Kneeland-Cone House, Hartford, Vermont

The house at 1407 Maple Street in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The scene in 2018:

This house was built in 1804 by Joseph Kneeland, although it has undergone significant changes since then. It originally had a hip roof, and at the time it only consisted of the front portion, without the rear ell. Kneeland evidently owned the property until 1831, but it does not seem clear as to how long he personally lived here, because from 1816 to 1828 it was the home of George E. Wales, a prominent local politician. Wales held many public offices, including serving as speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives in 1823 and 1824, and he was subsequently elected to two terms in Congress, serving in the U. S. House from 1825 to 1829.

In 1831, Kneeland sold the house to Justin C. Brooks, a merchant who lived here for nearly 50 years until his death in 1875. He and his wife Sarah raised their five children here, and the 1870 census shows that his real estate was valued at $6,000, plus $5,00 for his personal estate, for a total net worth equivalent to about $225,000 today. According to once source, the house acquired its current appearance during Brooks’s ownership, with the gambrel roof and the addition of a rear ell. However, another source indicates that this occurred later in the 19th century.

The Brooks heirs sold the house to Charles M. Cone in 1883, shortly before his marriage to Kate Morris. Charles was a local businessman, serving as treasurer and manager of the Hartford Woolen Company, but Kate was probably the more accomplished of the two. She was one of the eleven women in the first graduating class at Smith College in 1879, and three years later she became the first to earn a Ph.D. from the school. She subsequently served on the school’s Board of Trustees, and in 1892 one of its dormitories, Morris House, was named in her honor. In addition, Kate was an author who focused on local history. She wrote a biography of her grandfather, Sylvester Morris, and she served as editor of the Vermont Antiquarian magazine, while also contributing to national magazines such as Outlook and The Atlantic Monthly.

Their house here in Hartford was damaged by a fire in 1889, but it was subsequently restored. It apparently underwent another renovation in 1897, and according to the National Register of Historic Places inventory it was at this time that the gambrel roof was added. In either case, the exterior of the house had largely assumed its current appearance by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century. This photo was published in a historical magazine about Hartford that was titled The Old and the New, whose regular contributors included Kate Morris Cone.

The Cones had four children, although only two, Morris and Alice, survived to adulthood. Charles and Kate continued to live here in Hartford for the rest of their lives. In the absence of street numbers on early 20th century documents, it is difficult to determine whether they resided here in this house for the entire time, but the 1920 census shows them living in Hartford with their son Morris, his wife Jessie, and their infant son John. Kate subsequently died in 1929, and Charles in 1935.

Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, although it is difficult to determine which features are original to the house, and which were added as part of the Colonial Revival trend in American architecture during the late 19th century renovations. Either way, though, the house survives as one of many historic 19th century homes here in the traditional town center of Hartford, and it is now part of the Hartford Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Mount Vernon, Virginia (3)

The Mount Vernon mansion in Virginia, seen from the east side around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in a previous post, which shows the house from the west side, Mount Vernon was the estate of George Washington, who lived here from 1754 until his death in 1799. This property had been in the Washington family since 1674, when it was acquired by John Washington. His grandson, George Washington’s father Augustine Washington, later owned the land, and around 1734 he built the original portion of this house, on the banks overlooking the Potomac River.

In 1739, Augustine Washington gave the property—which was then known as Little Hunting Creek—to his oldest son Lawrence. He subsequently renamed it Mount Vernon, in honor of his former commanding officer Admiral Edward Vernon, and he lived here until his death in 1752, when he was in his early 30s. Lawrence and his wife Anne had four children, although all of them died young, and shortly after his death she remarried to George Lee and moved out of the house.

Under the conditions of Lawrence’s will, Anne owned Mount Vernon for the rest of her life, at which point his brother George would inherit it. With the house vacant, though, Anne began leasing it to her brother-in-law starting in 1754, when George Washington was about 22 years old. In 1758 he expanded the house by adding a second story, and then in 1761 he gained ownership of the property upon Anne’s death.

