Louis S. Newton House, Hartford, Vermont

The house at 1683 Maple Street in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The house in 2018:

This Greek Revival-style cottage was built around 1859, and its earliest recorded owner was George Brockway, a chair manufacturer who was listed here as the owner in the 1869 county atlas. It does not indicate whether he personally lived here or just owned the property, but it seems likely that this was his home, and the 1870 census shows him living in Hartford with his four young children, who ranged in age from three months to four years old. He ultimately sold the property for $1,400 to John H. French in 1871, and he died two years later at the age of 43.

In 1884, the house was purchased by Almira L. Newton, who lived here for many years along with several other family members, including her sister Caroline and her brother Louis. None of the three siblings evidently ever married, although Almira raised her adopted son Bradleigh here. All three of the Newtons were living at the house during the 1900 and 1910 censuses, but Louis appears to have moved elsewhere in town by 1920, and in 1921 he relocated to Burlington.

Louis S. Newton was a noted local architect. Here in Hartford, he is perhaps best remembered for his 1903 remodeling of the historic Second Congregational Church, and he also did some work here on his sister’s house, adding Colonial Revival-style details around 1900. Elsewhere, his other works consisted of a variety of houses and commercial buildings, including both renovations and new construction. He designed the Occom Ridge houses at nearby Dartmouth College at the turn of the 20th century, and in 1914 he restored the Old Constitution House in Windsor, which is regarded as the birthplace of Vermont.

The house remained in the Newton family until at least the early 1940s, and it has since changed ownership many times over the years. However, its appearance has remained remarkably unchanged throughout this time, with few exterior changes more than a century after the first photo was taken. Today, the house is part of the Hartford Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Second Bank of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The former Second Bank of the United States, on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2019:

The establishment of a national bank was one of the most controversial economic matters in the early years of the United States government, pitting Federalists such as Alexander Hamilton against Democratic-Republicans such as Thomas Jefferson. The Federalists, who generally represented urban and northern interests, favored a strong central government in order to promote trade and industry, while the Democratic-Republicans, who were primarily southern and rural, saw such a government as a threat, instead preferring a decentralized, agrarian-based economy.

Over the objections of prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the First Bank of the United States was established in 1791. At the time, the national capital was here in Philadelphia, with Congress meeting in Congress Hall, adjacent to Independence Hall. As a result, the bank was also headquartered in Philadelphia, where it operated out of Carpenters’ Hall until 1797, when a new bank building was completed nearby on South Third Street. The national government subsequently relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1800, but the bank remained in Philadelphia, and it continued to operate until 1811, when its twenty-year charter expired and Congress declined to renew it.

The country was without a national bank for the next five years, but in 1816 Congress authorized a new bank, the Second Bank of the United States. Ironically, this legislation was signed into law by President James Madison, who had come to recognize the need for a national bank after his earlier misgivings about the First Bank. Like its predecessor, the Second Bank was privately owned yet subject to government oversight, and its important roles included regulating public credit and stabilizing the national currency. This was particularly important in the years during and after the Madison administration, as the country recovered from the War of 1812 and began a series of ambitious internal improvements.

As with the First Bank, the Second Bank was located in Philadelphia, and it began operations in 1817. It also used Carpenters’ Hall as its temporary home, but in 1824 the bank moved into this newly-completed building on Chestnut Street. Designed by noted architect William Strickland, it features a Greek Revival exterior that is modeled on the Parthenon, with a pediment and eight Doric columns on both the north and south facades. This was an early example of Greek Revival architecture in the United States, and this style subsequently became very popular across the country in the next few decades, particularly for government and other institutional buildings.

By the time the building was completed in 1824, the bank had already faced significant criticism for its role in the Panic of 1819, the first major financial crisis in American history. Although part of a larger worldwide recession, it was also a consequence of the lending practices here at the Second Bank of the United States. Along with its role as the national bank, it also made loans to corporations and private individuals, and during its first few years it extended too much credit to borrowers. Then, in an effort to correct this, the bank began restricting credit, causing a nationwide rise in interest rates and unemployment, and a drop in property values and prices of farm produce. This ultimately triggered a financial panic in 1819, which was followed by an economic recession that lasted for several years.

