There’s something intriguing about old photographs. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been drawn to them. Even in elementary school, the one book that I probably checked out of the library more than any other was a book on our town’s history. It fascinated me to see what what the familiar scenes around town looked like 50, 100, or 150 years earlier, and that has carried through to today. A few years ago, I began going through historic photos from around New England and the Northeast and revisiting those sites today, doing my best to literally stand in the footsteps of the original photographers and recreate the scenes.
The different then and now scenes on Lost New England represent a wide variety of change – or lack thereof – over the past century or more. In some places, the original scene is completely gone today; in other places, it seems as though the only change is the color of the photograph. Some scenes show the positive effects of urban renewal in a previously blighted area; others serve as a powerful reminder of the need for historic preservation. Although each combination of old and new photos only focuses on a single location, in many cases they reveal something of how our society in general has changed. In some, it is as obvious as changes in clothing styles or transportation methods; in others, it could be something as subtle as a church being replaced by a parking lot.
Because each scene has some sort of story behind it, I try to provide a little information about the people, buildings, organizations, and neighborhoods that are featured in the photos. The stark contrast between two photos may be telling enough, but it is the background explanation that really allows a scene to be appreciated in its historical context. Through my research, I have learned a lot about the local history of different parts of the Northeast, and I have tried to convey some of that in each post.
For the historic photos, I have relied on a number of sources, including the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, New York Public Library, and the Springfield Preservation Trust. In addition, I have used images from a number of public domain books, many of which were made available through Internet Archive. Many, but not all of the historic images used on Lost New England are in the public domain; this includes all of the images from pre-1923 books and to the best of my knowledge all of the Library of Congress photos. Some photographs, including the Leslie Jones Collection through the Boston Public Library, are still under copyright protection, and are used under an appropriate Creative Commons license. All other content on this site, including modern photos and text, is Ⓒ 2004-2017, Derek Strahan, All Rights Reserved.