Willey House, Hart’s Location, New Hampshire (3)

The view looking north in Crawford Notch in the White Mountains, with the Willey House in the distance on the left, around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

These photos show the view looking north in Crawford Notch, a long, narrow valley through the heart of the White Mountains. For many years, it was the only east-west route through the mountain range, and since the late 18th century it has been a vital transportation corridor. As explained in more detail in an earlier post, the first road through the notch was opened in 1774, and over the years it was steadily improved, eventually becoming part of the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike in 1806.

To serve these travelers in the midst of the northern New Hampshire wilderness, a series of inns were opened in and around the notch. The first building within the notch itself was a house that was constructed in 1793. Later known as the Willey House, it stood in the left-center of the first photo, where the peak of its gabled roof is barely visible beyond a much larger three-story hotel that was constructed in 1845.

The house served as both a residence and a small inn, and it had several different owners in the early 19th century before being acquired by Samuel Willey in 1825. It was an isolated location in the middle of the notch, several miles away from the nearest neighbor, but Willey moved here in the fall of 1825, along with his wife Polly and their five young children. He spent much of the fall improving the property and preparing it for the long, cold northern New England winter, and the result was a modest but comfortable place for travelers to stop for food, drink, or shelter.

As the Willeys would soon discover, though, the house’s location at the base of a steep cliff made it susceptible to landslides. One occurred in June 1826, and it narrowly missed the house. Then, two months later, another one occurred during a heavy rainstorm on the night of August 28. This time, the house was completely encircled by the debris, although the house itself survived unscathed thanks to a low ledge just above it, which split the flow into two channels.

Unfortunately, though, the Willey family attempted to flee the house in the midst of the storm, evidently fearing that the house would be destroyed. However, in the darkness they unknowingly ran directly into the path of the slide, and all seven were killed, along with two hired hands who lived here with them. Searchers subsequently found six of the bodies, some of them badly mangled, but three of the Willey children were never recovered.

The sudden deaths of nine people, more than half of whom were children under the age of 13, quickly gained national attention. This helped to spur tourism to the White Mountains, and over the next few years many curious visitors came to Crawford Notch to see the Willey House, the aftermath of the landslide, and the surrounding wilderness. The story also became the subject of a now-lost painting by noted artist Thomas Cole, and a short story, “The Ambitious Guest,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

By the mid-19th century, the area was a popular destination thanks in large part to the publicity generated by the Willey disaster, and there were many hotels in the vicinity of Crawford Notch. These included the Willey House itself, which had been purchased by Horace Fabyan in 1845. He constructed a new, much larger hotel building adjacent to the old house, and it can be seen on the left side of the first photo. Both buildings stood here until nearly the end of the 19th century, but they were ultimately destroyed by a fire in September 1899.

Today, the site of the house and hotel is now the visitor center and park headquarters for the Crawford Notch State Park. There is little evidence of the buildings that once stood here, although the location of the Willey House is now marked by a small stone monument. The road has also changed significantly since the first photo was taken some 150 years ago, and the narrow dirt path is now U.S. Route 302. Overall, the only thing from the first photo that has not changed is the surrounding landscape, which has been preserved as part of the state park. This includes the most prominent feature in both photos, the 2,804-foot Mount Willard, which dominates the background of the scene and marks the northern end of Crawford Notch.

Willey House, Hart’s Location, New Hampshire

The Willey House in Crawford Notch, probably around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

The one-and-a-half-story building in the center of the first photo was built in 1793 in Crawford Notch, a long, narrow valley through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The notch was, at the time, the only east-west route through the mountains, and this was evidently the first building to be constructed here. Known as the Notch House, it served as a tavern for travelers through here, and it was operated by several different innkeepers during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

In the fall of 1825, the Notch House was acquired by Samuel Willey, who moved into the house with his wife Polly and their five children, who ranged in age from 2 to 11 years old. At the time, the property had been abandoned for several months, so Samuel spent much of the fall repairing the house, enlarging the stables, and making preparations for winter. The tavern was ready in time for the winter, and, despite its modest size and appearance, it was a welcome shelter for cold, weary travelers on their way through the mountains.