The bank’s first two presidents were largely ineffective, but in 1823 Philadelphia native Nicholas Biddle became the bank president. He oversaw a slow but steady expansion of credit, along with an increase in banknotes, and during his tenure he managed to rehabilitate the bank’s image in the general public. This building on Chestnut Street opened about a year into his presidency, and he would continue to run the bank here for the next 12 years, until it closed in 1836 after its charter expired.

During these years, the bank — including its 25 branches across the country — played an important role in the nation’s economic growth. However, despite the bank’s success, it continued to generate controversy, becoming a central political issue during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. First elected in 1828, Jackson had a distrust of banks in general and the Second Bank of the United States in particular. He was skeptical of both paper money and lending, and he also opposed the bank on constitutional grounds. Echoing the earlier opposition to the First Bank, he argued that, as the Constitution does not explicitly authorize Congress to establish a national bank, it was an infringement upon the rights of the states.

In 1832, Congress approved a renewal of the bank’s charter, which was due to expire in four years. However, Jackson vetoed the bill, and Congress was unable to gather enough votes to override it. A year later, Jackson removed federal deposits from the bank and placed them into various state banks. Biddle subsequently made another effort to renew the charter, but despite his financial abilities he lacked strong political skills, and the bank’s charter ultimately expired in February 1836.

The bank itself did not close at this time, instead becoming the United States Bank of Philadelphia, with Nicholas Biddle still at the helm. However, the lack of a national bank soon became a factor in the Panic of 1837, which led to a seven-year recession. It was the worst economic crisis until the Great Depression, and it triggered a number of bank failures, including the United States Bank of Philadelphia. At the start of the recession, it had been the largest bank in the country, yet it ultimately went bankrupt in 1841.

A year later, Charles Dickens came to Philadelphia as part of his 1842 trip to the United States. He had few positive things to say about the country in his subsequent book, American Notes for General Circulation, and he painted a particularly bleak picture of the scene here at the old bank building with the following description:

We reached the city, late that night. Looking out of my chamber-window, before going to bed, I saw, on the opposite side of the way, a handsome building of white marble, which had a mournful ghost-like aspect, dreary to behold. I attributed this to the sombre influence of the night, and on rising in the morning looked out again, expecting to see its steps and portico thronged with groups of people passing in and out. The door was still tight shut, however; the same cold cheerless air prevailed: and the building looked as if the marble statue of Don Guzman could alone have any business to transact within its gloomy walls. I hastened to inquire its name and purpose, and then my surprise vanished. It was the Tomb of many fortunes; the Great Catacomb of investment; the memorable United States Bank.

The stoppage of this bank, with all its ruinous consequences, had cast (as I was told on every side) a gloom on Philadelphia, under the depressing effect of which it yet laboured. It certainly did seem rather dull and out of spirits.

As it turned out, the building did not remain vacant for very long. In 1845, it became the U. S. Custom House for the port of Philadelphia, and it was used in this capacity for far longer than it was ever used as a bank. It was still the Custom House when the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, and this continued until 1934, when the present Custom House opened two blocks away. Then, in 1939, the old building was transferred to the National Park Service, which has owned it ever since.

The building has seen several different uses over the past 80 years, but it currently houses the Second Bank Portrait Gallery. It features a number of portraits by prominent late 18th and early 19th century artist Charles Willson Peale, including those of many important colonial-era leaders, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. Most of the interior has been heavily altered since its time as a bank, although the exterior has remained well-preserved, with few changes from its appearance in the first photo. It is now part of the Independence National Historical Park, and in 1987 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

First Parish Church, Concord, Mass

The First Parish Church on Lexington Road in Concord, around 1895-1900. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

Concord’s First Parish Church was established in 1636, just a year after the town itself was incorporated, and over the years it has occupied several different meetinghouses here in the center of town. The first two were built in the 17th century, and the third in 1712. This one would subsequently undergo several major reconstructions, but it was otherwise still standing when the first photo was taken sometime in the late 1890s.

When it was built in 1712, this church had neither a tower nor portico, and it was set on a different foundation. Despite its modest appearance, though, it served as Concord’s church for many years. Perhaps most significantly, it was temporarily used as the de facto colonial capitol building in October 1774. At the time, the British government had just disbanded the colonial legislature through one of the so-called Intolerable Acts. However, the elected representatives of the various towns ignored this decree and met here at the church in Concord, where John Hancock presided over the assembly, which was known as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. The pastor of the church at the time was William Emerson, who served as the chaplain of the congress. He subsequently died during the American Revolution in 1776, but he is perhaps best known today as the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The original appearance of this church was fairly typical for New England meetinghouses of the period, with their plain, unadorned style reflecting Puritan beliefs about worship. However, by the late 18th century these ideas about church architecture had begun to change, giving rise to the iconic white-steepled churches that have long been a defining characteristic of small-town New England. However, traditional Yankee frugality still played a role in decision-making, and many of the old churches were simply remodeled instead of being demolished and rebuilt.

