Cove Warehouse, Wethersfield, Connecticut (3)

The Cove Warehouse in Wethersfield on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2024:

The top photo was taken on the same day as the one in the previous post, as part of an effort to document the building for the Historic American Buildings Survey. At the time, the Cove Warehouse had just been restored for the second time in less than a decade. Built in the late 17th century as a warehouse for the town’s merchants, it survived throughout the colonial period and the 19th century. It was eventually restored in the early 1930s, but then in 1936 it was damaged by a major flood that caused extensive damage throughout the Connecticut River Valley. However, the building was again restored, and the top photo was taken soon after this work was completed.

Since then, there have been a few changes to this scene, most notably the retaining wall that was added in 1971 to prevent erosion. The dock in the top photo is gone, perhaps as a result of this project, but it was likely a 20th century feature anyway. Otherwise, the warehouse itself is still standing, It is an important town landmark, and it is operated as a seasonal museum by the Wethersfield Historical Society.

Cove Warehouse, Wethersfield, Connecticut (2)

The Cove Warehouse in Wethersfield on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2024:

These two photos show the Cove Warehouse, which is explained in more detail in the previous post. It was built sometime in the late 17th century as one of six warehouses that stood here along what was, at the time, the banks of the Connecticut River. A flood in 1692 destroyed the other five warehouses, and it also altered the course of the river, creating the “Cove,” which is isolated from the river except for a narrow inlet.

This warehouse was the sole survivor from the 1692 flood, and throughout the 18th century it was used by the town’s merchants, who were able to sail oceangoing vessels up the river to Wethersfield. It was restored in the early 1930s, but it was heavily damaged in the March 1936 flood. However, it was subsequently restored, and the top photo shows the building in 1940, shortly after its restoration.

Today, the building’s appearance has not changed much in the past 84 years. The dock behind the building—which was likely added during the restoration—has since been removed. This probably occurred in 1971, when a stone wall was built at the base of the foundation in the back of the warehouse to protect it from erosion. Otherwise, though, the building is still easily recognizable from the top photo. It stands as an important town landmark, and it is operated as a seasonal museum by the Wethersfield Historical Society.

Cove Warehouse, Wethersfield, Connecticut (1)

The warehouse at Wethersfield Cove, around 1935-1942 (but most likely in 1936). Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives, RG 033:28, WPA Records, Architectural Survey.

The building in 2024:

Wethersfield Cove is a pond-like body of water that is connected to the Connecticut River via a narrow inlet. It is a remnant of a river meander that was similar to the more famous Oxbow farther upstream in Hadley, Massachusetts. However, this meander in Wethersfield did not last long enough to be immortalized in a 19th century Thomas Cole painting, because it was flooded in 1692. The flood straightened the course of the river, turning the former meander into what became known as the Cove. Over the centuries it has remained a distinctive feature on the town’s landscape, and it is located at the northern end of Main Street, just north of the town center.

Both before and after the 1692 flood, Wethersfield was an important seaport. Although the town is many miles inland, it is located along the navigable portion of the Connecticut River, which allows oceangoing ships to arrive and depart from here. To serve this shipping, six warehouses were constructed here in the late 17th century, prior to the 1692 flood. All of these were subsequently destroyed by the flood with the exception of this one, which has survived to the present day.

Along the way, it has become an important town landmark, although at times it has been threatened both by neglect and by other floods. It was restored in the early 1930s, but then it suffered serious damage during the March 1936 flood, including being knocked off of its foundation. The top photo is undated except for the estimated 1935-1942 date range, but the condition of the building suggests that this was probably shortly after the flood.

After the flood, the building was again restored, and it continues to stand here as a rare surviving example of a 17th century New England warehouse. It is owned by the town, and it is rented to the Wethersfield Historical Society, which operates it as a seasonal museum. Today, the scene looks much the same as it did in the 1930s, with the exception of Interstate 91, which now passes through Wethersfield in the distance on the right side of the scene, crossing the narrow inlet that connects the Cove to the rest of the Connecticut River.

East Windsor Hill Post Office, South Windsor, Connecticut

The East Windsor Hill Post Office in South Windsor, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The scene in 2022:

These two photos show the post office at 1865 Main Street in the East Windsor Hill neighborhood of South Windsor. The building dates back to 1757, when Jeremiah Bullard constructed the one-story section on the left side. He operated a store there, and then in the 1760s David Bissell built the two-story section on the right side, where he likewise had a store.

The building was used by a variety of businesses during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it is perhaps best known for its claim of being the oldest continuously-operating post office in the country. As indicated on the historical marker on the building, the store “received the first government post rider in 1783.” However, the building was not officially designated as a post office until 1837, so it seems questionable whether occasional post rider visits would qualify it as being a true post office, much less one that was in “continuous use.” A stronger contender for the oldest continuously-used post office would seem to be the one in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, which has been located in the same building since 1816.

Either way, though, the East Windsor Hill post office is definitely still among the oldest existing post offices in the country, and the building itself is a rare surviving example of a colonial-era commercial building. The top photo shows the building around the late 1930s, and it has seen only minor exterior changes since then. These include removing the shutters on the left side and installing new windows on the right side, both of which were likely done to improve the historical accuracy of the building. Today, the building remains in use as a post office, and it is part of the East Windsor Hill Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Town Square, Plymouth, Massachusetts

The Town Square in Plymouth, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene around 1921. Image from Illustrated Guide to Historic Plymouth Massachusetts (1921).

