Coombs Block, Springfield, Mass

The Coombs Block at the corner of Main and Park Streets in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Very little has changed in this view since the first photo was taken in the 1930s. The building here at 1049-1051 Main Street was built in 1914, and for many years it was used as a furniture store, as the sign in the first photo shows. In the 1940s, Hampden Furniture moved into this building and the adjoining one to the left, and they operated here until the company went out of business in 2007. The buildings were sold to the Caring Health Center, and despite suffering damage in the June 1, 2011 tornado, they were repaired and opened in 2014 as the Richard E. Neal Complex, named for the city’s former mayor and current Congressman.

Spring Lawn, Lenox, Mass

The Spring Lawn estate on Kemble Street in Lenox, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

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Spring Lawn was one of many summer “cottages” built in the Berkshires in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when towns like Lenox were popular resorts for the wealthy during the Gilded Age. This mansion was built in 1904, replacing The Hive, which had been the home of Charles and Elizabeth Sedgwick and the site of Elizabeth’s prestigious school for girls. Her students included Ellen Emerson, the daughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson; Mary Abigal Fillmore, the daughter of president Millard Fillmore; and Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill.

The school closed after Elizabeth Sedgwick’s death in 1864, and the property changed hands several times before being purchased by New York businessman John E. Alexandre, who demolished the old house and built Spring Lawn, as seen here. It was one of the first buildings designed by noted architect Guy Lowell, who later went on to design the New York State Supreme Court Building, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Charles River Dam in Boston.

Alexandre didn’t have much time to enjoy his new house, though. He died here in 1910, and it was sold to another prominent New York City resident, Mrs. Arthur F. Schermerhorn, who renamed it “Schermeer.” The house was later owned by the Lenox School for Boys and Bible Speaks College, and it has since gone through a number of other owners. As of the 2015 photo, the house is vacant, but in 2013 the owners announced a plan to restore the historic home as part of a proposed 14-building resort on the property.

Public Library, Lee, Mass

The Lee Library as it appeared in 1911. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The library in 2015:

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie was one of the wealthiest men in the world, and he went on to become one of the most generous philanthropists in history. He had a high value of public education, and he contributed funding for over 2,500 libraries around the world, including this one in Lee. It opened in 1907, with Carnegie providing $12,000 toward the construction costs. It was designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance in the classical revival style that was popular in early 20th century libraries, and was built using Lee marble.

About 10 years after the library opened, Andrew Carnegie purchased the Shadow Brook mansion in the neighboring town of Lenox, where he died in 1919. By the time he died, he had given away over $350 million (nearly $5 billion adjusted for inflation), and his remaining $30 million was given to various charities and foundations. Along with countless of his other libraries, the Lee Library is still standing today. A new wing was added in 1977, using marble from the original quarry, but otherwise it looks essentially the same from the exterior as it did over 100 years ago.

Washington Street, Boston

Looking north on Washington Street from School Street in Boston, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Washington Street in 2015:

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In the days before radio, television, and internet, the only major news source for most people was newspapers.  At the turn of the 20th century, large cities had many newspapers, which were often published twice daily.  However, for timelier updates, newspapers often posted breaking news, election results, and sports scores on bulletin boards outside of their offices.  In some cities, such as New York and here in Boston, many newspapers had offices in the same area, known as Newspaper Row.

Boston’s Newspaper Row was located along Washington Street, between Milk and State Streets, and at one point included up to 17 newspapers, including several in this scene.  On the far left of the first photo, partially blocked by the trolley car, is the Boston Post, and further down the street, the tall building to the left had been the home of the Boston Herald.  As the advertisement on the building indicates, the Herald had recently moved to a new location on Tremont Street.  Both the Post and the Herald buildings have since been demolished, and a parking garage now stands there.  The Post, which was established in 1831, was a major daily newspaper in New England until it closed in 1956.  The Herald, however, is still around today, 170 years after it was first published in 1846.

