Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass (2)

The view looking northwest from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two photos were taken from the same spot as the ones in the previous two posts, which face to the southwest and west. This particular view looks toward the northwest, with the town of Adams in the foreground and the Greylock Range in the distance. The present-day photo does not line up perfectly with the first one, as the line of sight from the original spot is blocked by the house on the far left, but the two photos show the same overall scene, including the two houses on the right side of the first photo, which still stand here in the second photo.

The houses here in the foreground were, for the most part, built around the late 19th century. During this time, Adams was growing in population, becoming an important manufacturing center on the Hoosic River, and residential neighborhoods were steadily making their way up the hillside to the east of town. Many of the house lots were still undeveloped by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the century, as indicated by the cornfield in the foreground, but most of these would soon have houses on them.

The two houses on the right side of the first photo were both built sometime around 1900, and they are both included in that year’s census. At the time, the one furthest to the right, at 40-42 Randall Street, was occupied by two families. The left side was the home of 34-year-old teamster Fred Wilder, his wife Ida, their daughter Bertha, and a boarder who also worked as a teamster. On the right side was 23-year-old Grace Welch, who lived here with her three children. They ranged in age from 10 months to 7 years, and according to the census she had been married for nine years. It also listed her as being a widow, although subsequent censuses show her as being married to Melvin Welch, so this part of her record was likely in error.

To the left of the duplex is a single-family home at 38 Randall Street. In 1900 it was owned by Ai Davis, a 47-year-old stonemason who lived here with his wife Nora and their five children, the oldest of whom was 23 and the youngest was 5. Their oldest, Hiram, was a teamster, and two other children were listed as attending school. Like her neighbor Grace, Nora had also apparently married very young, because she was 39 years old in 1900 and had already been married for 24 years.

Further in the distance, the most visible building in downtown Adams is the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company. Founded in 1889, the company grew quickly over the next few decades, and by the time the first photo was taken in the early 20th century it consisted of a large factory complex with a number of buildings in the center of the scene. In 1904, the company had around 2,400 people, making it a significant employer in a town that, at the time, had around 12,000 residents.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, many changes have occurred here in this scene. The cornfield in the foreground is gone, having been replaced by the house on the far left side at some point around the 1920s. In the distance, the slopes of Mount Greylock are now far more wooded than they had been in the first photo, and much of downtown Adams is also now obscured by trees. The houses at 38 and 40-42 Randall Street are still standing though, as are some of the buildings in the Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing Company complex.

During the 20th century, Berkshire Cotton Manufacturing went through a series of mergers in the 20th century, eventually merging with Hathaway Manufacturing in 1955 to become Berkshire Hathaway. It continued to produce textiles here into the second half of the 20th century, and came under the control of a young Warren Buffett in 1965. The factory ultimately closed, and many of the buildings have since been demolished, but the company itself still exists. No longer a small-town cotton mill, Berkshire Hathaway is now a major multi-national holding company headquartered in Omaha, although its name continues to serve as a reminder of its origins here along the Hoosic River in Adams.

Mount Greylock from Adams, Massachusetts

The view of Mount Greylock as seen from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These two images do not line up perfectly; the first one was taken a few yards to the south of where the 2019 one was taken. However, the view from that spot is now blocked by a house that stands where the cornfield in the foreground used to be, so the present-day photo was taken a little closer to the corner of Randall Street. However, the overall scene is the same in both photos, showing the town of Adams at the bottom of the hill, with the summit of Mount Greylock as the backdrop in the distant center.

Standing 3,491 feet above sea level, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts. It is part of the Taconic Mountains, a range within the Appalachians that runs roughly along the New York-Massachusetts border, and it is also one of the most topographically-prominent mountains in New England, rising nearly 2,500 feet above all of its surrounding valleys. As a result, it is visible for miles in every direction, and it is the most distinctive landscape feature within the town of Adams.

The east slope of the mountain, shown here in this scene, is its steepest. From the summit, it drops more than 2,700 feet in less than three miles to the floor of the Hoosic River valley. The town of Adams was settled here along the river, and during the second half of the 19th century it developed into a thriving industrial community. The town was divided in half in 1878, with the more populous northern half becoming North Adams, but Adams continued to grow, and by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century its population had risen to over 10,000 residents.

The photo shows the downtown area of Adams, as seen from the hills immediately to the east. By this point, this area was in the process of being developed for housing, and the 1904 county atlas shows that the land in the foreground had already been subdivided into individual lots. Some of the houses had already been built by then, but other lots were still vacant, including the cornfield here in the first photo. However, within a decade or two this site would also be developed, and there is now a 1920s-era house that stands just out of view on the left.

Today, Adams is no longer a major factory town, and its population is actually smaller than it was at the turn of the last century. Overall, though, this view is not significantly different from the first photo. Probably the single most noticeable change is the increased number of trees. In the foreground, downtown Adams is mostly hidden by the trees, although there are several buildings visible, most notably the First Congregational Church, which stands in the center of the scene. Beyond the town, the slopes of Mount Greylock are much more wooded today than in the first photo, and at the summit is the Veterans War Memorial Tower, which was dedicated in 1933 in memory of Massachusetts residents who died in World War I.

Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass

The view looking southwest from the corner of Randall and Second Streets in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Berkshires became an important industrial center, with a number of factories located along the Housatonic and Hoosic Rivers. Here in Adams, near the northwest corner of Massachusetts, the town saw rapid growth during this period because of its industries. It lost nearly two thirds of its population in 1878 when its northern half was partitioned off as the town of North Adams, but over the next 20 years it doubled in population, ultimately reaching its peak at just over 13,000 people by 1910.

The first photo was taken around this time, facing southwest from the hillside just to the east of the center of town. A portion of downtown Adams is visible in the distance, including the steeple of First Baptist Church, which stands in the center of the photo. Further beyond the town is the southern end of the Greylock Range, which features the tallest mountains in the state. The highest, Mount Greylock, is just out of view on the far right side, but the state’s second-highest peak, Saddle Ball Mountain, is evidently visible in this scene.

In the foreground of the first photo is a corn field. At the time, this neighborhood was only partially developed, consisting of a few late 19th century homes interspersed with empty lots such as this one. However, by this point the area was already eyed for future development, with the 1904 county atlas showing that this land had already been subdivided into new streets and house lots, which were owned by the Bonnie Brae Land Company. Many of the houses and streets were ultimately never built, perhaps because the population of Adams plateaued after 1910, but this former corn field was developed sometime after the first photo was taken. As shown in the present-day scene, it is now the site of a bungalow-style house that, based on its architecture, was probably built sometime around the 1920s.

Mount Holyoke Halfway House, Hadley, Mass

The Halfway House on the northern slope of Mount Holyoke in Hadley, around 1867-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2019:

For the past two centuries, the view from the top of Mount Holyoke has been one of the most celebrated mountaintop scenes in New England. Although only 935 feet above sea level, the traprock mountain rises abruptly from the low valley floor, providing nearly 360-degree views of the Connecticut River and the surrounding countryside. As a result, the mountain has drawn countless visitors over the years, and its view has been the subject of many works of art, including one of the most iconic American landscape paintings, Thomas Cole’s The Oxbow.

During the Romantic era of the early 19th century, a new emphasis on nature helped to spur interest in landscapes and scenery. Mountains, which had previously been regarded as impediments to travel, became destinations in their own right, leading to a proliferation of mountaintop hotels, particularly here in the northeast. Among the first of these was a small cabin that was built at the summit of Mount Holyoke in 1821. A second, rival structure was built a few years later, but it would be another three decades before a real hotel was built at the summit.

In 1849, Northampton bookbinder John French and his wife Frances purchased the property at the summit, and soon began construction on a new, more substantial structure. Completed in 1851 and named the Prospect House, the hotel was two stories in height, with a dining room, sitting room, and office on the first floor, and six guest rooms on the second floor.

French originally intended to live in the hotel year-round, but the windswept summit proved too cold and isolated in the winter, so in 1852 he and his family moved into a house on the northern slope of the mountain, shown here in the upper right side of both photos. It was known as the Halfway House, and in terms of elevation it is just over halfway from the valley floor to the summit. However, beyond here the climb becomes significantly more difficult. Up to this point, it is a steady but moderate ascent, but after the Halfway House the most direct route to the summit is up a steep slope, gaining over 350 feet in elevation in just 600 feet.

When the Prospect House opened, the only way up to the hotel from the Halway House was either by riding along a winding, narrow carriage road, or by climbing the short but steep path to the summit. Not only was this challenging for visitors to reach the hotel, but it also made it difficult for French to bring supplies. With no springs anywhere near the summit, water was a particularly scarce commodity, as it all had to be carted or carried up these same routes. As a result, visitors were charged for the water that they drank, paying between three and five cents per glass, or about $1 to $1.50 today. In addition, other liquid refreshments sold for considerably higher on the mountain than elsewhere.

In order to solve these problems, in 1854 French built an incline railway from here at the Halfway House to the summit. It was originally powered by a stationary horse, but two years later French replaced it with a steam engine. The entire railway was 600 feet in length, and by the late 1860s it was completely enclosed by a wooden shed. These two photos were taken from around the spot where the railway began, and from here it brought visitors directly into the basement of the Prospect House, allowing them to reach the hotel without even stepping outside.

John French expanded the hotel in 1861, and in 1867 he added a second track to the railway. Throughout this time, he and Frances resided at the Halfway House. The 1870 census shows them here with their 21-year-old daughter Frances. At the time, they also had three employees who lived here with them, including a clerk, a domestic servant, and a teenager who was listed as a “boy of all work.” The census listed the value of French’s real estate at $20,000, plus a personal estate valued at $8,000, for a total net worth equivalent to around $575,000 today.