The scene in 2023:

These three photos show the Town Square in Plymouth, facing west from the corner of Main and Leyden Streets. Since the early years of the Plymouth Colony, this site has been a focal point for the community, and it is surrounded by a number of historic buildings. Most significantly, the Town Square has been the site of a series of meetinghouses for the First Parish Church since the mid-1600s. However, the development around the square has also included town offices, the county courthouse, and various commercial properties over the years.

In the distance on the right side of these photos is Burial Hill. It was used as the town’s primary graveyard for much of the colonial period, but prior to that it was the location of several defensive fortifications, the first of which was built in 1621. The fort on the hill also served as the town meeting house until a purpose-build meeting house was constructed here at the square, which apparently occurred in either 1637 or 1648. It was located on the north side of the square, so it would have stood somewhere on the right side of the scene in these photos.

The 1637-48 meeting house was replaced by a second one in 1683, which stood at the west end of the square, on the site now occupied by the stone church in the center of this scene. A third meeting house was built on the site in 1744, followed by a wooden Gothic Revival church in 1831. That building is shown in the center of the top photo, and it stood here until 1892, when it was destroyed by a fire. This fire prompted the construction of the current First Parish Church of Plymouth on the same site. This Romanesque Revival church was completed in 1899, and it bears resemblance to the style of church buildings that the Mayflower Pilgrims would have known in England prior to their departure for the New World.

Although the First Parish Church was the predominant church congregation throughout the colonial period in Plymouth, other churches would eventually emerge in the town, including the Third Church of Christ in Plymouth. Established in 1801 as a result of the Unitarian-Trinitarian divide that swept through New England churches in the early 19th century, this congregation continued to follow the more conservative Trinitarian theology and practices, while the First Parish Church became Unitarian. In 1840, the Third Church of Christ built the church that stands on the right side of this scene, and that same year it became known as the Church of the Pilgrimage.

Aside from religious organizations, the Town Square was also the seat of the colony’s government for many years. At some point in the 1600s, the colony constructed a “country house” on the south side of the square, in the distance on the left side of the scene. When this was built, Plymouth was still a separate colony, so the building served as the de facto colonial capitol. It was also used as a courthouse, and this continued even after Plymouth became a part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. This building was eventually demolished and replaced by a new courthouse on the same site in 1749. The new building was also used for the town offices, and it still stands today. It is two stories tall and painted white, and it is visible in the distance on the left side of the bottom photo.

The area around the Town Square has also been the site of various commercial buildings over the years, particularly in the area closer to the foreground. All of the buildings in the foreground of the top photo appear to have been demolished by the time the middle photo was taken in the early 1920s, but their replacements are still standing here today. They include the Odd Fellows Block on the right, which was built in 1887, and another brick commercial building on the left, which was built around 1912.

North Main Street from Pleasant Street, Concord, New Hampshire

Looking north on North Main Street from the corner of Pleasant Street in Concord, New Hampshire, around 1874-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2022:

As these two photos show, much of downtown Concord has retained its historic architecture, with a number of buildings here that date back to the mid-19th century. Some have been altered over the years, but overall most of the buildings from the first photo are still standing here around 150 years later.

Starting in the foreground on the right side of the street is Moore’s Block at 4-12 North Main Street. This was built sometime around 1860, although over the years it has been altered almost beyond recognition. The main façade has been almost completely rebuilt, and today the only clue to its original appearance in this scene is the central window on the second floor, which is still topped by its granite lintel.

Beyond this building is the three-story Currier Block, which was also probably built in the 1860s, and the four-story Statesman Building, which was built around 1866-1867. The latter was originally the offices of the New Hampshire Statesman newspaper. Both buildings are still standing, and are still easily recognizable from their 19th century appearance.

On the far side of the Statesman Building is the corner of Depot Street, and then on the on the other side of the street was Bailey’s Block, which was built in 1874. Later known as Smith’s Block, it stood here until it was destroyed by a fire in 1960, and it was replaced by a one-story commercial building that now stands on the site.

Further in the distance in the first photo, with the tall windows on the upper floors, was Phenix Hall. This was an important city landmark in the second half of the 19th century, and its large auditorium served as a venue for many political gatherings, speeches, and other events. Perhaps the most notable visitor here was Abraham Lincoln, who delivered a speech here on March 1, 1860, several days after his famous Cooper Union speech in New York City. At the time, Lincoln was still a relatively obscure midwestern politician, but his speaking tour through the northeast helped to establish him as a major contender for the 1860 election.

The original Phenix Hall was destroyed by a fire in 1893, but true to its name it was soon rebuilt as the New Phenix Hall. Like its predecessor, it continued to be used as an event venue for many years, with prominent guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, who spoke here during his 1912 presidential campaign. The building was damaged by yet another fire in 1956, and was underutilized for many years during the second half of the 20th century. However, it is still standing, and is the subject of an ongoing restoration project.

On the other side of Phenix Hall, in the distant center of the first photo, is the three-story Phenix Hotel, which was built in 1857. It is difficult to tell now, but there are portions of this building that are still standing. As shown in the first photo, it originally had three stories and a flat roof, but it was later altered with the addition of a fourth story that was topped by a Mansard roof. This roof was eventually removed in 1947, and then seven years later all of the upper floors were removed, leaving only the one-story structure that stands today.

Further in the distance, the buildings become less discernable from this vantage point. However, there are a number of 19th century buildings that still stand today, including perhaps most notably the Eagle Hotel, which had been a favorite for New Hampshire politicians for many years.

Overall, the street itself could hardly be any different, with the horse-drawn carts on a rutted dirt road giving way to the cars that now pass through here on US Routes 3 and 202. However, most of the buildings from the first photo are still standing in some form or another, and the scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo. Because of this level of preservation, this section of North Main Street is now part of the Downtown Concord Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.