Such was the case here in Concord, where the old 1712 building was expanded by 12 feet and a 90-foot tower was added to it in 1792. An even more dramatic change came in 1841, though, when the church hired noted Boston architect Richard Bond to redesign the church in contemporary Greek Revival style. The result was the exterior that appears in the first photo, with its tower and front portico with four large Doric columns. This project also involved rotating the church so that it faced Lexington Road, and constructing a new, six-foot-high granite foundation. All of this work was done at a total cost of $8,300, equivalent to a little over $200,000 today.

The renovated church continued to be a prominent landmark in downtown Concord throughout the 19th century. During this time, Concord was at the height of its importance as a literary center, and its membership included Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with the family of Henry David Thoreau. However, Thoreau himself was not a member, and he made a point of refusing to pay the municipal tax that, at the time, helped to support the church. Despite this, Thoreau’s funeral was held here in the church in 1862, followed by Emerson’s 20 years later.

In 1900, the interior of the church underwent another remodeling, this time to prepare it for the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Concord. This included repainting the interior, adding decorative woodwork, and installing electric lights. The whole project took several months, but it was essentially completed by the night of April 11, at a cost of $2,500. However, the building caught fire in the early morning hours of April 12, probably from the spontaneous combustion of rags that the painters had left behind. None of the other surrounding buildings were damaged by the fire, but the church was a total loss, leaving only a few salvageable items by the time the fire was extinguished.

In the aftermath of the fire, the church soon began efforts to replace it with a near-identical replica. Using the original 1841 plans, the architectural firm of Cabot, Everett and Mead designed a new church on the same site. There are a few minor differences between the two designs, including the slope of the roof and the details of the tower, and the new one has a vestibule behind the front portico. Overall, though, it was a a very faithful reproduction of the old church, and at first glace the two buildings are nearly identical. This 1901 church building is still standing today, and it continues to serve as an active Unitarian congregation nearly four centuries after the church was established.

Main and Elm Streets, Westfield, Mass

The corner of Main and Elm Streets in Westfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

These two photos show the scene at the northwest corner of Park Square, in the center of downtown Westfield. For the most part, these buildings were constructed in the mid-19th century, when Westfield was in the midst of a long, steady growth in its population. The town had a population of 4,180 in 1850, and it would continue to increase throughout the rest of the century, reaching nearly 10,000 by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. By this point, Westfield was a prosperous manufacturing center, and it was particularly well-known for buggy whips, with the town’s firms ultimately controlling about 99% of the world’s production by the early 20th century.

All of the buildings in this scene were constructed as commercial blocks, with the exception of the three-story, wood-frame building on the far left. Located at the corner of Elm and School Streets, this was built in 1843 as the First Methodist Church. The congregation worshiped here in this building for the next 33 years, and during this time the church had several notable pastors. These included Mark Trafton, who served several stints here in the 1840s and early 1850s before being elected to Congress in 1854, and John Hanson Twombly, who served as pastor here from 1851 to 1853. He later went on to become president of the University of Wisconsin from 1871 to 1874, before returning here to this church in 1874. It was also in this building, in 1862, that Russell H. Conwell gave his first lecture. Although he never served as pastor here, he would go on to become a prominent Baptist minister, and the founder and first president of Temple University.

In 1876, during Reverend Twombly’s second pastorate, the church moved into a new, much larger building nearby on Court Street. The old church was then converted exclusively into commercial use. It had been constructed with storefronts on the ground floor, and its tenants included several different grocery stores. However, after the church relocated, the post office moved into this building, and it remained here until 1912, when a purpose-built post office was constructed on the other side of Park Square.

At some point, the original tower and belfry were removed from the building, but otherwise it still retained much of its Greek Revival exterior by the time the first photo was taken. It would remain largely the same until the 1940s, when it was dramatically altered by the removal of the third floor and gable roof. Now down to two stories, the old church is still standing here today on the left side of the photo, although it is barely recognizable from its historical appearance.

