First Congregational Church, Blandford, Massachusetts

The First Congregational Church on North Street in Blandford, Massachusetts, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2024:

These two photos show the First Congregational Church in Blandford. It was built in 1822, and it was designed by Isaac Damon, a prominent local architect who was responsible for designing a number of churches in the area, including similar ones in Springfield and in Southwick. The building here in Blandford is characteristic of his style, which featured a mix of late Federal and early Greek Revival features.

The building replaced an earlier meeting house, which had been slowly constructed over a span of 65 years. Work had begin in 1740, around the time that the town was settled by Scots-Irish colonists, and it was used throughout the 18th century, although it was not finally completed until 1805, less than 20 years before it was replaced by the present-day building. The need for a new building may have been in part due to the significant increase in population in Blandford by the early 19th century. From a population of 406 in 1765, the town had grown to 1,778 by the 1800 census. The population would fluctuate in the subsequent censuses, but it remained above 1,500 people throughout the early 19th century.

However, as was the case throughout the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, the population declined precipitously in the second half of the 19th century, eventually dropping to under 900 people by the time the top photo was taken in the 1890s. The church building underwent some changes during this time, including a renovation in 1866. This work was primarily on the interior, but it also included some exterior work, such as reducing the size of the second-story windows. At some point during the late 19th century a chapel was added to the rear of the building, but it was removed in 1937.

Today, more than 130 years after the top photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene, aside from the house behind the church. The exterior of the church has remained mostly unaltered, and the interior is also well preserved. It is no longer actively used for church services, but it is owned by the Blandford Historical Society and used as a venue for weddings and other events. It stands as perhaps the most distinctive landmark in the town, and it is one of the most architecturally significant early 19th century church buildings in Western Massachusetts.

Fenway Park Grandstands, Boston (2)

The view looking toward the outfield bleachers from the right field grandstands at Fenway Park, in the fall of 1914. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.

The scene in 2024:

These two photos were taken from around the same spot as the ones in the previous post, just facing the opposite direction. As with the previous post, the top photo here was taken in 1914, when workers were preparing the park for the upcoming 1914 World Series. Although the Red Sox were not in that particular World Series, the Boston Braves were, and they played their home games here because it had a larger seating capacity than their own home field, the South End Grounds.

Fenway Park was just two years old when the top photo was taken, and it shows the original outfield bleachers and right field grandstands. These were constructed of wood, and they remained in use until 1934, when the park was heavily renovated. The outfield and right field seating areas were reconstructed with concrete and steel, while keeping roughly the same footprint and field dimensions. Additional changes occurred in 1940, when the bullpens were added in front of the bleachers. This significantly shortened the home run distance to left field, and was supposedly done in order to benefit left-handed hitter Ted Williams.

Later changes included the addition of the large video screen atop the bleachers, and a seating area on the right field roof. Overall, though, this part of the park still looks largely the same as it did after the 1934 renovations. Although there is likely no original 1912 material here in this part of the park, other portions of Fenway Park are original to 1912, and it remains in use as the oldest active Major League Baseball park.

Fenway Park Grandstands, Boston (1)

The view looking toward home plate from the right field grandstands in Fenway Park, on September 28, 1914. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.

The scene in 2024:

These two photos were taken from close to the same spot, although the top one was likely taken a little closer to home plate. Either way, they both show the infield area of Fenway Park from the right field grandstands, and they show the many changes that have occurred here over the years.

The origins of the Boston Red Sox date back to 1901, although the team would not acquire its Red Sox name until 1908. For the first 11 years, the team played at Huntington Avenue Grounds, located on the modern-day campus of Northeastern University. It was there that the team won the first World Series, in 1903, and the Red Sox played there until the end of the 1911 season.

Fenway Park was constructed the following winter, and it opened on April 20, 1912. In that game, the Red Sox played the New York Highlanders—the future Yankees—and defeated them by a score of 7 to 6 in 11 innings. The Red Sox would go on to win the American League pennant that year, and defeated the New York Giants to win the World Series.

