First Church, Pittsfield, Mass (2)

Another view of the First Church at Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893).

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The church in 2016:

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As mentioned in a previous post on the church, Pittsfield’s original church building was built here in 1761, and was subsequently replaced by newer buildings in 1793 and, finally, in 1853. The current church is a granite Gothic-style building that was designed by prominent architect Leopold Eidlitz. It is still in use by the congregation today, and very little has changed in this view since the first photo was taken. Even the old 1832 town hall, its plain Federal architecture a sharp contrast to that of the church, is still here. Both buildings are contributing properties in the Park Square Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places.

North Street, Pittsfield, Mass

Looking north on North Street from Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893)

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The scene in 2016:

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The east side of North Street in the present-day scene is lined with historic buildings, but essentially none of these were built yet when the first photo was taken. At the time, Pittsfield was growing at a steady pace. It had become the seat of Berkshire County in 1868, and by 1891, with a population of over 1891, it was incorporated as a city. The population growth would continue at an even faster pace for the next few decades, resulting in the disappearance of many old 19th century buildings along North Street and the construction of new ones.

Among the first to go in this scene was the building on the far right, at the corner of North and East Streets. It came down only a few years after the first photo was taken, and was replaced with the Berkshire County Savings Bank Building. Completed in 1896, it is still standing as a major landmark in downtown Pittsfield. Opposite the bank, on the left side of the photo, is one of the few survivors from the first scene. The Berkshire Life Insurance Company Building was built in 1868, and although it was significantly expanded in 1911, it is still standing at the corner of North and West Streets.

St. Stephen’s Church, Pittsfield, Mass

St. Stephen’s Church at the corner of East and Allen Streets in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893)

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The church in 2016:

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As seen in a previous post, St. Stephen’s Church is one of several historic 19th century buildings at Park Square, in the center of downtown Pittsfield. The Gothic Revival church was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston firm of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Completed in 1890, it replaced an earlier Episcopalian church that had been built on virtually the same spot in 1832, the same year as the old town on the left side of the scene. The town hall has survived to the present, but the old church had to be demolished to build Allen Street, seen in the center of the photos.

When the first photo was taken, St. Stephen’s Church was just a few years old. More than 120 years later, most of its surroundings, except for the old town hall, are different, but not much has changed with the church itself. The building underwent a restoration in 1999, which included repairs to the stained glass windows that had been designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast. The church is still in use as an active Episcopalian parish, and it is a contributing property in the Park Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

American House, Pittsfield, Mass

The American House, a hotel at the northwest corner of North Street and Columbus Avenue, sometime in the 1800s. Image from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Vicinity (1900).

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The New American House on the same site, around 1911-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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The American House was one of several important 19th century hotels in Pittsfield. It was built sometime before 1865, and in that year it was purchased by Cebra Quackenbush, a prominent resident who soon expanded the hotel. By the end of the century, though, the old wooden building had become outdated, so in 1899 he had it demolished and replaced with a larger brick hotel, named the New American House.

The second photo was taken shortly after the 1911 renovations, which added a fifth story to the building. Quackenbush, in his 70s at this point, still owned the hotel, although he was not involved in the day-to-day operations. Instead, he leased it out to different landlords over the years until his death in 1914, nearly 50 years after he purchased the property. After his death, the hotel continued in business for a few more decades, but it was demolished in 1937 and replaced with the one-story commercial building that stands here today.

First Church, Deerfield, Mass

The First Church of Deerfield on Old Main Street, around 1891. Image from Picturesque Franklin (1891).

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The church in 2016:

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Deerfield’s Old Main Street is a remarkably well-preserved New England village, with a number of historic homes and other buildings dating back to the 18th and early 19th centuries. The entire village is included in the Old Deerfield Historic District, which is listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most prominent buildings in the district is the First Church of Deerfield, also known as the Brick Church. Although not as old as many of the nearby homes, the church has been at the center of the village for nearly 200 years.

