Jayne Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Looking west on Chestnut Street between Bank and Third Streets in Philadelphia, around 1859. Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick De Bourg Richards Photograph Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The first photo shows the view looking west along the south side of Chestnut Street, from near the corner of Bank Street. The scene features a variety of commercial buildings, but the most prominent of these is the Jayne Building in the center of the photo. Built between 1849 and 1851, this eight-story building was far ahead of its time, predating the advent of modern skyscrapers by nearly half a century. As such, it is generally considered to be the first skyscraper in the city, and arguably the first in the entire country as well.

The Jayne Building was designed by local architect William L. Johnston, and it featured a Gothic Revival exterior of Quincy granite. In contrast to most of the neighboring buildings, its façade featured strong vertical lines that emphasized its height, a technique that would later become common for 20th century skyscrapers. However, the building also featured a two-story crenelated tower atop the roof, giving it an unusual combination of modern and medieval-style architecture.

The building was owned by Dr. David Jayne, a physician who made his fortune selling patent medicines. Although based in Philadelphia, he sold his products across the country. He even published a free almanac that was replete with medical advice, most of which involved taking one or more of his products. Among these were the Expectorant, which was intended for lung diseases, and the Alterative, which Jayne claimed could treat a wide range of ailments, including cancer, gout, rheumatism, scrofula, scurvy, syphilis, ulcers, and various skin disorders.

Architect William L. Johnston provided much of the vision for Jayne’s building, but he did not live to see it completed. He died of tuberculosis during the early stages of the construction, and another Philadelphia architect, Thomas Ustick Walter, oversaw the rest of the work. Walter also designed two six-story wings, one on either side of the main building, which were completed in 1851 and are visible here in the first photo. Also in 1851, Walter was appointed as Architect of the Capitol, and in this capacity he designed both the House and Senate wings of the US Capitol, along with the current Capitol dome.

David Jayne died in 1866 at the age of 66, but his family carried on the business for many years. However, just six years later this building was gutted by a massive fire on the night of March 4, 1872. The fire started around 9:00 p.m. in the rear of the third floor, but it soon spread up to the top of the building. Firefighting efforts were hampered by the height of the building, and also by the sub-zero temperatures, which caused the water to freeze into icicles on the exterior. However, firefighters succeeded in preventing the flames from spreading to the six-story wings, and most of the exterior walls remained standing, despite extensive damage to the interior.

The building was subsequently reconstructed around the old walls, albeit without the ornate two-story tower atop the roof. It would remain here for the next 80 years, but by the mid-20th century it was threatened by an urban renewal project related to the Independence National Historical Park. Planners envisioned a park area that would feature the city’s prominent Revolutionary-era landmarks surrounded by open space, rather than being crowded by more recent development. This meant the demolition of many 19th century buildings that, despite their architectural and historic significance, were not a part of the park’s mission.

In the case of the Jayne Building, it stood on the periphery of the park, three blocks away from Independence Hall. The mid-19th century proto-skyscraper clearly had no connection to the American Revolution, but some preservationists made an effort to have the building spared. Among these was Charles E. Peterson, who in 1951 published a theory that the Jayne Building had likely helped to influence the design of more modern skyscrapers, since prominent architect Louis Sullivan had once worked out of an office across the street from here. However, this appeal failed to convince the park planners to save the building, and it was ultimately demolished in the fall of 1957.

Today, more than 160 years after the first photo was taken, there are no surviving landmarks from the first photo. Many of the older commercial buildings were likely replaced by newer buildings later in the 19th century, but anything that was still standing by the 1950s would have, like the Jayne Building, been demolished as part of the Independence National Historical Park. Here in the foreground, where the Jayne Building once stood, this site became a visitors center. This building was, in turn, demolished in 2014, and the site is currently occupied by the Museum of the American Revolution, which is shown here in the 2019 photo.

Memorial Hall, Monson, Mass

Memorial Hall on Main Street in Monson, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2020:

One of the most architecturally-impressive buildings in Monson is Memorial Hall, which was completed in 1885 as a town hall and a memorial to the town’s residents who served in the Civil War. Prior to this time, Monson did not have a purpose-built town hall; instead, town meetings were held at the First Church and the Methodist Church. It was at one of these town meetings, in 1883, that Rice M. Reynolds offered to donate land and money to help construct a new town hall. Together with his brother Theodore and their father, prominent local industrialist Joseph L. Reynolds, the family gave $17,000 towards the project, with the town covering the remaining $42,000 in construction costs.

