Hampden County Jail, Springfield, Mass

The Hampden County Jail on State Street in Springfield, Mass, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2019:

Throughout the colonial period, Springfield was the seat of Hampshire County, and consequently it was home to both the county courthouse and the jail. However, the town was located in the southern part of the county, which at the time included all of present-day Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties, and by the 1790s Springfield was only its sixth-largest community. So, in 1794 the county seat shifted to Northampton, which was both larger and more centrally-located than Springfield.

The old jail had been located on Main Street in the South End, on the current site of the MGM casino. It was in use from the late 1600s until 1794, and it was subsequently sold to a private owner, who used it until the early 19th century, when it was demolished to open Bliss Street through the property. In the meantime, though, Springfield again became a county seat in 1812, when the southern third of Hampshire County was partitioned off, becoming Hampden County. With the old jail unavailable, this meant that the new county would need to construct a new facility here in Springfield.

The location selected for this new jail was here on State Street, on the site of what later became Classical High School. At the time, this section of Springfield was still only sparsely developed, with most of the downtown area centered along the Main Street corridor, and the county purchased the one-and-a-half acre property in 1813 for just $500. It then built the jail here, which was completed in 1815 at a cost of $14,000. This jail would be steadily expanded over the years, but it remained in use throughout most of the 19th century, and it is shown here in the first photo, which was probably taken shortly after it closed.

The first inmate here was David Cadwell, a Wilbraham resident who had been arrested for assault on June 17, 1815. His stay was short, though, because he paid his fine and court costs and was released on the same day. Other prisoners had different means of leaving, including Jesse Wright of Springfield, who became the first to break out of the jail when he escaped on February 12, 1816.

Aside from confining prisoners, the county jails of Massachusetts were also used for executions during the 19th century. These were rare occurrences here in Springfield, and the first person sentenced to death in Hampden County was Robert Bush of Westfield, who murdered his estranged wife Sally on September 29, 1827. At the time, she and her two children had been living with another family, and Bush went to this house, shot her with a shotgun, and then attempted suicide by overdosing on opium. He was saved when someone administered an emetic, but Sally died four hours later. The trial was held a year later at the Springfield courthouse, and Bush was found guilty and sentenced to death. His execution was set for November 14 here at the jail, but he managed to obtain opium a second time, and committed suicide on the night of November 12.

The first execution that was actually carried out here at the jail was that of Alexander Desmarteau of Chicopee, who was hanged on April 26, 1861 for the 1858 rape and murder of seven-year-old Augustine Lucas. He was among the first to be tried under the state’s new law that created different degrees of murder, and his lawyers appealed the case, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. This delayed his execution until his case reached the Supreme Judicial Court, which upheld his conviction of first degree murder.

The execution occurred here in the prison yard, which appears to have been the area on the right side of the building in the first photo. About 125 people were allowed into the yard to witness the execution, including most of the city and county officials, but many more spectators attempted to view it from outside the prison walls by climbing to the tops of nearby buildings. During his time in jail, Desmarteau had converted from Catholicism to the Episcopalian faith, and the Reverend George H. McKnight of Christ Church accompanied him and preached a sermon here prior to the execution. He spoke on the grievous nature of Desmarteau’s crimes, along with his subsequent remorse and religious awakening, and Desmarteau was then given the opportunity to say his last words, which were reported by the Springfield Republican as “I don’t know as I desire to say anything, except to bid you all farewell. I hope to meet you all in a better world.”

Another condemned criminal who was executed here was Albert H. Smith of Westfield, whose 1873 execution made headlines in newspapers across the country. The previous summer, 22-year-old Smith had been working as a switchman for the Boston & Albany Railroad when he met 25-year-old Jennie Bates. He soon fell in love with her, and according to Smith they were engaged to be married. However, Jennie claimed that they were only acquaintances, and by the fall of 1872 she was engaged to 40-year-old Charles D. Sackett. Believing that he had been betrayed, Smith shot both of them on the evening of November 20, 1872, while the couple was walking home together after watching a play. He shot Jennie three times, including once in the head, and Charles was hit once, with the bullet puncturing his lung. Despite her injuries, Jennie made a full recovery, and Charles seemed to be improving until infection set in, and he died 13 days after the shooting.

Smith’s lawyers used the insanity defense, arguing that, in his mind, he and Jennie were married. Because of this delusion, he believed that his actions were those of a jealous husband trying to save his marriage, rather than an act of revenge perpetrated by a spurned lover. The argument seemed persuasive to many spectators at the trial, but the jury nonetheless found him guilty of first degree murder, and the death sentence was carried out here on June 27, 1873.

