General Crane House, Boston

The General Crane House on Tremont Street in Boston, probably in 1894. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the photos in this post, but this angle just focuses on the old General Crane House.  Although only about 12 years have passed, the historic house has not fared well – in the 1894 photo it appears to have been relegated to billboard duty, advertising for several plays, including The Little Trooper staring Della Fox, and Jacinta starring Louise Beaudet.  Both actresses were prominent in the 1890s, and they appeared in these plays around 1894-1895.  The building itself had once been home to John Crane, a Revolutionary War general and Boston Tea Party participant.  It was still standing when the Tremont Street Subway was constructed under the street, but it didn’t last too much longer – it was gone by 1908.

Seaver House, Boston

The Seaver House on the west side of Tremont Street across from Hollis Street, around 1882. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


This view was taken from almost the same spot as the one in this post, which shows the scene before Tremont Street was widened.  Most of the buildings on Tremont Street in the 1882 photo above were built following the widening of the street, but none of them survive today. However, that doesn’t mean this neighborhood of Boston has completely changed.  It is part of Boston’s Theater District, a distinction that it held as far back as the 1800s.  In fact, the first photo is able to be dated to around 1882 based on the Fritz in Ireland playbill, which is posted on the wall on the far left-hand side of the first photo.  The wood-frame house in the left-center of the photo is the General Crane House, and was home to John Crane, a Boston Tea Party participant and Revolutionary War veteran.  By the time of the 1882 photo, it was home to the William Davis & Co. candy store.  Notice also the rails running through the cobblestone streets, and the blurred image of a horse-drawn trolley.  The trolleys would eventually be electrified and buried beneath Tremont Street in the late 1890s; today, the tunnel is still there, but it is no longer in service.

Franklin Street, Boston (1)

Looking down Franklin Street toward Arch Street from Hawley Street in Boston in 1858. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The same view down Franklin Street, between 1859 and 1872. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Franklin Street in 2014:


Franklin Street in Boston was originally laid out in the 1790s by noted architect Charles Bulfinch, and included row-houses on both sides of a sweeping curve, as seen in the first photo. Known as the Tontine Crescent, this was an upscale neighborhood in the first half of the 19th century, but by the 1850s the city was expanding commercially. The row-houses were demolished, and replaced with the commercial buildings in the second photo. These didn’t last too long, though – they were destroyed in the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Today, it is still a major commercial center, part of the Downtown Crossing shopping district, but many of the buildings that are still standing along Franklin Street were the ones constructed in 1873 in the immediate aftermath of the fire. In addition, the street still retains its distinctive curve that was laid out over 200 years ago.

Sheaffe House, Boston

The Sheaffe House at the corner of Columbia and Essex in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Located in the southern part of downtown Boston, the Sheaffe House was built in 1734 by Thomas Child, who owned a distillery a few block away.  The house was later owned by his son-in-law, William Sheaffe, for whom the house is named.  Sheaffe died in 1771, and his wife opened the house as a boarding house to support the family.  One of the residents was Lord Percy, a British officer who fought at Lexington & Concord and the Battle of Long Island.  Thanks to Lord Percy, one of Sheaffe’s children, Roger Hale Sheaffe, attended military school in London and eventually reached the rank of general in the British army.

The house was demolished sometime before 1887, and the brick building on the left-hand side of the 2014 photo replaced it.  The building, 88 Kingston Street, has been substantially renovated – I’m not sure if anything survives but the facade.  To the right is the One Lincoln Street building, an office building that was built in 2003 and is one of the tallest buildings in the Financial District.

Massachusetts State House, Boston

The Massachusetts State House, with a Beacon Street house being demolished in the foreground.  Photo taken January 27, 1917 by Lewis Wickes Hine of the National Child Labor Committee, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The scene in 2014:


The Massachusetts State House was built in 1798, but has been expanded several times over the years.  An 1895 expansion was built behind the original building, and in 1917 the east and west wings were added (east wings visible on the right-hand side of both photos).  The west wing, however, required the demolition of a number of houses on Beacon Street, Joy Place, and Mount Vernon Place, and the elimination of Hancock Avenue altogether.

One of the demolished buildings can be seen here in the first photo.  In this particular scene, Lewis Wickes Hine captures workers, including young children, bringing wood home, presumably to use for firewood on what was probably a chilly late January day.

Hewes House, Boston

The Hewes House on Washington Street across from Milk Street, around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:

This area sustained some damage during the Great Boston Fire of 1872, but the Hewes House, seen in the first photo, was gone before then.  According to the Bostonian Society in a 1902 book, the house was constructed in 1656 and demolished in 1870.  If accurate, the 1656 date would put its construction within 26 years of the founding of Boston, making it several decades older than downtown Boston’s current oldest building, the Paul Revere House.  It was also 73 years older than its neighbor across the street, Old South Meeting House.  Evidently, the house was named after Shubael Hewes, an 18th century Bostonian who lived here for many years.  At the time, this section of Washington Street was known as Marlboro Street; the street long predates George Washington, so it wasn’t until 1788 that it was renamed.