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.

Fifth Avenue from 59th Street, New York City

The view looking south on Fifth Avenue from the corner of West 59th Street, at the southeast corner of Central Park in New York, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These photos show the view looking down Fifth Avenue from what is now Grand Army Plaza, at the southeast corner of Central Park. The first one was taken around 1904, at a time when this section of Fifth Avenue was undergoing a transition from an affluent residential neighborhood to a busy commercial center. As a result, the photo shows a mix of both private homes and turn-of-the-century skyscrapers along this part of the street.

The most dominant feature in the foreground of this scene is the statue William Tecumseh Sherman, which was installed in 1903. It was designed by prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and it commemorates the famous Civil War general who spent his later years in New York City. Beyond the monument, on the far left side of the photo, is the Hotel Netherland, which was built in 1893 at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and East 59th Street. To the right of it is the Hotel Savoy, which was built in 1892, and further to the right, in the center of the scene, is the much smaller Bolkenhayn apartment building. This was also built around the same time, and one of its early guests was a young Winston Churchill, who stayed here in the apartment of Congressman William Bourke Cockran during a visit to New York in 1895.

To the right of the Bolkenhayn, on the block between East 57th and East 58th Streets, is Marble Row. This block of eight marble townhouses was built in 1869, and over the years it was home to a number of wealthy residents. Mary Mason Jones, daughter of the noted early 19th century businessman John Mason, originally owned all eight homes, and she lived in the southernmost one, at the corner of East 57th Street on the right side of the building. This house was later the home of businessman Hermann Oelrichs and his wife Theresa, who also owned the famous Rosecliff mansion in Newport. Other wealthy residents of the townhouses included merchant William E. Iselin and businessman Solomon R. Guggenheim, the founder of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Many of these homes were still private residences when the first photo was taken, but at least one—the one on the left side of the building at the corner of East 58th Street—had been converted to commercial use, having been occupied by the Plaza Bank since the early 1890s.

Beyond Marble Row are more upscale 19th century homes. On the other side of East 57th Street is the home of Collis P. Huntington, a railroad executive who was involved in the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad as part of the Central Pacific Railroad. He built this granite house in the early 1890s, and he died in 1900, although his widow Arabella was still living here when the first photo was taken. There are more homes further in the distance past this house, but they are dwarfed by the 20-story St. Regis Hotel, which was completed in 1904 at the corner of Fifth Avenue and East 55th Street.

On the far right side of the first photo is the home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The original portion of this house was built in 1883, at the corner of West 57th Street, but a decade later it was expanded along the entire length of the block to West 58th Street, making it the largest private home ever built in New York City. Vanderbilt was the grandson of family patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt, and he was also the largest beneficiary of the family fortune upon the death of his father in 1885, receiving nearly $70 million. He spent a good portion of his wealth on lavish homes, including this one in New York and The Breakers in Newport. He died in 1899, but his widow Alice continued to live in these houses for several more decades.

Today, more than a century later, there is almost nothing left here from the first photo, aside from the Sherman statue in the foreground. The Hotel Netherland was demolished in 1926, and a year later it was replaced by the Sherry-Netherland, which still stands on the site. Also during the mid-1920s, the neighboring Hotel Savoy and the Bolkenhayn were demolished, after having been acquired by the owner of the nearby Plaza Hotel. The site was rebuilt with a new hotel, the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, which opened in 1927. This building was, in turn, demolished in 1965 to build the 50-story General Motors Building, visible just to the left of the statue in the present-day photo.

Further in the distance, the townhouses of Marble Row were demolished piecemeal during the early 20th century. The last surviving remnant, the corner house on the right side, stood here until around 1930, and today the majority of this block is occupied by the Art Deco-style Squibb Building, built in 1930 at 745 Fifth Avenue. Both the Huntington and Vanderbilt mansions were similarly demolished in the late 1920s, and their lost are now home to the flagship stores of Tiffany & Co. and Bergdorf Goodman, respectively. Further down Fifth Avenue, the other 19th century mansions from the first photo are also long gone, and much of this land is now the site of the 58-story Trump Tower, visible in the center-right of the present-day photo. Overall, the only surviving building from the first photo is the St. Regis. However, while it was very prominent in that photo, it is now hidden from view in this scene by the modern skyscrapers that surround it.

