State House, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The Connecticut State House on the New Haven Green, viewed from the southwest around 1875. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Connecticut at one time had two capital cities, with legislative sessions alternating between Hartford and New Haven. Each city had its own capitol building, and over the years New Haven had several different ones that were all located on the Green. The last of these, which is shown in the first photo, was completed in 1831. It featured a Greek Revival design, with columned porticoes on both the north and south ends of the building, and it was the work of Ithiel Town, a noted architect who was also responsible for the nearby Center Church and Trinity Church.

The dual capital arrangement lasted until the 1870s, when it became clear that the state no longer needed two capital cities that were just 35 miles apart. Both Hartford and New Haven wanted to become the sole capital, but the decision was left to the voters of Connecticut, who chose Hartford in a statewide referendum. The New Haven State House was used for the last time in 1874, and starting the following year the legislature met exclusively in Hartford’s Old State House. A new state house, located in Bushnell Park in Hartford, was completed in 1878, and it has remained in use ever since.

In the meantime, the now-vacant state house here in New Haven was the subject of several redevelopment plans, including preserving the it and turning it into a library. However, the fate of the building polarized many New Haven residents, with some admiring it for its architectural and historical significance, while others saw it as a daily reminder of the city’s defeat in the race for the state capital. Notwithstanding an 1887 referendum, in which city voters appropriated $30,000 to restore the building, the city council chose to demolish it two years later instead. This portion of the Green has remained undeveloped ever since, and today the only surviving remnant from the first photo is the iron fence in the foreground.

State House, New Haven, Connecticut

The Connecticut State House on the New Haven Green, seen from the south side of the building, sometime around the 1870s or 1880s. Image from The Connecticut Quarterly (1895).

The scene in 2018:

During the early colonial period, the modern-day state of Connecticut actually contained two separate colonies. In the northern part of the state was Connecticut Colony, which was centered around Hartford on the Connecticut River. To the south, along the shores of Long Island Sound, was New Haven Colony, which was centered around its namesake town. These two colonies were ultimately merged in 1664, but the divide between Hartford and New Haven persisted for many years. In 1701, the two towns were designated as co-capitals of the Connecticut Colony, and legislative sessions altered between them, with the May session being held in Hartford each year, and the October session here in New Haven.

Two capital cities also meant two capitol buildings, and New Haven had a series of different state houses that were all located here on the New Haven Green. The last of these, which is seen in the first photo, was completed in 1831, replacing an earlier brick state house that had been in use since 1763. Its design was the work of Ithiel Town, a prominent Connecticut architect whose earlier New Haven works had included Trinity Church and Center Church, both of which are still standing nearby on the Green. Together, these three buildings demonstrated Town’s wide range of abilities, between the Federal-style Center Church, the Gothic-style Trinity Church, and the Greek Revival-style State House.

Town’s imposing design for the State House gave the building the exterior appearance of an Ancient Greek temple. It was built of stone, and had porticoes on both the north and south sides of the building, with classically-inspired columns, entablatures, and pediments. On the interior, the building included space for both the state and county governments. The basement and the first floor housed county offices, along with the county courtroom, a jury room, and various committee rooms. The upper floor had the two legislative chambers, with the House of Representatives at one end of the building and the Senate at the other, and there was also a room for the secretary and two rooms for the governor.

Following its completion in 1831, New Haven’s State House served, along with the older Hartford State House, as one of the state’s seats of government for more than 40 years. However, by the 1860s it was clear that maintaining two separate capitol buildings was both expensive and redundant. Railroads had significantly shortened the travel time between the two cities, which are a mere 35 miles apart, and the practice of having two capital cities apparently had more to do with each city’s sense of prestige than with any major convenience. Both cities lobbied hard to become the sole capital, and even Meriden threw its hat into the ring as a sort of compromise candidate. In the end, though, the question was settled by the voters of Connecticut, who chose Hartford as the capital, perhaps in part because of that city’s promise to contribute land and $500,000 toward the construction of a new State House.