The late 19th century was the heyday for Civil War monuments in New England, and almost every city or town had at least one to recognize its residents who fought for the Union. Here in Monson, the town had two major memorials. The first of these was the Soldiers’ Monument in front of the First Church, which was donated by Cyrus W. Holmes and dedicated in 1884. Memorial Hall followed a year later, and together these two monuments honored the 155 Monson residents who served in the war. Of these, sixteen were killed in battle, and thirteen died of disease during the war.

Memorial Hall was designed by architect George E. Potter, and it was constructed with granite that was quarried in the town by the William N. Flynt Granite Company. It features a Gothic-inspired design with an asymmetrical main facade. On the left side, at the northwest corner of the building, is a 100-foot tower, and on the right, in the southwest corner, is a 45-foot turret that is topped by a statue of a soldier. Most Gothic and Romanesque-style public buildings of this era were built with multi-colored exteriors, using either contrasting light and dark bricks or sandstone. This was not as easy to do with gray granite blocks, but there are were some efforts to create contrast, particularly with the alternating light and dark stones in the arches above the doors.

On the interior, the largest space in the building was the auditorium on the first floor. It had a capacity of a thousand people, and could be used for town meetings and other civic events. The building also included offices for town officials such as the town clerk, the selectmen, the assessor, and the superintendent of schools. In the basement was the town lockup, along with utility and storage space, including the town safe.

The second floor was originally occupied by the Marcus Keep Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. The GAR was a prominent and politically-powerful fraternal organization in the North during the late 19th century, and its membership was comprised exclusively of Union veterans of the Civil War. Here in Monson, the local chapter of the organization was named for Marcus Keep, a town resident who died from infection in 1864 after being wounded in the leg during a skirmish in Virginia. Along with the regular GAR post, the second floor space was also used by the Woman’s Relief Corps and the Sons of Veterans, the two main auxiliary organizations of the GAR.

Memorial Hall was completed in mid-1885, and the first public event to be held here was, appropriately enough, a service in memory of Ulysses S. Grant, who had died on July 23. Then, on August 15, the building was formally presented to the town at the first official town meeting here in Memorial Hall. The occasion was marked with little ceremony, and only about 50 voters attended the meeting. Rice M. Reynolds spoke on the reason for its construction, and then the chairman of the building committee, Edward D. Cushman, presented it to the voters, who accepted it.

The first photo was taken less than a decade after the building opened. Since then, remarkably little has changed here in this scene. Memorial Hall continued to be used as the town hall until 1992, when the town offices moved a few blocks north to the old high school building at the corner of Main and State Streets. The town still owns Memorial Hall, though, and it is now used for concerts, plays, fairs, and other community events.

As shown in the present-day photo, the exterior has remained well-preserved throughout this time, and even the 19th century homes on either side of it are still standing, although the one on the left was significantly expanded around 1910. Because of its historic and architectural significance, Memorial Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and in 1991 it became a part of the Monson Center Historic District, which is also listed on the National Register.

First Congregational Church, Fall River, Mass

The First Congregational Church, seen looking up Cherry Street from the corner of June Street, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2020:

The First Congregational Church of Fall River was established in 1816, and throughout most of the 19th century the church worshipped in a building at the northwest corner of North Main and Elm Streets. However, in 1913 the church moved into this new building, which was donated by one of its parishioners, Sarah S. Brayton. The building was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, and it features a granite, Gothic Revival exterior. It was formally dedicated on January 9, 1913, on the 97th anniversary of the church’s founding. Among those in attendance was Sarah Brayton, who was 78 years old at the time, and the dedication sermon was delivered by the Rev. Nehemiah Boynton of the Clinton Avenue Congregational Church in Brooklyn.

The first photo was taken within a few years after the building was completed. It is a rather strange angle, because it shows the rear and side of the church, with the parish house in the foreground on the left. Further up in the distance, on the other side of Rock Street, is the B.M.C. Durfee High School, which was built in 1886. The three girls on the sidewalk are likely students at the school, and are apparently walking home at the end of the school day. During the early 20th century, the Durfee High School ended at 1:25 p.m., and the photo was taken ten minutes later at 1:35, according to the school’s clock tower.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, almost nothing has changed in this scene except for the trees, which now partially hide the buildings. The church is still an active congregation, and the exterior of the building has remained well-preserved. Further up the hill, the old high school building was converted into a family and probate courthouse in the 1990s, but it has retained its historic exterior appearance. The high school building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and two years later both it and the church were designated as contributing properties in the Highlands Historic District.

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.