First Church of Christ, Longmeadow, Mass

The First Church at the corner of Longmeadow Street and Williams Street, sometime in 1907. Image courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society, Emerson Collection.

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The church in 2016:

It doesn’t look like it at first, but this is the same church building in both photos. In fact, Longmeadow’s First Church of Christ is one of the oldest church buildings in Western Massachusetts, although I’m not sure how much of the original building is still left at this point. Up until 1783, Longmeadow was part of Springfield, and for many years its residents attended church there, nearly four miles away. They finally received permission to build their own church in 1716, which lasted for about 50 years before it was replaced with the present church in 1768.

The church was originally located on the Town Green, but in 1873 it was moved to its present location and drastically remodeled, as seen in the first photo. This Gothic style appearance was popular in the mid-1800s, but by the early 1900s it had fallen out of fashion, so in 1932 it was remodeled again to restore it to a colonial style. I haven’t seen any photos of the church in its original appearance, but it probably still looked a little different than it does now. In particular, the front portico would have been virtually unheard of in New England in 1768; this element was added with the 1932 renovation and modeled after the one on Arlington Street Church in Boston. There are a few features that date back to the early years of the church, though – the bell was cast in 1808 by Paul Revere and recast by him in 1812 after it cracked, and the rooster on top of the steeple is even older than the building itself. Its origins are unclear, but it has watched over the center of Longmeadow since at least 1732.

Bowdoin Square Baptist Church, Boston

The Bowdoin Square Baptist Church in Boston, around 1860. Image taken by Josiah Johnson Hawes, courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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Bowdoin Square in 2015:

This scene shows Bowdoin Square facing the opposite direction from the one in the previous post, facing east on Cambridge Street toward Government Center. The most prominent building in the first photo is the Bowdoin Square Baptist Church, a Gothic Revival style church that was built in 1840. Its design is very similar to several other churches that were built in Boston around the same time, including the old Trinity Church on Summer Street and the nearby Bowdoin Street Congregational Church, which is still standing today as the Saint John the Evangelist Mission Church.

The church here at Bowdoin Square gained some notoriety in 1885, when the congregation split after the pastor, William W. Downs, was found in what was alleged to be a “compromising position” with a woman from his church. The scandal was well-publicized in newspapers across the country, and the church split into two factions, with one supporting his removal and the other believing his claims that he was the victim of a conspiracy. He was eventually dismissed from his position, and the church closed, but he maintained his innocence and several years later won a lawsuit against his accusers, with the jury awarding him $10,000 in damages.

Following the Downs scandal, the church became the Bowdoin Square Baptist Tabernacle, and it was extensively remodeled on the exterior and interior in 1898. However, the church sold the building in 1916 to the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. Around 1930, they demolished the church and the neighboring Coolidge Building to the right, in order to build their new Boston headquarters, which is still standing in the 2015 photo. None of the other buildings remain from the 1860 photo, either; most of this section of Boston was demolished in the 1950s and 1960s as part of the West End and Government Center urban renewal projects.

Boston and Providence Depot, Boston

The Boston and Providence Depot at Park Square in Boston, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The station around 1885. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:


The Boston and Providence Railroad opened in 1835, at a time when Boston was still a peninsula connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. To avoid taking up scarce land, the railroad built a long trestle across the Back Bay, which at the time was a tidal marsh between Boston and Roxbury. The railroad terminal was built here at the edge of the water, at what eventually became Park Square.

The original station from the first photograph was demolished in the early 1870s so that the city could build Columbus Avenue, and it was replaced with the much larger station in the second photograph. In advertisements, it was hailed as “The Palace Depot of the World,” and from here passengers could board a train for Providence, New York, and other points south. However, by the late 19th century there were eight different railroads serving Boston, each of which operated its own separate station. The four railroads on the north side all had terminals near where North Station would be be built in 1893, and three of the south side terminals were located in the immediate vicinity of today’s South Station. The Providence and Worcester depot was the one outlier; it was on the south side, but it was a half mile away from the next closest station.

Because the multiple stations were both inconvenient for passengers and a waste of valuable property, the four south side railroads finally consolidated into South Station in 1899. This station and the tracks leading to it were closed, and the railroad, which by then had been leased to the New York, New Haven and Hartford, was rerouted onto new tracks, parallel to the Boston & Albany Railroad.

Today, none of the buildings from the first two photos are still standing. The site of the station is now the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, which was built in 1927 as the Hotel Statler Boston in the triangular block between Columbus Avenue, Park Plaza, and Arlington Street. The only visible remnant from the first photo is the Emancipation Memorial statue, which was added to Park Square in 1879 and can be seen on the far left of both photos.


First Church in Boston

The First Church in Boston, at the corner of Berkeley and Marlborough Streets in Boston, around 1890-1910. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The church in 2015:

Boston’s First Church is among the oldest religious organizations in the United States, having been established in 1630 when John Winthrop and other early settlers first arrived in Boston. It became an influential congregation in New England, with leaders such as Charles Chauncy, who served as the pastor for 60 years from 1727 until his death in 1787. Theologically liberal, he opposed the Great Awakening revival that was led by one of his contemporaries, Jonathan Edwards of the church in Northampton. In part because of Chauncey’s influence, Unitarian theology began to take root in early 19th century Boston, and most of the city’s churches, including the First Church, shifted to Unitarianism.

The church had previously been located in downtown Boston, but by the 1860s many of Boston’s wealthier residents were moving west into the newly-filled Back Bay, and many of the long-established Protestant churches joined them, including the First Church. They moved into this Gothic style building at the corner of Berkeley and Marlborough Streets in 1868, and remained here for the next 100 years until it was gutted by a fire in 1968. The historic church had to be completely rebuilt, aside from the tower and the Berkeley Street facade, which had survived the fire and were incorporated into the new building.

Methodist Church, Monson, Mass (2)

Another view of the Methodist Church on Main Street in Monson, around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The church in 2015:

As explained in the previous post, this church at the corner of Main and Cushman Streets was built in 1850, and it is the oldest of Monson’s four church buildings.  The only major change in the church’s appearance between the two photos is the steeple.  The top of the steeple above the belfry was removed in 1952 because of damage caused by the 1938 hurricane, and it was replaced in 2010.  Aside from that, though, the rest of the historic church is essentially unchanged, and it is an excellent example of mid 19th century New England church architecture.

Methodist Church, Monson, Mass (1)

The Methodist Church on Main Street in Monson, probably taken around 1900-1920. Image courtesy of the Monson Free Library.

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The church in 2015:

The Methodist church in Monson was first established in the 1820s, and in 1827 its first permanent church building was built about a mile south of here, at the corner of Main and Maple Streets.  However, the congregation outgrew that building, and in 1850 they moved to this much larger, more centrally-located church in downtown Monson.  As seen in the two photos, it is still standing today, and it is the oldest active church building in town.

Architecturally, the church strongly resembles the traditional New England churches of the early 1800s, but there are also some elements of Gothic Revival architecture, such as the arched windows and the quatrefoil window on the tower.  Since its completion, there have not been many major changes to its appearance.  Aside from an expansion around 1860, the only major change has been the steeple.  The 1938 hurricane weakened its supports, so in 1952 the spire was removed, and was not replaced until 2010.  Just a year later, a tornado caused severe damage to downtown Monson, and destroyed the steeples of two nearby churches, but this church survived largely unscathed.