Market Street from State Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Market Street from State Street, on April 22, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

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Market Street in 2016:

Photographer William H. Thompson took the first photograph, along with many others, in the early 1900s, with the idea that they “would later be of historic interest.” A good portion of his photographs, which are available online through the Connecticut State Library, concentrate on the eastern part of the city. This neighborhood of about nine square blocks is bounded by Morgan Street to the north, State Street to the South, Main Street to the west, and the Connecticut River to the east, and his photographs provide, as he had intended, a valuable record of this section of Hartford. Unlike photographers like the Detroit Publishing Company, who focused on insurance buildings, monuments, and other prominent landmarks in Hartford, Thompson’s work captures the less glamorous, but far more historically interesting side of the city.

As it turned out, this entire section of the city was demolished in the late 1950s and early 1960s to build Constitution Plaza. Even when the 1906 photo was taken, this was not a particularly high-end section of the city, but it only got worse, especially after sustaining heavy damage from floods in the 1930s. By the 1950s, the working-class neighborhood was considered a slum, and any of the buildings that would have still been standing from the first photo were destroyed in the urban renewal project. Most of the streets themselves, including Market Street, are still here, but all of the low-rise residential and commercial development of the 19th century is gone, replaced with modern office buildings, hotels, and parking garages.

Central Row, Hartford, Connecticut

Facing west on Central Row toward Main Street, with the Old State House on the right, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Street scene

Central Row in 2016:

Like many other street scenes from early 20th century Hartford, not much is left here in this view. The mix of three and four-story 19th century commercial buildings on the left has given way to modern skyscrapers, and today the only one remaining is the Putnam Building near the center of the photo, which was built around 1860 and has somehow survived despite being overshadowed by skyscrapers on either side.

On the right side, the only building still standing is the Old State House, which was built in 1796 and was probably the oldest one in the first photo. The building next to it, partially visible on the far right, is the old post office, which was completed in the early 1880s and demolished in 1933. Beyond the State House, at the corner of Main and Pearl Streets, is the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance building, which stood there from 1872 until 1964.

Main Street from Central Row, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Main Street from in front of the Old State House, on November 25, 1903. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

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Main Street in 2016:

Aside from a few buildings several blocks away in the distance, none of the buildings from the first photo are still standing. The Old State House, which is just out of view to the right, is still there, but otherwise this section of Main Street has undergone a complete transformation since the early 20th century. The buildings on the left side of the first photo were known as Bankers’ Row, and included some of the city’s most prominent financial institutions. Just out of view to the left, at the corner of Main and Pearl Streets, was the Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance building. Next to it, starting on the left of the 1903 photo, was the 1850 State Bank building, the 1874 Phoenix National Bank building, and the 1870s Corning Building, home to the Connecticut Trust & Safe Deposit Company. On the other side of Asylum Street, near the center of the photo, is the Catlin Building, which was built in 1898 and, a few years after the first photo was taken, was purchased by the Hartford National Bank.

All of these buildings were gone by 1930, starting with the Phoenix National Bank, which was extensively rebuilt in 1906. The stone phoenix on top of the building dated back to 1827, when it was put atom the company’s first building, and it remained on top of the reconstructed building until its demolition in the early 1920s. The State Bank building was demolished around 1907 and replaced with a new building, which is also no longer standing, and the Catlin Building, just 13 years old, was replaced in 1911 with a new building that stood until 1990. The last survivor in the foreground of the first photo was the Corning Building, which was replaced in the late 1920s with the current building at the corner of Main and Asylum Streets.

The Linden, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking south on Main Street from the corner of Sheldon Street, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The scene in 2016:

This view shows some of the same buildings as an earlier post, just from a different angle a block away. The building in the foreground here is The Linden, a Romanesque-style apartment building that was completed in 1891. Most of the other buildings in the distance beyond it are still standing, including the Hotel Capitol, built in 1875 a block away, and the South Congregational Church, completed in 1827. The only building not still standing from the first photo is the South Baptist Church on the far right. It was built in 1854 and demolished to build the present Central Baptist Church. Today, most of the buildings in this scene are part of the Buckingham Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Congregational Church, Hartford, Connecticut

The South Congregational Church at the corner of Main and Buckingham Streets in Hartford, around 1911. Image from Some Old Time Meeting Houses of the Connecticut Valley (1911).

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The church in 2016:

Hartford’s Second Church of Christ was established in 1670 following a disagreement over how the First Church should be governed. The new congregation built their own meeting house at the corner of Main and Sheldon Streets in the southern part of downtown Hartford, and in 1754 they relocated to a new building at present-day Buckingham Street, where George Whitefield preached the first sermon in it.

The current church building was completed in 1827, with a blend of Federal and Greek Revival architecture that is very similar to the First Church building, which was built in 1807 about a third of a mile north of here on Main Street. Like the First Church, this historic building is still standing, with few changes to the exterior over the years. The nearly 350 year old congregation, now known as the South Congregational Church, still meets here, and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Main Street and Capitol Avenue, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking north on Main Street from near the corner of Capitol Avenue, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

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The scene in 2016:

Very little has changed along this section of Main Street, which is part of the Buckingham Square Historic District. It consists of a number of historic buildings from the late 1800s, including several in this view. On the left is the Hotel Capitol, which was built in 1875, and on the other side of Capitol Avenue, in the center of the photos, are two slightly newer buildings. The yellow brick one to the left was built in 1895 by hotel owners Gilbert and Louis Heublein, and the one on the right is the Linden, which was built in 1891 as an upscale apartment building. The only building from the first photo that is no longer standing is the South Baptist Church in the distance on the right. Built in 1854 at the corner of Main and Elm, it was demolished in the 1920s after the congregation merged with another Baptist church. They formed the Central Baptist Church, which opened the present-day building on the same location in 1926.