Old Bacon Academy, Colchester, Connecticut

The Bacon Academy building at 84 Main Street in Colchester, around 1896. Image from Connecticut Quarterly.

The building in 2020:

Bacon Academy is one of the oldest public high schools in the United States, and the second oldest in Connecticut. It was established in 1803 following the death of Pierpont Bacon, a Colchester resident who bequeathed $35,000 to maintain a school for the town’s residents. At the time, a high school education was rare in the United States, and few towns had a high school, even here in the relatively well-educated northeast. For Bacon Academy, the main purpose was to prepare boys for college, so the school offered what was, at the time, regarded as a well-rounded education. An 1803 newspaper advertisement declared that students would “be accommodated with suitable instruction in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, the learned Languages and Sciences.” Tuition in 1803 was $2.00 per quarter in the summer, and $2.50 per quarter in the winter.

The school opened on November 1, 1803, here in this brick, three-story Federal-style building. It is situated right in the center of Colchester, on Main Street directly opposite Norwich Avenue. Behind the school, visible in the distance on the left side of the scene, is the town’s old burying ground, which dates back to 1713. The opening of the school was widely reported in newspapers across the region, and the New York Morning Chronicle provided the following description of the building and its location:

A large and elegant brick building is erected for the accommodation of the scholars; being 75 feet in length, 34 feet in breadth, and three stories high. It is divided into a large hall, and convenient apartments for the different branches. . . . Colchester is a very healthy and pleasant town situated on the turnpike road leading from Hartford to New-London, being nearly equi-distant from each. A more eligible situation for an institution of this kind, could not have been chosen.

The first principal of the school was 31-year-old John Adams, a Connecticut native and Yale graduate who had previously taught at Plainfield Academy in New Jersey. He went on to become a prominent educator, serving here in Colchester until 1810, followed by 23 years as principal of Phillips Academy Andover. Later in life he moved west, serving from 1836 to 1843 as principal of Jacksonville Female Seminary, a school that would eventually be incorporated into Illinois College in the early 20th century.

During its first year, Bacon Academy enrolled 206 students. The majority of these were from Colchester, but 63 of them were from out of town. In its early years, the school even attracted students from out of state. Perhaps most notably, this included 11-year-old Stephen F. Austin of Missouri, whose father Moses Austin enrolled him in the school starting in the fall of 1804. Stephen Austin attended the school for the next three years, and he would eventually go on to become one of the founders of Texas and the namesake of its capital city.

Aside from Austin, Bacon Academy saw a number of its other students go on to achieve prominence in the 19th century. These included at least five future governors: William Larrabee of Iowa, Edwin D. Morgan of New York, Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, and William A. Buckingham and Morgan Bulkeley of Connecticut. With the exception of Larrabee, all of these men also served as U.S. senators, and Trumbull had a particularly distinguished career in the Senate, serving from 1855 to 1873. During this time, he co-authored the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery. Other distinguished Bacon Academy students included Eliphalet A. Bulkeley, who became the first president of Aetna Insurance Company, and Morrison Waite, who served as chief justice of the United States from 1874 to 1888.

By the mid-1830s, the school had grown to 425 students, including 137 who were from out of town and 32 from out of state. For the first few decades, the student body consisted of white males, with a separate school here in Colchester to educate African American children. However, at least one African American, the prominent educator Prince Saunders, was associated with Bacon Academy only a few years after it opened. He ran the African American students, and he is said to have taken courses at Bacon Academy, although it does not seem clear as to whether he was formally enrolled at the school, or was taught outside of school by some of its teachers.

In any case, by the 1840s Bacon Academy was racially integrated, and it had begun to enroll female students. This period in the mid-19th century was a high point for the school, which had aspirations of becoming a top-tier college preparatory school similar to Phillips Academy. However, the school ultimately saw a decline in enrollment, in part because of this deviation from its original mission. Unable to compete with the more established private schools, by the late 19th century Bacon Academy had settled into the role of the public high school for residents of Colchester.

