North Station, Boston

The original North Station on Causeway Street in Boston, around 1893-1899. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

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Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote about Boston as being “The Hub of the Solar System,” and although he was using the phrase sarcastically, the city would soon become the transportation hub of New England.  By the late 1800s, there were at least eight railroads that radiated outward from Boston, with each one having its own separate terminal.  However, these eight different stations were both inconvenient for passengers and also a poor use of valuable land.

Here in the northern part of the city, four different railroads each had their own stations within a several block radius: the Boston and Maine, Boston and Lowell, Eastern Railroad, and the Fitchburg Railroad.  All but the Boston and Maine had their passenger terminals in a row here along Causeway Street, so in 1893 the North Union Station opened here, consolidating all four railroads into one building.  It was designed by Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge, a prominent Boston architectural firm that would design South Station six years later, when the four south side terminals were likewise consolidated.

The original North Station was demolished in 1927 to build the Boston Garden, which also included a reconstructed station.  Boston Garden was home to the Boston Bruins from 1928 to 1995, and the Boston Celtics from 1946 to 1995, and the it was demolished in 1998, three years after the completion of the present-day TD Garden.  Today’s North Station is located directly underneath the TD Garden, although today none of the four railroads that opened the first station even exist anymore.  Amtrak has only one passenger route, the Downeaster, that stops here, although it is the terminal for four of the MBTA Commuter Rail lines.  Above the station, the Bruins and Celtics still play here, just behind the spot where the Boston Garden once stood.

Paul Revere House, Boston

The Paul Revere House in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The house in 2014:

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The first photo was taken sometime before the 1898 photo in this post, from a slightly different angle. It is the oldest building in downtown Boston, having been built around 1680. However, it changed in appearance over the centuries, and it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the house was restored to its original appearance. Today, the house is open for tours, and is a major landmark along the Freedom Trail.

Hull Street, Boston

Children keep cool next to a block of ice on Hull Street in Boston’s North End, sometime in the 1930s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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Hull Street in 2014:

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Not much has changed on Hull Street in the past 80 years – the neighborhood has become wealthier, but it remains predominantly Italian-American, as it was when the 1930s photo was taken.  At least some of the children in the photo were probably either Italian or Jewish, and it is likely that some of them have children or grandchildren who live in the area.  In fact, some of them might still be alive today, and who knows – perhaps one of them lives here on Hull Street, where they can now sit in air conditioned homes to stay cool, instead of hovering around a block of ice.  Everything else is the same, from the houses to the left, to the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground on the right, and the apartment building beyond it.  In fact, the curb stones are probably the same ones that the ice cart rested against.

Bethel Church, Boston

Bethel Church at North Square, Boston, around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The church in 2014:

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Built at North Square in 1833 by the Boston Port and Sailor’s Aid Society, this church provided Boston’s sailors with a place of worship, and also included a store to benefit sailors and their families. During the 19th century, several notable visitors attended the church, including Jenny Lind, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens.  In the 1880s, the building was sold to the Roman Catholic Church, and was reopened in 1890, after some exterior renovations as seen in the 2014 photo.

Henchman Street, Boston

Looking down Henchman Street in Boston’s North End, toward Commercial Street, in 1893. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The street in 2014:

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The brick building at the corner of Henchman and Commercial Streets hasn’t changed much, aside from the bricked-up storefront at the corner and a newly-added fifth floor.  The rest of the area is very different, though.  In the intervening years, the older wooden homes were replaced with early 20th century tenement buildings, and on Commercial Street the Atlantic Avenue Elevated Railway came and went.  The North End is very different today than it was 120 years ago, although much of the area retains its old street network, including the curiously-named Henchman Street, which today is a narrow one-way street connecting Charter Street with Commercial Street.  As an etymological aside, when this street was named, the word “henchman” did not carry the same negative connotations that it does today about people who carry out the bidding of an evil person.  Instead, a henchman was simply a member of a royal court – the negative usage didn’t come until the 19th century.

Thoreau House, Boston

The Thoreau House on Prince Street, near Salem Street, probably in the 1890s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The location in 2014:

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Although most commonly associated with Concord, some of Henry David Thoreau’s family was from Boston.  This house was in his family for several generations, starting with his great-great grandfather David Orrok in 1738.  After Thoreau’s grandfather died, ownership of the house was split among the eight children, including Henry David Thoreau’s father John Thoreau, although I don’t know that he or his children ever lived here.  In any case, the house, which was built in 1727, remained in the Thoreau family until 1881, and was demolished in 1896, a year before the completion of its present-day replacement, the Paul Revere School.