Old Capitol Prison, Washington DC

The Old Capitol Prison, around 1863. Photo by Mathew Brady, courtesy of the National Archives.

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The building around 1866. Photo by William R. Pywell, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Collection.

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Between 1910 and 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same location in 2012:

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Clearly, much has changed in 147 years at the corner of 1st St. NE and A St. NE.  The building in the first two photos (which is actually the same building in the third photo) is the Old Capitol Prison.  As its name suggests, the building once served as the temporary United States Capitol.  After the Capitol was burned in the War of 1812, this building was hastily built to serve as the Capitol until the repairs could be completed.

After Congress and the Supreme Court returned to the Capitol in 1819, the building was used as a private school and later as a boarding house.  It was in this boarding house that former Vice President John C. Calhoun died in 1850; years earlier he had served as a Representative from South Carolina in the same building.  During the Civil War, the building was used as a prison, and in 1867 it was sold and converted into rowhouses, as seen in the third photo.  In 1929, it was demolished to allow for the construction of the US Supreme Court building, which, as seen in the 2012 photo, remains on the site today.

Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, Washington DC

The inauguration of Abraham Lincoln on the east steps of the US Capitol, on March 4, 1861. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The same view in 2018:

 

Although today regarded as one of the greatest US presidents, in 1861 there was much uncertainty surrounding the impending presidency of Abraham Lincoln – several southern states had already succeeded, and more would do so in the coming months, and in just over a month the Confederacy would open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, thus beginning the Civil War.  During this time, the Capitol was under construction – other views of the inauguration show the fact that the dome was still very much incomplete, and this is often seen as a metaphor of the United States at this time – still very much a work in progress. Today, presidential inaugurations are held on the other side of the Capitol, and a lot has changed on the east front, as mentioned in the previous post about the Capitol.

US Capitol East Face, Washington DC

The east face of the US Capitol, as seen in 1846. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Daguerreotype Collection.

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The scene in 2018:

 

This is probably the oldest photo I’ve posted so far on this blog, and it illustrates just how many changes have been made to the US Capitol since it opened in 1800.  In fact, the Capitol of 1846 was very different from the original building – it was heavily damaged in 1814 when the British burned much of Washington.  By 1826, it had been reconstructed, this time with the central dome and the rotunda underneath it.

By 1850, construction began on the expansion of the building – the original legislative chambers were no longer big enough for the senators and representatives of the newly-formed states, so the present-day chambers were added on in new wings.  The original chambers are still there, and the location can still be seen in the 2012 photo, to the left and right of the dome.  The dome itself it probably the most obvious change – the newly-expanded building looked rather silly with such a short dome, so it was rebuilt between 1855 and 1866.

One difference that isn’t as noticeable is the front portico and the columns.  Although they appear to be the same, the entire east portico was expanded and rebuilt 33.5 feet outward, starting in 1958.  During this expansion, the columns themselves were replaced, and the original ones are now on display at the National Arboretum a little over 2 miles away.

Union Station, Washington DC

Union Station in Washington, DC, between 1910 and 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same building in 2012:

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Union Station was built in 1907, by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.  Since then, a lot has changed in the city, but the building has remained the same.  Neither the Pennsylvania nor the Baltimore & Ohio Railroads exist anymore, but the station is now a major Amtrak hub, and is the southern terminal of the Northeast Corridor, which stretches from DC to Boston, and is the busiest passenger rail line in the country.  The modes of transportation to the trains, however, has changed a lot in the past 100 years.  While the first photo shows trolleys unloading passengers at the station, they have been replaced by cars and buses in the 2012 photo.

Central Congregational Church, Boston

Central Congregational Church at the corner of Berkeley and Newbury in Boston, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same building, now the Church of the Covenant, in 2015:

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The church was built in 1867, one of the first in Boston’s then recently filled in Back Bay.  By the time the 1904 photo was taken, the Back Bay looked very much like it does today, albeit with fewer skyscrapers.  Still, though, many of the low-rise residential buildings from 1904 are still there, including a few visible in both of these photos.  At the time of its construction, the church was the tallest building in Boston, and retained its title until the construction of the Custom House Tower in 1915.

Boston Skyline

The view of Boston from the harbor, in the early 1930s. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The view in 2013:

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Boston’s skyline has changed a lot in the past 80 years, but there are still some recognizable buildings in both photos.  The Custom House Tower, the lonely skyscraper in the first photo, is still among the tallest buildings in downtown Boston, but it no longer stands out like it did from when it was built in 1915 until the 1970’s.  Part of the reason why Boston’s skyline got off to a slow start was because, for many years, the city had a 125 foot limit on any buildings; the Custom House was able to skirt these requirements because it was a federally-owned structure.  One of the other prominent building in the 1930’s photo is the John W. McCormack U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, another federally-owned building that is still standing, but barely visible in the 2013 photo.  The building was built between 1930 and 1933, which establishes the earliest that the photo could have been taken.