The first photo was taken around the mid-1890s, showing the main academy building in the foreground. On the far right side is Day Hall, an Italianate-style building that was completed in 1858 as a church hall for the adjacent First Congregational Church. By this point, the exterior of the academy had seen a few changes from its original appearance, including the door hood above the main entrance and the octagonal cupola atop the building. The photo shows shutters on the windows and a balustrade along the roof, although these may not have been original either; an 1836 engraving of the building does not show either of these features.

This building remained in use by Bacon Academy until 1962, when the school relocated to a new facility. The school subsequently moved again in 1993, to its current site a few miles to the west of here on Norwich Avenue, where Bacon Academy remains the town’s public high school nearly 220 years after it was first established. In the meantime, the old building here on Main Street is still standing, as is the neighboring Day Hall, which was acquired by the school in 1929. The exteriors of both buildings have remained well-preserved over the years, and the only noticeable difference to the academy building in this scene is the lack of shutters or balustrade. Because of its architectural and historic significance, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In addition, both it and Day Hall are contributing properties in the Colchester Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register in 1994.

Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company, Adams, Mass

Workers outside of the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company, facing east on Hoosac Street at the corner of Depot Street in Adams, in August 1911. Image taken by Lewis Wickes Hine, courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Child Labor Committee Collection.

The scene in 2020:

The first photo was taken in August 1911 by prominent photojournalist and social reformer Lewis Wickes Hine. In the early 20th century, Hine traveled across the country on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee, taking thousands of photos that documented and exposed child labor conditions in factories, mines, farms, and other workplaces. He made several trips to New England during this time, including a lengthy visit in the summer and fall of 1911, when he investigated the region’s prosperous textile industry. Among his stops was the town of Adams in the northwestern corner of the state, where the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company had a large factory complex along the Hoosac River. This photo shows the view looking down Hoosac Street toward the river, with Mill No. 1 in the distance on the left and the corner of Mill No. 3 in the foreground on the right side.

The Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company was established in 1889 by the prominent Plunkett family. The family patriarch, William B. Plunkett, had owned several local cotton mills in the mid-19th century, and he also served for two years as the state’s lieutenant governor in 1854 and 1855. He died in 1884, and five years later two of his sons, William and Charles Plunkett, organized the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company. They built a new mill, which became Mill No. 1 here on the left side of the scene. The building featured some 35,000 spindles and 700 looms, but the company quickly outgrew this facility. Just two years later, the company began construction of a second mill directly behind this one, which more than doubled the number of spindles and looms.

The second mill was completed in 1892, and it was dedicated in a ceremony that included a speech by William McKinley, who was then serving as governor of Ohio. McKinley was a close friend of the Plunkett family, who supported his platform of high tariffs to protect American manufacturers. He would later return to Adams several times as president, including in 1897, when he spent the night at William Plunkett’s house and then toured the factory buildings the next day. By this point, the facility had been further expanded with the completion of Mill No. 3, which was built in 1896 on the opposite side of Hoosac Street, as shown in the foreground of the first photo. The company would make one more major addition in 1899, with Mill No. 4, located beyond Mill No. 3 on the other side of the railroad tracks. President McKinley was again on hand for this project, and he laid the cornerstone of the building in June 1899.

McKinley was ultimately assassinated in 1901, but he was commemorated here in Adams with a large statue just around the corner from here, at the intersection of Maple and Park Streets. In the meantime, the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company continued to prosper, thanks in large part to the protective tariffs that McKinley had championed as a congressman and as president. By the turn of the 20th century, the company employed over two thousand workers, representing about half of the town’s entire workforce. The October 1908 issue of the trade journal Textile American included an article about the company, which described the facility as “the largest plant manufacturing fine goods at this time.” These fine goods, according to the article, included “carded and combed cotton goods, comprising lawns, organdies, mulls, India linens, etc.”

