36 Mattoon Street, Springfield, Mass

The house at 36 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2018:

This house was built in 1888, at the same time as the matching duplex to the right, and these properties were among the last 19th century buildings to be completed on Mattoon Street. They were both owned by Lebbeus C. Smith, who rented this house to other tenants. One such resident here in 1901 was George Newell Bowers, an artist who was active in Springfield in the late 1800s and early 1900s. All three of the buildings visible in the first photo have been restored and are still standing today, and they are part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kingsbury House, Springfield, Mass

The Kingsbury House at 34 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2015:

This house on Mattoon Street was built in 1873, and it was originally owned by George O. Kingsbury, a real estate developer who built over 400 homes in Springfield. His house was one of four identical four-story brick townhouses, all of which were built by contractors A.B. Howe and C.C. Moulton for some of the city’s prominent residents. However, over time the buildings deteriorated, and three of the four were demolished in the early 1970s, leaving only the Kingsbury house still standing. The vacant lot to the left was filled in the 1980s, though, when a condominium building was built at 26-32 Mattoon Street. Although new, it was designed to match the Victorian architecture of the rest of the street, and today it blends in well with the historic homes around it.

John Rollings House, Springfield, Mass

The John Rollings House at 24 Mattoon Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The house in 2015:

This house is one of the new on Mattoon Street that was built as a detached single-family home. It was built in 1882, and for 23 years it was owned by John Edwin Rollings, an English-born carpet designer who worked for the Hartford Carpet Company. He was listed as living here in the 1900 census, along with two Scottish roomers and a housekeeper. Rollings remarried in 1901, but he died in 1905 at the age of 52. Today, the house is one of many historic Victorian homes on Mattoon Street, and it is part of the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Custom House Tower, Boston

The Custom House Tower in Boston, as seen from Quincy Market during its construction, around 1913-1915. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

As explained in this earlier post, Boston’s Custom House was built in 1849, with a convenient location near Long Wharf that easily allowed officials to inspect incoming cargoes. Boston’s role as major seaport grew over the years, though, and by the early 1900s it was necessary to expand it. Rather than demolishing the old building, though, they simply added a 32-story skyscraper on top of it. At the time, Boston had a 125 foot limit on skyscrapers in the city, but as a federal building the Custom House Tower was exempt. At 496 feet tall, it was nearly four times the maximum height, and it dominated the Boston skyline for many years, as this early 1930s view of the city shows.

The c.1913-1915 photo above shows the building during its construction, with the original 1849 structure clearly visible at its base. It would remain the tallest building in the city until the completion of the Prudential Tower nearly 50 years later, and it would be used by US Customs until 1986 when they moved into the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Federal Building. After a long period of vacancy, the historic tower is now a Marriott Hotel, and it is part of the Custom House District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old West Church, Boston

The Old West Church on Cambridge Street in Boston, probably in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The church in 2015:

Old West Church was established in 1737, as one of Boston’s many Congregational churches. This particular building was built in 1806, and was designed by prominent early American architect Asher Benjamin. It is architecturally very similar to one of Benjamin’s earlier Boston churches, the Charles Street Meeting House, which is still standing on the opposite side of Beacon Hill from here. The church closed in 1892, but the historic building was saved from demolition and put to a new use as a branch library for the Boston Public Library. It was one of the few buildings to survive the urban renewal project of the 1950s that destroyed most of the West End, and after the library closed in 1960 it was purchased by the United Methodist Church. The interior was restored to its original appearance and reopened in 1964, and today it remains in use as a Methodist church.

Church on the Hill, Lenox, Mass

The Church on the Hill, as seen from Main Street around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The church in 2015:

This historic church in Lenox was built 1805 as the town’s second meeting house, replacing a smaller church building that had been built on the same site around 1770. The building’s design is an excellent example of the traditional late 18th and early 19th century New England church architecture, and some sources, such as the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, credit Isaac Damon with its design. This seems doubtful, though. While Damon designed many churches in Western Massachusetts, he was still living in Weymouth when this church was built in 1805, and he would not begin his architectural career until he moved to Northampton six years later.

Regardless of who designed it, though, this picturesque church has long been popular among visitors to Lenox. The first photo was taken at a time when Lenox was a popular resort town, and for the many wealthy New York City residents who spent their summer here, the church would have contributed to the town’s appearance as a quaint New England village. Not much has changed for the church since then. Other than different windows and the addition of shutters, almost everything else on the exterior is the same from the first photo. Even the tree in the background to the left appears to be the same one. Based on its size in the first photo, it is probably at least as old as the church itself, if not older.