Quincy Mansion, Quincy, Massachusetts

The Quincy Mansion on East Elm Avenue in Quincy, in 1916. Image courtesy of the Thomas Crane Public Library.

The same scene in 2023:

The house on the right side of the top photo was known as the Quincy Mansion, and it stood on the modern-day campus of Eastern Nazarene College in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy. This area was the home of many different members of the prominent Quincy family, including Josiah Quincy I (1710-1784), whose house still stands a few blocks away from here. He was the first in a long line of Josiah Quincys, which included his grandson Josiah Quincy III (1772-1864), who served as mayor of Boston in the 1820s, and his great grandson Josiah Quincy IV (1802-1882), who likewise served as mayor.

It was this fourth Josiah Quincy who owned the house that is shown in the top photo. Like his father, he was a politician, and he held several different state and local offices. Aside from his time as mayor from 1845 to 1849, he was also the president of the Boston Common Council for many years, and also served in the state legislature. His main residence was in Boston, but in 1848 he built this home adjacent to the family homestead here in Quincy, for use as his summer residence.

Quincy died in 1882, and the house was eventually purchased by Dr. Horace Mann Willard, an educator who opened the Quincy Mansion School her in the house in 1896. It was a boarding school for girls, and he served as its principal until his death in 1907. His wife Ruth continued to run the school for more than a decade, until her own failing health forced her to close it in 1919.

The property was then purchased by Eastern Nazarene College, which relocated from Rhode Island to Quincy in 1919. The old house was used for classroom and dormitory space, but over the years the campus expanded with new buildings around it. The house was ultimately demolished in 1969, and it was replaced by Angell Hall, a classroom building that is partially visible beyond the trees on the right side of the second photo. It is located on roughly the same footprint as the old house, and it was deliberately designed to be similar in size and shape to the old Quincy Mansion.

Josiah Quincy House, Quincy, Massachusetts

The Josiah Quincy House on Muirhead Street in Quincy, around 1880. Image courtesy of the Thomas Crane Public Library.

The house in 2023:

These two photos show the former home of Josiah Quincy I, a member of the prominent Quincy family. The house is located in the Wollaston neighborhood of Quincy, and it was once part of a large estate that had been owned by family patriarch Edmund Quincy (1602-1636). His great grandson, Josiah Quincy (1710-1784), eventually inherited 100 acres of this land, and in 1770 he built this home on the property.

Josiah Quincy was a prosperous merchant, and the elaborate design of his house reflected his wealth. It is an excellent example of Georgian architecture, with distinctive exterior features such as the balustrades on the roof and the classically-inspired front portico. However, the most significant design element is the monitor roof. This is the earliest known example of such a roof in colonial America, and it is one of a relatively small number of homes that had this particular style of roof during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Quincy family was prominent and well-connected politically in the years leading up to the American Revolution, and some of the family members married prominent patriot leaders. Among them was Josiah’s niece Dorothy Quincy, who married John Hancock in 1775; and Josiah’s first cousin twice removed Abigail Smith, who married John Adams. Josiah Quincy himself was also active in the patriot cause, including observing British fleet movements from the attic windows of his house. His son, Josiah Quincy Jr., was a prominent leader of the Sons of Liberty, but he died of tuberculosis in 1775, just a week after the start of the American Revolution.

If not for his untimely death, Josiah Quincy Jr. would have inherited this house. Instead, his son Josiah Quincy III (1772-1864) eventually inherited it in 1784, when the eldest Josiah died.  Josiah Quincy III would go on to become probably the most famous of the many residents of this house who bore that name. He was a prominent politician, including serving in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1805 to 1813 and as mayor of Boston from 1823 to 1829. His tenure as mayor is perhaps best remembered for his role in constructing a large public market, which was named in his honor. He later went on to become president of Harvard, serving from 1829 to 1845.

Josiah Quincy III died in 1864, and he left this house to his three unmarried daughters: Eliza (1798-1884), Abigail (1803-1893), and Sophia (1805-1886). The top photo was taken around 1880, when these three sisters were still living here. Eliza Quincy played a particularly important role in preserving the house and documenting its history during her time here, and it was in part because of her efforts that the house became widely known as an architectural and historical landmark.

After the death of Abigail Quincy in 1893, her nephew Josiah Quincy V inherited the house. By this point, the home that had been a quiet country estate a century earlier was in the midst of a rapidly-developing suburb of Boston. So, in 1895 he sold off most of the surrounding land, which was then subdivided into new streets and house lots. He also sold the old house itself to Frank and Lucy Hall, who lived here until their deaths in 1913 and 1911, respectively.

