Tremont Street Trolleys, Boston

Looking up Tremont Street toward Park Street Church in Boston, in 1895. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Tremont Street in 2014:

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These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the ones in this post and this post, but the first one here shows Tremont Street as it appeared before the construction of the Tremont Street Subway.  By the time the 1895 photo was taken, Tremont Street was becoming crowded with traffic, from pedestrians to carriages and even trolleys, as seen in the distance of the first photo.  Toalleviate the congestion, the trolley lines were put underground, making this the first subway in the country.  Today, Tremont Street is still a busy road, but trolleys such as the green and orange one in the 2014 photo are purely for tourism – the real trolleys still run underground through here on the MBTA Green Line.

Tremont Street Mall, Boston

Looking up Tremont Street toward Park Street along Boston Common, around 1899. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2014:

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Similar to the scenes in this post, these photos show the view looking along Boston Common toward Park Street Church.  Not much has changed on the Common, but this section of Tremont Street is very different from its appearance 115 years ago; high-rise buildings have long since replaced the old 4-5 story commercial buildings of the 19th century.  A few buildings are visible in the distance, though – in particular, Park Street Church, and also the Tremont Building behind it.

Paul Revere House, Boston

The Paul Revere House in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The house in 2014:

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The first photo was taken sometime before the 1898 photo in this post, from a slightly different angle. It is the oldest building in downtown Boston, having been built around 1680. However, it changed in appearance over the centuries, and it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the house was restored to its original appearance. Today, the house is open for tours, and is a major landmark along the Freedom Trail.

General Crane House, Boston

The General Crane House on Tremont Street in Boston, probably in 1894. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the photos in this post, but this angle just focuses on the old General Crane House.  Although only about 12 years have passed, the historic house has not fared well – in the 1894 photo it appears to have been relegated to billboard duty, advertising for several plays, including The Little Trooper staring Della Fox, and Jacinta starring Louise Beaudet.  Both actresses were prominent in the 1890s, and they appeared in these plays around 1894-1895.  The building itself had once been home to John Crane, a Revolutionary War general and Boston Tea Party participant.  It was still standing when the Tremont Street Subway was constructed under the street, but it didn’t last too much longer – it was gone by 1908.

Tremont House, Boston

The Tremont House on Tremont Street in Boston, sometime in the 1890s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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The Tremont House in the first photo was built in 1829, and it holds a significant place in American history – it was the first hotel with running water and indoor plumbing. It opened to much fanfare, with mayor Josiah Quincy (of Quincy Market fame) presiding over the event. The guest list included a number of distinguished Bostonians, including Congressmen Daniel Webster and Edward Everett. Webster would go on to become one of the most influential men in 19th century America, and Everett also went on to bigger and better things, serving as governor, ambassador, senator, and Secretary of State. He gave a speech at the ceremony, and some 34 years later he would be the keynote speaker at another event – the dedication of the national cemetery at Gettysburg, although his two hour speech was overshadowed by President Lincoln’s two minute remarks.

The building stood at the corner of Tremont and Beacon Streets until 1895, and during its existence it had a number of notable guests, including Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Alexis de Tocqueville, and President Andrew Jackson. It was also where, in 1848, Abraham Lincoln, at the time a virtually unknown Illinois Congressman, stayed during a visit to Boston. Coincidentally, years later John Wilkes Booth would also stay at the hotel, not long before he assassinated Lincoln.

Explosion, Corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, Boston

An explosion at the corner of Tremont and Boylston during the construction of the Tremont Street Subway on March 4, 1897.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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The corner of Boylston and Tremont is the location of a sharp 90 degree curve on the Green Line, where the underground tracks turn off of Boylston and onto Tremont.  In 1897, however, this was still under construction.  During this time, one of the gas lines at the intersection began leaking.  The escaped gas accumulated in the empty space underground, until a horse-drawn streetcar, the one marked “Mount Auburn”in the photo, ignited the gas as it passed above ground.  The explosion killed six people and caused significant damage to the surrounding buildings, including the Hotel Touraine, which was still under construction in the first photo and stands to this day.  The subway itself would go on to open on September 1, and the location of the explosion became the Boylston station.