State Mutual Building, Worcester, Mass

The Second State Mutual Building, at the corner of Main and Maple Streets in Worcester, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

Built in 1897, this office building was the first skyscraper in Worcester, and it was originally home to the State Mutual Life Assurance Company, who relocated from their much smaller quarters just down the street at 240 Main Street. It was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, and demonstrates the Classical Revival design that was becoming popular in commercial buildings at the turn of the century. To some extent, it bears a resemblance to the taller Ames Building, completed just four years earlier in Boston. Unlike the load-bearing masonry of the Ames Building, though, the nine-story State Mutual Building had a steel frame, a development that had been introduced into skyscraper design at the end of the 19th century.

None of the surrounding buildings are still standing from the first photo. Over the past 100 years, he city has grown up around it, but the historic building is still standing, essentially unaltered from its original exterior appearance. The only major changes have been the building’s tenants; State Mutual moved out in 1957, and it was later home to Commerce Bank. Now known as the Commerce Building, it remains in use as an office building, with commercial storefronts on the first floor along the Main Street side of the building.

Travelers Insurance Company, Hartford, Connecticut

The headquarters of the Travelers Insurance Company at the corner of Prospect and Grove Streets, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

Standing here for over a century, the building in the first photo saw a variety of owners and uses over the years. The original section was built in the early 1820s as a mansion, with owners such as Oliver Wolcott, Jr., the US Secretary of the Treasury from 1795 to 1800 and Governor of Connecticut from 1817 to 1827; Isaac Toucey, another governor who also served as a senator, US Attorney General, and US Secretary of the Navy; and Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who served as Commissioner of the Patent Office.

In 1872, the building became the offices of the Travelers Insurance Company, one of many insurance companies that was founded in Hartford during the 19th century. They significantly enlarged the original building, but the company eventually outgrew it, and in 1906 they moved into a new building a block away, at the corner of Main and Grove Streets. A year later, they sold their old building to the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company. The new owners remained here until 1932, when they demolished it to make room for the present-day building that now stands here.

State and Main Streets, Springfield Mass

Foot’s Block at the southwest corner of State and Main Streets in Springfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

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The location around 1910. Image from View Book of Springfield (1910)

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The building in 2015:

The site now occupied by 1200 Main Street has had its share of historic buildings over the years. Thomas Bates built a tavern here in 1773, which operated well into the 19th century. On the surface, it was a popular stagecoach tavern that regularly entertained visiting dignitaries like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. However, it also operated clandestinely a stop on the Underground Railroad. It stood here until 1847, when it was moved a few lots west on State Street, as seen in this post, which gives more details about its history.

After the old tavern was moved in 1847, businessman Homer Foot built Foot’s Block, the building seen in the 1892 photo here.  It didn’t take long for Foot to find tenants for the commercial and office space in the building; in 1851,the newly-incorporated Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company rented office number 8 in the building as their original company office.  The company would later move to their own building a few blocks up Main Street, but by the first decade of the 20th century they had moved back to the corner of Main and State.  However, instead of renting a single suite as they had some 50 years earlier, they demolished Foot’s Block and replaced it with the 12-story tower that stands there today.

The building was completed in 1908, and at 125 feet it is the same height as the steeple of Old First Church.  In response to the construction of this building. and because of fears that the city would be overtaken by modern skyscrapers, the Massachusetts legislature set 125 feet as the height limit for any building in Springfield, a law that stood until 1970.  As a result, despite being over a century old it is still tied for 7th tallest building in the city.  MassMutual didn’t stay here for too long, however.  In 1927 with a continually-expanding company and little room in downtown, MassMutual moved to their present-day home a few miles up State Street in the Pine Point neighborhood.  Menawhile, the historic office building here at the corner of State and Main is now owned by MGM Springfield, who plan to preserve the building for MGM’s offices once the casino is built adjacent to it.

Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance, Hartford, Connecticut

The Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance building at the corner of Main and Pearl Streets in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same location in 2015:


These two views were taken near the scene on Main Street in this post; the building on the left in the 1905 photo there is the same one featured here.  Connecticut Mutual was founded in 1846, and like many other insurance companies it was headquartered in Hartford. The company built this Second Empire style building here in 1872 and expanded it in 1901, but over the years other alterations removed much of its original architectural value. Connecticut Mutual moved out of downtown in 1925, and the building was drastically altered again, becoming the home of Hartford National Bank and Trust. The building remained here until 1964, when it was demolished to build the present skyscraper. As for its original tenant, Connecticut Mutual, they no longer exist either; in 1995 they merged with MassMutual, and most of the company moved to the MassMutual headquarters in Springfield, Mass. Today, these two photographs offer a comparison of architectural styles – the ornate, eclectic Second Empire building of the 1870s in one scene, and the plain concrete and glass 1960s-era Brutalist architecture of the present-day scene.

Hartford Fire Insurance Company Building, Hartford Connecticut

The Hartford Fire Insurance Company Building, at the corner of Trumbull and Pearl Streets around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:


Hartford is often regarded as one of the world’s major insurance centers, and one of the first companies here was the Hartford Fire Insurance Company.  It was founded in 1810, and in 1869 the company built this building at the corner of Pearl and Trumbull.  The left-hand side of the building is clearly older; the addition to the right was probably put on in the late 1890s or early 1900s.  However, the company continued to grow, and in 1921 they moved to a new location in Hartford outside of downtown.  I don’t know when this building was demolished, but today a modern skyscraper sits on the site of the old insurance building.  The company is still located at the site they moved to in 1921, although they have changed names.  They are now The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., but they are better known as just The Hartford.

The street scene in front of the building is interesting; it captures the era in which automobiles and horse-drawn carriages shared the streets.  Here, a car takes a left turn from Trumbull onto Pearl Streets; the blurriness of the car and the woman in the white dress give the impression of a car taking a sharp turn at a decent speed while a pedestrian hurries across in front of it.  Behind the car is a carriage with “Besse’s Ice Cream” written on the side.  A 1904 ad from Printers’ Ink indicates that “Besse caters for Weddings, Parties, Banquets and gatherings of all kinds,” so perhaps the two men driving the carriage are heading to such an event.  The most unusual method of transportation in the photo, though, seems to be the thing that the two boys are riding in the right foreground – it looks like a wooden crate with four bicycle wheels attached to it.

Hartford Life Insurance Company, Hartford Connecticut

The Hartford Life Insurance Company building at the corner of Asylum and Ann Uccello Streets, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:


The building in the first photo was once the home of the Hartford Life Insurance Company, and it stood on the northeast corner of Asylum and Ann (today Ann Uccello, named after Hartford’s first female mayor) Streets.  Aside form housing insurance offices, the ground floor also featured a number of storefronts, with the Jas. Duggan & Co. situated at the corner.  The awning advertises what was apparently a house brand medicine of likely dubious quality, called Duggan’s Rheumatic Elixr.  Elsewhere in the windows, other advertisements are visible, including several for Moxie soda, which as mentioned in this post was sold as a product with medicinal benefits.

However, perhaps the most bizarre ad is the large banner just to the left of the corner, which reads “Your Mother gave You Sulphur and Molasses. Give Your Children Sulphur and Molasses Kisses.”  Apparently these ingredients were once commonly taken in the spring and fall as “blood purifiers,” a belief that was probably based in part on sulfur’s laxative effect.  It was, like many other drugs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (and, to an extent, today as well), marketed using all sorts of vague claims about benefiting the liver and kidneys, curing malaria and “blood troubles,” and in general “maintaining bodily vigor and health.”

Today, the site of the building is now part of the large block that makes up the XL Center, formerly the Hartford Civic Center.  The arena opened in 1975, and was home to the NHL Hartford Whalers before the team moved to Raleigh and became the Carolina Hurricanes.  Today, the facility is used by the Hartford Wolf Pack minor league hockey team, and is often used by the University of Connecticut basketball teams for important games.