In the meantime, in 1759 Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow who was a year older than him. They never had any children together, but Martha had two surviving children from her first marriage, and they grew up here at Mount Vernon. This was also around the time that Washington became involved in politics. He had served with distinction as a colonel in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War, and in 1758 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he served until the beginning of the American Revolution.

Washington further expanded the mansion here at Mount Vernon in 1774, with two-story additions on either side of the original house. The large piazza here on the east side was also added as part of this project, and it would later become perhaps the most recognizable feature of the house. However, Washington did not get to enjoy the enlarged house for very long, because in 1775 he traveled north to take command of the Continental Army, and he was away from Mount Vernon for eight years before the war ended.

At the end of the war, Washington resigned his commission in the Continental Army and returned to civilian life here at Mount Vernon. His retirement did not last for long, though, because in 1789 he was elected president. For the next eight years, Washington spent most of his time in the temporary capital cities of New York and Philadelphia, before eventually returning to Mount Vernon at the end of his second term in 1797. He lived here for the last two and a half years of his life before his death in 1799, and Martha Washington died in 1802.

With no biological children, George Washington left Mount Vernon to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, who was a justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. After his death in 1829, his nephew John Augustine Washington II inherited it, followed by John’s son, John Augustine Washington III. He was the last member of the Washington family to own Mount Vernon, and in 1858 he sold the estate to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which preserved it and turned it into a museum.

By the time the association acquired the property, the mansion was in poor condition. As with many other southern planters, the Washington family owned vast amounts of land, but had relatively little cash. Consequently, the house suffered from many years of neglect, to the point that by the 1850s ships’ masts were being used as makeshift supports for the piazza roof, which was in danger of collapsing. However, the house was subsequently restored, and it opened to the public in 1860.

The first photo was taken about 40-50 years later, showing the mansion’s appearance at the turn of the 20th century. As shown in the second photo, very little has changed since then, aside from the removal of the small porch on the left side and the balustrades over the piazza, neither of which existed during George Washington’s ownership. The estate is still owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and open for public tours, and it remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing an estimated one million visitors here each year.

Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Christ Church, seen from North Second Street in Philadelphia, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2019:

The city of Philadelphia was established in 1682 by William Penn, the founder of the Pennsylvania colony. Although Penn and his followers were Quakers, the colony was tolerant of other religions, and they were soon joined by settlers of other faiths, including Episcopalians, who established Christ Church in 1695. A small wooden church was built here on this site a year later, and it remained in use throughout the early 18th century.

However, in 1727, the parish began construction of a much larger church building. It took the next 17 years to build, and it was one of the grandest churches in the colonies at the time, in sharp contrast to the city’s plain, modest Quaker meeting houses. It featured Georgian-style architecture, with a design that was based on the London churches of famed architect Christopher Wren. The church itself was completed in 1744, although it took another ten years before the steeple was built. When finished, the steeple stood 196 feet in height, making it the tallest building in the American colonies at the time. It would continue to hold this record for more than 50 years, until the completion of Park Street Church in Boston in 1810.

During the 18th century, many of Philadelphia’s leading citizens were members of Christ Church. The most notable of these was Benjamin Franklin, who had even organized a lottery to help finance the completion of the steeple. Several other signers of the Declaration of Independence were also members, including Francis Hopkinson, Robert Morris, and Benjamin Rush. Even colonial governor John Penn—grandson of the Quaker William Penn—was a member. Given Philadelphia’s role as the seat of the Continental Congress, and later as the temporary national capital, a number of other founding fathers also attended services here, including George Washington and John Adams.

Throughout most of the American Revolution, the rector of Christ Church was the Reverend William White, who also served as chaplain of both the Continental Congress and later the United States Senate. After the war, Reverend White played an important role in the formal separation of the Episcopal Church from the Church of England. The first General Convention of the Episcopal Church was held here at Christ Church in 1785, and in 1787 White was ordained as the first bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania. He subsequently became the first presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, serving in 1789 and from 1795 until his death in 1836. During this time, he continued to serve as rector of Christ Church, serving in that role for a total of 57 years.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, Christ Church was already more than 150 years old. Its interior had been remodeled several times by then, but the exterior remained largely unchanged in its 18th century appearance. Around this time, in 1908, the steeple was damaged in a fire caused by a lightning strike, but this was subsequently repaired.