Willey continued to operate the tavern throughout the spring and summer of 1826, and a description of the house was published in the August 11 issue of the New Hampshire Sentinel newspaper. The writer, in describing a journey northbound through Crawford Notch, included the following account about the Notch House:

At the conclusion of this six miles, the eye is greeted with the appearance of a small but comfortable dwelling house, owned and occupied by a Mr. Willey, who has taken advantage of a small, a very small intervale, – where the bases of the two mountains seem to have paused and receded, as if afraid of coming in contact and amalgamating into one impassible pile, – to erect his lone habitation. Rude and uninviting as the spot appears, he has contrived to gather around it the necessaries if not conveniences of life. We observed a large flock of sheep in one of his inclosures; other domestic animals in the barn-yard, and several flocks of ducks and geese in the little meadow which fronted the house. We were furnished with a dinner of ham, eggs, and the usual accompaniments to such a meal in a country tavern. – The interior of the house exhibited a neatness that might well become some inns that we have seen of more frequent resort, and the faces of parents and children were the pictures of content. Can philosophy or conjecture account for or explain the motives that can induce a man thus to plant himself at a distance of six miles from the habitation of any of his race, and in a spot where it is next to impossible he can ever have a nearer neighbor?

Despite this bucolic description, though, there were more hazards to life here in Crawford Notch than simply its isolation. The house was situated at the base of a steep slope, on a narrow plot of flat ground between the mountain in the back, and the Saco River in front of the house on the other side of the road. As a result, this location was vulnerable to landslides, and its occupants would have no viable way to escape its path if one was to occur.

This reality became very clear to the Willey family in June 1826, when they survived a close call from one such landslide. The slide, which came within less than 200 feet of their house, covered about an acre of land by Samuel’s estimate, and it traveled nearly a mile in a matter of minutes. An account of this event was published in the New England Galaxy, and it subsequently appeared in The Farmers’ Cabinet on August 12, 1826, in an article that included the following description:

Just before our visit to this place, – on the 26th of June, – there was a tremendous avalanche, or slide, as it is there called, from the mountain which makes the southern wall of the passage. an immense mass of earth and rock from the side of the mountain was loosened from its resting place and began to slide towards the bottom. In its course it divided into three portions, each coming down with amazing velocity into the road, and sweeping before it shrubs, trees and rocks, and filling up the road beyond all possibility of its being recovered. 

The article went on the describe the Willey family’s reaction:

The place from which this slide or slip, was loosened, is directly in the rear of Mr. Willey’s house; and were there not a special Providence in the fall of a sparrow, and had not the fingers of that Providence traced the direction of the sliding mass, neither he nor any soul of his family would ever have told the tale. – They heard the noise when it first began to move, and ran to the door. In terror and amazement, they beheld the mountain in motion. But what can human power effect in such an emergency? Before they could think of retreating, or ascertain which way to escape, the danger was past.

According to Samuel’s brother Benjamin, who discussed the event in a book many years later, the Willeys had initially planned on moving away after this near-disaster, but upon further reflection they decided to stay. Benjamin related a conversation that Samuel had with another person after the incident, with Samuel supposedly explaining, “Such an event, we know, has not happened here for a very long time past, and another of the kind is not likely to occur for an equally long time to come. Taking things past in this view, then, I am not afraid.”

Over the next two months, the region experienced a severe drought that dried the soil to a much greater depth than usual. However, this drought came to a sudden end on the night of August 28, when a severe storm passed through here. The torrential rainfall destroyed nearly all of the bridges in the notch, and it also soaked deep into the dry earth, making the ground particularly susceptible to landslides along the steep cliffs. One such slide occurred here at the Notch House, but, as in the June slide, the building was narrowly spared. It stood right in the path of the landslide, but the falling debris struck a low ridge just above the house, causing it to split into two streams. As a result, the landslide passed on both sides of the house, destroying the stables but otherwise leaving the building miraculously intact before reuniting into a single stream just below the house.

Over the next few days, though, the nearby residents of the notch could find no sign of the seven members of the Willey family, or the two hired men who lived here. Inside the house, there was evidence that the occupants had left in a hurry, suggesting that they had tried to flee to safety in advance of the landslide. Subsequent searches of the area uncovered the badly-mangled bodies of Polly Willey and one of the hired men, David Allen, in the debris below the house. Samuel’s remains were soon discovered as well, along with those of their youngest child, three-year-old Sally. The body of David Nicholson, the other hired man, was found five days after the disaster, and a day later the body of twelve-year-old Eliza Willey was found far from the house, on the other side of the Saco River. However, the other three children—eleven-year-old Jeremiah, nine-year-old Martha, and seven-year-old Elbridge—were never found.

