Calvinist Church, Worcester, Mass

Looking south along Main Street from near School Street in Worcester, with a view of the Calvinist Church building, sometime between 1865 and 1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.


The scene in 2016:

Organized in 1820 after a split with the First Church, the members of the Calvinist Church met in different locations in Worcester until 1825, when this building was completed on Main Street, just North of George Street. It was built on the property of Daniel Waldo, a prominent local merchant who provided the land and paid the $14,000 construction costs. Architecturally, it fit in with the popular Greek Revival design of New England churches at the time, which most prominently included a portico with a triangular pediment, supported by large pillars.

Although located in the northern part of downtown Worcester, as the city grew this area became more commercially developed, as the first photo shows. Because of this, in 1885 the church moved into a new building a few blocks north of here, and the old 1825 building was subsequently demolished.

Today, the only building left from the first photo is the Elwood Adams Block, just to the right of the church. It was built in 1831 as a two and a half story commercial building, similar to the one next to it in the first photo, but in 1865 it was extensively renovated, adding two floors and an Italianate-style facade. At some point after the photo was taken, several other historic buildings were added to this scene. On the far right is the 1885 Armsby Block, and further down Main Street on the left side of the photo is the 1905 Thule Building. Along with the much older Elwood Adams Block, these buildings are all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Worcester County Courthouse, Worcester, Mass

The old Worcester County Courthouse at the corner of Main and Highland Streets in Worcester, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

Geographically, Worcester County is the largest of the 14 counties in Massachusetts, and for many years this building served as the county courthouse. It has been expanded several times over the years, but the original section is the left side of the building. Completed in 1845, it was designed by architect Ammi B. Young, a Greek Revival architect whose other works included the old Vermont State House, the Custom House in Boston, and part of the US Treasury Building in Washington, DC.

When it was first built, the courthouse had a different front, with a typical portico supported by six granite pillars. These were removed in 1897, during a major addition that included remodeling the facade of the original building and expanding it north, to the right from this view. The current front entrance was added at this point, with its four pillars and the phrase “Obedience to Law is Liberty” carved above them. On the right side of the building, this section matches the design of the reconstructed 1845 building, giving the building a symmetrical Main Street facade.

The courthouse remained in use for nearly a century after the first photo was taken, but by the early 2000s it was replaced with the current courthouse several blocks south of here on Main Street. After years on the market, the building was sold to a private developer in 2015, who plans to preserve it and put it to a new use. From the exterior, not much has changed with the building itself from this angle, although some of its surroundings have. The statue in the first photo, honoring Civil War general Charles Devens, is missing in the 2016 scene, but it is still at the courthouse, having been moved just around the corner and out of view to the right.

Aside from the statue, the only other significant change is the structure in the foreground. Part of the Ernest A. Johnson Tunnel, it was built in the 1950s by prominent Norwegian civil engineer Ole Singstad, who at this point in his career has already been responsible for such projects as the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in New York City. Substantially easier than building under the Hudson River, this project involved bypassing the congested Lincoln Square to provide a direct underground connection between Main and Salisbury Streets. It is still used today, carrying southbound traffic into downtown Worcester and merging onto Main Street just south of the old courthouse.

Central Congregational Church, Worcester, Mass

Central Congregational Church, at the corner of Grove Street and Institute Road in Worcester, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:


This church is one of many historic Romanesque style buildings in the city of Worcester, and like many of the others it was designed by Stephen C. Earle, a local architect who designed public buildings in Worcester and across New England. The church congregation that occupied this building was originally established in 1820, but as the city grew in the second half of the 19th century, they sought to move out of the rapidly developing commercial center.

Located just north of downtown at Wheaton Square, construction of the church began in 1884, and was completed the following year. Its design included many elements that were found in Romanesque churches of the era. Its exterior walls were made of Longmeadow brownstone, and it had an asymmetrical design that included a tower plus smaller turrets, along with plenty of arches and stained glass windows. Further down Grove Street in the first photo is the Worcester National Guard Armory. This castle-like building was completed a few years after the church, and it similarly features Romanesque architecture. Also visible in the distance are two other historic Romanesque buildings of the same era. Just beyond the church, near the corner of Grove and Salisbury Streets, is the 1891 Worcester Historical Society building, and just to the left of the Armory is the 1889 North High School.

Today, all four of these late 19th century buildings are still standing here at Wheaton Square, and aside from the tree partially blocking the view of the church, almost nothing has changed in this scene over the past 110 years. Because of this, all four are listed as contributing properties in the Institutional District, a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places that encompasses much of the surrounding neighborhood.

Main Street from Sheldon Street, Hartford, Connecticut

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

Main St. south of Arch

Main Street in 2016:

When the first photo was taken, this section of Main Street just south of downtown Hartford was still an assortment of low-rise brick commercial buildings, most of which probably dated back to the mid 19th century. However, this would soon change. Already, larger buildings were rising in the distance, including the Travelers Insurance building, partially visible in the distant center of the first photo. Also building around the same time was the Wadsworth Atheneum, hidden from view at this angle but located on the right side of Main Street. This museum opened in 1844, but by the turn of the century they were looking to expand their building.

At the same time that these buildings were being built, though, others were coming down. The first photo was taken shortly before St. John’s Episcopal Church, seen in the right center of the photo, was demolished to make way for the Atheneum expansion. The commercial buildings further to the right would soon disappear, too. By 1915 they would be demolished to build the Municipal Building, located at the corner of Main and Arch Streets.

Today, not much is left from the first photo. The Atheneum is still there, and is partially visible behind the trees, and the only other surviving landmark is the Travelers Insurance building, which was greatly expanded in 1919 to include the tower in the center of the 2016 scene. The only other prominent historic building in this scene is the Municipal Building, which was completed about 10 years after the first photo was taken and still functions as Hartford’s city hall a century later.

Sheldon Street from Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking east on Sheldon Street from Main Street, on April 18, 1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

Sheldon St. east of Main

Sheldon Street in 2016:

Located in the southern part of downtown Hartford, Sheldon Street has undergone some significant changes in the past century. Most of the buildings from the first photo are late 19th century brick commercial buildings, and none of them are still standing today. Most would have been gone by the 1950s, when two major public buildings were constructed on either side of the street. On the left is the Hartford Public Library, which was built in 1957 and extensively renovated in 2007, and on the right is the Abraham A. Ribicoff Federal Building, which was completed in 1963 and houses the U.S. District Court along with other federal offices.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hartford, Connecticut

St. John’s Episcopal Church on Main Street in Hartford, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

St. John's Episcopal Church

The scene in 2016:

When this church building was completed in 1842, it was one of two Episcopalian churches along Main Street in downtown Hartford, and it was designed by architect Henry Austin in the Gothic Revival style that was popular at the time. The same style of architecture can be seen today in the Wadsworth Atheneum, which was completed just north of here only two years later.

The congregation remained here for over 60 years, but by the early 20th century this section of Main Street had become predominantly commercial, and the property was being eyed for an expansion of the Atheneum. The church sold the property in 1905 and moved to a new location in West Hartford, and the old building was demolished to make way for the addition. Today, the site of the church is now partially occupied by a small park, located between the Atheneum on the left and the Hartford Municipal Building, which is just out of view to the right.