Since then, there have been few changes to this scene, aside from the trees in the foreground, which partially hide the church in the present-day photo. The angle is a little different between the two photos, though, because the first one was evidently taken from the upper floors of a building across the street, allowing for a wider view than from street level on the narrow street. During this time, Christ Church has remained standing as both an active Episcopalian parish and as a major tourist attraction. It is one of the most important surviving works of Georgian architecture in the country, and in 1970 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Elisha Jones House, Concord, Mass

The house at 242 Monument Road in Concord, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2018:

The age of this house is somewhat of a mystery, with some sources claiming that it dates as far back as the mid-17th century. However, it was probably built sometime around 1740 as the home of Thomas Jones, a blacksmith who lived here until his death in 1774. His son Elisha then inherited the property, and he went on to become perhaps the most notable occupant of this house.

Elisha Jones was about 30 years old when inherited the house. Like his father and grandfather, he was also a blacksmith, and he was evidently a wealthy man, with an estate that was valued at 1,121 pounds 8 shillings in 1777. In addition, he served in the local militia, where he held the rank of lieutenant during the American Revolution, and prior to the war his house was reportedly one of the places in town where colonial military supplies were hidden from the British.

However, Elisha Jones and his house are best known for an incident that may or may not have occurred here on April 19, 1775, during the Battle of Concord. The house is located across the street from the Old North Bridge, where the famous “Shot heard round the world” was fired by the colonial minutemen, and according to legend Jones was standing at the door of his shed after the battle, watching the retreating soldiers. One of them is said to have fired at him, although the ball missed Jones by about three feet, and instead passed harmlessly through the wall.

This large shed, which was later attached directly to the main house on the left side of this scene, still has a hole in the wall, which is supposedly where the British musket ball struck the building. However, it is difficult to prove exactly what caused this hole, and there are no contemporary accounts of this incident. The earliest published description came many years later, and it was written by John Shepard Keyes, the late 19th century owner of this house. He heard the story from Elisha Jones’s oldest daughter Mary, who was four years old at the time of the battle, and he wrote the following description in his book, Story of an Old House:

Mr. Jones had prudently taken his wife and babies down cellar, where they cowered in fear and trembling in the dark corners, while he stood guard over the barrels of beef. Soon the clatter and noise of the Britishers ceased, and all was still. Then the silence was broken by the volleys of musketry at the bridge. He could stand it no longer, but rushing up from the cellar followed by his wife and crying children, they saw the regulars retreating in confusion back to the village, bearing their wounded, some with ghastly faces, supported by their comrades, others with bloody limbs hastily bandaged to stanch the flow. . . .

To her father it lent new excitement and patriotic rage; he pointed his gun out of the bedroom window on the north-west corner of the house, determined to have one raking shot at the foe. His wife clung to his arm, begging him not to risk their burning the house if he fired from it, and succeeded in preventing his purpose and getting the gun away. Then he went to the door of the shed, and stood there looking at the retreating soldiers in scorn and triumph. One of the rear guard who may have seen his attempt to shoot, or “misliked his look,” drew up as they passed the house, and fired a “British musket ball” at Elisha. It was a well pointed shot considering that the red coats fired from the hip, and not from the shoulder with a sight along the gun barrel, as the Yankees did. The ball struck at the height of Jones’ head about three feet to the right, and passing through the boarding, glanced from an oak joist, and out through the back side into the ground behind.

It is impossible to conclusively prove or disprove this story, but in either case it has become a part of local legend, and it has contributed to the fame of the house, which is sometimes referred to as “The Bullet Hole House.” In the meantime, though, the property remained in the Jones family for many years, with Elisha’s son James Jones inheriting it after his death in 1810. James, like the previous three generations of his family, was also a blacksmith, and he owned this house until 1836, when he sold it to Nathan Barrett for $800.