Hotel Windham, Bellows Falls, Vermont

The Towns Hotel, later known as the Hotel Windham, on the east side of the Square in downtown Bellows Falls, in the aftermath of an April 12, 1899 fire. Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The rebuilt hotel around 1900-1912. Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The hotel in the aftermath of a March 26, 1912 fire. Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The hotel around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

This spot here, at the southeast corner of the Square in Bellows Falls, has been the site of a hotel since the early 19th century. During this time, though, these hotels have been affected by a series of devastating fires. The first hotel was built here in 1816, and it was originally known as Webb’s Hotel, although it later became the Bellows Falls Stage House. This building burned in 1860, and in 1873 a new one, Towns Hotel, was built here on the site.

The Towns Hotel, named for owner Charles W. Towns, sustained heavy damage in a fire on April 12, 1899. Guests in the building had begun smelling smoke around 7:30 in the evening, but the fire smoldered for more than an hour before it was located under the fourth floor hallway. At first, it seemed as though it had been extinguished, but it had begun spreading into the empty space under the roof, and it ultimately set the upper floors ablaze. As shown in the first photo, the fourth floor was almost completely destroyed, and the third floor and parts of the second floor were completely gutted. The ground floor was largely untouched by the fire itself, but the stores here were flooded by all of the water that was poured into the building.

Following this fire, the hotel was rebuilt and expanded as the Hotel Windham, with a total of 75 guest rooms by the time the second photo was taken in the early 1900s. Then, it burned again in the early morning hours of March 26, 1912. The fire started in the adjacent Union Block, which is visible on the far left side of the second photo. It was evidently caused by a discarded cigarette, and it completely gutted the Union Block while also spreading to the Hotel Windham on the right and the Arms Block on the left.

According to early estimates, the total damage to the three buildings was about $150,000 to $200,000, and it displaced about 20 businesses and professional offices. There were 30 guests in the hotel at the time of the fire, but they were all evacuated with the help of the hotel employees, and there were no fatalities from any of the buildings. Part of the challenge for the responding firemen was the cold temperatures, which reached as low as ten degrees below zero, making it difficult to get water to the scene. By the time the fire was extinguished, the burned-out ruins were covered in ice.

The third photo was probably taken soon after the ice melted. No work had been done on the buildings yet, although several of the stores had already posted signs above their doors. One of the signs, above the Collins & Floyd jewelry store, informs customers of their temporary location, and another, above the Richardson Brothers shoe store, reads “Biggest Fire Yet. Particulars and Prices Later.”

All three of the damaged buildings were subsequently rebuilt. Because of the extent of its damage, the Union Block was completely reconstructed, becoming the three-story, gable-roofed building on the left side of the last two photos. The Arms Block to the left of it had comparatively less damage, and it was repaired along with the Hotel Windham. The fourth photo was probably taken soon after this work was completed, and it shows that the exterior of the repaired hotel was nearly identical to its appearance before the fire.

The building stood here for the next two decades, but on April 5, 1932 the hotel was again destroyed by a catastrophic fire. It started a little after midnight, apparently in an unoccupied room on the second floor, and it subsequently spread throughout the entire building, leaving little standing except for some of the brick exterior walls. All 44 guests were able to leave safely, though, most with their belongings, and the fire was successfully contained to just the hotel, preventing it from spreading to the neighboring buildings.

This time, the remains of the old 1873 building were completely demolished, and a new, somewhat smaller hotel was built on the site. This three-story brick, Colonial Revival-style hotel opened just over a year later, on May 1, 1933, and it is still standing here on this site. It remained the Hotel Windham for many years, although it later became the Andrews Inn by the 1970s.

Today, the Hotel Windham remains an important feature in the center of Bellows Falls. It is no longer used as a hotel, but it still features stores on the ground floor. The exterior remains well-preserved in its early 1930s appearance, and it recently underwent a restoration. The other buildings further to the left of the hotel are also still standing, including the Arms Block, which dates back to before the first photo was taken. Today, all of these buildings here are part of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass (4)

The view looking east across the Old North Bridge in Concord, around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Old North Bridge was discussed in more detail in an earlier post, which shows the view looking west across the bridge. However, this view shows the opposite side of the bridge, facing east from directly in front of the famous statue The Minute Man. The bridge was the site of the Battle of Concord, which occurred on April 19, 1775, only a few hours after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in a skirmish in nearby Lexington.

Although the Battle of Lexington came first, it was almost entirely one-sided, and the British continued their march to Concord with only a single wounded soldier, compared to eight dead and ten wounded militiamen. As a result, it was here in Concord that the British first encountered significant resistance from the colonists. Prior to the battle, the British had secured the bridge during their search for hidden military supplies. However, as the colonial militiamen began assembling on the west side of the river, the outnumbered redcoats withdrew to the east bank, where the monument stands in the distance of this scene.

