Cape Neddick Light, York, Maine

Cape Neddick “Nubble” Light, as it appeared between 1900 and 1910.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same scene in 2011:


Not much has changed in 100 years; the 1879 lighthouse, keepers house, and outbuildings remain as they were in the early 1900’s, and the rocks clearly haven’t gone anywhere either.  The only significant changes are the enclosed walkway between the house and tower, and demolition of the bell tower seen to the right of the lighthouse in the old photo.  On a curious note, the Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, carries several photographs of notable man-made structures in the event that it should ever be discovered by extraterrestrials, including the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and this lighthouse.

Cape Neddick, York, Maine

The view of Cape Neddick from Long Sands Beach in York, Maine, between 1890 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same view in 2011:


In the past 100 years, Cape Neddick went from being almost deserted, to being covered with vacation homes.  The only readily-identifiable structure in both photos is the Cape Neddick “Nubble” Lighthouse, located at the end of the peninsula on a small, rocky island known as the Nubble.  However, with close examination, at least one of the cottages from the old photograph still exists – the one with the tower in the center of the roof on the far-left side of the photo.

Union Oyster House, Boston

Union Oyster House in Boston, sometime in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:


The historic building around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:


In 1930, courtesy of Boston Public Library:


Sometime between 1934 and 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


The Union Oyster House in 2010:


The above four photos show over 100 years of the history of the oldest restaurant in the United States, the Union Oyster House in Boston.  Although the restaurant opened in 1826, the building itself is far older, having been built around 1704.  The second floor was once used as the publishing office of the Massachusetts Spy in the 1770’s, and in 1796 the future King Louis Philippe of France lived in exile, also on the second floor.  Since becoming a restaurant, the Union Oyster House (originally Atwood & Bacon Oyster House, as seen in the 1898 photo) has served many notable patrons, including Daniel Webster, John F. Kennedy, and other members of the Kennedy family.

White House, Washington, DC

The White House, as it appeared in either the 1880s or 1890s. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Other Places

The same view in 2012:


The White House doesn’t look all that different from what it looked like in the late 19th century, and yet almost everything about it has changed.  The East Wing and West Wing, which aren’t visible in the 2012 photo, didn’t exist at the time of the first photo, nor did the third floor on the roof, or the second floor balcony behind the pillars.  But, the most dramatic changes in the past 120 or so years came in the late 1940’s, when the badly-deteriorated wood frame was in danger of collapse.  The entire interior was gutted, the wood frame was replaced with steel, and the interior put back into place afterward (see this photo of bulldozers and dump trucks at work inside the White House).  The exterior, however, remains much the same as it did after the reconstruction following its burning during the War of 1812.

National Mall from the Washington Monument

The National Mall, looking toward the Capitol Building, as seen from the Washington Monument between 1906 and 1915:

The scene in 1945. Image taken by Reginald Hotchkiss, courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA/OWI Collection.

The scene in 2021:

The National Mall is one of the most-visited places in Washington DC, yet it did not always have its carefully-manicured appearance, as shown in the first photo. Several major landmarks were already standing here along the Mall, most notably the National Museum of Natural History on the left and the Smithsonian Castle on the right, with the Arts and Industries Building just beyond it to the right. Further in the distance of the first photo is the Capitol, with the Library of Congress behind it. However, most of the Mall was still vacant at this point, and it would be many more decades before all of the current Smithsonian museums were constructed here.

The second photo, taken in 1945, shows several newer buildings in this scene, including the National Archives on the far left, the National Gallery of Art just beyond the Museum of Natural History, and the Supreme Court Building behind the Capitol. Aside from these major institutional buildings, though, the Mall area also became the site of many temporary War Department buildings during World War I and II. Some of these can be seen in the second photo, particularly in the lower left and upper middle of the photo. During the first half of the 20th century, the landscaping of the Mall also changed significantly, and in the 1930s a number of elm trees were planted in rows along the Mall, as shown in the second photo.

Today, more than 75 years after the second photo was taken, the Mall is home to even more museums, many of which were constructed on the sites of the temporary wartime buildings. In the lower left corner of the scene is the Museum of American History, and in the upper right is the Hirshorn Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Further in the distance on the left, the National Gallery of Art has since expanded, and now has a second building to the east of its original facility. Despite these additions, though, the scene is still easily recognizable from the second photo, and even many of the elm trees are still standing, despite being threatened by Dutch Elm Disease.

Looking northeast from the Washington Monument

The view looking northeast from the top of the Washington Monument, between 1906 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 1945. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA/OWI Collection.

The scene in 2021:

Much has changed in more than a century since the first photo was taken, including the massive complex of government buildings in the foreground, which now house the US Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency. However, some of the landmarks from the first photo are still standing, including most prominently the Old Post Office just to the left of center, which is now the Trump International Hotel. Further in the distance is the Pension Building, which is now the National Building Museum, and in the upper right corner is Union Station. Much closer to the foreground, on the far right side of both photos, is the back corner of the National Museum of Natural History.