The final legislative session at the New Haven State House was held here in 1874, and the following year Hartford took over as the state’s only capital. The new State House was completed in 1878, and still stands in Hartford’s Bushnell Park. In the meantime, the old 1797 State House was used as Hartford City Hall for many years, and it has since been preserved as a museum. However, here in New Haven the public sentiment was strongly divided over the fate of the city’s former State House. Having been vacated by both the state government and the county courts, the building was in need of a new use, and many argued in favor of preserving it and converting it into a public library. Perhaps with this proposal in mind, city voters approved an 1887 referendum to spend $30,000 on repairs to the building. However, the city council overruled this decision, and determined to demolish the iconic structure instead.

Even in the 1880s, long before the modern historic preservation movement gained widespread appeal, this was a highly controversial decision, with many praising the building’s architecture and its symbolic significance to the city of New Haven. Among the outside voices calling for its preservation was the Boston Advertiser, which published an editorial to that effect in 1889. In it, the newspaper argued:

That old State House is a priceless memento of a glorious past. It is a perpetual reminder that New Haven was originally an independent colony, and that, for nearly two centuries and a half it shared with Hartford the honor of being a state capital. Within those walls were uttered words whose echoes reached the continent and beyond the sea. Its style of architecture suggests the classic learning which, from the beginning, has been more faithfully taught in that locality than anywhere else in the world. . . . To tear down that building would be to obliterate one of the chief milestones on the path of time.

Not everyone in New Haven saw the State House in such a light, though. Apparently still embittered at losing the capital contest to Hartford some 15 years earlier, the New Haven Register responded to the Advertiser with an editorial of its own, arguing:

It will be news to most New Haveners to be told that the State House is a “priceless memento of the glorious past.” It is not, nor has it ever been priceless. It is a memento of New Haven’s folly in allowing Hartford to gobble up the capital. It is a perpetual reminder that New Haven in the past has shown a deplorable lack of public spirit in important crises. It is not a “chief milestone on the path of time.” Rather it is an encumbrance, a public nuisance, a bone of contention, an eyesore, a laughing stock, a hideous pile of brick and mortar, a blot on the fair surface of the Green. The Boston paper doesn’t know what it is talking about.

Both of these excerpts are quoted from The New Haven State House, a book that was published in 1889 shortly after the building was demolished. Interspersed within this history of the building were a number of advertisements, several of which attempted to use the demolition as a marketing strategy. One such ad declared “Two Great Mistakes! The greatest mistake ever made by New Haven people is shown by the destruction of the State House. The Second Mistake is in supposing that B. Booth has only second hand and auction goods at 388, 390 and 392 State St.” Another simply stated “The State House Gone. The City Market Remains,” and a third was for a photographic studio that promised “the Best Views of the Old State House that were made.”

Following the demolition of the State House, the area was cleared and reverted to open park land, as part of the New Haven Green. However, this western portion of the Green, known as the Upper Green, was also the city’s colonial-era burial ground, where an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people were buried. The headstones have long since been removed – aside from a small portion of the graveyard that is located in the basement of Center Church – but the remains themselves are still interred here under the Green. Today, though, there is little here to suggest the presence of a burial ground, or the former presence of a state capitol building. However, the New Haven Green is not without historic buildings, as three early 19th century churches still stand on the far right side of this scene, including the two designed by Ithiel Town.

Classical and High School, Salem, Mass

The Classical and High School at 5 Broad Street in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

This scene shows two historic school buildings on Broad Street in Salem. The older of the two is the Oliver Primary School in the distance on the left, which is discussed in more detail in the previous post. It was completed in 1819, and in the early years it served as the home of the Latin Grammar School and the English High School. These two schools were later renamed the Fisk and the Bowditch Schools, respectively, and in 1854 they were merged into the Bowditch School.

At the time, the Bowditch School taught boys, with a separate Saltonstall School for girls. However, these two schools were merged in 1856 to form the Salem Classical and High School, and moved into a newly-completed building on the right side of the scene. This ornate, Italianate-style school was designed by local architect Enoch Fuller, and was dedicated on March 18, 1856. The ceremonies included an address by former principal Henry K. Oliver, who would go on to have a successful political career as the state treasurer, and as mayor of Lawrence and Salem, among other state and local offices.

