed in the previous post, the Mount Vernon estate had been in the Washington family since 1674, when John Washington acquired the land. However, it was his grandson, Augustine Washington – the father of the future president – who constructed the original section of the mansion here on this site, in 1734. At the time, it was only one story, with a garret for the second floor, and it was comprised of what is now the four windows in the middle of the house.

George Washington’s older half brother, Lawrence Washington, later received the property from their father, and he lived here until his death in 1752. His widow, Anne, subsequently leased Mount Vernon to George Washington, starting in 1754. Four years later, he began the first expansion of the house, adding a full second floor with a garret above it. He gained ownership of the estate when Anne died in 1761, and in 1774 he embarked on an even more ambitious project, with two-story additions on both sides of the house.

The mid-1770s renovations also included two new outbuildings, which were connected to the house by colonnades, as shown in these photos. The building on the right was the kitchen, and it had three rooms on the first floor, along with a loft on the second floor. Like many kitchens of this period, it was separated from the main house as a fire safety measure. The building on the left was known as Servants Hall, and it had a design that matched that of the kitchen.. Although Washington did have slave quarters nearby, none of his slaves lived here. Instead, this building was used to house the servants – both black and white – of visitors to Mount Vernon.

George Washington lived here until his death in 1799, and Martha Washington died in 1802. They had no biological children together, so the estate went to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, who served for many years as a justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. The property was later inherited by Bushrod’s nephew, John Augustine Washington II, and then by John’s son, John Augustine Washington III.

Over the years, these later generations of the Washington family struggled to maintain the expensive estate, and in 1858 John Augustine Washington III sold it to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Under their ownership, the mansion was restored, and in 1860 it was opened to the public as one of the nation’s first historic tourist destinations. The first photo was probably taken within a decade or two after this, and it shows the house as it would have appeared to a Victorian-era visitor.

Today, some 150 years after this photo was taken, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association continues to operate the property as a museum. The mansion and the two outbuildings that are shown here have been well-maintained throughout this time, and there is hardly any difference between these two photos. Mount Vernon was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960, becoming one of the first places to be recognized as such, and it remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing around a million visitors each year.

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, Washington, DC

The east front of the United States Capitol, during the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Capitol in 2018:

The first photo was taken around the same time as the one in a previous post, but this one shows the view from further back, with the entire unfinished Capitol dome in view, along with the crowd that had assembled for Lincoln’s first inauguration. It was the culmination of the highly-contentious 1860 presidential election, which saw the splintering of the Democratic Party into regional factions. Lincoln won the four-way race amid threats of secession from the south, and by the time he was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, seven southern states had followed through on their plans.

Because of this, there was a great deal of uncertainty on the day that the first photograph was taken. The start of the Civil War was just over a month away, and there were still plenty of questions about whether the South would be allowed to peacefully secede, or if the newly-inaugurated president would send an army to stop them. Appropriately enough, the backdrop to this event is the unfinished dome of the Capitol. Begun six years earlier, this new dome was still very much a work in progress during Lincoln’s inauguration, and it seemingly represented the as yet unfinished work of uniting the northern and southern regions of the nation.

The Capitol building itself is actually significantly older than this dome, though. Construction began in 1793, and the Senate and House wings were completed in 1800 and 1811, respectively. However, the building was burned in 1814, during the War of 1812, and its reconstruction was not ultimately finished until 1826. At the time, the building was topped by a low dome, which is visible in the first photo of another previous post. As the country grew, though, so did the Capitol building, and two new wings were added in the 1850s. As a result, the old dome looked out of proportion to the old building, so construction began on the current one in 1855.

During the early 19th century, the Capitol became the primary site of presidential inaugurations. At first, these ceremonies were held indoors, in either the Senate of House chambers, but in 1829 Andrew Jackson became the first president to be inaugurated here on the East Portico. This started a tradition that, with few exceptions, continued into the late 20th century. Jimmy Carter’s 1977 inauguration was the last to be held here on the East Portico, and since 1981 the ceremony has – with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s 1985 inauguration in the Rotunda – been held on the West Portico, on the side of the building facing the National Mall and the Washington Monument.

Four years to the day after the first photo was taken, Lincoln’s second inauguration would also be held here on the East Portico. By then, the exterior of the dome had been completed, and Lincoln’s goal of reuniting the nation had likewise been largely accomplished, with the end of the Civil War only weeks away. However, less than a week after Lee’s surrender, and only 42 days into his second term, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, who had actually attended the second inauguration here, and had later claimed that he could have killed Lincoln during the event if he had wanted to.

