61-63 Mount Vernon Street, Boston

The houses at 61 and 63 Mount Vernon Street in Boston, on March 20, 1909. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

The buildings in 2021:

These two photos were taken near the same spot as the ones in the previous post, and they show two rowhouses on Mount Vernon Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. This area was developed in the early 19th century, and these two lots were once part of a much larger property owned by Senator Jonathan Mason. After Mason and his wife Susan died in the 1830s, their mansion was demolished and the land was subdivided into smaller lots for new houses. Among the housed built here were the two in the first photo, at 61 and 63 Mount Vernon Street. Built around 1837, their design was typical for Beacon Hill homes of this period; they were brick, four stories in height, with a bowed front façade and three window bays.

The house on the left, at 63 Mount Vernon Street, was originally owned by merchant William Sawyer. Subsequent owners included William Mason, the son of Jonathan Mason, but the most prominent resident here was William Claflin, who lived here from around 1870 until his death in 1905. Claflin was a shoe manufacturer and politician who served as lieutenant governor from 1866 to 1869, and then as governor from 1869 to 1872. He was also involved in national politics, serving as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1868 to 1872, and he served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1877 to 1881. In addition to this, he was a major donor and namesake of Claflin University, a historically black university in South Carolina, which was established to educate recently-emancipated former slaves.

As for the house on the right, at 61 Mount Vernon Street, it was built around the same time as its neighbor, but it does not appear to have had any particularly prominent residents. According to the state’s MACRIS inventory form on this house, its original owner was Jonathan Phillips, but over the course of the 19th century its subsequent residents included William Minot, John C. Gray, and John C. Bancroft. The house was still standing when the first photo was taken in 1909, but it was demolished soon after. Its replacement, which is shown in the 2021 photo, was built in 1911, and it is of similar size and appearance to its predecessor, although with more Classical Revival-style features.

Today, the house at 63 Mount Vernon Street is still standing, although it has been altered since the first photo was taken, most significantly with the addition of a fifth floor. Overall, though, the house retains much of its historic exterior appearance, and even the newer house next door at 61 Mount Vernon Street fits in well with its surroundings, despite the different architectural details. Both houses are now part of the Beacon Hill Historic District, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark district in 1962.

Mount Vernon Street, Boston

Looking west on Mount Vernon Street from near the corner of Walnut Street in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2021:

For more than two centuries, Beacon Hill has been one of the most desirable residential neighborhoods in Boston. During the colonial period, this area was primarily hilly pastureland on the outskirts of town, but in 1798 it became the site of the Massachusetts State House, which still stands at the southeastern corner of the neighborhood. Residential development soon followed, consisting largely of brick, Federal-style row houses. Over the years, many prominent people have lived here on Beacon Hill, and it remains a remarkably well-preserved early 19th century neighborhood.

These two photos show the view looking west on Mount Vernon Street from the corner of Walnut Street, near the crest of the hill. Nearly all of the buildings from the first photo are still standing more than 160 years later, with the exception of the one on the far right, which was demolished around 1905-1910 in order to build the current Tudor Revival-style building. Aside from this one, the other houses on the right side of the street in this scene all date back to the first half of the 19th century. The two closest to the foreground, just past the Tudor-style building, were both built in the 1830s, and the both feature a bowed front façade, which is a distinctive feature on many Beacon Hill homes.

On the left side of the street, the most distinctive houses are the two brownstone homes in the foreground at 40 and 42 Mount Vernon Street. These were among the first houses in the neighborhood to be built of brownstone rather than brick, and they were both designed by architect George Minot Dexter. Both were built for prosperous merchant Augustus Hemenway, who lived in the house at the corner, at 40 Mount Vernon Street. He was still living here when the first photo was taken around 1860, and both houses remained in his family until the early 20th century.

Just past these houses are three comparatively modest brick rowhouses, which were built around 1825, and further in the distance are three single-story buildings. These are probably the oldest buildings in this scene, dating back to 1804 when they were built as carriage houses for homes on nearby Chestnut Street. Despite their small size and humble origins, all three have survived to the present day, and have since been converted into residences.

Overall, with the exception of the present-day cars and paved roads, very little has changed in this scene since the first photo was taken. This is generally true throughout much of the neighborhood, and because of this level of preservation, Beacon Hill was designated as a National Historic Landmark district in 1962.

Middle Street, Hadley, Mass

The view looking north on Middle Street towards Russell Street in Hadley, around 1900. Image from History of Hadley (1905).

The scene in 2021:

Hadley is one of the oldest towns in western Massachusetts, having been first settled by European colonists in 1659 and incorporated as a town two years later. Its terrain is mostly flat, and it is situated on the inside of a broad curve in the Connecticut River, giving it some of the finest farmland in New England. The main settlement developed in this vicinity, with a broad town common on what is now West Street. This common was the town center during the colonial period, and it was the site of three successive meetinghouses beginning in 1670.