In the hours before his execution, Smith apparently showed no emotion or regret, with the Republican observing that “His eye was bright, his manner easy and cordial,” and “it was hard to realize that he was the one most interested in the approaching execution and had scarce an hour to live.” The only hint of emotion came in the form of a slight tremor in his voice, when he spoke of Jennie. He spoke at length to the newspaper reporter, who wrote about his cell here in the jail in his account of the execution:

His cell had the same neat and almost pleasant appearance that it has always worn since he has been its occupant. The narrow but tidy bed occupied the whole of the right side, a small stand filled the niche and the head, while a common stool in the front corner nearest the office completed the furniture of the narrow apartment. But the walls were tastily brightened with a number of pictures cut from illustrated papers, arranged by Smith, while the stand was almost hidden by the beautiful floral offerings, some of which came from ladies in this city and Westfield, who had never seen the unfortunate man. Half-hidden in the midst of these, and yet plainly visible from the door, was placed a photograph of the girl, and the frequent glances of the prisoner to it proved that he considered it the chief ornament of the room.

The reporter then went on to contrast this with the grim realities of the day, which Smith seemed oblivious to:

At the lower extremity of the corridor, and in plain view from the cell, stood the gallows, with the fatal noose dangling in the air. Just opposite the prisoner, across the landing, sat Turnkey Norway, who for 36 hours has remained constantly at his post, while directly above the latter’s head a clock was heartlessly ticking off the last moments of the doomed man’s life. Further on was the open grating leading to the office, and behind this jostled a crowd of curious reporters, eager to get one glimpse at the murderer or to catch a single syllable of his last words. But he paid no attention to them, and was equally unmindful of the gallows. His pleasant eyes were turned toward his caller, whom⁠—as always when talking with any one⁠—he looked straight in the face, and with whom he conversed freely, calming and interestingly.

During the interview, Smith expressed that the only thing bothering him was the fact that he would not be able to see Jennie one more time before his death. Even then, he was not bitter. He evidently believed that she truly wanted to be there, and regarding her absence he said, “But I don’t blame her. There is too much influence to keep her away. And yet, I think she ought not to be so much influenced by them. But I have her picture and a lock of her hair in my pocket, and they will be buried with me.”

Smith remained calm and composed throughout the execution proceedings. The jail chaplain, Reverend William Rice, read a passage from Psalm 51, which was followed by the singing of a hymn and then a prayer. Smith then spoke for about three minutes, reiterating his earlier statements about Jennie and had not acted out of revenge when he killed Sackett. He ended with “Farewell. Farewell,” which, according to the Republican, was “uttered in a clear, loud voice, and without a perceptible tremor.”

The reporter went on to describe how “Then followed the strange, sad spectacle of a man, standing in the very shadow of death, madly kissing the picture of the woman he had loved, to his ruin.” The picture was then returned to his pocket, to be buried with him, and his legs were bound, the rope adjusted, and a hood placed over his head. The sheriff then shook his hand, and he was executed at 10:44 a.m., with the rope breaking his neck and killing him instantly.

At least one other execution took place here at the jail in 1883. The prisoner, Joseph B. Loomis of Southwick, had been convicted of the December 1, 1881 murder of David Levett in Agawam. Loomis, who was about 22 at the time, had been a childhood friend of Levett, and the two had gone to school together. From there, however, their paths had diverged, with Levett becoming a successful shopkeeper in Springfield, while Loomis worked as a laborer and had, according to the Republican,  had “a fondness for drink” and “had “long borne an unenviable reputation.”

On the day of the murder, Loomis visited his friend at his confectionery shop on Main Street in Springfield. The two spent much of the evening together, and at some point Loomis devised a plan to rob and kill his friend. He deliberately stayed until after the last train home had left Springfield, and then asked Levett if he could hire a carriage to bring him home. Levett agreed to do so, and even offered to accompany him, which Loomis had evidently counted on him doing.

They left Springfield sometime after 9:30 p.m., with Levett driving the carriage. As they were crossing the covered bridge over the Westfield River, where the sound of the wagon wheels on the planks would drown out any noise, Loomis produced a pistol and shot Levett in the head. He then covered up Levett’s body and rode to a deserted area, where he took all of his friend’s valuables before abandoning the carriage and the body.