Today, more than 150 years after the first photo was taken, the East Portico does not appear to have changed much. However, it actually underwent a major expansion starting in 1958, when a new portico was built 32 feet 6 inches in front of the old one. Aside from being built of marble, as opposed to the sandstone of the original walls, this new portico was essentially a duplicate. The old walls remain intact inside the building, although the original columns were removed and now stand in the National Arboretum. The 1958 renovations also involved the removal of two statues that once flanked the east steps. On the left, mostly hidden from view in the first photo, was Luigi Persico’s Discovery of America, and on the right was Horatio Greenough’s The Rescue. Both of these statues featured particularly unflattering depictions of Native Americans, and neither have been put on public display since then.

The other significant addition to this part of the Capitol occurred in the early 2000s, when the Capitol Visitor Center was constructed here. Consisting of 580,000 square feet of floor space on three floors, this massive expansion is almost entirely hidden from view in this scene, as it is located directly under the plaza in front of the East Portico. From this angle, the only visible signs of this underground complex are several skylights, including one on the far left side of the scene.

Ambrotype Saloon, Springfield, Mass

An ambrotype saloon on the east side of Main Street, between Bridge and Worthington Streets in Springfield, probably sometime in the 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo depicts a small, trailer-like building that appears to have originally been a traveling photographic studio, as suggested by the words “Ambrotype Saloon,” which are barely visible on the side of the building. Common in the mid-19th century, during the early years of commercial photography, these horse-drawn studios – known as saloons – traveled across the countryside in search of business. They were often built by the photographers themselves, and they frequently served as both a workplace and living quarters for their nomadic owners.  A 1917 article in The Youth’s Companion, written by C. A. Stevens, provides the following description:

Those “saloons” were picturesque little structures, not much more than five feet wide by fifteen feet long; they were mounted on wheels. On each side was a little window, and overhead was a larger skylight; and a flight of three steps led up to a narrow door at the rear. The door opened into the “saloon” proper, where the camera and the visitor’s chair stood; forward of that was the cuddy under the skylight, in which the photographer did his developing.

During the heyday of these photographic saloons, the most popular types of images were daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. The daguerreotype was the first widespread form of photography, and it was common throughout the 1840s and 1850s before being superseded by the ambrotype, which was primarily used in the 1850s and early 1860s. With both of these techniques, each photograph was unique. Like Polaroid images a century later, the image was exposed directly onto the surface, so there were no negatives and no way to reproduce an image, aside from photographing it.

By the time the above photograph was taken in the 1870s, both the daguerreotype and ambrotype had long since been replaced by newer photographic processes. The traveling saloon was also becoming a thing of the past, and this particular one had evidently found a permanent home here on Main Street in Springfield. Its wheels were either gone or hidden behind wood paneling, and it appears to have been connected to a building in the rear of the lot.

According to the handwriting on the back, the building was, at the time, the studio of Warren S. Butler, a photographer who appears in city directories as early as 1872. This is likely the earliest possible date for the first photo, although the city directories do not provide a specific location for his studio until 1877, when he was listed here at this address. Despite the words on the side of the building, it is unlikely that Butler would have been producing ambrotypes here during the 1870s. Instead, his primary photographic medium would have been albumen prints such as cartes de visite and cabinet cards, both of which appear to be visible in the window. Unlike the earlier methods, these were made using negatives, which allowed photographers to produce multiple prints of the same image.

Aside from Butler’s appearance in city directories starting in 1872, there are several other clues that suggest the first photo was taken no earlier than the early 1870s. To the left of the studio is a florist shop that was run by Edmund W. Clarke, who, like Butler, does not appear in any directories until 1872. However, perhaps the most conclusive evidence is the presence of two large brick buildings in the background. Located on the southern side of Worthington Street, these buildings do not appear on the 1870 city map, and were likely constructed at some point in the 1870s.

Similarly, the latest possible date for the first photo is about 1886, the last time that Edmund W. Clarke’s florist shop appears at this address in the city directories. Butler is listed here as late as 1887, but both of these buildings were demolished by the end of that year, when this entire half of the block was cleared in order to build the Fuller Block. This five-story brick building was among the finest commercial blocks in the city when it was completed, and it still stands today, occupying a prominent location at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets.

Main and Bridge Streets, Springfield, Mass

The northeast corner of Main and Bridge Streets in Springfield, Mass, around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

Up until the mid-19th century, the commercial center of Springfield was along Main Street in the immediate vicinity of Court Square, where most of the important stores, banks, hotels, and other businesses were located. This began to change with the arrival of the railroad in 1839, when a railroad station opened on Main Street, about a half a mile north of Court Square. A second commercial center soon sprung up near the station, with a particular emphasis on hotels and restaurants for travelers.

