Washington Monument, Washington DC

The Washington Monument, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Brady-Handy Collection.

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The monument in 2012:

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Ever notice how the bottom third of the Washington Monument is a few shades lighter than the upper part?  The top photo shows why. Taken by noted Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, it shows the monument during the long stoppage in construction.  The construction started in 1848, and made it about 150 feet up by 1854, when work was halted, at first due to fundraising issues and later because of the Civil War.  Construction resumed in 1877, and was completed in 1884, at the height of 555 feet.  It was topped off with a 100-ounce aluminum apex.  At the time, aluminum was a precious metal, and it also served as a lightning rod.

Park Street Church, Boston (2)

Park Street Church with Old Granary Burying Ground, sometime in the 1860s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2011:

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As mentioned in this post, which shows the view of the church from the opposite side, Park Street Church was once the tallest building in the United States, from its construction in 1810 until 1846.  It remained the tallest building in Boston until around the time that the first photo was taken.  The tallest building in Boston is also visible in the 2011 photo – the John Hancock tower, which was built over 100 years after the first photo was taken.

The church itself hasn’t changed much, and neither has the Old Granary Burying Ground next to it.  The cemetery was opened in 1660, and many notable figures from the Revolutionary War period are buried there, including John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, Robert Treat Paine, and the victims of the Boston Massacre.

Drewry’s Bluff, Chesterfield County, Virginia

The view looking down the James River from Drewry’s Bluff, in 1865. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Collection.

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The same view in 2012:

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When the top photo was published on a stereo card in 1865, the caption was “One reason why we did not go to Richmond.”  Indeed, this gun was perhaps the reason why Richmond wasn’t taken until the very end of the Civil War.  As seen in the photos, the gun overlooks a long, downstream section of the James River.  Built as part of Fort Darling, it was located downstream of Richmond, so any attacking Union naval force had to contend with this and two other guns at the fort in order to reach the capital.  An attempt was made in 1862, and five navy ships, including the famed USS Monitor, headed upstream.  At Drewry’s Bluff, the wooden ships were unable to advance, so the ironclad Monitor did.  However, the Monitor’s guns didn’t elevate enough to reach the top of the 90-foot cliff, so the Union forces had to retreat.  Another attempt was made in 1864 to capture the fort, but this too failed, and the fort remained in Confederate hands up until the final days of the war.

Today, the site of the fort is preserved by the National Park Service, and the cannon in the 2012 photo is an original cannon, although not necessarily the same one in the 1865 photo.  The carriage beneath the cannon, however, is a modern reproduction.

Old Capitol Prison, Washington DC

The Old Capitol Prison, around 1863. Photo by Mathew Brady, courtesy of the National Archives.

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The building around 1866. Photo by William R. Pywell, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Collection.

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Between 1910 and 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same location in 2012:

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Clearly, much has changed in 147 years at the corner of 1st St. NE and A St. NE.  The building in the first two photos (which is actually the same building in the third photo) is the Old Capitol Prison.  As its name suggests, the building once served as the temporary United States Capitol.  After the Capitol was burned in the War of 1812, this building was hastily built to serve as the Capitol until the repairs could be completed.

After Congress and the Supreme Court returned to the Capitol in 1819, the building was used as a private school and later as a boarding house.  It was in this boarding house that former Vice President John C. Calhoun died in 1850; years earlier he had served as a Representative from South Carolina in the same building.  During the Civil War, the building was used as a prison, and in 1867 it was sold and converted into rowhouses, as seen in the third photo.  In 1929, it was demolished to allow for the construction of the US Supreme Court building, which, as seen in the 2012 photo, remains on the site today.

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, Washington DC

The inauguration of Abraham Lincoln on the east steps of the US Capitol, on March 4, 1861. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

The same view in 2012:

 

Although today regarded as one of the greatest US presidents, in 1861 there was much uncertainty surrounding the impending presidency of Abraham Lincoln – several southern states had already succeeded, and more would do so in the coming months, and in just over a month the Confederacy would open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, thus beginning the Civil War.  During this time, the Capitol was under construction – other views of the inauguration show the fact that the dome was still very much incomplete, and this is often seen as a metaphor of the United States at this time – still very much a work in progress. Today, presidential inaugurations are held on the other side of the Capitol, and a lot has changed on the east front, as mentioned in the previous post about the Capitol.

Old State House, Boston

The view of the 1713 Old State House in Boston, as it appeared around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The building in 1875, decorated to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The Old State House around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Around 1906, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The Old State House in 2013:

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Today, the Old State House is dwarfed by modern skyscrapers, although the building to the left has survived to this day.  The building was the capitol of the colony of Massachusetts, and later the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the Revolution until 1798, when it was replaced by the current State House.  It was used as Boston’s city hall from 1830 to 1841, and was preserved and restored in 1881.  Both before and after its use as a city hall, it was used for commercial offices and shops, as seen in the 1860 photo.

Aside from the Old State House, almost everything else has changed in the past 150+ years; over time, nearly all of the buildings in the historic photos have been demolished to create the Financial District in the heart of Downtown Boston that we know today.

One interesting quirk about the building that appears in the last two photos is the doorway on the right hand side next to the corner.  When the State Street subway station was built in 1904, the entrance was built right into the basement of the Old State House.