Post Office, Northampton, Mass

The post office at the corner of Pleasant and Armory Streets in Northampton, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2018:

This post office was constructed between 1903 and 1905, and it features a Classical Revival-style design that was popular for buildings of this period. It was designed by the office of James Knox Taylor, who served as Supervising Architect of the Department of the Treasury from 1897 to 1912. During this time, Taylor’s responsibilities included designing hundreds of federal buildings, although it does not seem clear as to what extent he – rather than the other architects in his office –  was actually involved in designing this post office.

The building originally had a rectangular footprint, with the main entrance here on Pleasant Street, flanked by two Ionic columns. However, the building was significantly expanded in 1938, as part of a New Deal-era program that constructed many new federal buildings across the country. Here in Northampton, the post office was more than doubled, with a large addition on the left side. The original design was essentially duplicated, though, so the newer half is almost indistinguishable from the older section. However, in order to preserve the symmetry, the original main entrance was closed and turned into a window, and a new entrance was opened in the middle of the Pleasant Street facade.

The expanded building remained in use as Northampton’s post office for nearly 40 more years, but it closed in 1976 when the current post office opened on Bridge Street. The building has been preserved, though, and the interior has been converted into offices. It stands as one of the many late 19th and early 20th century buildings that still line the streets of Northampton, and it is now a contributing property in the Northampton Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Connecticut Hall, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

Connecticut Hall, seen from across the quadrangle on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1901-1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post, Connecticut Hall was among the earliest buildings to be constructed on the Yale campus. It was completed in 1752, and it originally featured a Georgian-style design that was modeled after Massachusetts Hall at Harvard. At the time, there were only a few buildings here at Yale, so Connecticut Hall served many different purposes in its early years. There was space for a dining room, library, recitation hall, chapel, and dormitory rooms, and the ground floor also housed the buttery, where students could purchase beer, tobacco, and other products not available in the dining hall.

Over the years, as Yale steadily expanded, Connecticut Hall was joined by a group of similar buildings that all stood in a line parallel to College Street. Collectively known as the Old Brick Row, these buildings alternated between long dormitories and shorter academic buildings. Connecticut Hall eventually became exclusively a dormitory, and was known as South Middle College. In the midst of this expansion, Connecticut Hall was altered around the turn of the 19th century, and the original gambrel roof was replaced with a peaked roof, as seen in the first photo.

The Old Brick Row was at the center of Yale for much of the 19th century, but by 1870 the school had adopted a new plan that called for new Gothic-style buildings along the perimeter of the campus, with a large open quadrangle in the middle, where the Old Brick Row stood. The buildings around the quadrangle were largely completed by the mid-1890s, and demolition of the old buildings began around the same time. By the turn of the 20th century, only three remained, and two of these – North College and the Lyceum – would be demolished in 1901. This left South Middle College as the sole survivor of the Old Brick Row, and at this point it was almost entirely walled in behind modern buildings, including Welch Hall on the left, Osborn Hall in the distant center, and Vanderbilt Hall on the right side of the first photo.

The old building was nearly demolished, but this threat sparked an outcry in favor of its preservation. As a result, it was instead renovated, soon after the first photo was taken. The most noticeable change on the exterior was the reconstruction of the gambrel roof, and the building was renamed Connecticut Hall. It would continue to be used as a dormitory throughout the first half of the 20th century, but it underwent another major renovation in 1952-1954, when the interior was gutted and converted into office space. Today, the building still stands, and it currently houses the offices of the Department of Philosophy. Now over 250 years old, it is the oldest surviving building on the Yale campus, along with being one of the oldest college buildings in the United States.

Durfee Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Durfee Hall, on the Old Campus of Yale University, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Durfee Hall in 2018:

As discussed in previous posts, the Yale campus underwent dramatic changes during the last three decades of the 19th century. The Old Brick Row, which had been the defining feature of the school since the late 18th century, was steadily replaced by new buildings that surrounded a central quadrangle. One of the first of the new buildings was Durfee Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1871. Its design was the work of noted architect Russell Sturgis, who also designed several other buildings at Yale, including the adjacent Battell Chapel and the nearby Farnam and Lawrance Halls.