In the aftermath of the disaster, there were many theories as to exactly what happened here on the night of August 28. The most likely explanation, which Benjamin Willey provided in his book, is that Samuel stayed up during the night to monitor the storm and watch for signs of a landslide. As he heard the slide approaching, he awakened his family, and as they were leaving they heard the sound of the stables being destroyed. This caused them to flee in the opposite direction, and in the darkness and pouring rain they unknowingly ran directly into the path of the other side of the landslide.

Regardless of the actual sequence of events, though, the news of the disaster quickly spread across the country. Within just a few months, curious sightseers were making their way up to Crawford Notch to see the house and the devastation caused by the landslide, and over the next few years many more continued to arrive. This helped to fuel a nascent tourist industry here in the White Mountains. At the time, the eastern United States was becoming increasingly industrial and urbanized, and many were drawn by the primeval wilderness of the area and the destructive forces of nature that were demonstrated in the Willey disaster. Local innkeeper Ethan Allen Crawford—for whose family the notch is named—enjoyed brisk business in the aftermath of the tragedy, and in 1828 he constructed a new hotel a few miles away from here at the gates of the notch. Even Samuel’s brother, Benjamin Willey, capitalized on the influx of tourism by charging visitors for a guided tour of the house.

The tragedy also inspired noted artists and writers. Painter Thomas Cole visited here in October 1828, and he described how “[t]he sight of the Willey House, with its little patch of green in the gloomy desolation, very naturally recalled to mind the horrors of the night when the whole family perished beneath an avalanche of ricks and earth.” Cole was the founder of the Hudson River School art movement, and his paintings typically featured dramatic landscapes that emphasized both the beauty and the dangers of the untamed American wilderness. This setting in Crawford Notch, combined with the Willey disaster, was perfect subject matter for Cole, and he subsequently painted this scene. The painting, titled Distant View of the Slides that Destroyed the Whilley [sic] Family, is now lost, but there are several surviving lithographic reproductions, including the one below, which is located at the Library of Congress.

In addition to Cole, author Nathaniel Hawthorne also incorporated the disaster into one of his works. In 1835, when he was still a young, relatively obscure author, he published the short story “The Ambitious Guest,” which was based on the event. The story does not mention the Willey family by name, and there are some differences in the ages and composition of the family, but otherwise it is largely a retelling of the commonly-accepted theory about the Willey family’s demise. However, Hawthorne embellishes it by adding a character—the eponymous ambitious guest—who arrived at the house on the night of the storm. In the story, the young man talks with the family about his desire to leave a legacy so that he will be remembered after death. In the end, though, he dies along with the rest of the family, his body is never found, and there is uncertainty among the locals as to whether or not there had even been a guest in the house at the time.

In the meantime, the Willey House continued to be a popular attraction. By the mid-19th century, the White Mountains had become a major tourist destination, thanks in large part to the publicity surrounding the Willey disaster. A number of new hotels were constructed around this time, including one right here at the Willey House. In 1845, local hotelier Horace Fabyan purchased the property and constructed a new hotel directly adjacent to the old house, as shown on the left side of the first photo. It was named the Willey Hotel, and it stood three stories in height and measured 40 feet by 70 feet, with a capacity of 50 people.

The hotel and house were still standing here when the first photo was taken around the 1860s or 1870s. By this point, some 40 to 50 years after the disaster, there was little visual evidence of the destructive landslide, but the house remained an important local landmark. It survived for several more decades, but ultimately met the same fate as so many other White Mountain hotels when it was destroyed by a fire in September 1899, evidently as a result of a defective chimney.

Today, more than 120 years after the fire, the house is long gone, but the story remains an important part of local lore. The site of the house is now marked by a small stone monument in the center of the first photo, and immediately to the left of it is a visitor center and the park headquarters of the Crawford Notch State Park. Further in the distance, the only landmark left from the first photo is the mountain itself, which looms more than 2,000 feet above the floor of the valley. At 4,285 feet in elevation, it is the 29th-tallest mountain in the state, and it is, appropriately enough, named Mount Willey.