The body was found the next day, and Loomis soon became the prime suspect, since he had been the last person seen with Levett. He was found to be in possession of one of Levett’s gloves, along with a handkerchief. These items would later become significant when, about four months later, Levett’s gold watch was found on the side of the road in Westfield, wrapped in a matching handkerchief and glove. Loomis had evidently placed it there for safekeeping, intending to return later for it, but at the trial he claimed that Levett had given it to him to take to Westfield for repairs, and that he must have lost it along the way. The jury was apparently skeptical of this explanation, and he was found guilty of murder, largely on the basis of this circumstantial evidence.

The execution took place on March 8, 1883, here at the Hampden County Jail. He ate veal steak for his last meal, and then spent much of the morning writing farewell letters to friends. On the gallows, he read a prepared statement for his last words, in which he confessed to the crime and asked for forgiveness. He thanked the officers at the jail for their kindness, and he concluded by declaring, “Let it be known to you all, and to coming generations, that rum nerved my arm to strike down my friend David Levett, and has been the inspiration of what has been wicked in my career to the gallows.”

By the time of Loomis’s execution, the jail was nearly 70 years old, and despite several additions over the years it was very overcrowded. King’s Handbook of Springfield, published in 1884, noted that some prisoners had to be sent to neighboring counties because of the conditions here, and declared that “The county is indictable for not providing better accommodations, and the time is not far distant when a new jail must be built.”

Two years later, the Republican expressed similar concern in an exposé titled “Certain Facts About the Jail.” In this article, the newspaper revealed that the prison contained 116 cells for men and 28 for women, yet at the time its inmates included 175 men and 27 women. The additional 59 men were housed in various makeshift quarters, including 15 who lived in a 250-square-foot attic space with just one window and no ventilation. Elsewhere in the jail, the small hospital room has 17 inmates, with the healthy and sick sleeping side-by-side, and another 22 were kept in poorly-ventilated room that measured less than 300 square feet.

Aside from the overcrowded conditions, the newspaper also noted the poor sanitation, writing:

About 100 of the men confined in the house of correction are employed in a work-room 50 by 60 feet square, making cane-chair seats; and here also, the breathing-room is pitifully inadequate. . . . Every week they have to take a bath, but there are only two bath-tubs, and two men have to go through the same water and sometimes four. The prisoners march down the hall each morning to the closet with soil-buckets in hand. These are emptied into a funnel connecting directly with the sewer and though the iron doors are closed the stench is fearful; the more so as it is added to the foulness of the air that results from overcrowded sleeping apartments. A man is employed all the time in whitewashing the walls, but that is a pitifully inadequate provision for sanitation. . . . The law requires that jail inmates shall be given access to the open air. This is out of the question on the present premises; the men have no yard, the women have a kind of pit, only open toward the sky, and usually hung full with washing.

The interior of the prison was not the only source of complaints during the 1880s, though. By this point this section of State Street had gone from being on the outskirts of downtown to becoming the cultural center of the city. As a result, the jail had become increasingly out of place here. It was directly across State Street from St. Michael’s Cathedral, adjacent to the high school, and its other neighbors included the Church of the Unity, Christ Church, and the city library, along with a number of fine homes. Overall, the jail was an unwelcome relic from an earlier era, and according to King’s Handbook it was “an inharmonious object in an otherwise pleasing view.”

The jail ultimately closed in 1887, upon the completion of the York Street Jail along the banks of the Connecticut River in the South End. The building was then used temporarily as a militia armory, until the completion of a new armory on Howard Street in 1895. At some point in the next few years, the old building was then demolished, and the land became the site of a new high school building, which was completed in 1898 as Central High School. Later renamed Classical High School, the building was converted into condominiums after the school closed in 1986, and it is still standing here today.

In the meantime, the York Street Jail served as the county jail for over a century, even longer than its predecessor here on State Street. However, it ultimately faced the same problems of overcrowding. Originally designed for 256 inmates, it had more than 700 by the 1980s, leading to repeated calls from Sheriff Michael Ashe for a new facility. Faced with apathetic bureaucracy, in 1990 Ashe took the drastic step of commandeering the National Guard armory on Roosevelt Avenue in order to house prisoners. To do so, he invoked an obscure 17th century law that empowered sheriffs to take necessary actions in the event of “imminent danger of a breach of the peace.” Given the dangerously overcrowded conditions at the jail, he argued that there was such an imminent danger. His actions quickly earned him national attention, highlighting a problem that state officials had long ignored, and it ultimately lead to the construction of the present Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, which opened in 1992.

