Burnham Tavern, Machias, Maine (1)

Burnham Tavern in Machias, seen on June 17, 1937. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The building in 2015:

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This building is so old that it was built in a different state.  Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820, and this tavern not only predates Maine statehood, but it also predates the American Revolution by several years.  Despite its remote location on the extreme eastern edge of the United States, it played a role early on in the Revolution, and it remains preserved as a historic landmark over 240 years later.

Burnham Tavern was built in 1770, just seven years after the area was first settled by English colonists.  Five years later, the American Revolution started, and the tavern was used to plan what became the second naval battle of the war.  In June 1775, a group of local militiamen led by Jeremiah O’Brien and Benjamin Foster captured the British schooner HMS Margaretta.  The Margaretta was renamed the Machias Liberty, and in August it and another captured vessel were commissioned as the first two ships in the Massachusetts navy.

In part because of its proximity to the British colonies in present-day Canada, Machias became a base of operations for privateers who captured British merchant vessels during the war.  In response, the British launched an attack in August 1777, with an invasion force of 123 marines and four of the most harmless-sounding ships in naval history: the HMS Rainbow, HMS Blonde, HMS Mermaid, and HMS Hope.  Undeterred by such intimidating ship names, local militiamen and Native American allies drove off the ships, and Machias survived the war without any additional attacks.

The building’s historic significance was already understood by the time the 1937 photo was taken, when it was documented for the Historic American Buildings Survey.  Not much has changed since then, down to the sign hanging on the right side of the building.  It retains much of its 18th century appearance, both on the outside and on the inside, and it is operated as a museum by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

First Church of Christ, Wethersfield, Connecticut

The First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, photographed on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The church in 2015:

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The First Church of Christ in Wethersfield is one of the oldest existing church buildings in the Connecticut River Valley.  Along with Hartford and Windsor, Wethersfield was one of the original three towns in the colony of Connecticut, and today its Old Wethersfield Historic District includes around 100 colonial-era buildings.  The church was built in 1761, and like many New England churches of the era the main entrance is on the side of the building, with the pews facing the left-hand side of the building instead of the back.  Its steeple also reflects mid-18th century tastes, and it is nearly identical to the one on Old North Church in Boston.

Wethersfield is located along two of the three main routes of the old Boston Post Road, which connected New York and Boston, so over the years this church has had several notable visitors, including future presidents George Washington, who attended a service here on May 20, 1781, and John Adams, who climbed the steeple in 1774 while on his way to the First Continental Congress.  Washington’s visit was part of a five day stay in Wethersfield, when he met with French General Rochambeau at the nearby Joseph Webb House to plan the Siege of Yorktown.

At first glance, the church doesn’t appear to have changed much in the past 75 years, but there are a few differences.  In the 1880s, the church was renovated to bring it more in line with Victorian-era styles, which included long stained glass windows that extended almost from the ground to the roofline.  The building is partially hidden by trees in both photos, but some of the windows are visible in the 1940 photo.  In the early 1970s, the tall Victorian windows were removed as part of an extensive restoration that returned the building to its original 1761 appearance, so today the historic church doesn’t look much different from when John Adams stopped by on his way to Philadelphia, or when George Washington planned the final battle of the American Revolution across the street.

Samuel Hartwell House, Lincoln, Mass.

The Samuel Hartwell House, in Lincoln, Mass, in 1961. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

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The scene in 2013:

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Located along the Battle Road in the Minuteman National Historical Park, the Samuel Hartwell House was buit in the 1700’s, and was occupied by Samuel Hartwell during the battles of Lexington and Concord, when the British forces marched to and from Concord past the house.  The house was used as a restaurant from 1929 until 1968, when it burned.  All that remained was the central chimney and the cellarhole; the National Park Service later built the frame and roof in the style of the original building.