Corner of Boylston and Gloucester Streets, Boston

The building on Boylston Street at the corner of Gloucester Street in the Back Bay, seen on April 5, 1912. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The building in 2015:

This building is one of many surviving examples of early 20th century commercial buildings that line the north side of Boylston Street in the Back Bay. It was built in 1907, and designed by noted Boston architect firm Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, and according to the 1908 city atlas it was owned by Charles F. Adams 2nd, who was likely Charles Francis Adams, Jr., the great-grandson of John Adams, grandson of John Quincy Adams.  It was rented out to to several businesses, and like many other commercial storefronts along Boylston Street at the time, it had a car showroom on the first floor.  Based on the lettering on the windows, the dealership sold cars by E-M-F, American Underslung, and Knox, three early car manufacturers that would all be out of business by 1914.  The middle floor of the building was vacant when the 1912 photo was taken, but the top floor was apparently the home of Sheafe’s Dancing Academy.

Today, the distinctive building is still standing, although there have been some alterations to the original design.  The first floor storefronts have since been renovated, and is now Whiskey’s Steakhouse.  The terra cotta and oriel windows of the second and third floors are essentially unchanged, but the most significant exterior change has been the brick fourth floor, which was added to the original building at some point later in the 20th century.

Boylston Street, Boston

The view looking east on Boylston Street from just west of Exeter Street, on July 19, 1912. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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Boylston Street in 2015:

These photos were taken a little over a block away from where the the photos in the previous post were taken, and they show Boylston Street in the area just west of Copley Square.  The first photo was taken during construction of the Boylston Street Subway, which was completed in 1914 and allowed trolleys, such as the one seen in the photo, to travel under Boylston Street along the present-day Green Line.

Most of the older brownstone buildings seen on Boylston Street in the first photo have since been demolished, but many of the newer commercial buildings are still standing today.  These include, on the left side of the street, the small white building, which was built around 1908, and the larger red brick building beyond it.  In the distance is the tower of the New Old South Church, which was rebuilt in 1940 and today is partially hidden in this view.

On the right-hand side of the street, the McKim Building of the Boston Public Library can be seen in the distance; it was completed in 1895, and is still the main branch of the Boston Public Library today.  However, the library has long since outgrown the original building, so today the circulating collections are housed in the much more modern-looking Johnson Building, which was completed in 1972 and can be seen in the right center of the photo.  On the far right of both photos is the Hotel Lenox, which was built around 1901 and is still a hotel today, with few changes to the building’s exterior appearance.

One item of interest from the first photo is the trolley to the right.  It is overflowing with passengers, some of whom appear to be hanging on to the outside of the car.  There is a poster on the front of the car that reads “Baseball To-day, American League,” so these passengers were probably heading to Fenway Park, which had opened just a few months earlier.  On this particular day, the Red Sox were playing a doubleheader against the White Sox; Boston would end up winning both games, and later in the season they defeated the New York Giants in the World Series to win the team’s second championship title.  Over a century later, many Red Sox fans still take this route to Fenway Park, although today the trolleys run under the street in the tunnel that was being built in the first photo.

Copley Square, Boston (2)

Copley Square as seen from in front of the New Old South Church in Boston, in 1893. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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Copley Square in 2015:

The first photo shows Copley Square as it appeared only about 20 years after this section of Boston was developed.  In the second half of the 19th century, the Back Bay was transformed from a polluted marsh to one of the city’s premier neighborhoods.  Many of the city’s important cultural institutions moved here, with many of them surrounding the Copley Square area, including the New Old South Church on the left, the Trinity Church in the center, and the Museum of Fine Arts on the right.  Also under construction, but just out of view of the camera on the right, was the main branch of the Boston Public Library.

Today, the Copley Square area has seen some significant changes from the 19th century.  It remains the focal point of the Back Bay, but what started as neighborhoods of Victorian rowhouses evolved into low-rise commercial buildings, and eventually modern skyscrapers, especially in the area south of Boylston Street.  The two churches from the 1893 photo are still standing, but all of the other buildings are gone, including the Museum of Fine Arts, which moved to a larger facility further down Huntington Avenue in the early 1900s.  The old building was demolished, and replaced in 1912 with the Copley Plaza Hotel, which still stands today.

The most prominent new building in the 2015 scene is the John Hancock Tower, which was completed in 1976 and is the tallest building in New England.  Beyond it, near the center of the photo, is the 1947 Berkeley Building, which is also known as the Old John Hancock Building.  Together, these skyscrapers, along with the ones seen facing the other direction in this post, make up Boston’s High Spine, a string of skyscrapers extending west from downtown Boston, roughly along the Boylston Street and the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Park Street Subway Station, Boston (4)

Another view of the Park Street station on the Tremont Street Subway, taken on July 31, 1897. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The station in 2015:

The first photo shows the interior of Park Street station as it appeared about a month before it opened as one of the first two subway stations in the United States.  It was taken from around the same location as the one in the previous post, just facing the opposite direction.  These two photos, taken nearly 120 years apart, show some of the changes that have taken place over the years inside this historic station.  The original 1897 trolley platforms soon became inadequate for the number of passengers that used the station, so from 1914 to 1915 they were extended to the south, which is why the station appears much larger in the 2015 photo.  Other changes have included removing the two stairwells that can be seen at the southern end of the platforms in the first photo; today, the station can only be accessed through the entrances closest to Park Street.