Lenox Library, New York City

The Lenox Library, seen from the corner of Fifth Avenue and 70th Street in New York City, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene on December 20, 1913. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The modern concept of a public library in the United States began in the second half of the 19th century, and many such libraries had their origins in private libraries that were run by organizations or by wealthy benefactors. Here in New York City, these included the Astor Library and Lenox Library. Both were open to the public—with restrictions, particularly here at the Lenox Library—but they were intended primarily for researchers, and the books did not circulate. However, these two libraries formed the basis for the New York Public Library, which was established upon their merger in 1895.

The Lenox Library was the younger of the two institutions, having been established in 1870, although its founder, James Lenox, had begun collecting rare books several decades earlier. The son of wealthy merchant Robert Lenox, James inherited over a million dollars after his father’s death in 1839, along with a significant amount of undeveloped farmland in what is now the Upper East Side. He had studied law at Columbia, although he never actually practiced, instead spending much of his time collecting books and art.

For many years Lenox kept his collection in his house, which became increasingly overcrowded and disorganized. As a result, he created the Lenox Library in 1870, and that year he hired architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a suitable building, which would be located on Lenox-owned land here on Fifth Avenue, opposite Central Park between 70th and 71st Streets. It was one of the first major commissions for Hunt, who would go on to become one of the leading American architects of the late 19th century.

The building, shown here in the first photo, was completed in 1877. It was a combination library and art museum, featuring four reading rooms plus a painting gallery and a sculpture gallery. Admission was free of charge, but for the first ten years patrons were required to obtain tickets in advance by writing to the library, which would then send the tickets by mail. In any case, the collections here at the library would not have been of much interest to the casual reader. Because of Lenox’s focus on rare books, the library was, in many ways, more of a museum of old books than a conventional library. In addition, its holdings were far less comprehensive than most libraries, with a narrow focus on the subjects that Lenox was personally interested in.

Despite these limitations, though, the library was valuable for researchers searching for hard-to-find volumes. Perhaps the single most important book in its collection was a Gutenberg Bible, which Lenox had acquired in 1847. It was the first Gutenberg Bible to come to the United States, and it is now owned by the New York Public Library, where it is on display in the McGraw Rotunda. Other rare works included Shakespeare’s First Folio and the Bay Psalm Book, which was the first book published in the American colonies. Aside from books, the library also had important documents, including the original manuscript of George Washington’s farewell address, and its art collection featured famous paintings such as Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Thomas Cole, and a George Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart.

Overall, James Lenox contributed about 30,000 books to the library, which continued to grow after his death in 1880. By the 1890s, it had over 80,000 books, thanks to a number of significant donations and purchases. These additions helped to broaden the scope of the collection, making it more useful to the general public. However, the library struggled financially during the late 19th century, as did the Astor Library, and in 1895 they merged with the newly-created Tilden Trust to form the New York Public Library.

The new library subsequently moved into its present-day location at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in 1911, and the former Lenox Library was sold to industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who demolished it to build his mansion on the site. A longtime business associate of Andrew Carnegie, Frick was the chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, and by the 1910s he was among the richest men in the country. In 1918, for example, the first Forbes Rich List ranked him second only to John D. Rockefeller, with a net worth of around $225 million.

Frick had purchased the library property in 1906 for $2.47 million, but he had to wait until the library had moved its collections to the new building before he could take possession of the land. He ultimately acquired it in 1912, and demolished the old library that same year. His new home was then built here over the next two years, with a Beaux-Arts exterior that was designed by Thomas Hastings, a noted architect whose firm, Carrère and Hastings, had also designed the New York Public Library. The second photo shows the house in December 1913, in the midst of the construction. The exterior was largely finished by this point, but it would take nearly a year before Frick moved into the house with his wife Adelaide and their daughter Helen.

Like James Lenox, Frick was a collector, using his vast fortune to amass a variety of artwork and furniture. Upon his death in 1919, he stipulated that his house and its contents would become a museum, although Adelaide would be allowed to live here for the rest of her life. She died in 1931, and over the next four years the house was converted into a museum, opening to the public in 1935 as the Frick Collection.

Today, despite its changes in use, the exterior of the building from this view is not significantly different than it was when the first photo was taken more than a century ago. It still houses the Frick Collection, with the museum receiving around 300,000 visitors per year. Although not as large as many of the other major art museums in New York, it features a high-quality collection of paintings and furniture, including a good variety of works by the European Old Masters. The building itself is also an important work of art in its own right, and in 2008 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its architectural significance.