Barrett evidently never lived here, instead using the house as a rental property, and over the years it fell into disrepair. He ultimately sold the house in 1863 to John Shepard Keyes, who soon set about restoring the house and documenting its history. Keyes was a Concord native who was about 42 years old at the time. He was a lawyer, and he had previously served as sheriff of Middlesex County from 1853 to 1859. In 1860, he was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, which nominated Abraham Lincoln to the presidency, and a year later he became a U. S. Marshal. He also served as a bodyguard for Lincoln, and he accompanied him during his inauguration and during the Gettysburg Address. Keyes went on to serve as a marshal until 1867, and in 1874 he became a judge on the Middlesex District Court.

After purchasing this property, Keyes soon oversaw dramatic alterations to the house. On the exterior, this included replacing the windows, installing a second-floor dormer window on the north side, and adding a portico to the front door. Keyes also moved the shed and attached it to the north side of the house, turning it into a large two-story wing. Overall, most of the house’s present-day appearance dates back to this mid-1860s renovation.

John Keyes lived here in this house with his wife Martha until her death in 1895, and he remarried three years later. He was still residing here when the first photo was taken around 1908, more than 40 years after he first moved in, and he remained here until his death in 1910 at the age of 88. His daughters, Alicia Keyes and Annie Emerson, then inherited it, although only Alicia appears to have actually lived here after her father’s death. Annie gained full ownership of the property after Alicia’s death in 1924, and a year later she sold it to Henry H. Fay.

Fay was the last private owner of the house, and he lived here until 1963, when he sold it to the National Park Service. It then became a part of the Minute Man National Historical Park, which had been established in 1959 to preserve the historic sites associated with the battles of Lexington and Concord. Since then, the house has been well-preserved in its post-1860s appearance, with hardly any changes from this view since the first photo was taken more than a century ago. However, because of these renovations it bears little resemblance to its appearance during the American Revolution, and it is not open to the public for tours, with the National Park Service instead using it as a rental property.

Lexington Common, Lexington, Mass

Looking north on the Lexington Common from near the corner of Bedford Street and Harrington Road, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene around 1910-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

These photos show a portion of the Lexington Common, which is also known as the Lexington Battle Green. Nearly every New England town has some sort of a common in the center of town, yet this one in Lexington is one of the most famous. It was here, just after dawn on April 19, 1775, that the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, and where eight Lexington militiamen were killed after a brief skirmish with British redcoats who were bound for Concord.

The British soldiers had departed Boston late in the previous evening, with the goal of seizing colonial military supplies that were being stored in Concord. This prompted Paul Revere and other messengers to make their famous midnight ride, alerting the militia companies in the outlying towns. Here in Lexington, a force of about 80 militiamen assembled on the Common. They were led by Captain John Parker, who is said to have instructed his men to “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

Upon arrival, the British ordered the militiamen to leave, with Major John Pitcairn supposedly shouting “Disperse, ye villains! Ye rebels, disperse!” Along with Parker’s earlier command, this would become one of the most famous quotes of the war, although it is hard to say exactly how accurate either of these lines really are. This uncertainty may be due, in part, to the fact that both men died within less than five months after the battle, leaving future historians with little opportunity to verify their battlefield statements.

In any case, Captain Parker recognized that his men were vastly outnumbered, and he ordered them to disperse. However, few evidently heard him. Then, in the midst of this standoff, a shot was fired. The identity of the shooter remains unknown, with both sides generally placing blame on the other, but both the redcoats and the militiamen then began exchanging fire.

The British proved to be far more effective in their fire. By the time the brief battle was over and the redcoats had resumed their march to Concord, they left behind eight dead militiamen and ten wounded, compared to just one wounded British soldier. Among the dead was Jonathan Harrington, who lived in the house that is visible in the distant center of all three photos. According to tradition, he was mortally wounded after the battle, but he managed to crawl back to his doorstep, where he died in his wife’s arms.