The top photo shows the grandstands and home plate area two years later, on September 28, 1914. At the time, preparations were underway to host another World Series here, but this time it wasn’t for the Red Sox. Instead, it was for the Boston Braves, the city’s original Major League Baseball team. The team played in the National League, where they had been one of the most dominant teams in baseball during the 19th century. However, with the establishment of the rival American League in 1901, the new Boston quickly eclipsed the older National League team in popularity.

Going into the 1914 season, the Braves had not been contenders in many years. The team had finished in last place for four consecutive seasons from 1909 to 1912, and they appeared to be headed for the same fate in 1914. By July 4, the Braves were in last place with a 26-40 record, and were 15 games behind first place. However, the “Miracle Braves,” as they came to be known, then went on to win 68 of the remaining 87 games in the season, and finished in first place, 10.5 games ahead of the second place Giants.

Throughout most of the 1914 season, the Braves played their home games at the South End Grounds. However, by September they were renting Fenway Park, in order to accommodate the larger crowds who came to watch their dramatic reversal and pennant run. Likewise, the Braves played their home games here at Fenway Park during the World Series, which they won in four games against the Philadelphia Athletics.

The following year, the Braves moved into a new park, Braves Field. However, it was the Red Sox who went to the World Series in 1915 and again in 1916, and they chose to play their home games at the larger Braves Field, rather than here at Fenway Park. But, the World Series would return to Fenway two years later in 1918, when the Red Sox played their home games here rather than at Braves Field. This would famously prove to be the final World Series championship for the Red Sox for the next 86 years, before their championship in 2004.

Overall, the 1910s were a successful time for the Red Sox, who won the World Series four times in the decade. Prominent players who played here at Fenway Park during this time included Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth, Harry Hooper, Herb Pennock, and Tris Speaker. Other notable players included pitcher Smoky Joe Wood, catcher Bill Carrigan, third baseman Larry Gardner, and left fielder Duffy Lewis, the namesake of “Duffy’s Cliff,” an embankment that was once located on what is now the site of the Green Monster.

Despite the success of the 1910s, it was followed by a decade of abysmal seasons during the 1920s, due in large part to the sale of Babe Ruth and other top players to the Yankees. The team continued to use Fenway Park during this time, but in 1926 a fire destroyed the wooden left field bleachers, which are partially visible on the far right side of the 1914 photo. The owners did not have the financial ability to rebuild the bleachers, nor was there much demand for the seating with such paltry attendance figures, so that part of Fenway Park remained vacant for the next few years.

The most dramatic changes to Fenway Park occurred in 1934, shortly after businessman Tom Yawkey purchased the team. He had much of the park rebuilt, including replacing the wooden sections with fireproof concrete and steel. Most of the modern-day park dates to this renovation, including the Green Monster wall in left field. The field dimensions also changed, and home plate was moved forward to accommodate more seating. Then, in 1947 the light towers were added to the park, enabling the Red Sox to play night games here for the first time.

Over the years, Fenway Park has continued to evolve. Later changes here in this scene included work in the 1980s to increase the park’s seating capacity. Most significantly, this included adding seating areas and luxury boxes on the grandstand roof, along with a large press box and an enclosed seating area directly behind home plate. Known as the 600 Club and later as the .406 club, this seating area was eventually remodeled after the 2005 season, and it now has two separate seating areas without any glass between the seats and the field.

Today, Fenway Park is still the home of the Red Sox, and it stands as the oldest active Major League Baseball field. Although much of it has been altered over the years, it still has largely the same layout, including the field dimensions and the footprints of the grandstands and bleachers. Portions of the park are original to 1912, including the exterior along Jersey Street, and the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, during its centennial year.

Buckman Tavern Tap Room, Lexington, Massachusetts

The tap room at Buckman Tavern in Lexington, around 1928-1940. Image courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Samuel Chamberlain Photograph Negatives Collection.

The scene in 2023:

This room at Buckman Tavern is located directly adjacent to the kitchen, which was featured in the previous post. As explained in that post, this building is a prominent landmark in Lexington, due to its role in the start of the American Revolution. It was here in Buckman Tavern that many of the Lexington militiamen gathered in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775, before their confrontation with British redcoats outside the tavern on the Lexington Common. That skirmish marked the beginning of the American Revolution, and the day’s fighting ultimately led to the British retreat back to Boston, where they sustained heavy casualties along the way.