Cornelius Vanderbilt II House, New York City (2)

The house at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and West 58th Street in New York City, around 1905-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection.

The scene in 2019:

Perhaps no family is more closely associated with the Gilded Age than the Vanderbilts, who rose to prominence in the mid-19th century. The family patriarch, Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) gained his wealth through dominance of first the steamboat and then the railroad industries, and he left nearly all of his fortune to his son, William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885), who managed to double its value in just eight years before his death. At the time, he had a net worth of about $200 million, which was divided among his eight children.

While the first two Vanderbilt generations had grown the family fortune, the third generation primarily spent it. This included the construction of lavish mansions here on Fifth Avenue and summer homes in resort communities such as Newport. William Henry Vanderbilt had built homes a little south of here on Fifth Avenue in the early 1880s for himself and two of his daughters, but his children outdid him in their massive, costly houses.

One of his sons, William Kissam Vanderbilt (1849-1920) built the Petit Chateau on Fifth Avenue, along with Marble House in Newport, and his youngest child, George Washington Vanderbilt II (1862-1914) built the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, the largest private home ever constructed in the United States. However, it was his eldest child, Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843-1899) who built two of the most memorable Gilded Age mansions, with The Breakers in Newport, and his primary residence here on Fifth Avenue, between West 57th and West 58th Streets.

After the death of his grandfather in 1877, the younger Cornelius had inherited over $5 million, and in 1883 he used some of this money to built this five-story home. It was designed by architect George  P. Post, featuring a Châteauesque design with a red brick exterior and limestone trim. It was completed in 1883, and it was intended to surpass his younger brother’s Petit Chateau, which had been built a year earlier. At the time, the house was situated at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and West 57th Street (a photo in an earlier post shows a better view of that side of the house), and it was considerably larger than that of his brother’s.

However, this house was not large enough for Cornelius. He inherited nearly $70 million from his father in 1885, and he soon set about expanding his home. In 1887 he purchased five houses along West 58th Street and demolished them, clearing the way for an addition that would extend his mansion along the length of the entire block. This $3 million project was done to prevent any other mansions from rivaling it in size, and it was evidently successful, because the 130-room house remains the largest private residence ever built in New York City.

The work on the house was finished in 1893, two years before The Breakers was completed in Newport. However, Vanderbilt did not get to enjoy either house for very long, because he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1896 and died three years later, at the age of 55. His wife Alice (1845-1934) outlived him by many years, though, and she continued to live here well into the 20th century, alternating her time between here and Newport. The first photo was taken sometime within about a decade after Cornelius Vanderbilt’s death, showing the northern side of the house from Grand Army Plaza, near the southeast corner of Central Park. The part of the house in the foreground is the 1893 addition, with the original house partially visible in the distance on the left.

By the early 20th century, this section of Fifth Avenue had become increasingly commercialized, and many of the Gilded Age mansions were being demolished and replaced with new skyscrapers as New York’s elite moved northward into the Upper East Side. However, Alice Vanderbilt resisted moving, remaining here in the house until she finally sold it in 1926 for $7 million. She then belatedly joined the northward migration, moving about ten blocks uptown to East 67th Street.

The new owners of the property had no intention of keeping the house here. It had never been a particularly practical residence to begin with, as it was built more for show than for comfort. It was also expensive to maintain, requiring more than 30 servants just to care for the house and its sole occupant. Adding to this was the fact that, by the 1920s, this land had become far more valuable as commercial property. So, the house was demolished later in 1926, and the flagship Bergdorf Goodman department store was built here in its place.

The department store, completed in 1928, is still standing here, and it is still the home of Bergdorf Goodman. However, almost nothing remains from the first photo, as all of the other low-rise 19th century buildings on the surrounding blocks have also long since been demolished. The only surviving building from the first photo is the present-day Peninsula New York hotel, visible a few blocks away on the far left side of the scene. Built in 1905 as the Gotham Hotel, it was one of the early skyscrapers along this section of Fifth Avenue, and it looms over the mansions as an ominous sign of the commercial development that was steadily making its way uptown.

Grand Staircase, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

The Grand Staircase, seen from the Great Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, around 1902-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two photos show the view in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, facing west from just inside the main entrance. In the center of the scene, just beyond the columns, is the Grand Staircase. Both the Great Hall and the staircase were completed in 1902, as part of an expansion that was designed by noted architect Richard Morris Hunt. Prior to this, the museum was much smaller and set back from Fifth Avenue in Central Park. However, Hunt’s addition extended the museum eastward all the way to the street, in the process creating a Beaux-Arts masterpiece that ranks among New York’s most important architectural works of the early 20th century.