Crawford Notch, Hart’s Location, New Hampshire

The view looking northwest through Crawford Notch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, around 1860-1875. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The same view around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

Crawford Notch is an important mountain pass within the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Until the completion of the Kancamagus Highway in the 1960s, it was the only east-west route through the mountain range, and over the years it has served as a major link between northern Vermont and the coastal region of southern Maine. The notch consists of a narrow valley that is several miles in length, but the actual mountain pass is here at the northern end of this valley, at a gap in the mountains that was originally barely 20 feet wide. This spot came to be known as the gate of the notch, because of the high rocks that stand on either side of the pass.

The highest point of Crawford Notch is just to the north beyond the gates, in the distance of this scene. At 1,900 feet in elevation, it forms the divide between the Ammonoosuc River, which flows west to the Connecticut River and then to Long Island Sound, and the Saco River, which flows east through Crawford Notch and then to Maine, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean just south of Portland. To the northeast of here is the Presidential Range, which begins here at the Notch and reaches its highest point, Mount Washington, about 6.5 miles from here. In the opposite direction, to the southwest of the notch, is the Peimgewasset Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the state.

The first recorded discovery of Crawford Notch occurred in 1771, when Timothy Nash and Benjamin Sawyer came across it while hunting. As the story goes, Nash had become lost while tracking a moose. He climbed a tree in order to get his bearings, and in the process he sighted the gates here at the northern end of the notch. The notch had long been known to Native Americans, but Nash and Sawyer were evidently the first Europeans to find it, and within a few years there was a rough road through here.

The notch was ultimately named in honor of the Crawford family, who became the first permanent settlers of the area. Around 1790, Abel Crawford built a house a little further to the north of here, where he remained for several years before selling it to his father-in-law, Eleazer Rosebrook. Crawford then moved to the southern end of the notch, around the site of the present-day town of Hart’s Location.

Both he and Rosebrook operated inns for travelers, and Crawford helped to pioneer tourism to the White Mountains region. After Rosebrook’s death in 1817, Abel’s son Ethan Allen Crawford inherited the property here at the notch. Two years later, the Crawfords constructed an 8.5-mile trail from the notch to the summit of Mount Washington, and provided guided trips for visitors. Now known as the Crawford Path, it is considered to be the oldest continuously-used hiking trail in the country, and it has been incorporated into the Appalachian Trail.

One early visitor to this region was Timothy Dwight IV, a prominent author and theologian who served as president of Yale from 1795 to 1817. He came to the Notch on at least two separate occasions, and provided a description of it in his book Travels in New England and New York. In this particular visit, he approached the notch from the north, facing the opposite direction of these photos, and he wrote:

The entrance of the chasm is formed by two rocks, standing perpendicularly at the distance of twenty-two feet from each other: one about twenty feet in height, the other about twelve. Half of the space is occupied by the brook, mentioned as the head stream of the Saco; the other half by the road. The stream is lost, and invisible, beneath a mass of fragments, partly blown out of the road, and partly thrown down by some great convulsion.

When we entered the Notch we were struck with the wild and solemn appearance of every thing before us. The scale, on which all objects in view were formed, was the scale of grandeur only. The rocks, rude and ragged in a manner rarely paralleled, were fashioned and piled on each other by a hand, operating only in the boldest and most irregular manner. As we advanced, these appearances increased rapidly. Huge masses of granite, of every abrupt form, and hoary with a moss which seemed a product of ages, recalling to the mind the “Saxum vetustum” of Virgil, speedily rose to a mountainous height. Before us, the view widened fast to the south-east. Behind us, it closed almost instantaneously; and presented nothing to the eye but an impassable barrier of mountains.

The first photo was taken more than a half century after Dwight wrote this account, but the notch still had much of the same rugged appearance that he would have seen. The road had been improved somewhat over the years, starting in 1806, when the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike opened through the notch. By the late 1820s, the road was suitable for stagecoaches, but when the first photo was taken around the 1860s or 1870s, this section of the road still looked like a narrow dirt path through the wilderness.

Aside from the road, the only sign of civilization in the first photo is the Crawford House, which is barely visible in the distant center. The original Crawford House was built here in the early 1850s, but it burned in 1859. The hotel was quickly rebuilt on the same site, reopening later in 1859. This new building can be seen in both the first and second photos, and it stood here until it too was destroyed by a fire in 1977. The site of the hotel is now the Highland Center, a lodge and education center operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Perhaps the most dramatic change in this scene occurred shortly after the first photo was taken, when a railroad was constructed through here. The first railroad across the continent had been completed in 1869, and by this point there was even a cog railway to the summit of nearby Mount Washington. However, it would take several more years for railroad engineers to conquer Crawford Notch. The project required several long trestles and deep rock cuts, along with the widening of the gap here at the gates of the notch. The grade of the railroad was also a challenge, with northbound trains having to ascend 1,623 feet in just 30 miles, but the Portland & Ogdensburg Railroad was ultimately completed through the notch in 1875.