The first photo was taken only a few years later, and it was one of at least 25 photographs that Hine took during his visit. Most feature interior scenes of the factory, showing teenagers working as spinners and spooler tenders, among other jobs. He identified the ages of most of these workers, who were typically between 14 and 16 years old. This particular photo was one of the few exterior views that he captured, showing a group of workers gathered around the entrance. He does not provide any ages, but most of the employees appear to be adults, with the exception of the child in the center of the scene. Regarding this child, Hine wrote in his caption:

While I was photographing these workers (Berkshire Mills) the watchman dragged out the smallest boy, saying, “Here, photograph ‘Peewee'” Location: Adams, Massachusetts.

“Peewee” appears in one of Hine’s other photos, were he is sitting on the curb outside one of the factory buildings. Neither caption identifies his name or age, which is somewhat unusual for Hine, who typically provided at least one of these pieces of information about his subjects. However, his appearance is characteristic of many of Hines’s subjects, particularly his small size and his lack of shoes. This is further emphasized here in this photo by contrasting the boy with the otherwise well-shod and relatively well-dressed adults who are gathered around him, laughing and smiling.

It is unlikely that any of the workers in the 1911 photo would have realized it, but by this point the textile industry in New England was nearing its peak, and within the next few decades it would face a steep decline. Much of this was brought on by competition from the southern states, in addition to overseas competition that McKinley and his tariffs had sought to stave off. Many textile companies closed in the 1920s, and those that survived were typically hit hard by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company lasted longer than most here in New England, and in 1929 it merged with four other textile companies to form the Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates. In consolidating, the company hoped to be in a better position to compete with southern manufacturers, and over the next few decades it continued to acquire other mills. Most significantly, in 1955 it merged with Hathaway Manufacturing Company of New Bedford, forming Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Despite these many mergers, though, the textile industry in New England was in an irreversible decline. Berkshire Hathaway produced textiles here in Adams for only a few more years, before ultimately closing these mills in 1958, leaving some 1,200 workers unemployed. The company closed many of its other facilities around this time, before ultimately being acquired by a young Warren Buffett in 1965. Under his ownership, the company steadily moved away from textile manufacturing and into the realm of insurance and finance, eventually becoming the modern-day holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.

In the meantime, the old Berkshire mills here in Adams were sold off to other owners. Mill No. 2 was demolished in the early 1960s to build a supermarket on the lot, and Mill No. 3 was demolished about a decade later. As shown in the present-day scene, the site of this mill is now a surface parking lot. However, Mill No. 1 is still standing today, partially hidden by trees on the left side, as is Mill No. 4, which stands further in the distance in the right-center of the photo. Mill No. 4 is currently vacant, but No. 1 was repurposed as an apartment building in 1987. Despite these many changes, the building’s exterior has remained well-preserved over the years, and in 1982 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Mount Washington Hotel, Carroll, New Hampshire (2)

The Mount Washington Hotel, with Mount Washington behind it in the distance, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, the Mount Washington Hotel was the finest of the many grand hotels that were built in the White Mountains during the Gilded Age of late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was completed in 1902, and could accommodate 600 guests who paid the princely sum of $20 per night to stay here. From here, guests enjoyed expansive views of the White Mountains, including the Presidential Range, which forms a dramatic backdrop here in this scene. The hotel’s namesake mountain, looms in the distance on the right side of the photos, and some of the summit buildings are barely visible, some seven miles away and 4,600 feet higher in elevation.

Today, nearly 120 years after it opened, the Mount Washington Hotel still stands as one of the few surviving grand hotels of its era in New England. It has entertained many prominent guests over the years, and in 1944 it was the site of the Bretton Woods Conference, which was a meeting of delegates of 44 Allied nations to establish postwar international monetary policies. The hotel is now known as the Omni Mount Washington Resort, and in 1986 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, making it one of only 23 properties in the state to earn this recognition.

