South Entrance, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The view just inside the south entrance of the Connecticut State Capitol, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

These two photos show the entryway at the south entrance of the Connecticut State Capitol. The building was completed in 1878, and it features a highly ornate interior comprised primarily of marble, along with polished granite columns. This entrance is located directly beneath the House of Representatives chamber, which can be accessed by either of the two staircases here. In between the staircases is the rotunda at the center of the building, underneath the dome.

Today, this particular scene has hardly changed in about 130 years since the first photo was taken. The building has been well-maintained and preserved over the years, and it stands as an important architectural landmark. The only significant difference between these two photos is the replica Liberty Bell to the right of the west staircase. This was one of 55 produced by the Department of the Treasury in 1950 as gifts to each of the states and territories, and it even features a painted-on crack to mimic the one on the original Liberty Bell.

Staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

A staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The staircase in 2019:

The Connecticut State Capitol is an architectural masterpiece, on both the interior and exterior. It was the work of prominent architect Richard M. Upjohn, and it was completed in 1879 with an ornate High Victorian Gothic design comprised largely of marble and granite. At the center of the building, beneath the dome, is a large rotunda that is flanked on either side by marble staircases. This particular staircase is on the east side of the rotunda, and in the distant center of the scene, on the second floor, is the door to the House of Representatives chamber.

Today, around 130 years after the first photo was taken, there are hardly any differences between these two photos. The building underwent a major restoration from 1979 to 1989, and on the interior this included cleaning grime off of the marble floors and other stonework, along with restoring the intricately painted details throughout the building. As a result, the building now looks the way that it did when it first opened nearly 150 years ago, and it remains an important architectural landmark while also continuing to serve as the seat of the Connecticut state government.

Nathan Hale State, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The Nathan Hale statue inside the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The statue in 2019:

Perhaps the most celebrated Revolutionary War figure from Connecticut is Nathan Hale, the young schoolteacher-turned-soldier who was hanged as a spy in 1776. He is memorialized by several statues throughout the state, including here in the east wing of the state capitol building. This statue was designed in 1886 by sculptor Karl Gerhardt, and it is made of bronze atop a marble base, on which is inscribed Hale’s famous, if possibly apocryphal last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The statue was formally unveiled here in the capitol on June 14, 1887, in a ceremony attended by dignitaries such as Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury and Mayor Morgan Bulkeley, who would later go on to become governor and U.S. senator. The dedication address was presented by Charles Dudley Warner, a writer whose most famous work was the novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which he had co-authored with fellow Hartford resident Mark Twain.

The first photo was taken about four years after the statue was installed here, and since then essentially nothing has changed in this scene. The statue is still here in the same spot, and the interior of the capitol itself has remained well-preserved, retaining its original ornate Victorian-era design.

The Genius of Connecticut, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The plaster model of The Genius of Connecticut, located inside the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

Connecticut’s current state capitol building was completed in 1878, and it was originally topped by The Genius of Connecticut, which was designed by sculptor Randolph Rogers. This 18-foot-tall bronze statue stood atop the building’s dome for many years, but the original plaster model was also retained, and it stood here on the main floor of the capitol, just inside the northern entrance. The first photo was taken around 1891, showing the plaster model along with some of the ornate Victorian-era decorations inside the building.

The statue on the dome was ultimately damaged during the 1938 hurricane and was taken down, and it was subsequently melted down for scrap metal during World War II. However, the plaster model has remained here inside the capitol, although in the 1980s it was painted bronze as part of a restoration effort. Then, in 2007, it was again used as a model, this time with the use of lasers to accurately measure every detail of the statue. Using this information, a replica statue was cast in bronze, with the goal of eventually placing it atop the dome.

Today, neatly 130 years after the first photo was taken, the plaster model still stands here in the entryway. Aside from the bronze paint to the statue and the addition of a few items inside the building, hardly anything has changed here in this scene, and the capitol remains in use as the seat of the state government. Just around the corner, out of view to the left, is the replica bronze statue, which as of right now stands at the base of the rotunda, awaiting the necessary funds to raise it to the top of the building.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Albany, NY

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, at the corner of State and Lodge Streets in Albany, around 1908. Image from Views of Albany (1908).

The church in 2019:

This church is one of Albany’s most important architectural landmarks. It was designed by prominent architect Richard Upjohn, who specialized in Gothic Revival-style churches, and it was consecrated in 1860. However, the parish itself is much older, dating back to 1708, when Anglican services were first held in Albany. The first church building was constructed in 1715, at what is now the corner of State and Chapel Streets, and it was used throughout the rest of the 18th century, aside from a temporary closure during the American Revolution.

Then, in 1803 the church moved into a new building here at the corner of State and Lodge Streets. Its architect, Philip Hooker, was responsible for many of Albany’s important public buildings of the era, including the First Church in Albany on North Pearl Street. That church is still standing more than two centuries later, but his work here at St. Peter’s Church did not have the same longevity. The building, barely 50 years old, was declared structurally unsound in 1857, and the church temporarily held its services in the Geological Hall until a new church could be built.

The old church was demolished in early 1859, and work soon followed on the new building here on the same site. It was completed about a year and a half later, and formally consecrated on October 4, 1860. The ceremony was attended by a variety of prominent Episcopal clergymen in the area, including Bishop Horatio Potter of the Diocese of New York. Albany was familiar territory for Potter, who had previously served as rector here at St. Peter’s Church from 1833 to 1854, before he was elevated to bishop. He would go on to serve as bishop of the diocese for more than 30 years, until his death in 1887.