In addition to improving transportation through northern New England, the railroad also provided passenger service to the heart of the White Mountains, making it easier for tourists to visit the region. Several of the grand hotels along the route even had their own stations, including the Crawford House, whose station is barely visible in the distance on the right side of the tracks in the second photo. This particular station building had been constructed in 1891, several years after the Maine Central Railroad acquired the Portland & Ogdensburg, and it is still standing today as the only surviving structure from the second photo.

In more than a century since the second photo was taken, the road through the notch has been widened and straightened. It has come a long way since the dirt path of the first photo, and it is now designated as U.S. Route 302, which runs from Portland, Maine to Montpelier, Vermont. Today, it remains as important a route through the White Mountains as it had been when the first road was constructed through here in the 18th century. In that sense, the road has actually outlived the railroad, which was abandoned by Maine Central’s successors, Guilford Transportation, in 1983. However, this section of railroad was ultimately acquired by the Conway Scenic Railroad, which operates excursion trains for tourists. The railroad also owns the station here in the distance, and it serves as the northern terminus for most of its trains.

Today, the White Mountains are still a popular tourist destination, and Crawford Notch is still a major focal point within the region. Most of the notch is within the town of Hart’s Location (population 41 as of 2010), but the northern border of the town is here at the gates of the notch, so the buildings in the distance are actually within the town of Carroll. The land on the Carroll side of the border is still privately owned, but the Hart’s Location side is part of the 5,775-acre Crawford Notch State Park. This park is, in turn, mostly surrounded by the much larger White Mountains National Forest, which covers more than 750,000 acres in New Hampshire and Maine.

Woronoco House, Westfield, Mass

The Woronoco House on Elm Street in Westfield, around the 1860s. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

The Woronoco House was an important hotel here in Westfield throughout much of the 1800s. It was built at some point early in the century, and it stood on the west side of Park Square in downtown Westfield. It was brick, three stories in height, with a distinctive two-story porch here on the Elm Street side. The hotel could accommodate between 80 to 100 guests, and the building also included a tavern, in addition to a barber shop that was marked by a tall striped pole on the left side of the first photo.

The hotel was a stagecoach stop in the years before the railroad, and it also served as a gathering place for locals, ranging from the farmers who lived in the villages on the outskirts of town, to the wealthy cigar and whip manufacturers who dominated the local economy of the mid-19th century. During this time, the Woronoco House also saw a number of notable guests from out of town. These included author Bayard Taylor, Senator Charles Sumner, zoologist and anthropologist Paul Du Chaillu, abolitionist Wendell Phillips, New-York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Governor John A. Andrew, and politician Edward Everett, who served variously as governor, senator, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and secretary of state.

In 1871, the Woronoco House property was sold for $25,000, and the new owners soon made significant changes to the building. The original structure was evidently retained, but the exterior was completely reconstructed, including the removal of the porches. At some point, probably as part of this renovation, a fourth floor was added to the hotel, and the original gable roof was replaced by a flat roof. Upon completion, the hotel reopened as the Wilmarth House, but it was renamed again in 1886, becoming the Park Square Hotel.

The hotel remained in use well into the 20th century. It underwent another renovation in 1914, and was subsequently rebranded the New Park Square Hotel. However, the building was completely destroyed by an early-morning fire on December 7, 1942. It was one of several catastrophic fires in downtown Westfield during the mid-20th century, and it took firefighters some 13 hours to extinguish the blaze.

There were 35 guests in the hotel at the time of the fire, some of whom appear to have been long-term residents. Four of them were survivors of the fatal 1936 Van Deusen Inn fire, which had killed seven people, but everyone safely escaped from the New Park Square Hotel. One of the survivors of both fires was Minnie Hutchinson, who was carried out of the building by Deputy Chief Joseph Guinasso. Coincidentally, he was the same firefighter who had rescued her from the Van Deusen six years earlier.