Mount Washington Hotel, Carroll, New Hampshire

The Mount Washington Hotel, with its namesake mountain behind it in the distance, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

The White Mountains became a popular tourist destination during the second half of the 19th century, and the region featured a number of grand hotels. However, few could match the Mount Washington Hotel, which was built here in the Bretton Woods area of Carroll, New Hampshire between 1900 and 1902. It was owned by Joseph Stickney, a coal tycoon who had been involved in White Mountain hotels since 1881, when he purchased the Mount Pleasant House. Located approximately where these two photos were taken, the Mount Pleasant House started small, but it was subsequently expanded under Stickney’s ownership and became a prosperous hotel.

Around the turn of the century, Stickney decided to build an even larger hotel across the street from the Mount Pleasant House. He hired noted New York architect Charles Alling Gifford, who designed this Spanish Renaissance-style building, as shown in these two photos. It has a Y-shaped footprint, and its most distinctive exterior features are the two large octagonal towers. The hotel was completed in 1902 at a cost of about $2 million, and it formally opened on July 31, with a ball that was attended by dignitaries such as Chester B. Jordan, the governor of New Hampshire.

Upon completion, the hotel had 352 rooms and could accommodate around 600 guests. A night’s stay cost $20, which was a substantial amount of money at the time, and it included the room and three meals. Writing about a month before it opened, the Boston Herald declared it to be “one of the largest and most perfectly appointed resort hotels not only in New England, but in the summer resort world.” The article continued with the following description of the hotel:

It will contain, besides the ordinary accommodations for the comfort of guests, many novel and attractive features. The music room is 115 by 73 feet in size, with a spacious stage at one end to be used for amateur theatricals, and the rotunda, which is 135 by 103 feet, is the largest in any hotel in New England. The octagonal dining room in the northwest wing is 84 by 84 feet, and will seat 500 people. On two sides are spacious galleries, which can be utilized for the orchestra. Every suite has a private bath, and the chambers are all very large.

On the ground floor are the indoor amusements, including billiard rooms, ping-pong tables, golf club quarters, gun room, clubroom, bicycle room, shuffle boards, a large play room for children, and a mammoth swimming pool filled with water from the Ammonoosuc River, and tempered by steam jets to the right warmth. The floor of the pool is tiled, and adjoining are dressing and toilet rooms, with facilities for Turkish baths.

The first photo was taken only a few years after the Mount Washington Hotel opened. It shows the building and grounds from the main road, about a half mile away. In the foreground is the bridge over the Ammonoosuc River and the long driveway to the hotel. In the distance is the hotel’s namesake mountain, Mount Washington, which stands beyond and to the right of the hotel. The summit is about seven miles east of the hotel, and about 4,600 feet higher in elevation. Rising 6,288 feet above sea level, it is the highest mountain in the northeastern United States, and it is flanked by other peaks in the Presidential Range, including Mount Jefferson on the far left and Mount Monroe on the far right.

The Mount Washington Hotel was a popular resort destination throughout the early 20th century, drawing prominent guests such as Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Mary Pickford, and Babe Ruth. However, the most famous gathering here occurred in July 1944, in the midst of World War II, when 730 delegates from 44 Allied nations met at the Mount Washington Hotel. Known as the Bretton Woods Conference, this meeting was held in anticipation of the end of the war, in order to establish international monetary policies for the postwar world.

The Bretton Woods Conference delegates included many of the world’s leading economists, including Harry Dexter White, John Maynard Keynes, and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., who presided over the conference. Among the agreements reached here were the establishment of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, along with policies for currency exchange rates. The conference led to what became known as the Bretton Woods system, which remained the predominant international economic system until the early 1970s.

In the meantime, the mid-20th century was a difficult time for the grand 19th century hotels in the White Mountains. Many succumbed to fire, while others faced a slow, steady decline as the buildings aged and tourist preferences shifted. However, the Mount Washington Hotel managed to avoid the fate of nearly all its contemporaries, and it still stands here nearly 120 years after it opened.

