Old City Hall, Boston

Johnson Hall, which served as a courthouse and later as City Hall, on School Street around 1855-1862. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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Boston’s old City Hall, which replaced Johnson Hall, as seen in 1865. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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Old City Hall in 2015:

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This site on School Street has had two different City Hall buildings, as seen in the photos above, but the history here goes back even further.  From 1704 to 1748, Boston Latin School was located here, and during this time many of the Founding Fathers attended the school, including Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine.  Years later, Charles Bulfinch designed a courthouse that was built here in 1810; this building, which is shown in the first photo, was used as both a county and federal courthouse in the early 19th century.  From 1841 until 1862, it was Boston’s City Hall, before being demolished and replaced with a newer, larger building.

The new City Hall was completed in 1865, and was one of the first examples of Second Empire architecture in the United States.  This French-inspired style would become very popular in the late 1860s and 1870s, especially in government buildings.  Boston’s old post office, which was built a decade later and just a few blocks away, shares many similar features.  On a much larger scale, the Old Executive Building next to the White House in Washington, DC also reflects the influence of Second Empire designs.

During its time as City Hall, this building saw the rapid growth in the city during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  When it was completed, the city had fewer than 200,000 people, but by the 1950s there were over 800,000, and the city government had long since outgrown this building.  The City Hall Annex, located behind this building on Court Street, was built in 1912 to accommodate more offices, but by the 1960s the city was looking to build a new City Hall.  The current building was completed in 1968, and since then the old building has been extensively renovated on the inside for commercial uses, but the exterior is essentially unchanged from 150 years ago.

Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance, Hartford, Connecticut

The Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance building at the corner of Main and Pearl Streets in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same location in 2015:

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These two views were taken near the scene on Main Street in this post; the building on the left in the 1905 photo there is the same one featured here.  Connecticut Mutual was founded in 1846, and like many other insurance companies it was headquartered in Hartford. The company built this Second Empire style building here in 1872 and expanded it in 1901, but over the years other alterations removed much of its original architectural value. Connecticut Mutual moved out of downtown in 1925, and the building was drastically altered again, becoming the home of Hartford National Bank and Trust. The building remained here until 1964, when it was demolished to build the present skyscraper. As for its original tenant, Connecticut Mutual, they no longer exist either; in 1995 they merged with MassMutual, and most of the company moved to the MassMutual headquarters in Springfield, Mass. Today, these two photographs offer a comparison of architectural styles – the ornate, eclectic Second Empire building of the 1870s in one scene, and the plain concrete and glass 1960s-era Brutalist architecture of the present-day scene.