The four-story Dufree Hall was built with 20 bedrooms and 10 common rooms on each floor, with all of the common rooms on this side of the building, facing the campus, and all of the bedrooms on the north side, facing Elm Street. This arrangement was similar to the older dormitories at Yale, but otherwise its design was a significant departure from tradition, with ornate Gothic-style architecture and a brownstone exterior that contrasted with the older, comparatively Old Brick Row.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. Durfee Hall is still standing, without any noticeable exterior alterations, and so is the Battell Chapel on the right side. Along with the other dormitories on the Old Campus, Durfee Hall is now used as freshman housing, with students living here for a year before moving into one of the residential colleges for the rest of their time at Yale. Over the years, its residents have included Anderson Cooper, who lived here during his freshman year, and it was even the home of the fictional Rory Gilmore in the television show Gilmore Girls.

Lyceum, New Haven, Connecticut

The Lyceum, on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, around 1901. Image taken by William Henry Jackson, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo was the work of noted photographer William Henry Jackson. Although best known for his late 19th century views of the American West, Jackson later became the president of the Detroit Publishing Company, a leading postcard company of the turn of the 20th century. During his time with the company, he continued to photograph sites around the country, including a visit to New Haven around 1901, where he took the first photo, showing the Old Campus of Yale University.

The dramatic changes at Yale during the late 19th century have been discussed in earlier blog posts, but perhaps no view better illustrates this transition than the first photo, which contrasts the old, soon-to-be-demolished Lyceum on the right, and the new Phelps Hall on the left. The Lyceum was built in 1803 as part of the Old Brick Row, a group of seven brick buildings that once comprised most of Yale. It was originally designed as a recitation hall, but it also served other functions over the years, including housing the school library from 1804 until 1824. In addition, the building received several distinguished visitors in the early 19th century, including the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 and President Andrew Jackson in 1833.

In 1870, Yale adopted a new campus plan, which called for new buildings along the perimeter of the Old Campus, and a quadrangle in the center. The Old Brick Row stood in the middle of this proposed quadrangle, so the old buildings were steadily demolished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to clear the site. By the time the first photo was taken, many of these buildings were already gone, including North Middle College and the Second Chapel, which had stood in the foreground before being demolished in 1896.

The Lyceum was still standing when the first photo was taken, although the modest Federal-style building looked very out of place in a setting that was otherwise dominated by large, Gothic-style buildings. These included Phelps Hall on the left, which was completed in 1896 with a design that resembled a medieval gatehouse. To the right of Phelps Hall was Welch Hall, a dormitory that was completed in 1891, and in the distance on the far right side was Vanderbilt Hall, another dormitory that was built three years later.

The Lyceum was ultimately demolished in 1901, along with the nearby North College. This left South Middle College, which was located directly south of the Lyceum, as the only remaining building from the Old Brick Row. It too was threatened with demolition in the early 20th century, but it was ultimately preserved, undergoing a major restoration in 1905. Although hidden from view behind the Lyceum in the first photo, it is now visible on the right side of the scene in the 2018 photo. Renamed Connecticut Hall, it now stands as the oldest building on the Yale campus, and it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Church Street Houses, New Haven, Connecticut

A group of houses and other buildings on Church Street, looking north toward the corner of Elm Street in New Haven, probably around 1904. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Herbert Randall Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The scene in 2018:

The first photo shows a group of mid-19th century buildings that once lined the east side of Church Street, directly opposite the New Haven Green. Starting on the far right, at 179 Church Street, is a three-story building that was known as the Law Chambers. Located directly adjacent to the county courthouse, which stood just out of view to the right, this building housed offices for a number of lawyers. Their names were listed on placards on either side of the front door, and some are legible in the photo, including Frederick L. Averill, William L. Bennett, John A. Doolittle, Hobart L. Hotchkiss, and Charles F. Mitchell. These names help to provide the likely date of the first photo; according to city directories, 1904 appears to be the only year that all five of these men had offices here.