It was built in 1824 and designed by architect Winthrop Clapp, although it was virtually a copy of the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, which had been built in 1819 about three miles away. The Greenfield church had been designed by Isaac Damon, whose other works included churches in Springfield, Northampton, and Southwick. Although he did not actually design the Deerfield church, his influence is still evident, and it bears a strong resemblance his other churches.

Damon’s Greenfield church has long since been demolished and replaced with the present-day building, but the Deerfield church is still standing. Its interior was restored to its original appearance in 1916, and today the building still houses an active Unitarian-Universalist congregation. The brick exterior has remained essentially the same as it was when it was built, and its surroundings have also changed very little, with the village still retaining its appearance as a small, colonial-era community.

Whistler House, Springfield, Mass

The former home of George Washington Whistler on Chestnut Street near the corner of Edwards Street, sometime in the 1800s. Image from A Chronicle of Ancient Chestnut Street (1897).

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The scene in 2016:

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Perhaps no house in Springfield has been home to as many historical figures as this one was, so it is perhaps only appropriate that the Museum of Springfield History is now located on the site. The house was built in the 1820s by Simon Sanborn, who built a number of buildings in Springfield during the early 19th century, including the architecturally-similar Alexander House. When this spacious, 20-room house was completed, Chestnut Street was Springfield’s most prestigious residential street, and the home enjoyed unobstructed views of downtown and the Connecticut River in the distance.

Its original owner was James Sanford Dwight, a merchant and member of the prominent Dwight family who died while vacationing in Italy in 1831. Several years after his death, the house was briefly the home of Chester Harding, a notable portrait artist. He was born in Conway, Massachusetts, but he worked as an itinerant painter in the western states, living for a time in Pittsburgh, Kentucky, and St. Louis. After this, he spent time in England, then returned to the US, living in Boston for a few years. By the early 1830s, he was living in Springfield, first renting the Alexander House and then moving into this house. He only remained here for a short time, though, before building a new house just to the left of here, on the site of present-day Mattoon Street.

Despite Harding’s prominence, he would turn out to be only the second most famous artist to reside in the house in the first photo. After he moved out, it was the home of George Washington Whistler and his family from 1839 to 1842. Whistler had been hired as chief engineer for the Western Railroad, which was under construction from Worcester to the New York state line at the time. He achieved fame in his own right as a railroad builder, and left Springfield in 1842 when Czar Nicholas I of Russia hired him to build a railroad from St. Petersburg to Moscow. However, his son James Abbott McNeill Whister, who was just eight when they moved from Springfield, would go on to become one of the most prominent American artists of the 19th century. Although he only spent three years here, it is interesting to consider what influence, if any, their next-door neighbor Chester Harding may have had on the young future artist.

After the Whistlers left, its next resident was Major James Ripley, the commandant of the Springfield Armory from 1842 to 1854. He was third consecutive nationally-prominent figure to live in the house, and earned recognition for his efforts to modernize the Armory. Under his leadership, many new buildings were constructed, including the distinctive Main Arsenal, as well as the nearby Commandant’s House. The latter was completed in 1846, at which point Ripley moved out of his house here on Chestnut Street. Although he left Springfield in 1854, his reforms came just in time. When the Civil War started less than a decade later, the Armory was in an ideal position to meet the wartime demands of the Union army.

The house was later owned by Ethan Chapin. He and his brother Marvin were the co-owners of the Massasoit House, the city’s premier hotel during the 19th century. After his death in 1889, his Chestnut Street home went through several other owners, including Dr. Frederick Sweet and his wife Adeline. However, by the turn of the century, its location was no longer as fashionable as it had been some 75 years earlier, and the house fell into disrepair. It was demolished in the mid-1920s, and although the historical significance of its former residents was recognized at the time, there does not seem to have been any call to preserve it at the time. The site was later redeveloped, though, and it is now the home of the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, which is seen in the 2016 photo.