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.

Great Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (1)

Looking south in the Great Hall in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in an earlier post, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been at its current location on Fifth Avenue since 1880, although it has gone through numerous expansions over the years. Perhaps the most architecturally-significant addition came in 1902, when a new main entrance was constructed in front of the older portion of the building. It was designed by prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt, and it featured ornate Beaux-Arts designs on both the exterior and interior.

The front entrance, located on the left side of the scene beyond the columns, opens into the Great Hall, which is shown here in this scene from the second floor balcony. Like the exterior, most of the interior here is made of limestone, and its ceiling consists of three domes supported by arches, which correspond to the three arches on the Fifth Avenue facade of the building. From here, visitors could proceed to the main portion of the museum by way of the Grand Staircase beyond the columns on the right, which was also designed by Hunt.

The first photo was taken within about five years after this wing was completed. At the time, the museum had a severe shortage of gallery space, and the Great Hall was used to display statues. This was probably not Hunt’s original intent for this space, though, and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens criticized it for being inadequate for such use. In 1905, he remarked, as quoted in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Architectural History, about “the dismal failure of Hunt’s hall for sculpture there. It may be good architecture and a glorious bath of Caracalla thing, but it’s a damn bad gallery for the proper disposition of works of art.”

As the first photo shows, the collection on display here in the Great Hall included a mix of both ancient and modern works. Many of these works are still owned by the museum, and one of the most notable of these is Bacchante and Infant Faun, which stands in the bottom center of the photo. Created in 1894 by Frederick William MacMonnies, this bronze sculpture was a gift of architect Charles Follen McKim, whose firm of McKim, Mead & White would later design several large additions to the museum.

Further in the distance, other identifiable works include, from roughly left to right, Medea (1869) by William Wetmore Story, Fisher Boy (1857) by Hiram Powers, The Bather (1894) by Edmund Austin Stewardson, Sappho (1895) by Count Prosper d’Epinay, Bohemian Bear Tamer (1888) by Paul Wayland Bartlett, Hector and Andromache (1871) by Giovanni Maria Benzoni, and Cleopatra (1869) by William Wetmore Story.

There are also at least three ancient sculptures here, with a large bronze statue of emperor Trebonianus Gallus (A.D. 251-253) standing between the columns in the distant center of the scene, and two headless statues of women on either side of it. The one on the left in this view is Greek, dating from the second half of the 4th century B.C., and the one on the right is a Roman copy of a Greek statue of Eirene, which was carved around A.D. 14-68. Both of these statues are now on display only yards away from where they once stood in the first photo, in a gallery beyond the columns in the distance.

Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has grown far beyond the confines of its early 20th century facility. The Great Hall is now used almost exclusively as an entrance hall, with only a few works on display here. In the present-day scene, there is an information desk in the center of the Great Hall, with ticket counters in front of the columns at both the north and south sides of the room. On the second floor balcony, on the left side of this view, is a cafe. Otherwise, though, the architecture itself has remained essentially unchanged since the Great Hall was completed more than a century ago, and it continues to welcome visitors into the museum, with nearly 6.5 million people passing through here in 2019.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (2)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, seen from the corner of 5th Avenue and East 83rd Street, around 1903. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The view around 1904-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has been at this location on 5th Avenue since 1880, but the building has been dramatically expanded and altered from its original appearance over the years. The first two photos here, taken only a few years apart, show some of this work in progress during the early 20th century.

The original museum building was set back from 5th Avenue, as were two additions that were constructed in the 1880s and 1890s. A portion of the northern wing, completed in 1894, is visible in the distance on the right side of the photo, but the rest of the 19th century museum building is hidden from view behind the 1902 addition, which stands in the foreground of this scene. This wing extended the museum all the way to 5th Avenue, and provided a grand main entrance that remains in use today.

This section of the building was designed by prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt, who is perhaps best remembered for designing Gilded Age mansions for affluent New York families such as the Vanderbilts. He was the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in France, and this is reflected in his works, which are generally in the Beaux-Arts style. The museum expansion was among his last commissions, and he died in 1895, long before it was finished, so his son Richard Howland Hunt ultimately saw the project to completion.

The first photo was taken within about a year after this wing was completed. At this point, 5th Avenue was still not fully developed this far north, and there were still many vacant lots here in the vicinity of the museum, including one directly across the street in the foreground of the scene. The street itself was unpaved, and there are no automobiles in sight, but there is a mix of horse-drawn vehicles, including a delivery wagon on the extreme left, a stagecoach in front of it, and what appears to be a construction wagon on the far right. Next to this last wagon is the blurry image of a bicycle, and elsewhere there are a variety of pedestrians, including a man walking a small dog and several women with baby carriages.

Although the Hunt addition was only just finished, the museum was already preparing for further expansion. While architecturally impressive, it added little gallery space to the museum, as it consisted primarily of the Great Hall, which served as the museum’s main entrance, and the Grand Staircase, which connected the new wing to the original building. As a result, in 1904 the museum hired the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White to design new wings, including one that extended north along 5th Avenue, on the right side of this scene.

The first photo does show some work occurring on the right side, although it does not seem clear as to whether this is related to the new wing or something else. However, by the time the second photo was taken a few years later, the expansion work was well underway. The exterior wall was largely completed by this point, but there was no roof yet, and the window here was an empty hole, with a brick wall visible beyond it. This project would eventually be completed in 1909, and four years later the northern side of the 5th Avenue facade was completed with the construction of another McKim, Mead & White addition.

