Hotel Wendell, Pittsfield, Mass

The Hotel Wendell, at the corner of South and West Streets in Pittsfield, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1097_1906c-loc

The scene in 2016:

1097_2016
The first photo was taken less than a decade after the completion of the Hotel Wendell. Located right in the heart of downtown Pittsfield, it opened in 1898 to much fanfare, with dignitaries including Lieutenant Governor Winthrop M. Crane, the paper magnate from nearby Dalton who later served as governor and US senator. It was designed by local architect H. Neill Wilson, in a Renaissance Revival style that was fairly common for hotels at the turn of the century, and included 110 guest rooms and a 250-seat dining room. At the time, Pittsfield was the urban center of the Berkshires, the Gilded Age playground of New York’s rich and famous, and a hotel here was a wise investment.

There is an interesting contrast in the first photo, between the large, elegant, modern hotel and the motley assortment of shabby, early 19th century brick buildings to the left. They appear to have once been houses that were later stitched together into a semi-coherent mass of a commercial block. Either way, they did not last long in the growing city. By the 1920s, the Hotel Wendell was expanding to the left, replacing these old buildings with two large additions. Completed in 1930, these additions nearly tripled the size of the hotel and made it the largest in the city.

However, the Hotel Wendell was peaking just as inner-city hotels were about to enter a precipitous decline. The Great Depression had just started and World War II would soon follow, and after the war automobiles and interstate highways drew business away from city centers. Pittsfield, once an important stop on the way from Boston to Albany and points west, was completely bypassed by the Massachusetts Turnpike, which opened in 1956, more than 10 miles to the south.

The Hotel Wendell closed in 1965, and was demolished soon after. Its replacement was a 14-story Hilton hotel, which opened in 1971. Now the Crowne Plaza Pittsfield, it is still the tallest building in the city nearly 50 years later. As seen in the 2016 photo, the new hotel is set further back from the road. The actual site of the old Hotel Wendell is now a three-story commercial building, which is part of the hotel complex and includes storefronts on the first floor along the west side of South Street.

Central Congregational Church, Providence, RI

The Central Congregational Church on Angell Street in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1090_1906c-loc

The church in 2016:

1090_2016
Established in 1852, the Central Congregational Church was originally located on Benefit Street, in the western part of the College Hill neighborhood. However, within 40 years the congregation had outgrown their first home, and in 1893 they moved into this building on Angell Street. This area is located on the opposite end of College Hill, furthest from downtown Providence, and was developed as a residential neighborhood in the last decades of the 19th century.

The new church building was designed by Carrère and Hastings, a prominent New York architectural firm who designed a number of prominent Beaux-Arts style buildings at the turn of the 20th century. Designing at the height of the Gilded Age, the firms’s works ranged from grand hotels in Florida, to mansions in Newport and the Berkshires, to the New York Public Library. However, their Renaissance Revival-style design for the Central Congregational Church was among their early commissions.

With yellow brick and plenty of terra cotta, it has a Mediterranean appearance that almost seems out of place in New England, but it has stood here for over 120 years. The original tops of the two towers were damaged in a hurricane in the 1950s, and were replaced with far less ornate ones, but otherwise the church’s exterior appearance has remained the same in both photos. Today, the building is still home to the Central Congregational Church, and it is a contributing property in the Stimson Avenue Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.

Providence Public Library, Providence, RI

The Providence Public Library on Washington Street, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1072_1906c-loc

The library in 2016:

1072_2016
The Providence Public Library was established in 1875 and first opened in 1878, in the second floor of the Butler Exchange building at Exchange Plaza. Not until 1900 did the library have its own permanent home, when this building opened at the corner of Washington and Greene Streets. It was designed by the Providence firm of Stone, Carpenter & Willson, and its architecture reflects the Renaissance Revival design that was popular for turn-of-the-century libraries. The style had been pioneered in Boston less than a decade earlier, and would be imitated in other New England cities, including here in Providence and in Springfield. Most of the construction costs were funded by John Nicholas Brown I, who died the same year that the building was completed.