Today, there have been few significant exterior changes to the hotel, and the scene still looks much the same as it did at the turn of the 20th century, although the trees are now much taller and partially hide the building from this spot. Now known as the Omni Mount Washington Resort, it remains one of the premier hotels in the region, and it stands as a rare surviving Gilded Age resort hotel here in New England. Because of its historic significance, particularly with regards to the Bretton Woods Convention, the hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, Rock Hill, South Carolina

The U.S. Post Office and Courthouse at the corner of East Main and Caldwell Streets in Rock Hill, on March 6, 1933. Image courtesy of the National Archives.

The scene in 2020:

The city of Rock Hill experienced dramatic population growth during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, increasing from under a thousand in 1880 to over 11,000 by 1930. A new post office was built in Rock Hill in 1906, but within just a few decades the city had outgrown this space, requiring the construction of a new federal building. Work began on this building in the summer of 1931, and it was completed less than a year and a half later, in November 1932.

The first photo was taken a few months later, showing the view of the building from the southwest. At the time, the post office was located on the ground floor, with the federal district courtroom on the second floor. Further in the distance of this scene, on the right side of the two photos, is the First Baptist Church, which was built in 1920 and features a similar Classical Revival design with a yellow brick exterior. The third historic building in this scene is the Andrew Jackson Hotel, which opened in 1926 and is barely visible beyond the church on the far right.

Today, nearly 90 years after the first photo was taken, Rock Hill has continued to increase in population. The city’s postal needs ultimately outgrew this building after just a few decades, and in 1971 the post office moved to a new, larger facility. The old building was subsequently sold to the city of Rock Hill, and it is now known as the Gettys Art Center. The old courtroom is now a performing arts venue, and the rest of the building houses office and studio space for local artists and organizations. Despite these changes, though, this scene has remained essentially unchanged since the 1930s, and all three buildings here are part of the Rock Hill Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Henry Howser House, Cherokee County, South Carolina (2)

The front entrance of the Henry Howser House on the grounds of the Kings Mountain National Military Park in South Carolina, in 1938. Image taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South.

The scene in 2020:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this house was built in 1803 by Henry Howser, a stonemason whose name appears on the lintel above the front door here. He lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1822, and the property would remain in his family for many generations, before being sold by his great-great grandsons in 1918.

Howser was originally from Pennsylvania, and he drew inspiration from that state’s architectural styles when building this house. As a result, its design bears little resemblance to other rural farmhouses in early 19th century South Carolina, particularly in the use of stone. These two photos show some of the detail of Howser’s stonework, which consisted of coursed ashlar here on the main facade, with stones of varying colors and sizes.

The first photo shows a glimpse of the interior of the house, which is also modeled on Pennsylvania German architecture. Known as a kuche and stube layout, the first floor featured a large kitchen, or “kuche,” that occupied more than half of the floor, including everything to the right of the doorway. The remaining part of the first floor was divided into two rooms, one of which would have been the parlor, or the “stube.” Likewise, the second floor is divided into three rooms, one of which was larger than the other two combined.

The Howser family did not consistently live here after the death of Henry’s daughter-in-law Faithy in 1882, but they often rented the property to tenant farmers. After they sold it in 1918, the new owners continued renting it, but it steadily deteriorated over the years. By the time the first photo was taken in 1938, almost all of the windows were broken, and the front door appeared to be off its hinges, leaving the house exposed to the elements.

Also in 1938, the National Park Service acquired this property, and it became part of the Kings Mountain National Military Park, which commemorates a pivotal battle in the southern theater during the American Revolution. However, because the house was built more than 20 years after the battle, it did not have any direct connection to it. Perhaps for that reason, the National Park Service did not fully restore it until the 1970s, when the stonework was repointed, the interior was rehabilitated, and the sheet metal roof was replaced with a shingled one.

Today, the house is still standing here, and it is in much better condition than it was when the first photo was taken. It survives not only as a rare example of its architectural style in the south, but also as a reminder of the ways in which the land use of the battlefield has changed over the years. However, it is situated in a secluded area on the edge of the park, far from the main battlefield site, so it receives few visitors and is only open for tours several times each year.