The third meetinghouse, which is shown here in these photos, was completed on the town common in 1808. This location was a matter of serious contention, as by the turn of the 19th century much of the town’s development had shifted east toward what is now Middle Street. Tradition ultimately prevailed, and the third meetinghouse was built on the common. However, this proved to be only temporary, because in 1841 it was relocated. The intended location was to be a compromise, located halfway between the common and Middle Street, but the movers ignored this and brought the building all the way to Middle Street, to its current location just south of Route 9.

Architecturally, this meetinghouse reflects some of the changes that were occurring in New England church designs. Prior to the late 18th century, the region’s churches tended to be plain in appearance. Many did not have steeples, and those steeples that did exist tended to rise from the ground level on the side of the building, rather than being fully incorporated into the main section of the church. This began to change with prominent architects like Charles Bulfinch, who drew inspiration from classical architecture when designing churches and other buildings. Bulfinch’s churches tended to feature a triangular pediment above the main entrance, with a steeple that rose from above the pediment, rather than from the ground.

Bulfinch does not appear to have played a hand in designing Hadley’s church, but its builder was clearly influenced by his works. It has a pediment with a steeple above it, and it also has a fanlight above the front door, and a Palladian window on the second floor. Other classically-inspired decorative elements include pilasters flanking the front entrance and dentils around the pediment. As for the steeple itself, it does not bear strong resemblance to the ones that Bulfinch designed, but the builder likely took inspiration from other 18th century New England churches. In particular, it bears a strong resemblance the steeples of churches such as Old North Church in Boston and the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Aside from moving the church to this site, the other major event of 1841 that solidified Middle Street as the town center was the construction of a town hall here. Prior to this point, town meetings were held in the church, as was the case in most Massachusetts towns in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Massachusetts was slow to create a separation between church and state, and not until 1833 did the state outlaw the practice of taxing residents to support local churches. Here in Hadley, this soon led to a physical separation between the church and the town government, although as shown in this scene the two buildings stood side-by-side on Middle Street.

While the church features Bulfinch-inspired architecture, the design of the town hall reflects the Greek Revival style of the mid-19th century. This style was particularly popular for government and other institutional buildings of the period, as it reflected the democratic ideals of ancient Greece. The town hall is perhaps Hadley’s finest example of this style, with a large portico supported by four Doric columns, along with Doric pilasters in between the window bays on all four sides of the building.

The first photo shows Middle Street around the turn of the 20th century, looking north toward the church, the town hall, and Russell Street further in the distance. The photo also shows a house on the foreground, just to the right of the church. Based on its architecture, this house likely dated back to about the mid-18th century, but it was gone by 1903, when the current house was built on the site. This house was originally the home of Dr. Frank Smith, and it was designed by Springfield architect Guy Kirkham.

Today, the town of Hadley is significantly larger than it was when the first photo was taken more than 120 years ago. Russell Street is now Route 9, a major east-west thoroughfare that has significant commercial development thanks to Hadley’s position at the center of the Five Colleges region. Likewise, Middle Street is far from the dirt road in the first photo, and it is now Route 47. However, much of Hadley has retained its historic appearance, including its extensive farmland and its many historic buildings. Here on Middle Street, both the church and the town hall are still standing. They have seen few major exterior changes during this time, and the church is still an active congregation, while the town hall remains the seat of Hadley’s town government. Both buildings are now part of the Hadley Center Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

Fifth and Minor Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Looking north on Fifth Street near the corner of Minor Street in Philadelphia, in February 1859. Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick De Bourg Richards Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The first photo shows a row of commercial buildings along the west side of Fifth Street. Of these, the most significant is Robert Smith’s Brewery in the center of the scene. This brewery underwent many name changes over its long history, but it dated back to the colonial era, when Joseph Potts opened a brewery here around 1774. Potts operated it until 1786, when he sold it to Henry Pepper. By this point Philadelphia had become a leading producer of beer, and this brewery remained in the Pepper family for many years. Robert Smith, a native of England who had learned the trade as an apprentice at the Bass Brewery, joined the firm in 1837, and eventually took over the business in the following decade.

As was the case in most early American breweries, this facility produced ale. Americans began to acquire a taste for lagers by the second half of the 19th century, thanks to an influx of German immigrants with surnames like Busch, Coors, Miller, and Pabst. Here in Philadelphia, though, Robert Smith continued to have success brewing ales. He remained here for nearly 30 years after the first photo was taken, and eventually incorporated the business as the Robert Smith India Pale Ale Brewing Company in 1887. A year later, he moved to a new, larger facility at the corner of 38th Street and Girard Avenue. Smith ran the brewery at the new location until his death in 1893.

Smith’s brewery business was ultimately acquired by the Christian Schmidt Brewing Company, the largest brewery in the city. With the exception of the Prohibition era, Schmidt continued brewing Smith’s popular Tiger Head Ale until the company closed in 1987. In the meantime, the original brewery here on Fifth Street was likely demolished soon after Robert Smith moved to the new brewery, and it was definitely gone by the mid-1950s, when this entire block was demolished to make way for the Independence Mall. As a result, there are no surviving buildings from the first photo, and even Minor Street itself is gone. This site is now the southeastern section of the Independence Mall, and it is located only a few hundred feet to the north of Independence Hall.