In 1937, the Hall family sold the house back to the Quincy descendants, who in turn donated it to the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. Now known as Historic New England, the organization continues to preserve the house as a museum, and it is open periodically for public tours. As shown in the second photo, the house has seen few changes since the first photo was taken, and it stands as an excellent example of Georgian architecture in New England. Because of its architectural and historical significance, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

Peacefield, Quincy, Massachusetts

Peacefield, the former home of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, at 135 Adams Street in Quincy, on October 10, 1929. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leon Abdalian Collection.

The house in 2019:

As explained in more detail in an earlier post, this house was the home of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and several more generations of the Adams family from the late 18th century into the early 20th century. The house was built in 1731, and it was originally owned by Leonard Vassall, a sugar plantation owner from Jamaica. His daughter Anna later inherited the property, but she and her husband were Loyalists, so they fled to England at the start of the Revolution, leaving the house vacant.

John and Abigail Adams purchased the house from the family in 1787. At the time, the house was much smaller, consisting of the portion on the left side in these photos. It was also in poor condition, from having sat vacant for so long. They had bought it sight-unseen, as they were living in England at the time, where John was serving as the first U.S. Minister to Great Britain. They were disappointed by the condition of the house when they returned here to live, but they soon set about repairing and expanding it. This work included a large addition on the right side, which was built in the 1790s. Abagail oversaw much of this work, since John Adams was away most of the time during the 1790s, serving as the first vice president and then as the second president of the United States.

John Adams retired from politics after losing reelection to Thomas Jefferson in 1800. He spent the last few decades of his life here at this house, which he named Peacefield. Abigail died in 1818, and John died here on July 4, 1826. In one of the most remarkable coincidences in American history, he died on the same day as his friend and political rival Jefferson, which also happened to be the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

John Quincy Adams then inherited the house. At the time of his father’s death he was serving as president, and after losing re-election in 1828 he returned here to Quincy. However, unlike his father, he did not have a quiet retirement. Instead, he returned to politics and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1831 until his death in 1848. During that time, he was particularly vocal in his opposition to slavery, and became one of the leading abolitionists of his era.

During the second half of the 19th century, Peacefield was owned by several more generations of the Adams family. John Quincy Adams’s son, Charles Francis Adams, owned it until his death in 1886, and Charles’s sons Henry and Brooks subsequently inherited it. Brooks ended up being the last member of the family to live here at Peacefield, and he remained here until his death in 1927.

The top photo was taken only two years later, in 1929. By this point, the other members of the Adams family had formed the Adams Memorial Society, and this house was preserved as a museum. The property was later transferred to the National Park Service in 1946, becoming the Adams National Historic Site.

Today, the exterior of the house has seen very few changes since the top photo was taken almost a century ago. The house is still operated by the National Park Service, and it is open to the public seasonally for tours. The name of the Park Service unit is now the Adams National Historical Park, and it includes Peacefield along with the nearby birthplaces of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, which stand side-by-side on Franklin Street in Quincy.

Granite Railway Incline, Quincy, Massachusetts (2)

The view looking down the Granite Railway Incline in Quincy, around 1922. Image courtesy of the Thomas Crane Public Library.

The scene in 2021:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, these two photos show the inclined plane of the Granite Railway in Quincy. Unlike the photos in that post, though, which were taken from the base looking up, these ones show the view looking down from partway up the inclined plane.

The Granite Railway was arguably the first commercial railroad in the United States. It began operations on October 7, 1826, and it consisted of horse-drawn cars that transported granite from the quarries in Quincy to the wharves on the Neponset River. From there, the granite was transported by boat to the Bunker Hill Monument, which was the project that had initially led to the construction of the railway.

The railway was expanded in 1830 with the construction of a small branch that led to the Pine Hill Quarry, located at the top of the hill behind where these photos were taken. To reach the top of the hill, civil engineer Gridley Bryant designed an 315-foot-long inclined plane that rose 84 feet in elevation. It consisted of two parallel tracks, one for empty cars ascending to the quarry and another for cars that were descending with granite blocks. The rails were made of granite topped by iron straps, and the tracks also included a cable that ran on pulleys in the center of the tracks. The cable formed an endless loop, and pulled the empty cars up to the top while also controlling the descent of the loaded cars.