French ultimately sold the hotel a year later in 1871 to South Hadley businessman John Dwight. However, Dwight retained John and Frances to manage the hotel, and they continued to live here in this house. The 1880 census lists them here along with a number of employees, including a telegraph operator, two cooks, a waiter, and an engineer. However, it seems unlikely that they would have all lived together in this small house, so they may have lived in other nearby buildings, or perhaps even in the hotel itself.

John French lived here until his death in 1891, and Frances until she died in 1899. By then, the hotel had been expanded even further. with an 1894 addition that gave the building a capacity of 40 guests. However, despite this growth the hotel entered a decline in the early 20th century. It was eventually acquired by wealthy Holyoke silk manufacturer Joseph Skinner in 1915, and he set about modernizing the building. Despite these improvements, though, the the heyday of mountaintop hotels had passed, and the Great Depression further compounded the problem. Then, the 1938 hurricane caused substantial damage to the hotel, requiring the demolition of the 1894 addition.

Skinner ultimately donated the hotel and its property to the state in 1939, with the land becoming the Joseph Allen Skinner State Park. However, the state showed little interest in the buildings on the property, which were largely neglected for many years. The inclined railway was last used in the early 1940s, and it was badly damaged after the roof of the shed collapsed in a heavy snowstorm in 1948. The remains of the railway were ultimately removed in 1965, and the hotel itself was also nearly demolished in the second half of the 20th century. However, it was instead restored, and it now serves as a museum.

Today, despite the loss of the railway, the Halfway House itself is still standing. It has been enlarged since the first photo was taken, with the addition of a second story above the rear part of the building, but otherwise it is still recognizable from its 19th century appearance. Although there are no longer any overnight accommodations at the summit, Mount Holyoke remains a popular destination. Most visitors still pass by the Halfway House on their way up the mountain, either by way of the auto road on the left side of the scene, or the hiking trail that crosses the road here before ascending steep slope to the summit.

William Tecumseh Sherman Statue, New York City (2)

The statue William Tecumseh Sherman, in Grand Army Plaza at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York, in September 1942. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection.

The statue in 2019:

As discussed in an earlier post, this statue was designed by prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and dedicated in 1903, in honor of General William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the most successful Union generals of the Civil War. The statue features Sherman seated on his horse, Ontario, while being led by the goddess Victory. She wears a laurel crown and is holding a palm frond in her left hand, both of which are classical symbols of victory. The statue stands atop a pink granite base, which was designed by architect Charles Follen McKim.

The first photo in the earlier post was taken only a few years after the statue was dedicated, but the first photo here was taken much later, in September 1942. In the interim, the statue had been moved 15 feet to the west in 1913, and then later in the 1910s it was temporarily removed from the site entirely, in order to make room for subway excavations. It was subsequently returned here by the early 1920s, and it has remained here ever since.

By the time the first photo was taken, America had been involved in World War II for less than a year. The photographer was Marjory Collins, a noted photojournalist and New York native who documented life on the home front as part of the United States Office of War Information. The only obvious clue about the war is the sailor seated on the base of the statue, but Collins likely included the photo as a way of connecting the war to past conflicts in the nation’s history.

In the nearly 80 years since the first photo was taken, the statue has undergone several restorations, including re-gilding the surface, and today it looks essentially the same as it did back then. Much of the background has also remained unchanged during this time. There are newer high-rises on the left side, but the two buildings on the right side of the first photo are still standing. On the far right side is the Metropolitan Club, built in 1893, and just to the left of it is The Pierre, a 41-story luxury hotel that opened in 1930.

William Tecumseh Sherman Statue, New York City

The statue William Tecumseh Sherman at the present-day Grand Army Plaza in New York, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The first photo was taken sometime soon after the 1903 dedication of William Tecumseh Sherman, an equestrian statue honoring the famous Civil War general. Although a native of Ohio, Sherman spent his later years in New York City, and after his death in 1891 the New York Chamber of Commerce commissioned prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to design a memorial in his honor.

It took Saint-Gaudens more than a decade to complete the statue, and it was installed here at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 59th Street, at the southeast corner of Central Park. This area is now known as Grand Army Plaza, although it did not receive this name until 1923. The statue features Sherman astride his horse Ontario, and they are being led by the winged goddess Victory, who wears a laurel crown and carries a palm frond in her left hand. The figures stand atop a pink granite base, which was designed by Charles Follen McKim, one of the leading American architects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1913, the statue was moved 15 feet to the west of its original location, in order to place it in line with the newly-installed Pulitzer Fountain on the south side of the plaza. Then, a few years later, it was temporarily removed from this site and placed in storage, in order to make room for the construction of a new subway line. It was eventually returned here by the early 1920s, and over the years it has been re-gilded several times, most recently in 2013. At some point the statue also lost its palm frond and sword, but these were replaced during a late 1980s restoration, and today the statue looks essentially the same as it did when the first photo was taken more than a century ago.