Not everything has changed, though.  One of the defining features of the Green Line is that it still runs trolleys rather than conventional rapid transit subway cars like those on the other three subway lines.  As a result, the station platforms are level with the tracks, and there is no third rail, with power instead being supplied by overhead wires.  Many of the destinations haven’t changed either.  Although Boston’s trolley network is significantly smaller than it was in 1897, many of the places on the sign in the first photo can still be accessed from here, including the Back Bay, Copley Square, Brookline, Allston, Brighton, and Newton.

Park Street Subway Station, Boston (3)

The outbound platform at the Park Street station in Boston, on August 5, 1901. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The same station platform in 2015:

As mentioned in previous posts showing the interior of Park Street Station here and here, Park Street was one of the first two subway stations in the country, along with Boylston about a quarter mile to the south, when it opened in 1897.  The photos in those two posts show the station before it opened, but this 1901 photo here is interesting because it gives a glimpse into the day-to-day activity inside the station.  Because of the long exposure time, most of the figures are blurred, except for the woman seated on the bench in the foreground.  Another fairly clear figure is the man standing at the entrance in the distance.  In the years before turnstiles, passengers would purchase a ticket at one of the kiosks, and then give the ticket to the attendant at the gate, similar to the way movie theaters operate.  There were also separate entrances for entering and exiting passengers, hence the “This Is Not An Exit” sign above the gate.

Park Street station, along with the rest of the Tremont Street Subway, was originally designed for trolley cars rather than rapid transit subway cars, and this distinction can still be seen today in the trolleys that run on the Green Line, as opposed to the more conventional subway cars on the other three lines.  However, from 1901 to 1908, the tunnel was also used by the Boston Elevated Railway, so the station platforms had to be retrofitted to accommodate the higher subway cars, which is why the first photo shows wooden platforms along the track.  During this time, these cars used the two outer tracks in the station, while trolleys used the inner two tracks.  In 1908, the Boston Elevated Railway was rerouted through its own tunnel under Washington Street, which today forms the downtown section of the Orange Line.

A few years later, in 1912, the Boston Elevated Railway built another subway line through Park Street, forming what is now the Red Line.  Separate platforms were built underneath the existing station, with stairs now located around the spot where the passengers were waiting on the benches in the 1901 photo.  Other significant changes to the station over the years have included lengthening the Green Line platforms, as well as some of the more cosmetic changes that are seen in the 2015 photo, such as tiles on the floor and sheet metal covering the original columns.

Beacon and Park Streets, Boston

Looking east on Beacon Street from in front of the State House, sometime around 1885. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

Despite all of the changes in downtown Boston during the past 130 years, there are several buildings from the first photo that survive today.  The building at the corner doesn’t bear much resemblance to its former self, but it is the same one that is seen in the first photo.  It was built in 1804 for merchant Thomas Amory Jr., and was one of several houses on Park Street that were designed by Charles Bulfinch.  The home occupies a prominent position next to the Boston Common and across the street from the Massachusetts State House, but the cost for the massive house ruined Amory’s finances, and he had to sell it in 1807.

After Amory sold it, the house was divided into four different units, which were rented to some of Boston’s most prominent citizens.  Senator and Cabinet member Samuel Dexter lived here, and Christopher Gore took advantage of the house’s proximity to the State House and lived here while serving as governor in 1809 and 1810.  In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette stayed here during his tour of the United States, and Boston Public Library founder George Ticknor lived on the Park Street side of the house from 1830 until his death in 1871.  Around 1885, the house was extensively renovated on the exterior, with iron storefronts replacing the original first floor windows, oriel windows on the third and fourth floors, and three dormers on the right-hand side of the roof.  Today, several different businesses occupy the first floor storefronts, including Fox 25 News in the corner storefront.

The other historic building that has survived from the first photo is the Claflin Building, located just beyond the Amory-Ticknor House on Beacon Street.  It was completed in 1884, and is one of architect William Gibbons Preston’s several surviving buildings in Boston, along with the Armory of the First Corps of Cadets and the Museum of Natural History building.  The Claflin Building was built for the newly-founded Boston University, who used the upper floors for school offices and rented the first floor storefronts.  The school owned the building until the 1940s, when it moved to its present campus on Commonwealth Avenue, and today it has been renovated into condominiums.