To the right of the church in the first photo is a row of three brick commercial buildings. Furthest to the left was the home of the First National Bank of Westfield. This is the only building from the first photo that no longer exists in any form, as it was demolished around 1930 to build the present-day bank on the lot. To the right of it is another two-story building at 32-34 Elm Street, which was built around 1860. For more than a century, it was occupied by Conner’s, a book, stationery, and gift shop that had been founded in 1867. It moved to this location by the mid-1890s, and it would remain here until it finally closed in 2007. Although Conner’s is gone, the building itself still stands, relatively unaltered from its appearance in the first photo.

Further to the right, at the corner of Elm and Church Streets, is Whitman’s Hall, also known as the Music Hall and the Opera House. It was built in 1855, but it was subsequently expanded in 1870 and renovated again in 1888 and 1904. As the names suggest, the three-story building originally included a public hall. This was used for many different kinds of events over the years, including balls, lectures, concerts, operas, and even prize fights. The building is still standing today, but like the old church it has been heavily altered. The third floor was removed around 1940, and the remaining portion of the building is completely unrecognizable from its original appearance.

On the far right side of both photos is the oldest building in the scene, and possibly the best-preserved of all these historic buildings. It was built in 1842 as the Westfield House Hotel, a boarding house that occupied the upper floors until 1894. The ground floor was used for shops and offices, throughout this time, and during the early 20th century the second floor housed the Westfield District Court. Today, the building stands relatively unaltered on the exterior, and it remains an important landmark on the north side of Park Square.

Overall, despite some significant alterations, most of the buildings from the first photo have survived to the present day in some form. Elsewhere in downtown Westfield, there are a number of other historic commercial buildings that are still standing, and the area is now part of the Westfield Center Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and expanded in 2013. Because of how heavily they were altered, neither the old church nor Whitman’s Hall are considered to be contributing properties, but both the Conner’s building and the Westfield House Hotel are listed as such, as is the 1930 First National Bank of Westfield building.

Woronoco House, Westfield, Mass

The Woronoco House on Elm Street in Westfield, around the 1860s. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

The Woronoco House was an important hotel here in Westfield throughout much of the 1800s. It was built at some point early in the century, and it stood on the west side of Park Square in downtown Westfield. It was brick, three stories in height, with a distinctive two-story porch here on the Elm Street side. The hotel could accommodate between 80 to 100 guests, and the building also included a tavern, in addition to a barber shop that was marked by a tall striped pole on the left side of the first photo.

The hotel was a stagecoach stop in the years before the railroad, and it also served as a gathering place for locals, ranging from the farmers who lived in the villages on the outskirts of town, to the wealthy cigar and whip manufacturers who dominated the local economy of the mid-19th century. During this time, the Woronoco House also saw a number of notable guests from out of town. These included author Bayard Taylor, Senator Charles Sumner, zoologist and anthropologist Paul Du Chaillu, abolitionist Wendell Phillips, New-York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Governor John A. Andrew, and politician Edward Everett, who served variously as governor, senator, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and secretary of state.

In 1871, the Woronoco House property was sold for $25,000, and the new owners soon made significant changes to the building. The original structure was evidently retained, but the exterior was completely reconstructed, including the removal of the porches. At some point, probably as part of this renovation, a fourth floor was added to the hotel, and the original gable roof was replaced by a flat roof. Upon completion, the hotel reopened as the Wilmarth House, but it was renamed again in 1886, becoming the Park Square Hotel.

The hotel remained in use well into the 20th century. It underwent another renovation in 1914, and was subsequently rebranded the New Park Square Hotel. However, the building was completely destroyed by an early-morning fire on December 7, 1942. It was one of several catastrophic fires in downtown Westfield during the mid-20th century, and it took firefighters some 13 hours to extinguish the blaze.

There were 35 guests in the hotel at the time of the fire, some of whom appear to have been long-term residents. Four of them were survivors of the fatal 1936 Van Deusen Inn fire, which had killed seven people, but everyone safely escaped from the New Park Square Hotel. One of the survivors of both fires was Minnie Hutchinson, who was carried out of the building by Deputy Chief Joseph Guinasso. Coincidentally, he was the same firefighter who had rescued her from the Van Deusen six years earlier.