The large building in the distance in the left-center of the first photo was the home of the Boston Globe, the narrow building next to it was the Boston Advertiser, and the tall building in the center of the photo was the Boston Journal.  Of these three, the Globe was by far the newest of these newspapers, having been established in 1872.  The Advertiser, on the other hand, had been published since 1813 as the first daily newspaper in the city, and the Journal since 1833. However, the Globe ended up outliving both of them, as the Journal merged with the Herald in 1917, and the Advertiser was purchased by William Randolph Hearst the same year and was discontinued in 1929.  Both the Globe and the Advertiser buildings here have since been demolished, but the Journal building still stands as the only survivor of the five turn-of-the-century newspaper buildings in this scene.  The building opened in 1901, and was the home of the Journal until its merger with the Herald.  Since then, it has been used for other professional offices.

There are no longer any newspaper offices along this section of Washington Street; the Globe left in 1958, and it has been many years since Newspaper Row was the center of news information in the city.  It is also much less crowded; the first photo shows the narrow street filled with pedestrians, carriages, and trolleys, but within a few years the Washington Street Tunnel would be completed.  This subway tunnel eliminated some of the congestion by taking the trolleys off of the streets, and it formed the precursor to today’s Orange Line, which still runs under this section of Washington Street.

Despite the changes over the years, there have been several constants.  The Old Corner Bookstore, which is just out of view in the first photo but visible on the far left in the second one, is the oldest of them all.  It was built in 1712, and it is still standing as one of the oldest buildings in downtown Boston, and just beyond it is the Andrew Cunningham House, which was built a few years later around 1725.  Aside from these two colonial-era buildings, though, there are several other historic buildings in the scene.  On the far right is the Old South Building, a large office building that was completed shortly before the first photo was taken.  It wraps around the Old South Church between Washington and Milk Streets, and its Milk Street facade can be seen in this post.  The other prominent historic building here is the Winthrop Building, located just beyond the Old South Building at the corner of Washington and Water Streets.  A view of the long side of this building can be seen in the “now” photo of this post, which shows it from the Water Street side.  It was built in 1893 on a long, narrow, irregularly-shaped lot, and it was Boston’s first steel frame skyscraper.  It is still standing today, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2)

Another view of the Museum of Fine Arts, taken around 1909-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view in 2015:

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It’s hard to tell, but the Museum of Fine Arts is still there; it is just mostly hidden by the trees in the median of Huntington Avenue. As mentioned in the previous post, this was the second home of the museum, after it outgrew its first permanent building at Copley Square.  Since it opened in 1909, this building has steadily been expanded, with the most recent addition opening in 2010.  From this angle, though, not much has changed.  Even the trolley tracks in the foreground are still there; most of Boston’s trolley lines were replaced with buses in the mid 1900s, but Huntington Avenue’s line is now the E Branch of the MBTA Green Line

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The Museum of Fine Arts on Huntington Street in Boston, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The museum in 2015:

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This view of the Museum of Fine Arts really hasn’t changed much in the past century, although it is hard to tell with all of the trees blocking the view in the second photo.  The Museum of Fine Arts had been established in 1870, and its first permanent home was opened at Copley Square in 1876.  The original building soon became too small for the museum’s growing collections, though, and in 1899 they purchased this plot of land on Huntington Avenue, a little over a mile west of Copley Square.

The new museum was designed by architect Guy Lowell, who deliberately designed it so that it could easily be expanded as the museum grew and as money became available.  Since then, it has grown substantially beyond its original 1909 footprint, and is now over 600,000 square feet in area.  One major addition was the West Wing, now the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, which was designed by noted architect I.M. Pei in 1981, and the most recent was in 2010, when the new Art of the Americas wing was completed.  It is now one of the largest art museums in the United States, with an internationally-significant collection of nearly half a million works from around the world.  Much of their collection has also been digitized, and it can be viewed online through their website.  At least one of their works, an early photograph by J.J. Hawes, is featured in this blog post about Arlington Street Church.