By 1850, Springfield was experiencing steady growth, but its population was still under 12,000 people at the time, and the Main Street corridor in the downtown area was still not fully developed. There were plenty of businesses and large buildings clustered around Court Square and the railroad station, but the blocks in between consisted of just a few commercial buildings, interspersed by homes, churches, and vacant lots. It would not be until the city’s post-Civil War population boom that this entire section of Main Street would be lined with larger buildings.

The first photo was taken sometime soon after the end of the war, and it shows a couple of the modest, wood-frame buildings that once stood along this part of Main Street. They were located at the corner of Bridge Street, about halfway between Court Square and the railroad station, and they would have been the first things that an eastbound traveler to Springfield would see on Main Street, after coming across the old covered bridge and walking up Bridge Street. Dwarfed by a massive tree – probably an elm – on the left side, these small, two-story buildings were probably constructed sometime in the 1850s. By the time the first photo was taken, they housed, from left to right, sign painter James C. Drake, wholesale cigar dealer C.H. Olcott, and stove dealer Edmund L. DeWitt.

These buildings stood here until the mid-1880s, and they were probably among the last surviving wood-frame buildings on Main Street in the downtown area. However, they were demolished to make room for the Fuller Block, a large five-story brick building that was completed in 1887. Like the other new commercial blocks that were constructed in the late 19th century, it housed retail shops on the ground floor, with professional offices on the upper floors. However, it featured a unique Romanesque-style design that incorporated Moorish elements, such as the horseshoe arches above the fifth floor windows, and a large onion dome that originally sat atop the right-hand corner of the roof.

Today, some 150 years after the first photo was taken, there are no surviving landmarks except for the streets themselves. However, the Fuller Block that replaced these older buildings is still standing, and aside from the loss of the onion dome its exterior has remained well-preserved. It is one of the finest 19th century commercial blocks in the city, and in 1983 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

City Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

City Hall, on Church Street in New Haven, around 1863-1869. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

New Haven’s city hall was completed in 1862, on Church Street along the eastern side of the New Haven Green. It was designed by noted New Haven architect Henry Austin, and it was an early example of High Victorian Gothic architecture, which would become a popular style for public buildings in the United States during the 1860s and 1870s. The building’s exterior was constructed of brownstone from nearby Portland, Connecticut and from Nova Scotia, and it was laid in alternating bands of dark and light stone. Its asymmetrical design included a tower on the northwest corner, which was topped with a clock, bell, and observatory.

The first photo was taken shortly after its construction, showing the view of the building from the Green. A few years later, City Hall was joined by the architecturally-similar New Haven County Courthouse, which was completed in 1873 on the left side of the building. This courthouse would remain in use until 1914, when the current courthouse opened nearby, and the older building subsequently became an annex for City Hall.

Both City Hall and the old courthouse were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, but by this point they were both slated for demolition. The courthouse was demolished a year later, along with most of City Hall, but the New Haven Preservation Trust successfully lobbied to save the building’s facade. This was later incorporated into a new municipal building that was completed in the 1980s, and today Henry Austin’s original exterior design still faces the New Haven Green, even though the rest of the building is new.

Third Congregational Church, New Haven, Connecticut

Third Congregational Church, on Church Street in New Haven, around 1863-1869. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

New Haven’s Third Congregational Church was established in 1826, and was originally comprised of 29 members from the city’s two other congregational churches. They worshiped in temporary quarters on Orange Street for several years, before moving into a new church building in 1829, at the corner of Church and Union Streets. However, less than a decade the congregation lost this building due to financial difficulties, but subsequently built a new one on Court Street in 1841.

Third Congregational moved again in 1856, to this prominent site on Church Street, where it faced the other two congregational churches from across the New Haven Green. It stood directly adjacent to the Exchange Building, a brick, four-story commercial block that is partially visible on the right side of the photo. The Romanesque-style design of the church was the work of noted local architect Sidney Mason Stone, and it was constructed at a total cost of $53,000, which included $16,000 for the land.

This building was used by the church until 1884, when the congregation merged with the United Church on the other side of the Green. Then, in 1890, the former Third Congregational building was converted into the first long-term home of the New Haven Free Public Library, which had previously been housed in the second floor of a building on Chapel Street. Here, the library became an early example of an open stacks layout, where patrons could freely browse through the books. However, this was not necessarily done for philosophical reasons, but rather out of practicality, as the building proved inadequate as a library.

It did not take long for the library to outgrow this building, and in 1906 the city received a gift of $300,000 from Mary E. Ives to build a new library. Construction began in 1908, and it was completed in 1911, at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets. The old church-turned-library was demolished soon after, in order to build the eight-story Second National Bank of New Haven. This building was completed in 1913, and it is still standing today, in the center of the 2018 photo. However, the only building that has survived from the first photo is the Exchange Building, which has remained relatively unchanged on the right side of the scene, at the corner of Church and Chapel Streets.