Washburn House, Smith College, Northampton, Mass

Washburn House on the campus of Smith College in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

Washburn House in 2017:

Washburn House was built in 1878, and is among the oldest buildings on the Smith College campus. It was opened as a dormitory just three years after the school opened, and was named for former Massachusetts governor and senator William B. Washburn, who was serving as one of the school’s trustees at the time. Like many of the other 19th century buildings on the campus, it was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns, with a High Victorian Gothic style that matched the rest of the campus.

Today, more than 120 years after the first photo was taken, the exterior of Washburn House has not seen any significant changes. In the mid-20th century it was the Spanish House, and the interior had Spanish-themed decorations, along with Spanish names for the rooms. Initially conceived during the Spanish Civil War, when students were unable to study abroad in Spain, the Spanish House continued until 1955, when it reverted to a regular dormitory. It has remained in use ever since, as one of 35 residential buildings at Smith College, and it currently has a capacity of 43 students.

College Hall at Smith College, Northampton, Mass

College Hall on the campus of Smith College, seen from West Street in Northampton, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

College Hall in 2018:

Smith College was established in 1871, as part of the will of Sophia Smith (1796-1870), who left a large bequest to establish a women’s college in Northampton. This building, College Hall, was the first building on the campus, and it was completed in 1875, the same year that the school opened. It was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston-based architectural firm, and its design reflected the High Victorian Gothic style that was fashionable at the time. Smith College has just 14 students and six faculty members when it opened in the fall of 1875, and this building was used for almost everything except dormitory space. When completed, it included classrooms, a laboratory, a social hall, an art gallery, and administrative offices, although this soon began to change as the college grew.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, the college’s enrollment had increased significantly. The campus had grown accordingly, and included new residential buildings, a gymnasium, a music hall, an art gallery building, a science building, a chemistry building, and a new academic building. College Hall itself had also been expanded, with an 1890 addition that increased the capacity of the social hall – renamed Assembly Hall – from 500 to 900. In 1901, Assembly Hall was expanded again, by opening up the second floor above the hall and adding another 500 seats. However, this ended up being a temporary change. John M. Greene Hall, with its 2,225-seat auditorium, was completed in 1910, eliminating the need for such a large auditorium here in College Hall, and the second floor above Assembly Hall was subsequently reconstructed.

By the 1909-1910 school year, Smith College employed 104 faculty members and had 1,635 students, with an annual tuition that had just been increased from $100 to $150. At this point, College Hall was only used for the auditorium, some classrooms, and administrative offices, but over time this would continue to change as more buildings were added to the campus. College Hall would ultimately come to be used only for offices, resulting in significant changes to the interior in he process. However, the exterior appearance has remained well-preserved over 140 years after the building first opened, and today the only noticeable difference between these two photos is the lack of ivy on the brick walls of the building.

St. Stephen’s Church, Pittsfield, Mass

St. Stephen’s Church at the corner of East and Allen Streets in Pittsfield, around 1893. Image from Picturesque Berkshire (1893)

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The church in 2016:

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As seen in a previous post, St. Stephen’s Church is one of several historic 19th century buildings at Park Square, in the center of downtown Pittsfield. The Gothic Revival church was designed by Peabody and Stearns, a prominent Boston firm of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Completed in 1890, it replaced an earlier Episcopalian church that had been built on virtually the same spot in 1832, the same year as the old town on the left side of the scene. The town hall has survived to the present, but the old church had to be demolished to build Allen Street, seen in the center of the photos.

When the first photo was taken, St. Stephen’s Church was just a few years old. More than 120 years later, most of its surroundings, except for the old town hall, are different, but not much has changed with the church itself. The building underwent a restoration in 1999, which included repairs to the stained glass windows that had been designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast. The church is still in use as an active Episcopalian parish, and it is a contributing property in the Park Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Park Square, Pittsfield, Mass (3)

Facing north across Park Square in Pittsfield, around 1900. Image from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and Vicinity (1900).

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Park Square in 2016:

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It is hard to tell in the present-day photo because of the trees, but all three of these historic buildings on the north side of Park Square are still here today. In the center is Pittsfield’s old town hall, a plain brick Federal-style building that was completed in 1832. After Pittsfield became a city in 1891, it remained in use as city hall until 1968, when the city government moved a few blocks away to the old post office.

The old town hall is flanked on either side by stone Gothic Revival churches, both of which were designed by prominent architects. To the left is the First Church, which was designed by Leopold Eidlitz and built in 1853 on the site of an earlier 18th century church building. On the other side is St. Stephen’s Church, designed by the Boston firm of Peabody and Stearns. Although architecturally similar to the First Church, it is significantly newer, having been completed in 1889.

Today, all three of these buildings are well-preserved and relatively unchanged from when the first photo was taken. The two churches are both still in active use, and the old town hall is now an office building for the Berkshire Insurance Group. In 1975, the buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Park Square Historic District.

City Hall, Worcester, Mass

Worcester’s City Hall, seen from the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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City Hall in 2016:

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This site on the western end of the Common has been the center of Worcester’s government for many years. In colonial days, the meetinghouse was situated here, and in 1825, a plain Greek Revival style town hall was built here. After Worcester became a city in 1848, this building served as City Hall for another 50 years, until it was finally replaced in 1898 by a much larger and more elaborate building on the same spot.

Designed by the prominent Boston firm of Peabody & Stearns, it reflects the Renaissance Revival architecture that was gaining popularity in public buildings at the turn of the 20th century. City Hall bears some resemblance to the Boston Public Library, which had been completed several years earlier, but it also includes a 205-foot tower in the center of the Main Street facade.

City Hall was not quite 10 years old when the first photo was taken, and not much has changed to its exterior appearance since then. Nearly 120 years after its completion, it remains the fourth tallest building in the city, and it remains in use as the seat of the city government. Along with the Worcester Common, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Worcester Common, Worcester, Mass (2)

Another view of the Worcester Common, taken looking west from the corner of Church and Front Streets, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The Common in 2016:

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Taken from the northeast corner of the Common, on the other end of Church Street from an earlier post, this view shows the Soldiers’ Monument in the center, with City Hall to the left and Front Street to the right. The monument is the oldest feature in the first photo; it was dedicated in 1874 in honor of Worcester’s fallen soldiers and sailors of the Civil War, and was designed by prominent sculptor Randolph Rogers.

Along with the monument, several other buildings remain from the first photo, including the 1898 City Hall. On the far right, partially hidden by trees, are two 19th century commercial buildings. Both were designed by Fuller & Delano, a Worcester-based firm that was responsible for many other significant buildings in the city. The tall red brick building is the Chase Building, which was built in 1886 and, although the top floors were later altered, it is still standing. To the right of it, at the corner of Commercial Street, is the Ransom C. Taylor Block, built around 1897.

Today, the only particularly obvious change to this scene is the Worcester Plaza building in the distance. Originally built as the Worcester County National Bank Tower, it was completed in 1974, and is tied for the record of the tallest building in the city.