426-430 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

A group of rowhouses on the south side of Chestnut Street, near the corner of Fifth Street in Philadelphia, in May 1859. Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick De Bourg Richards Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The scene in the first photo shows a group of rowhouses on the south side of Chestnut Street, facing west toward the corner of Fifth Street. Based on their architecture, these houses were likely built around the late 18th or early 19th centuries, and they may have originally been single-family homes, although by the time the photo was taken they all had commercial storefronts. Although located just outside of the frame on the far right side, the house at the corner of Fifth Street had once been the home and studio of artist Gilbert Stuart, and it was there in 1796 that George Washington sat for the famous Lansdowne Portrait.

The first photo was taken by Frederick De Bourg Richards, who used his camera to document the historic buildings that were, in many cases, rapidly disappearing and being replaced by modern buildings. Richards did not include any caption aside from the location of the photo, but a few of these buildings appear to have been in rough shape, particularly the one on the left at 426 Chestnut Street, which has a crumbling exterior wall. According to the signs, the ground floor of this building was occupied by L. J. Levy & Co., a dry goods merchant. Just to the right of this building, at 428 Chestnut Street, was the storefront of silversmiths Bailey & Co. This building also features a sign for the daguerreotype studio of Broadbent & Co., which was probably located on one of the upper floors.

Despite the signs advertising for these companies, both 426 and 428 Chestnut Street appear to be vacant, with boarded-up storefronts. It is entirely possible that these were both being prepared for demolition, especially given the poor condition of 426 Chestnut. Either way, all of the buildings in this scene were eventually demolished by 1885, when the Drexel Building was constructed on this site. The Drexel Building was, in turn, demolished as part of the development of the Independence National Historical Park, and today this site of Signers’ Garden. This small park honors the signers of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and it features a statue of Philadelphia native George Clymer, who signed both of these documents.

William Marshall House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The house at 322 Spruce Street, between Third and Fourth Streets in Philadelphia, in March 1859. Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick De Bourg Richards Photograph Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The house in the first photo was built in 1786 as the home of the Reverend William Marshall, who served as pastor of the Scots Presbyterian Church and later the Associate Presbyterian Church. He lived here throughout the late 18th century, and during this time his wife ran a boarding house in order to supplement his pastoral salary. She hosted a variety of notable boarders here, including a few of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and, a few years later, several French noblemen who were living here in exile after the French Revolution. Among them was Louis-Marie, vicomte de Noailles, the brother-in-law of the Marquis de Lafayette, who stayed here for several years starting in 1792. However, by far the most prominent boarder here was Louis Philippe d’Orléans, who would eventually become King Louis Philippe of France.

Louis Philippe arrived in Philadelphia in 1796 when he was 23 years old. His father had been the Duke of Orléans, and both men had been supporters of the French Revolution, with Louis Philippe serving with distinction as an officer in the revolutionary army, but the family ultimately fell out of favor during the Reign of Terror. The Duke was executed by guillotine in 1793, and Louis Philippe fled the country, eventually ending up in Philadelphia after spending several years traveling throughout Europe.

He appears to have remained here with the Marshalls for several months, until the arrival of his two brothers in 1797. They subsequently moved into a house of their own in Philadelphia, but Louis Philippe would continue his travels here in America, living in New York and Boston before eventually returning to France with his brothers in 1800.

Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1815, he became a part of the royal court, although he tended to be more liberal-minded than the kings were. The final monarch from the House of Bourbon, Charles X, was ultimately forced to abdicate in the July Revolution of 1830, and this created an opportunity for Louis Philippe, who was then declared king. In contrast to the conservative Charles X, he tried to portray himself as a man of the people, and he was referred to as the “Citizen King.” He reigned as king for the next 18 years, but over time his popularity waned, and he too was forced to abdicate, in February 1848, making him the last king in the history of France.

In the meantime, the modest boarding house where the future king had once lived was still standing here on Spruce Street at the end of his reign. The first photo was taken in 1859, just 11 years after Louis Philippe’s abdication, by Frederick De Bourg Richards, as part of an effort to document historic landmarks in the city. By this point the building was the home of Miss Carr’s School for Young Ladies, although the exterior likely had not changed much from its original appearance, since it still resembled a typical late 18th century rowhouse.

The house was still standing here as late as 1885, when it was featured in an article in the Magazine of American History. However, the article noted that it was currently in use as an upholstery shop, and that it “has undergone considerable alteration since its palmy days.” The article lamented the poor state of preservation, while also observing that it had once been a curiosity among visitors but had since fallen into obscurity. This is perhaps due in part to the fact that, when the first photo was taken, the reign of Louis Philippe was still a recent memory for most people, while by the mid-1880 nearly 40 years had elapsed since his abdication.

Today, the streets of Philadelphia’s Society Hill neighborhood are still lined with historic rowhouses, but the former residence of Louis Philippe is not among them. It was demolished at some point, probably in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, and today the lot is part of St. Joseph’s Way, a pedestrian walkway that runs parallel to Third and Fourth Streets for several blocks. There are, however, a few surviving remnants from the first photo. Most obvious is the house on the right side, but both photos also feature the spire of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which was built in 1758 and still stands in the distance at the corner of Third and Pine Streets.