The tavern itself was built around 1710, and it was operated as a tavern and later a post office until the early 19th century. This room was the tap room, and it is located in the southwest corner of the building on the ground floor, directly to the right of the main entrance.

In 1913, the town of Lexington acquired the building and preserved it as a museum. The top photo was taken several decades later, and not much has changed since then. The tavern is still owned by the town, and it is operated by the Lexington Historical Society. Aside from a few modern features, such as pipes and electric lights, the tap room’s appearance reflects the way that it would have looked back in 1775.

Buckman Tavern Kitchen, Lexington, Massachusetts

The kitchen at Buckman Tavern in Lexington, Massachusetts, around 1928-1940. Image courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Samuel Chamberlain Photograph Negatives Collection.

The scene in 2023:

These two photos show the kitchen at Buckman Tavern in Lexington. This building is perhaps the most famous landmark from the first day of the American Revolution, as it was here that the Lexington militiamen gathered in the early morning hours of April 19, 1775 prior to the arrival of the British forces from Boston. The opening shots of the war were subsequently fired outside on town common in front of the tavern, and at least one bullet pierced the front door of the building. Later in the day, as the fighting spread out along the road between Concord and Boston, two wounded British soldiers were brought to the tavern, and one of them died here.

The tavern itself was built around 1710, and for many years it was operated by John Muzzy. It was later acquired by John Buckman, who married Muzzy’s granddaughter Ruth in 1768, and he ran the tavern until his death in 1792. During the 19th century, the building was owned by Rufus Merriam and his descendants, and it was ultimately acquired by the town of Lexington in 1913.

Since then, the tavern has been preserved as a museum. The top photo shows the kitchen as it appeared during the first half of the 20th century. It is located behind the tap room, which is on the other side of the door on the left side of the photo. Today, the kitchen still looks much the same as it did more than 80 years ago, aside from some of the items being rearranged over the years. The building is still owned by the town, and it is leased to the Lexington Historical Society. Along with Munroe Tavern and the Hancock-Clarke House, it is one of three historic buildings in Lexington that are open to the public seasonally for tours.

Northeast Bedroom, Munroe Tavern, Lexington, Massachusetts

The northeast bedroom on the second floor of Munroe Tavern in Lexington, probably around 1940. Image courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Samuel Chamberlain Photograph Negatives Collection.

The room in 2023:

As explained in a previous post, Munroe’s Tavern was built in 1735, and it functioned as a tavern throughout most of the 18th century and in the first half of the 19th century. By the 1770s, it was operated by William Munroe, and during the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 it was briefly commandeered by British redcoats, who used it as a temporary headquarters and field hospital.

This bedroom is located in the northeast corner of the house, directly above the bar room. As noted in the building’s 2010 historic structure report, this was the less formal of the two main bedrooms, and as a result it had less detailed trim around the fireplace, in contrast to the more formal bedroom on the other side of the stair hall. These two photos were taken from the southeastern corner of the room, next to the doorway to the front stairs. On the left is the fireplace, and in the distance is the doorway to the back hallway.

The tavern was converted to a private residence around 1850, and then in 1860 William Munroe’s grandson, William Henry Munroe, inherited the property. He modernized much of the interior, including replacing the original doors with new ones that had doorknobs rather than latches. He used this room as his bedroom, and he lived in the house until his death in 1902.

In 1911, the tavern was acquired by the Lexington Historical Society, and it subsequently underwent a restoration in 1939 on both the interior and exterior. The top photo was taken shortly after this work was completed, and it shows the replacement door and hardware that reflects the style that would have originally been used in the house. According to the historic structure report, it seems unclear exactly how much of the room is original material, such as floorboards and plaster walls, and how much of it was replaced in the restoration, but overall these elements are consistent with 18th century construction.

Today, the room looks a little different from when the top photo was taken over 80 years earlier. The furniture has been rearranged and the room looks less cluttered, and the wallpaper is different, likely for historical accuracy. Some of the objects appear to the the same ones in both photos, just in different locations, including the washstand and the mirror above it. The tavern is still owned by the Lexington Historical Society, and it is seasonally open to the public for tours. The organization likewise operates Buckman Tavern and the Hancock-Clarke House, both of which are similarly preserved in their 18th century appearances.