As shown in the previous post, the museum would remain asymmetrical from this view for several years, but in 1917 a matching wing was built to the south, on the left side of this scene. This was the last significant change to the 5th Avenue side of the museum, but it would continue to expand to the rear, including a number of additions during the 1970s and 1980s. This incremental growth over the years has given the museum an interesting combination of architectural styles, and the original 1880 building is still standing, although it is now entirely surrounded by newer additions, with only small portions of the old exterior visible inside the building.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (1)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, seen from the corner of 5th Avenue and East 81st Street in New York, around 1914. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, taken by Irving Underhill.

The museum in 2019:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was established in 1870, and it opened to the public two years later. During the 1870s the museum was housed in two different temporary locations, first at 681 5th Avenue and then at 128 West 14th Street. Then, in 1880 it moved to this site in Central Park, on the west side of 5th Avenue opposite East 82nd Street. It has remained here ever since, although its exterior appearance has been radically changed by a series of expansions over the years.

The original building here was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould, two of the main architects involved in designing Central Park. It featuring High Victorian Gothic-style architecture, but the exterior deliberately had an incomplete appearance, as it was intended from the beginning that it would be expanded with new wings. However, the design proved very unpopular, and Vaux and Mould were not hired for the first additions, which were built starting in the mid-1880s. Instead, these were designed by Thomas Weston and Arthur L. Tuckerman, and they were constructed on the north and south sides of the original structure. The south wing, which was completed in 1888, is partially visible here in the distance on the left side of the first photo.

Perhaps the single most distinctive feature on the exterior of the museum is the present-day entrance here on the 5th Avenue facade, which was completed in 1902. It was the work of noted architect Richard Morris Hunt, featuring a distinctive Beaux-Arts design that included three large arches, Corinthian columns, an ornate cornice, and other classically-inspired elements. On the inside, Hunt’s wing featured the Great Hall, which served as the museum’s main entryway, and it was connected to the rest of the museum by way of the Grand Staircase in the rear of the T-shaped addition. Hunt died in 1895, before construction began, but his son Richard Howland Hunt subsequently oversaw the rest of the project.

This addition was completed in 1902, but it was intended as just the first step in a much larger expansion plan for the museum. Before his death, Hunt had developed a master plan with large wings extending to the north and south of the entryway, but his vision was ultimately not carried out. Instead, the museum shifted its architectural focus yet again, this time hiring the firm of McKim, Mead & White in 1904. Perhaps best known here in New York for designing the original Penn Station, they were one of the most important architectural firms in the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they designed most of what is now visible along the 5th Avenue side of the museum.

The firm’s work was partially completed by the time the first photo was taken in 1914. Immediately to the north of the main entrance are two wings, which opened in 1909 and 1913, and these were also joined by a central wing, which was completed in 1910 on the other side of the building. Architecturally, the new wings are different from Hunt’s work, but they were deliberately designed to harmonize with the design and scale of the older section. McKim, Mead & White also designed matching wings on the south side of the building, but these would not be completed until 1917, several years after the photo was taken.

The wings by McKim, Mead & White dramatically increased the amount of gallery space in the museum, but the building  continued to expand throughout the 20th century as the museum’s collections have grown. Aside from the 1917 addition on the left side of the scene, very little has changed here on the 5th Avenue side of the building, yet there have been further additions to the rear, most of which were built in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, the original building and the late 19th century additions are now almost entirely encased in new construction, although there are portions of the old exteriors that are still visible inside the museum.

Today, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of the largest and most visited art museums in the world. From its modest beginnings in leased quarters in the 1870s, it now features more than two million works of art in more than two million square feet of gallery space, and in 2019 it drew nearly 6.5 million visitors over the course of the year. Because of the many expansions over the years, its architecture is now nearly as varied as the works of art inside it, ranging from the Beaux-Arts main entrance to the modernist glass and steel wings on the other side of the building. In recognition of this, the museum was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1967, and a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Concord River from Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass

Looking north on the Concord River from the middle of Old North Bridge in Concord, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

These photos were taken facing north from the middle of the Old North Bridge in Concord, looking downstream on the Concord River. The river forms about a half mile upstream from the bridge, at the confluence of the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers, and it flows north from here for about 16 miles, eventually entering the Merrimack River in Lowell.

This site here is probably the best-known spot on the Concord River, as it was the site of the Battle of Concord, which occurred on April 19, 1775. Along with the Battle of Lexington, which had occurred several hours earlier, it marked the beginning of the American Revolution. During the battle, the colonial militiamen had assembled on the west bank of the river, on the far left side of the scene, in an effort to prevent British forces from seizing colonial military supplies. The British, on the east bank, opened fire, resulting in the militiamen returning fire with what came to be known as the “shot heard round the world,” as it resulted in the first British fatalities of the war and forced the redcoats to retreat back to Boston.

During the 19th century, the battlefield was marked by two famous monuments, with one on each side of the river. Since 1874 there have also been a series of commemorative bridges built on the site of the original bridge, which had been removed in 1788. The photographer of the first photo captured this scene from the second such bridge, which was built in 1888 and was destroyed in a flood in 1909, about a year after the photo was taken.

In the center of this photo is the boathouse for the Concord Canoe Club, which stood on the east side of the river on what was known as Honeysuckle Island. The club was established in 1902, and the boathouse was probably built around the same time. However, in 1909 the club built a new boathouse just to the south of this one, closer to the foreground on the far right side. The club existed until at least the 1920s, but both boathouses are now long gone, and the present-day scene actually looks more like its 1775 appearance than it did in the early 20th century.

Today, the bridge and the surrounding battlefield, including the land on both sides of the river in this scene, is now part of the Minute Man National Historical Park. This park, which was established in 1959, preserves important sites and buildings related to the battles of Lexington and Concord, and in recent years it has drawn upwards of a million visitors each year. However, years after the demise of the Concord Canoe Club, the river remains popular among recreational paddlers, and on summer days it is not uncommon to see groups of anachronistic kayaks passing through an otherwise colonial-era setting.