The only part of the church that was not completed in 1860 was the tower. It would not be finished for another 16 years, and in the meantime it rose to a height of just 56 feet, with a temporary roof atop it. The rest of the building measured 136 feet in length, 68 feet in width, and 64 feet in height. The exterior consisted of Schenectady bluestone, with New Jersey sandstone for the trim. The design was inspired by French Gothic architecture, and although it is generally credited to Richard Upjohn, his son Richard M. Upjohn was also involved in the project. The younger Upjohn would go on to have a successful career in his own right, and he was responsible for designing the rest of the 180-foot tower that was added to the church in 1876.

The first photo was taken shortly after the turn of the 20th century, and by this point the church was joined by a number of other newer buildings. Immediately to the left is the Tudor-style Potts Memorial Rectory, which was completed in 1896 and named in honor of Jesse and Eunice Potts, whose children donated the money for its construction. Beyond the church on the far right side of the scene is the Albany Masonic Temple. It was also built in 1896, although the land itself has been owned by the Masons since 1766, making it the oldest continuously-owned Masonic property in the country. The other late 19th century building in the scene is Albany City Hall, which was completed in 1883 and stands in the distance on the left side. It is one of the few buildings in Albany that rival St. Peter’s Church in architectural importance, having been designed by famed architect Henry H. Richardson.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much has changed along State Street in Albany, as seen in the photos of an earlier post showing the view from a few blocks east of the church. However, the buildings in the first photo here have remained remarkably well-preserved during this time, and all four are still standing, with few significant exterior alterations. The church itself is still an active Episcopal parish, and in 1980 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark for its architectural significance. The other nearby buildings have likewise received federal recognition; both the parish house and the Masonic Temple are now part of the Downtown Albany Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places, and City Hall is individually listed on the National Register.

Kenmore Hotel, Albany, New York

The Kenmore Hotel, at the corner of North Pearl and Columbia Streets in Albany, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2019:

The Kenmore Hotel, shown here in these two photos, is one of the most impressive 19th century commercial buildings in Albany. It was built in 1878, with an ornate brick High Victorian Gothic-style exterior that was designed by local architect Edward Ogden and it was owned by Adam Blake, a prosperous African American hotelier.

Blake was born in 1830, and he was subsequently adopted by—and named for—Adam Blake Sr., a former slave who was a leader within the local African American community. He went on to have a successful career in the restaurant and hotel industries, eventually becoming the owner of the Congress Hall hotel. This hotel was ultimately demolished to make way for the new state capitol building, but Blake received $190,000 for it—equivalent to over $5 million today—and he used the money to build the Kenmore Hotel here on North Pearl Street.

The hotel featured the latest in modern conveniences, with an 1880 advertisement declaring that it had an “Elevator, along with all modern appliances for Elegance and Comfort” and “Hot and Cold Water, Steam Heaters, and Telephone, connecting with office, in each room.” The latter was a particularly remarkable innovation, as Alexander Graham Bell had developed the first telephone in 1876, and within just four years every room in this hotel was equipped with one.

Blake ultimately did not get to enjoy his new hotel for very long, though, because he died in 1881 at the age of 51. However, he left behind a substantial estate of over $100,000, or more than $2.6 million today, and his widow Catherine carried on the hotel business for several more years before selling it in 1887.

During this time, the hotel was a popular gathering place for state politicians, who worked just up the hill from here at the state capitol. These included 25-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, who was at the time an assemblyman from New York City. In 1883, he made the hotel his base of operations during his bid to become speaker of the State Assembly. He ended up losing in the Republican caucus to Titus Sheard, although in the long run this defeat did not seem to have hurt his political career.

Around the turn of the 20th century, Robert P. Murphy acquired the hotel, renovated it, and rebranded it as the New Kenmore. The first photo was taken around this time, and the building displays a vertical “New Kenmore” sign on the right side. The photo also shows some of the other nearby commercial buildings on North Pearl Street, which were built around the same time as the Kenmore. These include the YMCA Building, visible in the distance with the gabled roof and rounded turret at the corner of Steuben Street. It was built in 1886, and in 1892 it was the site of one of the first basketball games. The sport had been invented only a month earlier at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, and this game in Albany was the first to be played outside of Springfield.

Robert Murphy sold the hotel in 1906 and opened a new hotel in New York, but he returned to Albany in 1916 and ran the Kenmore until his death in 1921. His sons Harry, Robert, and Augustus then carried on the business for many years, and it was during this time that the hotel became well known as the site of the Rain-Bo Room nightclub. The club featured live performances by prominent entertainers of the Roaring Twenties and beyond, including Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra, and one of its regular guests was the famous mobster Jack “Legs” Diamond.

The Rain-Bo Room closed in 1947, and in 1986 the building was converted into offices. The building is now undergoing another renovation, as shown in the 2019 photo. Upon completion, the building will feature 93 apartments, along with retail space on the ground floor, and there is also a proposal to reopen the Rain-Bo Room. Overall, despite the changes in use over the years, the Kenmore has remained very well-preserved, with few significant changes since the first photo was taken. The neighboring buildings further to the left are also still standing, and they are now part of the Downtown Albany Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.