By 1868, the school had a total enrollment of 173, including 85 boys and 88 girls. However, there was evidently a significant amount of turnover throughout the school year, because the high school had, on average, only 117 students enrolled at any given time. This was just under half of the building’s total capacity at the time, which was listed at 238 seats during that year’s annual school report. The first photo was probably taken around this time, and it shows a group of children standing on the sidewalk, apparently posing for the camera. Somebody of them look fairly young, and may have attended school at the old high school building in the distance, which had been converted into a primary school by this point.

Today, neither of these two buildings are still used as schools, but both are still standing without any major exterior changes. The Oliver Primary School in the distance has lost its original balustrade along the roof, and the old doorway has become a window, but otherwise it retains much of its original early 19t century appearance. The newer building is also still standing as an excellent example of an Italianate-style high school building, and it is now occupied by the Salem Council on Aging. Both buildings, along with the surrounding neighborhood, are now part of the Chestnut Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

South Church, Salem, Mass

South Church, at the corner of Chestnut and Cambridge Streets in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2017:

The South Church was established in 1774, following a split within the Third Congregational Church, which later came to be known as the Tabernacle Congregational Church. For the first 30 years of its existence, the South Church met in a different building on Cambridge Street, but in 1804 construction began on a new church building here at the corner of Cambridge and Chestnut Streets. It was the work of prominent local architect Samuel McIntire, with an elegant Federal-style design that included elements such as pilasters on the front of the building, a Palladian window, a pediment above the front entrance, and an ornate, multi-stage steeple that rose from the top of the pediment.

The steeple in the first photo was actually the second one on the building. The first was destroyed in an apparent hurricane on September 11, 1804, in an event that was described by diarist William Bentley in his entry for that day:

The high wind brought down the unfinished Steeple of the new Meeting House lately raised in Cambridge Street, about five o’clock this afternoon. The whole work of the Steeple is distroyed. The spindle struck on the opposite side of the street, after falling 170 feet, about 30 feet from the building. The mortices had no pins through the long braces which went from the frame of the dome to the standard post & this occasioned the loss of the Steeple. The spindle broke, the vane and ball were much bruised & the whole a complete wreck.

However, the steeple was soon rebuilt to the height of 166 feet, and the building was dedicated on January 1, 1805, in a ceremony that was also described in Bentley’s diary:

This day was appropriated for the dedication of the New South Meeting House at Salem. A large Band of music was provided & Mr. [Samuel] Holyoke took the direction. A double bass, 5 bass viols, 5 violins, 2 Clarionets, 2 Bassoons & 5 german flutes composed the Instrumental music. About 80 singers, the greater part males, composed the vocal music. It could not have the refinement of taste as few of the singers were ever together before & most were instructed by different masters. But in these circumstances it was good. The House was crowded & not half that went were accomodated. Mr. Hopkins, the Pastor, performed the religious service of prayer & preaching, & a Mr. Emerson of Beverly made the last prayer. The music had an excellent dinner provided for them at the Ship [tavern] & the 16 ministers present dined in elegant taste at Hon. Jno. Norris Esqr. the principal character in the list of the Proprietors of the new Meeting House.

Later in the entry, Bentley also commented on the building’s architecture, writing:

The Steeple is the noblest in Town. Upon a lofty tower it rises upon reduced Octagons & hexagons, till it terminates in a slender cone. It is decorated handsomely. The roof is supported above, the arch is lofty, the pulpit rich, but nothing singular in the disposition of the House. It is the best structure for Public Worship ever raised in Salem.

The pastor at the time was Daniel Hopkins (1734-1814), a native of Waterbury, Connecticut who had graduated from Yale in 1758. He served as a delegate to the Third Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1775, shortly after the outbreak of the American Revolution, and he later served on the Governor’s Council from 1776 to 1778. He was ordained as the pastor of the South Church in 1778, and remained with the church until his death in 1814. However, he was suffering from poor health by the time this church building was completed, and in April 1805 he was joined by a second pastor, Brown Emerson (1778-1872), who had graduated from Dartmouth three years earlier.

In 1806, Brown Emerson married Reverend Hopkins’s daughter Mary, and went on to serve the church for many years after Hopkins’s death. Like Hopkins, he was also assisted by a younger pastor in his later years, but he remained with the church for a total of nearly 70 years, until his death in 1872 at the age of 94. Although the first photo is undated, it was probably taken sometime around the late 1860s or early 1870s, so it likely shows the church as it appeared around the time that Reverend Emerson died.