The hotel proved to be a total loss, but firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading. Aside from minor smoke and water damage, the buildings on either side of the hotel survived largely unscathed. Today, the site of the hotel is now a parking lot, but these two neighboring buildings are still standing. On the left is the former Westfield Cooperative Bank, and on the right is the Snow and Hays Block. This building dates back to 1813, and was probably built around the same time as the Woronoco House, although it has been significantly altered over the years. As shown in the first photo, it was once four stories in height, but it was trimmed down to two stories in the 1940s. However, it survives as the only remnant from the first photo, and it is one of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown Westfield.

Congress Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The view looking west on Chestnut Street, toward the corner of 6th Street in Philadelphia, around the late 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

The building on the left side of this scene is Congress Hall, which stands just to the west of Independence Hall on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. Although smaller and less well-known than its neighbor, this building played an important role in the early history of the United States government, housing Congress for ten years from 1790 until 1800, when the national capital moved to Washington, D.C.

Philadelphia had been the de facto capital city throughout the American Revolution, with the Continental Congress meeting in Independence Hall from 1775 until 1783. However, Congress fled the city in 1783, after being threatened by a mob of soldiers who were demanding payment for their wartime service, and it subsequently met in Princeton, Annapolis, and Trenton, before eventually moving to New York City in 1785. New York served as the capital for the next five years, but Pennsylvania’s inability to protect Congress from rioters had convinced the federal government that it needed a capital city that was not within any state.

In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which established Washington, D.C. as the permanent national capital, but designated Philadelphia as a temporary capital for the remainder of the 18th century. The building here on the left side had been completed a year earlier, in 1789, and it was originally intended as the Philadelphia County Courthouse. It was the work of architect Samuel Lewis, and its brick exterior reflected Federal-style architecture, which was popular during this period, particularly for public buildings. On the interior, the entire ground floor was occupied by the House of Representatives chamber, while the second floor housed the smaller Senate chamber, along with several other rooms.

Congress convened here for the first time on December 6, 1790, and the building went on to serve as the national capitol for the next decade. These were important formative years in the nation’s history, and Congress Hall was the site of many historic events. George Washington’s second inauguration was held here in 1793, in the Senate chamber on the second floor, and it was here that he gave his inaugural address. At just 135 words in length, it remains the shortest inaugural address in presidential history. John Adams was also inaugurated in this building four years later, although the ceremony was held downstairs in the House chamber, and it featured a much longer address by Adams.

During its time in this building, Congress passed a number of important pieces of legislation. The First Bank of the United States, the Post Office, the United States Mint, and the Navy were all established here, and the states of Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee were admitted to the Union here, becoming the first states added to the country after the original thirteen. The 1791 liquor tax, which incited the Whiskey Rebellion, was passed here, as were the similarly controversial Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Several treaties were also ratified by the Senate here, including the Treaty of Madrid, the Jay Treaty, and the Treaty of Tripoli. In addition, the Bill of Rights, which had been submitted to the states in 1789, was ratified by the requisite number of states in 1791, and was formally added to the Constitution here at Congress Hall.

This building was last used by Congress on May 14, 1800, and six months later Congress convened in Washington, D.C. for the first time. Here in Philadelphia, Congress Hall reverted to its originally intended use as a county courthouse, and the nearby Supreme Court building – which was completed in 1791 with an exterior that was nearly identical to Congress Hall – became the Philadelphia City Hall. Both buildings were subsequently threatened with demolition in the late 19th century, but this was never carried out, and Congress Hall was restored between 1895 and 1913. Upon the completion of this project, the building was rededicated by President Woodrow Wilson, who gave a speech here on October 25, 1913.

Congress Hall was the oldest building in this scene when the first photo was taken, and it is also the only one that has survived to the present day. Just beyond it, on the other side of 6th Street, was a Second Empire-style commercial block that was completed in 1867 as the offices of the Public Ledger newspaper. This was demolished in 1920, and it was replaced by a new building for the newspaper, which spanned the entire length of the block. The Public Ledger has been defunct since 1942, but its former office building is still standing here in the background of this scene.

Today, Congress Hall is part of the Independence National Historical Park, which was established in 1948. From this angle, the exterior has not changed much since the first photo was taken some 150 years ago, although the interior is very different, thanks to the turn-of-the-century restoration project. The building is now open to the public, with National Park Service rangers providing free guided tours of both the first and second floors.

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.