Boston and Maine Station, Boston

The Boston and Maine Railroad station at Haymarket Square in Boston, around 1894. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The Boston City Hospital Relief Station, on the site of the former railroad station in 1905. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The location in 2015:

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Of the eight major railroads that served Boston in the late 1800s, the Boston and Maine came the closest to the downtown area, with its depot at Haymarket Square. It was opened in 1845, and over the years Boston and Maine became the dominant railroad in northern New England, with many of its lines converging here.  However, because there were four different railroads that had their own stations within a few blocks of here, the companies built North Station in 1893, about 300 yards up Canal Street from here.

The old station had been built in the early years of railroad travel, and it stood until 1897, when it was demolished to make way for a new type of rail travel.  Boston’s Tremont Street Subway was the first subway tunnel in the country, and the northern entrance of the tunnel was built on the site of the station.  From here, the tracks ran along the surface between Canal and Haverhill Streets, where the station platforms used to be.  The only new building on the site was the Boston City Hospital Relief Station, as seen in the 1905 photo.  It was built in 1902 as a branch of the Boston City Hospital, in order to provide emergency services in the downtown area, and it stood until the early 1960s.

Today, there isn’t much left from either of the first two photos.  A few of the buildings on Canal Street are still standing, such as the one on the far left in both the 1891 and 1905 photos.  It is barely visible on the left of the 2015 photo, above the bus in the foreground.  Haymarket Square itself is completely changed, though, through a series of urban renewal projects in the 20th century.  To the left is a parking garage, with the Haymarket Square subway station underneath it.  On the right-hand side of the photo, the elevated Central Artery once passed through here.  Built in the 1950s, it cut a swath through downtown Boston until 2003, when the highway was rerouted through the Tip O’Neill Tunnel as part of the Big Dig.  The building under construction in the background is being built on land that the Central Artery once passed through.

Railroad Station, Laconia, NH

The Laconia Passenger Station, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The station in 2015:

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Because railroads were the dominant form of transportation in the second half of the 19th century, a city’s railroad station was usually the first thing that visitors saw. As such, it was important to make a good first impression, so in 1892 Laconia’s previously humble railroad station was replaced by a far larger, more impressive one.  It was designed by Bradford Gilbert, who drew heavily on the Romanesque style that had been made popular by recently-deceased architect Henry Hobson Richardson.  In fact, the Laconia station bears some resemblance to the old Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts, which had been built three years earlier by Richardson’s successors at Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge.

The station was owned by the Boston and Maine Railroad, and it was located on the main route to Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains.  However, with the decline of passenger rail by the mid 20th century, the station eventually closed.  Boston and Maine ran their last passenger train through here in January 1965, and since then the building has been used for a variety of purposes, from a police station and courthouse to offices and stores.  Today, it relatively unaltered from its appearance over a century ago, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Railroad Depot, Plymouth NH

The Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad station at the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company.

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The same location in 2015:

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This railroad station in Plymouth would have been a busy place at the turn of the last century.  Aside from local residents, passengers would have included students at the Plymouth Normal School, as well as travelers to the White Mountains.  Located at the southern end of the White Mountains, any visitor from the south would have passed through here, and many stayed at the Pemigewasset House, the large building in the center of the photo.  The hotel was owned by the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad, with the depot conveniently built into the basement.  The daily northbound and southbound trains that passed through here around noon would stop for a half hour so passengers could enjoy a lunch at the restaurant in the hotel, which was also owned by the railroad.

The Pemigewasset House burned in 1909, taking the old railroad depot with it.  The hotel was rebuilt, but further up the hill and away from the tracks.  The depot was rebuilt here as a stand-alone building, and it survives to this day, in the center of the photo partially hidden by trees.  In the first photo, the railroad was owned by the Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad, but was operated by the Boston & Maine Railroad, who leased the BC & M in 1895 until merging with it in 1919.  Two Boston & Maine passenger cars can be seen to the left, with a number of other rail cars in the distance beyond the station.

Passenger rail service to Plymouth was eliminated in the mid 20th century, and today the old railroad station is a senior center.  The only passenger trains that run now are scenic trains, including a fall foliage train that, like its predecessors, stops in Plymouth for lunch.  The Boston & Maine Railroad hasn’t existed as an independent railroad since 1983, but in the 2015 photo an old B&M boxcar sits on a side track, contrasting with the B&M coaches in the first photo.  Most of it has been repainted, but the old railroad’s light blue colors can still be seen amid the rust on the back of the boxcar.