The hotel proved to be a total loss, but firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading. Aside from minor smoke and water damage, the buildings on either side of the hotel survived largely unscathed. Today, the site of the hotel is now a parking lot, but these two neighboring buildings are still standing. On the left is the former Westfield Cooperative Bank, and on the right is the Snow and Hays Block. This building dates back to 1813, and was probably built around the same time as the Woronoco House, although it has been significantly altered over the years. As shown in the first photo, it was once four stories in height, but it was trimmed down to two stories in the 1940s. However, it survives as the only remnant from the first photo, and it is one of the oldest commercial buildings in downtown Westfield.

John Howard House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 100 School Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2018:

This house was built in 1819, and it originally stood a block to the west of here, at 95 Maple Street. At the time, the lower part of Maple Street was becoming a fashionable residential area, and many wealthy families in Springfield built homes here during the first half of the 19th century. Many of these homes, including this one, were the work of Simon Sanborn, a master builder who was responsible for a number of important buildings in Springfield during this period, such as the Alexander House, Byers Block, and the old Unitarian Church.

The original owner of this house was John Howard, the son of the retired First Church pastor Bezaleel Howard. John was a lawyer, having graduated from Yale in 1810, and in 1818 he married Mary Stoddard Dwight, from the prominent Dwight family. Her father, Colonel Thomas Dwight, was a lawyer and politician, serving in both houses of the state legislature, the governor’s council, and even one term in the U. S. House of Representatives. John and Mary Howard moved into this house soon after their marriage, and they raised their four daughters here: Hannah, Margaret, Frances, and Eliza.

John Howard enjoyed a successful career as both a politician and a banker. He served as a fire warden in 1829, a town selectman from 1830 to 1831, and a member of the governor’s council from 1837 to 1838. In addition, he was the cashier of the Springfield Bank from 1823 to 1836, where he earned a salary of $1,000 per year, and in 1827 he became the first treasurer of the Springfield Institution for Savings. Howard subsequently became the president of Springfield Bank in 1836, and he served in that capacity until his death in 1849.

During this time, Howard continued to live in this house, although his wife Mary died in 1836, when she was just 44 years old. The house, which was still located on Maple Street at the time, stayed in his family for at least a few years after his own death. The 1851 city map shows that the property lines extended the width of the block, all the way from Maple to School Streets, and Howard also owned land on the other side of Maple Street, which stretched down the hill to what is now Dale Street.

In 1857, the property was sold to James D. Brewer, a hardware dealer whose store was located at the corner of Main and State Streets. Along with this business, Brewer was also involved in a number of other local companies, serving as a director and later the president of Chicopee Bank, treasurer of the Indian Orchard Canal Company, and a director of the Agawam Canal Company, the Springfield Car and Engine Company, and the Hampden Watch Company. However, he was perhaps best known for his involvement in the Springfield Gas Light Company, serving as its treasurer for 26 years.

James and his wife Sarah had six children, although only two survived to adulthood. Their only surviving son, Edward, later moved to Hartford, and their daughter, Harriet, married Dr. Luke Corcoran and remained here in Springfield. By the mid-1880s, the Corcorans were living here with James and Sarah, who were both in their 60s at this point. James died in 1886, and his widow died just nine weeks later, leaving the family home on Maple Street to Harriet.

The Corcorans soon began major changes here, and in 1889 they began construction on a new house on Maple Street. The old house was moved to the back of the lot, becoming 100 School Street, as shown here in the first photo. They lived in the new house for the rest of their lives, until their deaths in the 1920s, However, they maintained ownership of the old one, and used it as a rental property. During the 1900 census, it was the home of Charles E. Galacar, the vice president of the Springfield Fire and Marine Insurance Company. At the time, he was living here with his wife Minerva, two of their daughters, and two servants, and he would remain here until his death in 1916.

The house was subsequently rented by Harold G. Meadows, the president of the New England Steel Casting Company. He was living here during the 1920 census, along with his wife Frances, their six children, and two servants. They lived here until 1934, when Harold died, and by the following year the house was vacant. The house was still listed as vacant in city directories by the end of the decade, when the first photo was taken, and it does not appear to have had any further tenants. Along with the neighboring early 19th century house at 102 School Street, which had also been empty for many years, it was ultimately demolished in 1946. The site is now a parking lot for the Milton Bradley School, which stands in the distance of the 2018 photo.