To the left of the Law Chambers, in the center of the photo, is an elegant Italianate-style home at 185 Church Street. By the turn of the 20th century, New Haven was undergoing rapid population growth, and most of the old mansions along the Green were giving way to new commercial and governmental buildings. However, this house was still standing when the first photo was taken. Based on its architecture, it was probably built sometime around the 1850s, as it features many Italianate details that were common during this era, including brackets under the eaves, quoins on the corners, and a tower with tall, narrow windows on the top floor. By the time the first photo was taken, it was the home of James English, a businessman who served for many years as president of the United Illuminating Company. The 1900 census shows him living here with his wife Clementina, along with a lodger and three servants.

Further to the left is a group of attached rowhouses. Only two are visible in the photo, but there were a total of four, which extended as far as the corner of Elm Street. The one closer to the camera was 187 Church Street, and during the 1900 census it was the home of Dr. Henry W. Ring, a physician who lived here with his wife Maud and two servants. To the left of his house was another physician, Dr. William G. Daggett, who lived in 189 Church Street and also had his medical practice there. Curiously, this house is missing the exterior wall of the top two floors in the first photo. This may have been renovation work, as later photographs suggest that the building’s facade was rebuilt at some point in the early 20th century.

Daggett, Ring, and English were all still living here on Church Street during the 1910 census, but this would soon change. Daggett died later in the year, and by 1911 his widow was living on Orange Street. English also moved out of his house by 1911, and was living in a house on St. Ronan Street. His house was demolished soon after, because by 1913 the 10-story Chamber of Commerce building had been constructed on the site. Ring was the last to relocate; the 1913 city directory shows him living here and practicing medicine out of the house, but by 1914 he had moved to the Hotel Taft, although he continued to have his office here in his former house.

Today, all of the buildings from the first photo have since been demolished, along with the Chamber of Commerce building that had replaced the English house. Much of the scene is now occupied by the northern part of City Hall, which was constructed in the 1980s. Its alternating pattern of light and dark bands was designed to match the exterior of the old City Hall building, which had been mostly demolished except for its brownstone facade. On the left side of the present-day scene is an 18-story office building that had originally been constructed in the mid-1970s, as the home of the New Haven Savings Bank.

City Hall and County Courthouse, New Haven, Connecticut

The New Haven City Hall and the New Haven County Courthouse, on Church Street in New Haven, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in the previous post, New Haven’s city hall was built in 1862, on Church Street facing the New Haven Green. It was an important early example of High Victorian Gothic style architecture, designed by prominent local architect Henry Austin, and in 1873 it was joined by the matching New Haven County Courthouse. The courthouse, which was designed by Austin’s former employee David R. Brown, stood on the left side of the building, just to the left of the tower in the first photo, and it was set further back from the street.

The courthouse was in use until a new courthouse was completed in 1914, probably soon after the first photo was taken. The older building then became the city hall annex, and together these two buildings continued to house the city’s municipal offices throughout much of the 20th century. At some point, though, the top of the tower was removed, and by the 1960s both buildings were threatened with demolition.

The buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, but the following year the former courthouse was demolished, along with most of City Hall. However, the New Haven Preservation Trust succeeded in saving the facade of City Hall, and a new building was constructed behind it and to the left along Church Street. Completed in the mid-1980s, this new City Hall featured a design that was sympathetic to the original portion. Although lacking the pointed windows and ornamentation of Henry Austin’s facade, the new building – visible on the left side of the 2019 photo – has a matching exterior with alternating bands of light and dark stone, dormer windows on the top floor, and even a setback that imitates the old courthouse building.