The historic church building stood here for nearly a century, until it was destroyed by a fire in 1903. It was a significant loss to the neighborhood, and was replaced by a stone, Gothic-style church that bore no resemblance to the old church, and it stood out as an anomaly among the otherwise Federal-style buildings on Chestnut Street. The new building was only used by the South Church for 20 years, until a 1924 merger with the Tabernacle Congregational Church. The building was subsequently used by a different church, but it was ultimately demolished in 1950, and the site was converted into a park.

Today, the former site of the church is still a park, as seen in the 2017 photo. However, aside from the loss of the church, the rest of the neighborhood has not undergone any significant changes since the area was first developed in the early 19th century. Just across the street from here is Hamilton Hall, which was built only a couple years after the original church building, and the homes in the first photo are also still standing, including the c.1808 Robinson-Little House on the left side of the scene. All of these buildings are now part of the Chestnut Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

First Baptist Church, Salem, Mass

The First Baptist Church, at 54 Federal Street in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The site of the church in 2017:

The first Baptist minister in Salem was none other than Roger Williams, who briefly served as pastor of the First Church in the 1630s, immediately prior to his famous banishment in modern-day Rhode Island. However, it would be some 170 years before a Baptist church was formally established here in Salem, when 24 parishioners formed the First Baptist Church in 1804. The following year the church installed its first pastor, 25-year-old Brown graduate Lucius Bolles, and around the same time construction began on a permanent church building here on Federal Street, just east of North Street.

The diary of William Bentley, the prominent Unitarian minister of the East Church in Salem, provides an interesting perspective on the early history of this church. At the time, Baptists were a religious minority in Massachusetts, where nearly all churches were Congregational Bentley’s diary reveals hostility toward the Baptists. For example, on January 9, 1805, the day when Reverend Bolles was ordained, Bentley wrote:

A very rainy day & the day designated for the public ordination of a Baptist Minister in Salem. It was a dark day, because we were afraid of the uncharitableness of this Sect which has been the most illiterate in New England. All the ministers were invited. The Tabernacle was opened for the services. I did not attend. No Congregational minister of the Town was present. Dr. Stillman of Boston preached.

A month later, there was a tone of sarcasm when he wrote that “It is said that Mr. L. Bolles does not incline to dip [baptize] in the very cold weather as it too much endangers the health of the Spectators. The public owes him many thanks.” Then, on April 14, following the baptism of 10 more new members, Bentley complained of the Baptists luring members away from the established Congregational churches, writing:

It is said that the Clergy of the Town are about to print a refutation of the Baptists as the Baptists consider as free plunder all the members of their churches & rebaptise all who have been sprinkled at any age or baptised in any form in infancy. This superstition has all its fury at present in this place. Its violence must burst. Still like a storm, it may be short & leave many a wreck on the shore especially when many are too nigh to escape. I cannot think our Clergy equal to the controversy.

The brick, Federal-style Baptist church was completed later in 1805, and was dedicated on January 1, 1806. On that day, Bentley wrote, “This day was appointed to dedicate the New Baptist Brick Meeting House in Salem & to ordain Charles Lowell in the West Church in Boston. I preferred to employ the fine weather in a visit to Boston.” However, later in the same entry he gave some begrudging praise to Bolles:

In Salem, Mr. Bolles preached at the dedication & as usual in such occasions gave the concourse some history of his newly gathered Church. Its rapid progress in fifteen months since his first mission to Salem, is an honour to his perseverance & an example to his Superiors.

Notwithstanding Reverend Bentley’s scorn, the Baptists grew at a rapid pace upon completion of this church building. The congregation more than doubled in size in 1806, and by 1813 it had over 300 members. The church evidently welcomed all races, with Bentley noting in one 1810 entry that “8 young females & one Negro man” were baptized here. Earlier in 1810, he had also commented on how Thomas Paul, the pastor of the First African Baptist Church in Boston, had previously preached here at the church. He was apparently well-received at the church, but was ridiculed by some townspeople and was denied a seat inside the stagecoach:

[I]n the past actually the Negro Minister Paul preached repeatedly in the Close Baptist Meeting House accompanied & assisted by their Pastor. In consequence one family only discovered displeasure, but the wags of the town put a paper of dogrel rhymes in print & distributed them through the town. The Stage refused the Negro Minister a passage in the Stage within, but offered him a seat with the driver, which he angrily refused.

