Old State House, Boston

The view of the 1713 Old State House in Boston, as it appeared around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The building in 1875, decorated to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The Old State House around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Around 1906, courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The Old State House in 2021:

Today, the Old State House is dwarfed by modern skyscrapers, although the building to the left has survived to this day.  The building was the capitol of the colony of Massachusetts, and later the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from the Revolution until 1798, when it was replaced by the current State House.  It was used as Boston’s city hall from 1830 to 1841, and was preserved and restored in 1881.  Both before and after its use as a city hall, it was used for commercial offices and shops, as seen in the 1860 photo.

Aside from the Old State House, almost everything else has changed in the past 150+ years; over time, nearly all of the buildings in the historic photos have been demolished to create the Financial District in the heart of Downtown Boston that we know today.

One interesting quirk about the building that appears in the last two photos is the doorway on the right hand side next to the corner.  When the State Street subway station was built in 1904, the entrance was built right into the basement of the Old State House.

Park Street Church, Boston

The view of Park Street church, taken in about 1904, looking up Tremont Street with Boston Common on the left. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Street Scenes

A few years later, probably around 1909-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene around 1923. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Tremont Street in 2014:

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Built in 1810, Park Street Church was the tallest building in the United States from its construction until 1846.  Although it’s not as prominent in the skyline as it was when the earlier photos were taken, it still stands out when walking along Tremont Street and the Boston Common.  The church is still in active use, having had a number of notable pastors, including noted abolitionist Edward Beecher, the brother of Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe.

One less obvious landmark in both photos is the Park Street subway station.  Opened in 1897, it was, along with the nearby Boylston Street station, the first subway station in the world, and was still fairly new when the first photo was taken.  The entrances and exits are the same in both photos, and the station remains a busy MBTA station on the Green Line and Red Line.

On the other side of Tremont Street, many of the buildings from the earlier photos are still around today.  The most obvious is the R.H. Stearns Building, the tall building on the far right of the 2014 photo.  The building was home to the R.H. Stearns department store from 1908 until 1977, when it closed, but the building itself is still there.  In the first photo, the department store was in a different building, with the two towers and the large flag.  This building was demolished to make way for the present building in 1908.