The most significant change to the building’s exterior appearance came in 1954, with the completion of a large wing on the Empire Street side of the library. This addition is only partially visible on the far right side of the photo, but its modern architecture is a sharp contrast t the classical design of the original structure. Otherwise, though, the historic library looks essentially the same as it did 110 years earlier, and it is still used as the main branch of the city’s public library system.

Union Station, Providence, RI

The view looking across City Hall Park toward Union Station in Providence, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1069_1906c-loc
The view in 2016:

1069_2016
Both the park and the railroad station were relatively new features in downtown Providence when the first photo was taken. They were a part of the larger redevelopment plan of the late 19th century, which included the filling of the Cove basin and the construction of the new State House on Smith Hill. City Hall Park, located on the north side of Exchange Place, was dedicated in 1892 and landscaped in 1898, the same year that Union Station opened on the far side.

The station complex, as seen in the first photo, consisted of five buildings, and replaced an earlier station that had been damaged in an 1896 fire. Together with the new park and the nearby State House, the station provided a grand entrance for visitors to Providence. At a time when most inter-city travel was by rail, the railroad station was the first part of the city that most travelers saw. A good first impression was important, and with this new development, Providence had a station that was worthy of its status as an prominent, growing city.

As with other grand urban passenger stations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though, the Union Station saw a period of decline by the 1950s. The easternmost building, seen on the far right of the first photo, burned down in 1941, and in the postwar era there was a sharp drop in rail travel with the advent of commercial airlines and interstate highways.

The building was badly neglected, and in 1986 it was rendered entirely obsolete. That year, the elevated tracks adjacent to the station were removed, and the railroad was rerouted a little further to the north. A new, smaller station opened just south of the State House, and the old station was left isolated, several blocks away from the tracks. The following year, it was badly damaged in a fire, but it was ultimately repaired. Even the destroyed easternmost building has since been rebuilt, and today the buildings have been restored and repurposed. From this view, the buildings are no longer visible because of the tall trees on the park, which is now known as Burnside Park. However, they are still there on the other side of the park, and they are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

John Hay Library, Brown University, Providence, RI

The John Hay Library at the corner of Prospect and College Streets in Providence, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1067_1910-1920-loc

The library in 2016:

1067_2016
The John Hay Library is one of several libraries at Brown University. The building was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, and opened in 1910 as the school’s primary library. It was built in part with funds from Andrew Carnegie, and is named for John Hay, an 1858 graduate of Brown who had served as US Secretary of State from 1898 until his death in 1905.

It remained in use as main library until 1964, when the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library opened just to the left of here, on the other side of College Street. Today, the John Hay Library is used to house the special collections, rare books, and the University Archives. Among its more unusual holdings are several anthropodermic books, which are books bound in human skin. The library also has an extensive collection of letters and other manuscripts from horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, a Providence native who lived nearby and often visited the library.

City Hall, Worcester, Mass

Worcester’s City Hall, seen from the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

1034_1906c-loc

City Hall in 2016:

1034_2016
This site on the western end of the Common has been the center of Worcester’s government for many years. In colonial days, the meetinghouse was situated here, and in 1825, a plain Greek Revival style town hall was built here. After Worcester became a city in 1848, this building served as City Hall for another 50 years, until it was finally replaced in 1898 by a much larger and more elaborate building on the same spot.

Designed by the prominent Boston firm of Peabody & Stearns, it reflects the Renaissance Revival architecture that was gaining popularity in public buildings at the turn of the 20th century. City Hall bears some resemblance to the Boston Public Library, which had been completed several years earlier, but it also includes a 205-foot tower in the center of the Main Street facade.

City Hall was not quite 10 years old when the first photo was taken, and not much has changed to its exterior appearance since then. Nearly 120 years after its completion, it remains the fourth tallest building in the city, and it remains in use as the seat of the city government. Along with the Worcester Common, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.