Horticultural Hall, Boston

Horticultural Hall, at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, around 1901-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

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Horticultural Hall was built in 1901, around the same time as its neighbors, Symphony Hall to the left across Massachusetts Avenue, and Chickering Hall, visible to the right in the first photo.  Chickering Hall has long since been demolished as part of the development of the Christian Science Center in the 1960s, but both Horticultural Hall and Symphony Hall still stand here at the corner of Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues.

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society was founded in 1829 to promote modern practices in horticulture, and this building was the organization’s third facility.  It included a large exhibition hall for plant shows, with would have included the flower show that was advertised on the sign at the corner of the building in the first photo.  The building also had a smaller exhibition hall, a 300-seat lecture hall, a library, and offices.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, most of the scene has changed.  The buildings in the background have all been demolished, the streetcar line on Huntington Avenue is now underground as the “E” Branch of the Green Line, and Massachusetts Avenue now passes over Huntington Avenue on a bridge in the foreground.  As for the building itself, the Horticultural Society sold the building to the neighboring Christian Science Church in 1992, but its exterior has seen very few changes, and along with the neighboring Symphony Hall it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Symphony Hall, Boston

Symphony Hall, at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

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Boston’s Symphony Hall is one of many prominent concert halls in this section of Boston, and it has been the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops ever since it opened in 1900.  It was designed by McKim, Mead and White, the same architectural firm that built the Boston Public Library at Copley Square a few years earlier.  Like the library, it is an excellent example of Renaissance Revival architecture, but Symphony Hall is perhaps best known not for its visual appeal, but rather its acoustic properties.  Harvard professor and physicist Wallace Clement Sabine used his knowledge of acoustics to design the auditorium, making it the world’s first concert hall to be scientifically designed in such a way.  Because of this, it is still regarded as one of the best concert halls in the world.

Over the years, this section of the Back Bay has seen some dramatic changes, but Symphony Hall is essentially the same, both on the exterior and interior.  The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Pops continue to perform here, along with the Handel and Hadyn Society.  With a seating capacity of over 2,000, it has also been used for a number of other civil purposes, ranging from political rallies and inaugurations to business conventions and fashion shows.  In addition, many renowned authors have given lectures here; the building’s National Register of Historic Places registration form identifies many visiting writers from the early 20th century, including Edward Everett Hale, Julia Ward Howe, Booker T. Washington, G.K. Chesterton, Robert Frost, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

South Station, Boston

South Station around the time that it opened in 1899. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view around 1905, after the construction of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Transportation

South Station in 1956, during construction of the Dewey Square Tunnel. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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South Station in 2014:

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These four photos reveal the changes that have taken place here at South Station over the past 115 years.  While the building itself (or at least most of it) has remained essentially the same, its surroundings have continually changed.

Before 1899, four different railroads had terminals in the general vicinity of the present-day station.  To make things simpler, South Station was built, and all four lines were rerouted to it.  A few years later, in 1901, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated was built, as seen in the second photo.  The rapid transit line included a station at South Station, which can be seen on the far right of the 1905 photo.

The third photo shows the result of changes in the way people travel; the Atlantic Avenue Elevated closed in 1938, and was demolished four years later.  Even South Station was seeing a severe drop in passengers in postwar America, as cars became the primary method of travel.  However, Boston’s colonial-era street network was not particularly accommodating to large number of cars, so the Central Artery was built in the 1950s.  Most of the Central Artery was elevated, but it was put underground for a few blocks near South Station, and was known as the Dewey Square Tunnel.

The Dewey Square Tunnel, which is seen under construction in the 1956 photo, turned out to be a foreshadowing of things to come; part of Boston’s infamous Big Dig involved putting the entire Central Artery underground.  Today, the tunnel is still there, directly underneath where I was standing when I took the photo.  It is the only existing part of the Central Artery; the remainder of the 1950s-era expressway was demolished upon completion of the Big Dig.

Today, South Station has been trimmed a bit – notice that the facade on both sides is shorter than in the first two photos.  This was a result of demolition in the 1960s, at a time when many railroads were cutting back or eliminating passenger service.  However, today South Station is a busy transportation center again – it is the busiest railroad station in New England and the sixth busiest in the country, and it is the northern terminus of the Northeast Corridor, the busiest rail line in the country.

Springfield Public Library, Springfield Mass (3)

The newly-completed Springfield Public Library, around 1912. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2014:

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Springfield’s current main branch of the public library system was opened on January 10, 1912, which is probably around the time that the first photo was taken. The Library of Congress data indicates that it was taken between 1900 and 1910, but obviously that is not the case. Regardless, not much has changed with this view, although the foreground is now a parking lot; in 1912, it was the front lawn of the Church of the Unity.

Court Square, Springfield (1)

Here’s an interesting photo of Court Square, taken in 1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Panoramic Photographs Collection.

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From the same angle, taken in 2012:

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Notice the difference? Because there isn’t a whole lot that has changed along the south and west sides of Court Square in the past century.  In fact, other than cosmetic changes to some of the fountains and such in Court Square, the only real difference is the added wing of the old Hampden County Courthouse, which is visible in the 2012 photo just behind and to the left of the church.  In the 1909 photo, if you look close, you can see the construction for the wing, but at this point when the photo had been taken, it had not yet been completed.

The prominent building in the center of both photos is the former Court Square Hotel.  Built in 1892, it was added on to in 1900, with the sixth floor being added, along with the right-hand part of the building (the front facade used to be symmetrical until the addition).  Just to the left of it is a small brick building, barely visible behind the gazebo in the 2012 photo.  This building, known as Byers Block, was built in 1835 and is the only surviving one of a number of identical buildings that used to run along Elm Street in the mid 19th century.  The oldest building in both photos, however, is Old First Church.  Built in 1819, it was nearly 100 when the old photo was taken, and externally still looks essentially the same today.

Corner of State & Maple, Springfield

The view from Chestnut Street looking across State Street toward the corner of Maple Street, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same scene in 2012:

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The first photo shows several important Springfield buildings. Starting in the distant left is the old Central High School, which later became Classical High School. To the right of it is the old Springfield High School, then the Church of the Unity, and finally, the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company building. This building, completed just a few years earlier in 1905, was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns, and is an excellent example of classical revival architecture in Springfield.

Today, Classical High School is still standing, with a new wing that was added in 1922 after the old high school building next to it was demolished. The school itself closed in 1986, and the building was converted into condominiums. The Church of the Unity was demolished in 1961 to make room for an apartment complex that was ultimately never built, and today it is a parking lot opposite the Springfield City Library. The only building that has remained unchanged from the first photo is the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company building. For many years it was used as offices for the Springfield School Department, but it is currently vacant. Because of its historical and architectural significance, though, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.