Boston Molasses Disaster (2)

Another view of the aftermath of the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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Because of the properties of molasses, a flood of it is very different from a flood of water or similar liquid.  Many victims of the January 15, 1919 Boston Molasses Disaster drowned in the molasses, not necessarily because they didn’t know how to swim, but because swimming in molasses is impossible.  It also made rescue and recovery operations difficult; notice the firemen wading in knee-deep molasses, with everything around them coated in it.  In this particular scene, they are working next to a firehouse that once existed along the waterfront; it was completely swept off of its foundation by the 25-foot wave of molasses that came when the nearby storage tank burst.  One fireman at the station, George Layhe, was trapped under the building and drowned in the molasses; he was one of the 21 people killed in the accident.  Today, the site of the molasses tank and the firehouse has been turned into a public park, as seen in the 2014 photo.

Boston Molasses Disaster (1)

The view looking northwest on Commercial Street in Boston’s North End in 1919, in the aftermath of the Boston Molasses Disaster. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same scene in 2014:

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It almost seems comical to think of a massive flood of molasses, but the Boston Molasses Disaster was actually a serious tragedy that killed 21 people and injuring about 150 others.  On January 15, 1919, a 50-foot tall tank of molasses burst along the waterfront in the North End, flooding the neighborhood with 2.3 million gallons of the thick, sticky substance.

The tank was located on the left-hand side of Commercial Street, just to the right of the photo, and along with killing or injuring a number of people, it also caused substantial property damage, sweeping buildings off their foundations as causing heavy damage to the Commercial Street elevated railway, as seen in the photo above.  Today, the elevated tracks are long gone, and most of what was once an industrial area on the right-hand side along the waterfront is now a public park.

Springfield & Connecticut River from Forest Park

The view looking toward Springfield from atop Laurel Hill in Forest Park, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view in 2014:

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While driving along Interstate 91 through the Longmeadow curve, there is a semicircular retaining wall built into the side of the hill, with a flagpole on top.  I had never paid much attention to it, but when I came across the first photo above, I wondered if that is where it was taken from.  As it turns out, this overlook is part of what is called Laurel Hill, and is the section of Forest Park where the Barney Mausoleum is built.  From the Mausoleum, it is just a short path to this overlook, which once offered views of the city of Springfield and the Connecticut River.  Today, neither the city nor the river is visible from this spot, and the small dirt road barely visible in the 1905 photo is now Interstate 91.

From a traffic perspective, this is a major bottleneck in the Springfield area.  Route 5 and I-91, which are combined in this short section, serve as the primary north-south transportation corridor in western New England, and link Springfield to Hartford and points south.  However, because of the tight fit in trying to squeeze an interstate highway between the hills on the right and the railroad tracks on the left, I-91 is reduced to just two lanes, and that, combined with the many on/off ramps and curves, makes this a common site of traffic jams and accidents.  It all looks so much more peaceful 100 years ago.

Mount Tom Summit House, Holyoke, Mass. (2)

The view of the Mount Tom Summit House between 1905 and 1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The view in 2014:

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These photos were taken from near the location of the upper station of the trolley line; from here, visitors would walk up to the Summit House. Today, the Metacomet & Monadnock Trail traverses the summit and goes past the location where the photos were taken, on its way from the Connecticut state line to the summit of Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire.

SS Dorothy Bradford, Boston, Mass

The steamer Dorothy Bradford leaving Boston, with the Custom House Tower in the background, in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The scene in 2013:

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The SS Dorothy Bradford was built in 1889 for the Cape Cod Steamship Company, and brought passengers to and from Provincetown on Cape Cod.  The company shut down in 1937, and the Dorothy Bradford was sold for scrap.

The Boston Public Library estimates the date of this photo as 1930, but it had to have been earlier than that, because the steamer behind the Dorothy Bradford, the SS Mary Chilton, burned in a fire along with almost the entire rest of its company’s fleet in a fire in November 1929.

SS Nantasket and Custom House Tower, Boston

Boston’s Custom House Tower as seen from the waterfront, with the steamer Nantasket in the foreground, probably in the late 1920s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The scene in 2013:

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Boston’s skyline has changed substantially, but the Custom House Tower remains much the same as it appeared when it was completed in 1915.  It was the tallest building in Boston until the Prudential Tower was built in 1964, and to this day, remains the 17th tallest in the city.  Although no longer used as a custom house, it is now a Marriott hotel.

The Boston Public Library dates this photo to around 1934, but it had to have been earlier than that, because the Nantasket burned in a fire in November, 1929, along with almost the entire rest of the company’s fleet.