Upon completion, the museum used the Great Hall as a sculpture gallery, with a mix of ancient and modern statues on display here. There were no statues here in the central part of the room, as shown here, but there were a few in the niches in the walls, along with others along the walls of the vestibule between the Great Hall and the Grand Staircase. Some of the identifiable works here in this scene include California (1858) by Hiram Powers, located in the niche on the left side; Aqua Viva (1884) by Frank Edwin Elwell, between the first and second columns from the left; and just to the right of it a bust of Pierre Jean de Béranger (1834) by Pierre Jean David d’Angers. There is also a statue of Napoleon between the third and fourth columns, although the artist’s name is not legible from this distance.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, the statues that were once displayed here in the Great Hall have since been relocated to other parts of the museum. Even the statues in the niches are gone, having been replaced by floral arrangements. The building is now substantially larger than it was in the early 20th century, but overall the Great Hall and the Grand Staircase look much the same as they did when they were completed. Aside from the lack of statuary, the only significant difference between these two photos is the information desk, which is now situated here in the center of the Great Hall, directly in front of the main entrance.

Great Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (3)

The view looking south in the Great Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, around 1907. Historic image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These photos show the same general view as the ones in an earlier post, although these were taken from the ground floor rather than the balcony. As discussed in that post, the Great Hall was completed in 1902 as part of an expansion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it originally served as both an entrance hall and a sculpture gallery. The main entrance to the museum is on the left side, just beyond the columns. Directly opposite the entrance, on the right side of the scene, is the Grand Staircase, which led to the original part of the museum building.

The first photo was taken a few years after this wing of the museum was completed, showing it filled with a variety of sculptures. Some of the notable works here include Struggle of the Two Natures in Man by George Grey Barnard, which was carved from 1892 to 1894 and donated to the museum two years later. It stands in the foreground on the left side of the photo, and just beyond it in the distance is Evening (1891) by Frederick Wellington Ruckstull and Bacchante and Infant Faun (1894) by Frederick William MacMonnies. Other identifiable works include Latona and Her Children, Apollo and Diana (1874) by William Henry Rinehart, located in the lower right corner, and Nydia, the Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii (1859) by Randolph Rogers, which is partially visible on the extreme right side of the photo.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, all of these identifiable statues are still in the museum’s collections, although they are now located in or near the Charles Engelhard Court, where a number of important American sculptures are on display. There are a few sculptures here in the present-day scene of the Great Hall, with the ancient Egyptian Colossal Seated Statue of a Pharaoh in the foreground, and the ancient Greek Athena Parthenos in the distance, but otherwise the Great Hall is used primarily as an entrance hall. There is now an information desk in the center, which is largely hidden from view by the crowd in the 2019 photo, and there are ticket counters at either end of the room.

Great Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (2)

The view looking north in the Great Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These photos show the Great Hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, taken facing the opposite direction of the ones in the previous post. Here, the view is from the southeast corner of the room, with the main entrance just out of view to the right and the Grand Staircase on the left. When the first photo was taken, about five years after the Great Hall was completed in 1902, the space function as both an entrance hall and a sculpture gallery, featuring a variety of bronze and marble statues.

Many of these statues seem difficult to identify, but the one that is partially visible in the lower left corner is Sappho (1895) by Count Prosper d’Epinay, which remains on display elsewhere in the museum more than a century later. Other identifiable works include Medea (1869) by William Wetmore Story, located on the far right side; California (1858) by Hiram Powers, in the alcove on the left side; Bohemian Bear Tamer (1888) by Paul Wayland Bartlett, standing in the lower center of the scene; and Bacchante and Infant Faun (1894) by Frederick William MacMonnies, visible in the distance in the lower right center. All of these works likewise remain in the museum’s collections.

Today, the Great Hall remains in use as the museum’s main entrance, with few architectural changes since the first photo was taken. However, it no longer features a large statuary collection, as most of these works have been moved to other parts of the museum as the building has expanded. Even the statues in the alcoves have since been removed, and replaced by floral displays. Only two large statues still stand here, with one in front of each group of ticket counters. On the south side, closest to the foreground, is the Greek Statue of Athena Parthenos from around 170 B.C., and on the north side in the distance is the Egyptian Colossal Seated Statue of a Pharaoh from around 1919 to 1878 B.C.