Despite how short and one-sided the battle was, it marked the first armed resistance to British aggression, and the Lexington Common has become an important symbol of American independence. The common is now marked by several monuments, including the one here in the foreground of this scene. Dedicated in 1884, this boulder marks the line where the militiamen stood, and it is inscribed with Captain Parker’s famous—if possibly apocryphal—command to his men to stand their ground.

The first photo was taken around the turn of the 20th century, and it shows the Harrington house as it appeared prior to a major renovation in 1910. This project, which was completed by the time the second photo was taken, involved the removal of a wing on the right side of the house, along with the replacement of the large central chimney with two smaller ones. It was intended as a restoration, although the work appears to have been based more on early 20th century ideas about how a colonial house should look, rather than how the Harrington house actually looked during the colonial era.

Today, more than a century after the second photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene. The boulder is still here marking the line of militiamen during the battle, and the Harrington house remains standing in the distance, with few major exterior changes since the 1910 alterations. The other house in this scene, visible further in the distance, also survives today, although it is somewhat younger than the Harrington house, dating back to 1820. The Common itself has also been preserved, serving as both a public park and a historic site, and in 1961 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Jonathan Harrington House, Lexington, Mass

The house at the corner of Harrington Road and Bedford Street in Lexington, around 1896-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The house in 2018:

This house was built sometime around the first half of the 18th century, although it has been altered over the years. It stands at the northern end of the triangular Lexington Common, and it is most famous for having been the home of Jonathan Harrington, one of the eight Lexington militiamen who were killed in the opening shots of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775.

At the time of the battle, Harrington was about 30 years old, and lived here in this house with his wife Ruth and their son Jonathan. Just after dawn on April 19, Harrington and about 80 other militiamen assembled on the Common, less than a hundred yards directly in front of his house. Here, they confronted a much larger force of British redcoats who were on their way to Concord to seize supplies of colonial munitions. A standoff ensued until someone fired a shot on or near the Common, resulting in both sides opening fire.

The ensuing skirmish marked the beginning of the American Revolution, although it was largely one-sided. It failed to stop the British advance, and only one redcoat was wounded, compared to eight dead militiamen and ten who were wounded. Of the fatalities, Jonathan Harrington is perhaps the best-known. According to tradition, he was mortally wounded during the battle, but he managed to crawl back here to his house, where he died in his wife’s arms on the doorstep.

Subsequent owners of this house included John Augustus, a shoemaker who lived here during the 1820s. He eventually moved to Boston in 1827, where he continued his career as a shoemaker. However, he is remembered today for his role in criminal justice reform when, in 1841, he began bailing criminals out of jail and taking them under his care, including finding employment for them. This eventually led to the establishment of probation as an alternative to incarceration in Boston, and the practice later spread throughout the state and the rest of the country.

Later in the 19th century, the house was owned by James Gould, and it remained in his family until at least the early 1890s. By the end of the decade, though, it was owned by Dr. Bertha C. Downing, a physician who had her practice here in the house. A native of Kennebunkport, Maine, Dr. Downing attended public school in Boston before graduating from Radcliffe College and the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. The 1899 town directory shows her living in this house, and her office hours were listed as being from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The first photo was taken at some point during her time here, as the sign above the two front windows on the left has her name on it.

Dr. Downing moved out of here by 1902, and in 1910 the house underwent a major renovation that ostensibly “restored” it to its colonial-era appearance. The owner at the time was Leroy S. Brown, and he hired local architect Willard D. Brown (evidently no close relation) for the project. Part of the work involved removing the wing on the right side of the house, which does not appear to have been original anyway, along with the replacement of the large central chimney with two smaller ones. Other less significant changes included the addition of a pediment above the front door, as shown in the present-day scene.

In retrospect, this restoration probably did more harm to the historic character of the house than if it had simply been left alone, but it did help to ensure its long-term preservation. Today, despite the early 20th century alterations, the house still stands as an important landmark in the center of Lexington. It is one of several surviving buildings on the Common that date back to the famous battle, and the house features two signs that attest to its historic significance. The one on the right tells the story of Jonathan Harrington’s death, while the one on the left identifies the building as having been the home of John Augustus.