Mulberry Bend, New York City

Mulberry Bend, around 1896. Photo from Out of Mulberry Street: Stories of Tenement Life in New York City by Jacob Riis.

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The same view in 2014:

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Throughout much of the 19th century, the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan was one of the worst slums in the United States.  At the heart of it was Mulberry Bend, named after the curve in Mulberry Street which is visible in the two photos.  In part because of the work of social reformers like Jacob Riis, efforts began at the end of the century to clear out the worst of the slums and tenements.  Shortly after the first photo was taken, the tenements on the left were demolished, and replaced by Columbus Park.  Several of the buildings on the left survive, though, and are now a part of Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood.

This photo was taken just south of the intersection of Mulberry and modern-day Mosco Streets, just north of where this photo was taken a few years later.  If the photographer in that photo had turned left, this is approximately the view that he would have looking up Mulberry.

Corner of Main & State Streets, Springfield

The northeast corner of Main and State in Springfield, sometime in the 19th century.  Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The same location, around 1892. Photo from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The corner in 2014:

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Many of these Springfield street scenes follow a predictable pattern over the past 150 years or so – first, a pre-Civil War Federal style commercial block, followed by a larger, more ornate building in the latter part of the 19th century, and finally some sort of modern, 20th century structure.  In this case, we clearly see all three generations of commercial development at the corner of Main and State, culminating with the MassMutual Center of the 1970s.  Of particular interest is the building in the second photo – above the entrance is a sign that reads “G. & C. Merriam & Co Publishers,” the publishers of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Today, the company is still headquartered in Springfield, just up the hill on Federal Street.  See this post and this post for a few other angles of the neighborhood that is now the MassMutual Center.

Chicopee Bank Building, Springfield

The Chicopee Bank Building, at the corner of Main and Elm, sometime before 1889.  Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The same location, between 1889 and 1895. Photo courtesy of James Ward Birchall Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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The original building was built in 1835, at the same time as the other three-story commercial buildings on and around Court Square. It was demolished in 1889 and replaced by the current structure, which survives with minimal changes. The building to the left, however, has been trimmed down in height. On the other side, along Elm Street, the 1835 Byers Block survives as a remnant of what the old Chicopee Bank building once looked like.

Court Square, Springfield (6)

Springfield’s Court Square, sometime in the 1880s or earlier. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).

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The scene in the 1890s. Photo from Our County and Its People: A History of Hampden County, Massachusetts (1902).

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The scene in 2014:119_2014

The three photos show the progression of the appearance of Court Square in the past 125+ years. In the first photo, the buildings along Elm Street are all 1830’s-era three story commercial buildings, most of which were replaced by the Court Square Theater in 1892, which can be seen in the second photo, a rare view of the building before the 1900 expansion on the right side. That is essentially the only change between the second photo and today’s scene – not much has changed with the four major buildings in this angle. One notable survivor on the far left is the Byers Block, which was built in 1835 and is the last remaining part of the Elm Street commercial blocks from the first photo. Wedged in between two much larger late 19th century building, it is the oldest surviving commercial building in the city, although not the oldest building in the photo – Old First Church on the far right dates to 1819.

John Hancock Memorial, Boston

John Hancock’s grave in the Granary Burying Ground, around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same site in 2009:

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Although John Hancock died in 1793, his grave wasn’t memorialized until 1896, about 2 years before the first photo, when the monument was dedicated.  The graveyard itself remains much the same as it was in 1898, down to the fence between it and the surrounding buildings, but the buildings themselves are very different from the ones at the end of the 19th century.

Old Man of the Mountain

The Old Man of the Mountain, between 1890 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2013:

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“Discovered” by surveyors in 1805, New Hampshire’s famous rock formation lasted for almost 200 more years, before collapsing in May 2003 as a result of centuries of freezing and thawing.  Concern over the figure’s eventual collapse began even before the first photo was taken.  Frederick Wilkinson Kilbourne wrote in Chronicles of the White Mountains in 1916 that “Professor Hitchcock’s fear, expressed more than forty years ago, that, owing to the friability of the granite of which the ledges are composed and its consequent rapid disintegration, the ledges might soon disappear, has so far not been realized”  Kilbourne went on to write, “Sad will be the day (may it never come!) when that marvel of Nature shall be marred or be no longer to be seen.”

Concerns about the stability of the rocks continued through the 20th century, and in 1958 steel rods and other equipment was used in an attempt to secure the rocks.  Several of the rods are still visible at the top of the cliff.  The Old Man of the Mountain also influenced the construction of Interstate 93 through Franconia Notch; the segment of highway is one of the few two-lane Interstate highways, and was built that way partially because of concerns that construction of a wider highway could damage the rock formation.  Regardless of these efforts, though, the rocks collapsed in May 2003.