Central House, Boston

The Central House on Brattle Square, Boston, in 1860.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Located next to the Quincy House, immediately to the right of the building in the 1860 photo of this post,  the Central House was at one point its own hotel, but was later absorbed into the Quincy House.  Eventually, like the rest of the Quincy House, this section was expanded to seven stories in the 1880s, although it isn’t apparent whether the existing floors were added on to, or if the brick section was entirely demolished.  In any case, the entire neighborhood is gone, along with the street network, so this photo and the other one of the Quincy House are recreated based on estimates from comparing historic and modern maps; no landmarks remain from either of the two 1860 photos.

Quincy House, Boston

The Quincy House on Brattle Street in Boston, taken in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Located just as short distance from Scollay, Adams, Dock, and Faneuil Hall Squares, the Quincy House enjoyed a prominent location in downtown Boston.  The hotel was built around 1819, and was constructed of granite, only a few years before similar materials were used to build Quincy Market just a few block away.  In its heyday, it was one of the best hotels in Boston, and was also used by many different labor unions as a meeting place.

The 1860 photo, taken by photography pioneer Josiah Johnson Hawes, shows the hotel’s original appearance, before a renovation in the 1880s that added an additional three stories and a clock tower, as seen in this photo from the City of Boston Archives. However, by the 1920s the aging hotel suffered from increased competition, and closed in 1929. The building itself was demolished in 1935, less than 30 years before the entire neighborhood was taken down to build City Hall and the City Hall Plaza, as seen in the 2014 photo.

School Street, Boston

The Second Universalist Church on School Street in Boston, taken in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2015:


These two photos show some of the drastic changes on School Street in downtown Boston.  The church was demolished in 1872, and the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank building, which was built in 1858, was replaced with the current building in 1925.  The name of the bank is still visible on the building today, although the bank itself no longer exists – it was acquired by Citizens Bank in 1993.  None of the buildings from the first photo survive today, although there are a few very old buildings in the area today that are just outside the view of these photos, including the Old Corner Bookstore, at the end of School Street and just to the left, and the Old South Meeting House, which is to the right behind the buildings in the foreground.

Masonic Temple, Boston

The Masonic Temple at the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets, facing east on Boylston in the late 1860s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


According to the Boston Public Library, the first photo was taken in 1864, which is unlikely considering the building in the photo wasn’t built until 1867. This site at the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets has been home to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts since 1859, starting with the Winthrop House, which burned in 1864. It was replaced with the building in the first photo in 1867, and this building likewise burned, in 1895. The present-day building was completed in 1899, and has been home to the lodge ever since.

A number of other changes have taken place here, with most of the 4-5 story residential and commercial buildings being replaced over the years by successively taller structures. Today, only one building from the first photo still survives – the 1850 Liberty Tree Building a block down Boylston Street, seen in the 2014 photo directly behind the white van. Another significant change is the Boylston station, seen on the left of the 2014 photo, which opened on Boston Common in 1897 as one of the first two subway stations in the United States.

Colonnade Row, Tremont Street, Boston

Looking north along Tremont Street in Boston, near Avery Street around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Tremont Street has substantially changed over the past 150 years, as seen in the stark contrast between Charles Bulfinch’s 1810 Colonnade Row and the modern high-rise apartment buildings of today.  The 19 houses that made up Colonnade Row were similar to those along Beacon Street on the other side of the Common, but while many of the early 19th century homes on Beacon Hill remain today, the ones on Colonnade Row are long gone.  Some of the houses survived into the mid-20th century, as seen in this photo on the Boston Public Library Flickr account, but obviously today none are left.  There is, however, at least one building in the 2014 photo that predates Colonnade Row – Park Street Church in the distance was completed in 1809 and still stands at the corner of Park and Tremont.

Beach Street, Boston

Looking west on Beach Street toward Harrison Avenue in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Beach Street in 2014:


Taken before the neighborhood was redeveloped as a major commercial district, the first photo shows a variety of early 19th century architecture, with a combination of a hotel (the Boston Hotel on the left), a church (Beach Street Church), and residential buildings.  Notice also the awning that advertises “cool soda” at the business on the right.  Today, this area has undergone total redevelopment, and is now in the midst of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.