Rockingham Meeting House, Rockingham Vermont

The Rockingham Meeting House around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

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The meeting house in 2015:

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The Rockingham Meeting House is one of the two oldest existing church buildings in Vermont. It is so old, in fact, that it was not built in the United States – construction began in 1787, four years before Vermont became a state. At the time, Vermont was an independent republic, and although the citizens overwhelmingly favored joining the Union, there were issues over conflicting land claims between New York and New Hampshire. By the time the building was completed in 1801, however, Vermont had since joined as the 14th state.

Although it was built at the end of the 18th century, its architecture is fairly conservative, and it looks more like meeting houses from the first half of the century.  Probably the most conspicuous difference between it and most other churches built in the late 18th and early 19th century is its lack of a steeple.  Many early 18th century churches did not have steeples, although by the time the Rockingham Meeting House was built they were fairly commonplace.  Another difference is the interior layout; the main entrance, as seen in this view, is located in the middle of the long side of the building, and inside the pulpit is directly opposite it.  Again, this was common in the mid 18th century, but by the start of the 19th century most churches were being built with the central aisle running the length of the building.

Like many other meeting houses of the era, this building was used for both church services and town meetings, and at the time of its construction it was in the center of the main village in the town of Rockingham.  However, as time went on, and as industry replaced farming as the livelihood for many residents of the town, the village of Bellows Falls along the Connecticut River became Rockingham’s center of population.  Church services here ended in 1839, and town meetings continued until 1869.  After that, the building was mostly vacant until the early 20th century, when the historical significance of the building came to be appreciated.  The first photo was probably taken around the time of its restoration 1907.  Overall, the building is one of the best-preserved colonial meeting houses in New England, in part because of its relatively brief use as a church and meeting house.  Today, the building is owned by the town of Rockingham, and is rented out for weddings and other functions.  However, because the building was never really updated or renovated since its completion, neither electricity nor heat was ever installed, so it is only usable in the summer months.

Baxter Memorial Library, Rutland Vermont

The H. H. Baxter Memorial Library at the corner of Grove and Library Streets in Rutland, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

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The building in 2015:

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The Baxter Memorial Library was built in 1889 in honor of Horace Henry Baxter, a businessman who was involved in railroads as well as the Rutland marble business.  He served from 1859 to 1861 as the Adjutant General of the Vermont Militia, and later in the decade he moved to New York City, where he served as the president of the New York Central Railroad from 1867 to 1869, and was on the railroad’s board of directors from 1869 until his death in 1884.  Five years later, the library opened with funds donated by his family.  Today, the building is still there, and the only major difference is the retaining wall, which was removed in the 1950s, and the stones were used to make an addition on the other side of the building.  Otherwise, the only significant change is its use – today, it is the Rutland Jewish Center, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Merchants Row, Rutland Vermont

Looking north on Merchants Row from Center Street in Rutland, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

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Merchants Row in 2015:

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Aside from a conspicuous lack of horse-drawn carriages in the 2015 scene, this view of Merchants Row hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past 111 years.  The only prominent building from 1904 that doesn’t survive today is the one on the far right, which was destroyed along with several other buildings in the 1906 fire.  Following the fire, the current building was built on the site.  Otherwise, all of the other buildings are still around today, although some have been altered.  The left side of the street is particularly well-preserved, with many of the buildings dating to the 1860s.  The oldest of these is probably the Ripley Bank Building, which was built before 1864.  Just beyond it is the ornate facade of the Rutland Opera House, which was built in 1881 after the original burned in 1875.  Today the entire area here is part of the Rutland Downtown Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Center Street, Rutland Vermont (2)

Another view looking east on Center Street from Merchants Row in Rutland, taken around 1907-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

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Center Street in 2015:

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These photos were taken from nearly the same location as the ones in this post, but the historic photo here shows the north side of Center Street as it appeared in the years following the 1906 fire that destroyed most of the left-hand side of this scene.  Since the first photo was taken, though, not much has changed.  Some of the buildings have been altered, such as the Rutland Savings Bank building on the far right, but otherwise all of the prominent buildings from the early 20th century are still there today, including the Mead Building on the left, which is situated at the corner of Center Street and Merchants Row and replaced the earlier Bates House Hotel that had been destroyed in the fire.  Today, the entire area is part of the Rutland Downtown Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Center Street, Rutland Vermont (1)

Looking east on Center Street from Merchants Row in Rutland, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company collection.

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Center Street in 2015:

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This view of Center Street has seen plenty of changes over the years, but some of the original buildings are still there.  The most obvious one is probably the Rutland Savings Bank building on the far right.  It was built in the 1860s, but was substantially renovated in the 1950s.  Most of its 19th century architectural detail was lost during this renovation, including the mansard roof, which was replaced with a fourth floor, and the pillared entrance, which was replaced with marble along the entire first floor of the building.

Across the street, several other 19th century buildings survive.  The long, three story commercial blocks in the center date to the 1860s (left) and 1880s (right), and further up the hill is the red brick steeple of the 1872 First Baptist Church.  However, none of the buildings in the left foreground of the first photo survive; these buildings were destroyed in a massive fire in February 1906, just a year or two after the photo was taken.  The losses included the Bates House Hotel on the far left, which was replaced with the present-day building in 1907.  The other two buildings on the left-hand side of the 2015 photo were also built in the immediate aftermath of the fire, in 1906-1907.

Stockbridge Street, Springfield Mass

Looking east on Stockbridge Street toward Main Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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Stockbridge Street in 2015:

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Like many other places in downtown Springfield, Stockbridge Street was once lined with three story brick commercial blocks, much like the ones seen in the 1930s view of the street.  This style appeared throughout the downtown area in the first half of the 19th century, when Springfield began growing into a major commercial and industrial center.  Early views of Court Square, Main Street, and other areas in downtown all feature plenty of examples of these buildings, but today only a few are left.  In the immediate downtown area, the last two are the Byers Block on Court Square, and the Guenther & Handel’s Block in this scene.

The Guenther & Handel’s Block was built in 1845, and as the 1930s photo shows, it was part of a row of similar buildings.  For many years, the ground floor was a grocery store and delicatessen, and in 1913 was sold to Emil Guenther and Richard Handel, who ran a grocery store under their names.  By the time the first photo was taken, both men had died, but the business was run by the family until 1972.  Today, all of the other mid-19th century buildings on the street are gone, and Guenther & Handel’s Block is wedged between an ornate early 20th century apartment building and a drab, nondescript late 20th century commercial building.