Only two years after it opened, the inclined plane was the site of one of the first fatal railroad accidents in the United States. On July 25, 1832, a group of four visitors was ascending the inclined plane in an empty car when the cable failed near the summit, sending the car plummeting down the tracks. Contemporary accounts estimated that the car reached speeds of around 60 miles per hour before derailing at the base. One occupant was killed, two others were seriously injured, and the fourth walked away with minor injuries.

Aside from this accident, there do not appear to have been any other serious incidents here on the inclined plane, and it remained in use into the 20th century. In 1871, the Granite Railway was acquired by the Old Colony Railroad, which in turn became part of the New York, New Haven and Hartford in 1893. Although it was originally built for horse-drawn trains, most of the old Granite Railway was converted into a conventional railroad, as shown in the distance of the top photo. However, because the inclined plane was too steep for regular trains to use, it remained largely unchanged.

In 1901, new railroad tracks were placed atop the old granite rails, and then in 1920 it was converted for truck use, with metal channels to guide the wheels as the trucks ascended and descended. These are visible on the left side of the top photo, while the track in the center of the photo remained in its original 1830 configuration with the old granite blocks, metal strap rails, and pulleys. Then, in 1921, two obelisks were installed at the base of the incline, to commemorate its role in the early history of railroading.

At some point around the mid-20th century, the upper part of the inclined plane was removed when that part of the hillside was quarried. The landscape was further altered when the Southeast Expressway—modern-day Interstate 93—was built along the former mainline of the old Granite Railway in the 1950s. This did not directly affect the inclined plane, but it dramatically changed the view from this particular spot, as shown in the bottom photo.

The last quarry closed in 1963, and the land eventually became part of the Quincy Quarries State Reservation in 1985. This included the surviving portion of the inclined plane, which remains an important civil engineering landmark. Despite all of the changes over the years, the original granite track has remained well preserved over the years, and it still features the pulleys along with portions of the iron straps that were installed atop the granite rails.

Granite Railway Incline, Quincy, Massachusetts

The Granite Railway Incline on Granite Rail Court in Quincy, Massachusetts, in April 1934. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2021:

These two photos show the Granite Railway Incline, an important civil engineering landmark from the early days of railroads. It opened in 1830 as a branch of the Granite Railway, a 3-mile-long horse-drawn railroad that is often regarded as the first commercial railroad in the United States. The railroad itself had been established four years earlier, in 1826, for the purpose of supplying granite for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument. The original 1826 route of the railroad extended about three miles from the Quincy quarries to the wharves on the Neponset River, and from there the quarried stone was transported by boat to Charlestown.

Prior to its construction, there had been a few small railroads in Britain and the United States, and there were even some early steam locomotives that had been developed, but the long-term viability of railroads was still very much uncertain in 1826. The Erie Canal had been completed just a year earlier, and many Americans viewed long-distance canals as the future of transportation. Nonetheless, the engineer for this project, Gridley Bryant, set out to build a horse-drawn railroad. And, because railroad technology was still in its infancy, he had to essentially design it from scratch. As a result, he is credited with developing turntables and switches, among other railroad innovations. He also had to design his own rails, which were made of wood and topped with iron straps except for at road crossings, where the rails were granite and iron.

The Granite Railway opened on October 7, 1826, and over the next few years it overcame skepticism as it steadily delivered cut granite blocks to the wharves on the river. Then, in 1830 Bryant expanded the railroad with a short branch that connected it to the Pine Hill Quarry. Because of the elevation change, this involved constructing a large inclined plane up to the quarry, as shown here in these two photos. In total, it was 315 feet long, and rose 84 feet in elevation, for an average grade of nearly 27%. This is significantly steeper than a conventional railroad, and by way of comparison it is even stepper than the average grade of the Mount Washington Cog Railway, although obviously much shorter. And, because of the need for durable materials here on the slope, Bryant constructed it of granite rails with iron straps, rather than the wooden rails that were used on most of the other sections of track on the railroad.

The inclined plane was built with two parallel sets of track, one for ascending cars and one for descending ones. In the center of each track was a chain that ran on pulleys. It formed a continuous loop up and down the inclined plane, pulling the empty cars up the hill while also controlling the descent of the fully-loaded cars that were leaving the quarry. Bryant later described the operation of the inclined plane in a letter that he wrote in 1859 to Charles B. Stuart:

It had an endless chain, to which the cars were attached in ascending or descending; at the head of this inclined plane I constructed a swing platform to receive the loaded cars as they came from the quarry. This platform was balanced by weights, and had gearing attached to it in such a manner that it would always return (after having dumped) to a horizontal position, being firmly supported on the periphery of an eccentric cam. When the cars were out on the platform there was danger of their running entirely over, and I constructed a self-acting guard, that would rise above the surface of the rail upon the platform as it rose from its connection with the inclined plain, or receded out of the way when the loaded car passed on to the track; the weight of the car depressing the platform as it was lowered down.