Over the next few years, the church did experience some fluctuations in its size, as many of the members left to form Baptist congregations in the neighboring towns. However, the church remained strong, and during its first 20 years it added 512 members. Reverend Bolles remained in the pulpit until 1826, when he resigned because of poor health and his new responsibilities as corresponding secretary of the Foreign Mission Board in Boston.

The first major changes to the church building came a year later in 1827, when it was expanded and a tower was added above the front entrance, as seen in the first photo. Further changes occurred around 1850, when the original Federal-style design was given Italianate details, such as the quoins on the corners and the arches above the windows. It was remodeled again in the late 1868, was damaged by a fire on October 31, 1877, and then repaired the following year. Although undated, the first photo was probably taken before the fire, and perhaps even before the 1868 renovations.

Much of the tower is cut off in the first photo, but by the turn of the 20th century it consisted of three stages, topped by an almost absurdly oversized illuminated clock. However, the tower was ultimately removed in 1926 due to the cost of maintenance, dramatically altering the exterior appearance of the building. It continued to be the home of the First Baptist Church throughout the 20th century, though, and despite the many changes it still retained significant historic value as the oldest surviving church building in the city.

Today, the historic church building is still standing, although no longer in its original location. The site was needed in order to build the new Essex County courthouse, so the congregation sold the property and relocated to a different church building on Lafayette Street in 2007. The following year, in December 2008, the 1,100-ton brick church was moved a couple hundred feet to the west, to the corner of Federal and North Streets. The exterior was restored and repointed, and the interior was converted into a law library for the new courthouse, which opened in 2012 as the J. Michael Ruane Judicial Center. The photo below shows the church at its current location, a little to the left of where it had once stood.

City Hall, Salem, Mass

City Hall, at 93 Washington Street in Salem, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

City Hall in 2017:

During the early 19th century, Salem was among the largest cities or towns in the country, ranking among the top ten in the first four federal censuses. It was also the second-largest in New England during this time, behind only Boston, and in 1836 it was incorporated as the second city in the state, with a population of 15,886. At the time, the municipal government occupied the town hall at Derby Square, but construction soon began on a purpose-built city hall here on Washington Street, just north of the intersection of Essex Street.

The building, which was completed in 1838, was designed by noted architect Richard Bond, whose other Salem works included the 1854 Tabernacle Congregational Church (demolished in 1922), as well as the 1841 county courthouse on Federal Street. Bond’s design for City Hall had a Greek Revival exterior, with a granite facade on the Washington Street side and brick walls on the rest of the building. The main entrance is flanked by four Doric pilasters, supporting an entablature that features seven laurel wreaths, with a gilded eagle atop the building. On the interior, the building was constructed with city offices on the first floor, and the mayor’s office and city council chambers on the second floor.

The first mayor of Salem was Leverett Saltonstall I, a prominent politician who had previously served as president of the Massachusetts Senate and would later go on to serve in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1838 to 1843. He was also the great grandfather of Leverett A. Saltonstall, who would serve as governor of Massachusetts and as a U. S. Senator during the mid-20th century. Other notable early mayors included Stephen C. Phillips and Charles W. Upham, both of whom also served in Congress, and Stephen P. Webb, who served as mayor from 1842 to 1845 and 1860 to 1862, while in the interim serving as mayor of San Francisco from 1854 to 1855.

The first photo was taken at some point in the post-Civil War era, most likely in the late 1860s or early 1870s, and shows the front facade of City Hall, along with a horse-drawn trolley on Washington Street. The building was significantly expanded in 1876, with an addition that doubled its length, although its appearance from this angle remained unchanged. Another addition came a century later in the late 1970s, but likewise this did not affect the Washington Street side of the building.

Today, this building remains in use as the Salem City Hall, with a well-preserved exterior that shows hardly any changes from the first photo. Now over 180 years old, it is the oldest continuously-used city hall building in the state, and it survives as a good example of Greek Revival-style architecture. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it is also a contributing property in the Downtown Salem Historic District.