When the battle began, the militiamen were approaching the bridge from approximately where these photos were taken. At this point, some of the British soldiers began opening fire, evidently under the mistaken impression that their commanding officer had given the order. Two militiamen at the head of the line, Private Abner Hosmer and Captain Isaac Davis, were killed, but the colonists did not break ranks. Instead, they returned fire with a devastating volley that killed three redcoats and wounded nine more. This came to be known as “The shot heard round the world,” and it was the first time that American colonists killed British soldiers in battle. It also forced the British to retreat, marking the first American victory of the war.

The original bridge here across the Concord River was removed several years after the end of the war, and the roads were rerouted to a new bridge nearby. As a result, for many years there was little evidence of the brief but momentous battle that was fought here. The first memorial here on the battlefield was the obelisk in the distance of this scene, which was installed in 1836 and dedicated a year later. At the time, there was still no bridge here, so the monument was placed on the east bank, where it was more reality accessible from the center of town. A new bridge would not be constructed until 1874, in advance of the battle’s centennial celebration. As part of the centennial, the statue The Minute Man was dedicated here on the west side, marking the colonial position during the battle.

By the time the first photo was taken around the turn of the 20th century, the bridge had been replaced again after the 1874 one was destroyed in a flood. This one was, in turn, destroyed in a 1909 flood, and its replacement was a concrete bridge that was designed to resemble the original one. However, it sustained heavy damage in a flood in 1955, and it was subsequently replaced by the current one, which is a wooden replica of the original. Aside from the bridge, though, this scene has remained well-preserved, with few changes since the first photo was taken, and the battlefield is now part of the Minute Man National Historical Park, which was established in 1959.

Captain John Parker Statue, Lexington, Mass

The statue of Captain John Parker, on the Lexington Common at the intersection of Bedford Street and Massachusetts Avenuen, around 1900-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, the Lexington Common is famous for being the site of the first battle of the American Revolution, which occurred here on April 19, 1775. Early on that morning, a group of some 80 Lexington militiamen gathered here on the Common, in preparation for the arrival of a large British force headed for Concord. In the short skirmish that followed, the militiamen, under the command of Captain John Parker, exchanged fire with the British. The result was eight dead militiamen and another ten wounded, compared to only one wounded redcoat. The British continued on to Concord, but the confrontation here in Lexington marked the opening shots of the conflict that ultimately led to American independence.

Captain Parker survived the battle, although his cousin Jonas Parker was among the eight who were killed. However, the 45-year-old Parker was dying from tuberculosis at the time, and the disease ultimately took his life less than five months later. Despite his short service in the war, though, he is regarded as one of the heroes of the battles of Lexington and Concord, in part because of his famous—but possibly apocryphal—command to his men prior to the battle, instructing them to “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

In 1884, these words were inscribed on a boulder on the Lexington Common, which marks the spot where his militia company stood during the battle. Then, in 1900 Captain Parker became the subject of another memorial here on the Common, which is shown in this scene. Officially known as the Hayes Memorial Fountain, it originally featured a water fountain and a watering trough for horses, and it was topped by a bronze statue of Captain Parker. The statue was the work of noted sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson, although Parker’s appearance was largely conjecture, as there are no surviving portraits of him.

The monument was dedicated on April 19, 1900, on the 125th anniversary of the battle. The ceremony included an address by town selectman George W. Sampson, who praised the egalitarian nature of its design, noting:

The drinking fountain itself, built of rough breastwork stone, is emblematical of the spirit of equality and democracy. Best of all, the figure itself carries us back to the historic past and teaches the lesson of April 19. The statue is true to life. No aristocratic figure surmounts yonder heap of rocks, and none were in the battle.

The first photo was taken sometime within a year or two after the dedication. It shows the fountain in the center of the scene, along with several other monuments on the Common. In the distance to the left is the stone pulpit, which marks the site of the town’s first three meeting houses. Just behind this pulpit is an elm tree that had been planted by President Ulysses S. Grant some 25 years earlier, as part of the battle’s centennial celebration. However, probably the most notable feature in the first photo, other than the statue, is the large 45-star flag that is flying above the Common.

Today, around 120 years after the first photo was taken, the statue remains a prominent landmark in downtown Lexington. The fountain itself is no longer in use, perhaps because there is now far less demand for horse watering troughs, and the basin is now used as a flower planter. There are also now a number of shrubs planted around it, but otherwise the monument itself has not seen any changes. Further in the distance, the stone pulpit is also still there, although President Grant’s elm tree is long gone, having probably fallen victim to Dutch Elm Disease at some point in the mid-20th century.