Overall, it was an important technological innovation, but the inclined plane also became the site of one of the first fatal railroad accidents in American history. This occurred on July 25, 1832, when a group of four visitors ascended an empty car. On the way up, the chain broke, sending the car on an uncontrolled descent. The resulting derailment killed one passenger and seriously injured two others, as described in an article published in the next day’s Boston Evening Transcript:

Yesterday a party of four Gentlemen, boarders at the Tremont House, consisting of Messrs Andrew E. Belknap and John G. Gibson of this city,—Mr Thomas Backus of St Jago de Cuba, and Wm B. Bend of New York, (formerly of Baltimore) rode out to the Quincy Rail-way. Whilst ascending the inclined plane, near the Granite quarry in one of the cars, and when near the summit, the chain parted and the car descended with frightful rapidity.

The force with which it struck the resting place, at the foot of the declivity, was so great that the car and passengers were thrown by the percussion twenty feet into the air, from whence it fell down a precipice of more than thirty feet, amongst the rocks beneath.

Mr Backus was killed instantly. Mr Bend had three ribs broken, and the sinews of a leg parted. Mr Gibson’s head was fractured, jaw broke, and leg broke. Mr Belknap escaped without injury to his bones, but his body is severely bruised.

Messrs Gibson and Bend are at the Railway House, too ill to be removed. Mr Belknap has returned to the city. Mr Backus, we understand, was to be buried this afternoon at Quincy Church. The plane which they were ascending is said to be inclined at angle of nearly forty degrees; and it is supposed that when the car struck, it must have acquired a velocity of sixty miles an hour.

Aside from this accident, the inclined plane appears to have had a good safety record, and it remained in use into the 20th century. The Granite Railway was eventually acquired by the Old Colony Railroad in 1871, and most of the old track was upgraded. However, the inclined plane was too steep to operate steam trains on, so it remained in use in its original configuration until 1901, when modern rails were laid atop the granite track.

It underwent more changes in 1920, when the 1901 rails were removed and replaced by metal channels, which enabled it to be used by trucks. The top photo shows these channels, along with a pair of obelisks that were installed at the base of the inclined plane in 1921 in order to commemorate its role in the early history of railroads.

The inclined plane remained in use until the 1940s, but at some point the upper part of it was removed during quarrying operations. As a result, only the lower portion of it still exists, as shown in the bottom photo. The quarry at the top of the hill eventually closed in 1963, and in 1985 the site of the quarry was acquired by the Metropolitan District Commission.

Today, the old quarry and the inclined plane are part of the Quincy Quarries Reservation. Although significantly smaller than it had been when the top photo was taken, the inclined plane is nonetheless the best-preserved remnant of the old Granite Railway. It still features the old granite rails, some of the iron straps atop them, and the old pulleys. Because of its historic significance, the inclined plane was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it survives as an important landmark from the early days of railroad development.

Corner of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road, Longmeadow, Massachusetts (2)

A wintry scene looking southeast toward the intersection of Longmeadow Street and Emerson Road in Longmeadow, around 1902-1909. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Paesiello Emerson Collection.

The scene in 2024:


These two photos show the same scene as the ones in the previous post, except these photos here were taken in the winter rather than in the summer. And, rather than being taken from ground level, they are taken from the southeastern bedroom on the second floor of the Josiah Cooley House. The photographer who took the top photo, Paesiello Emerson, lived in this house in the early 20th century with his half siblings Annie and Henry, and this is one of the many photos that he took of Longmeadow during this period.

The top photo is undated, but as explained in the previous post it must have been taken in 1909 or earlier, due to the presence of the house on the far right side of the photo. This house was demolished around 1909, when Springfield-based heating and plumbing contractor George R. Estabrook purchased the property and built a new house on the site. Likewise, the house on the left, which stood at the corner of Bliss Street, was demolished around the late 1920s in order to build St. Mary’s Church.

Today, both the church and the former Estabrook house are still standing, and the latter now serves as the rectory. Although these were built after the top photo was taken, the overall scene is still recognizable from that photo, especially when the landscape is covered with freshly-fallen snow. And, there is at least one noticeable surviving feature from the top photo—the maple tree in the foreground. It is now probably around 150 years old, and it still stands in the front yard of the Josiah Cooley House.