Fenway Park, Boston (3)

Fenway Park as it appeared in 1912, the year it opened. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.


Roughly the same view, in April 2006:


For the first 35 years of its existence, the Green Monster wasn’t green – it was essentially a giant billboard.  And the original Green Monster seats weren’t on top of it – they were at the base, atop Duffy’s Cliff – a steep incline leading up to the wall that was usually in play and was mastered by Boston left fielder Duffy Lewis.  For this particular photo in 1912, the bleacher seats were temporarily constructed to handle the increased crowds for the 1912 World Series.  The original wooden 1912 wall is gone – it was replaced in 1934 by the present-day wall, and the incline was eliminated, making left field several feet below the level of Landsdowne Street, which is located directly behind the Monster.  The other major feature in the 1912 photo – the wooden left field bleachers – are also gone.  They burned in 1926, and since fans weren’t exactly clamoring to get through the turnstiles at Fenway in the 1920’s, they were not replaced until Tom Yawkey purchased the team and extensively renovated the park to its current configuration in 1934.  See posts #1 and #2 to see similar views from 1912 and the present-day.

Fenway Park, Boston (2)

Another view of Fenway Park from 1912, the year that it opened. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.

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The same view in July, 2011:


One of Fenway Park’s many quirky features is “Pesky’s Pole,” the right field foul pole that stands a mere 302 feet from home plate, making it the shortest possible home run distance in any MLB park.  Much of this is due to the piecemeal way in which the park was built and modified over the course of 100 years.  See this post for the view of the park from the same spot but looking further to the right.

Fenway Park, Boston (1)

The view of Fenway Park from the right field bleachers, about a week before the beginning of the 1912 World Series. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.


Fenway Park in July 2011:


Fenway Park is the oldest MLB park, being several years older than the Cubs’s Wrigley Field, but along the way it has been extensively transformed.  Very little of the park remains from its 1912 appearance; the bleachers on the far right side of the 1912 photo burned in 1926, and in the perfect metaphor for the team itself during this time period, the bleachers lay in the ashes of its former glory until Tom Yawkey purchased the club in 1933.  One of his first moves was to rehabilitate the park, which included constructing the present concrete and steel grandstand in the infield area.  Thus, photos from the 1930’s and later show a ballpark that very closely resembles the Fenway Park that we know today.  Curiously, although the 1912 photo shows a park with just a single deck in the grandstand area, the foundations were built to accommodate a second deck in the event that the team eventually decided to expand the seating.  This is perhaps what ensured the park’s existence into the 21st century; although small and old, it has been able to adapt in ways that most other early 20th century parks were unable to.

Post Office & Customs House, Springfield

The northwest corner of Main and Worthington in Springfield, sometime before 1890. Photo from Springfield Present and Prospective (1905).


The same location, around 1905, after construction of the Post Office and Customs House. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2023:

The first photo shows the Wilcox Block, an old commercial building that likely dated back to the early 19th century. Located on the west side of Main Street between Worthington and Fort Streets, it was demolished in 1889 and replaced with the city’s first purpose-built post office. As seen in the second photo this building was an imposing, castle-like Romanesque structure, built of brownstone quarried from nearby Longmeadow. It housed a post office on the first floor, with customs and other federal offices on the second floor, but within a few decades the building was too small for the growing population of Springfield. In 1932, a new, much larger post office and federal building opened on Dwight Street, and the old building here was demolished the following year. In 1939, it was replaced with the present-day Art Deco building, which was originally home to the Enterprise department store.


Today, there are still several buildings standing from the earlier photos, though. The Homestead Building, completed in 1903, was once used as the offices for the Springfield Homestead newspaper, and it is visible on the left side of the 1905 and 2023 photos. On the far right side, the only building that appears in all three photos is the Fort Block. Built in 1858, it was heavily altered in the early 1920s, but it is still standing, and is best known today as the longtime home of the Student Prince restaurant.

Railroad Arch, Springfield

Looking north toward the Boston & Albany Railroad arch over Main Street in Springfield, between 1900 and 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The railroad arch in 2018:


For many years, there was no bridge over Main Street, forcing the busy rail line to cross the busy road at grade.  Finally, in 1890, the stone arch was built, and survives to this day, even when none of the other buildings from the first decade of the 20th century have.  See the 1882 photo in this post for a view of Main Street before the arch was built.

Massasoit House, Springfield, Mass

The Massasoit House in Springfield, around 1882. Image from Springfield Illustrated by James D. Gill (1882)


The same scene around 1908, with the stone railroad arch in the distance. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same scene in 2017:

This scene on Main Street in Springfield was prime real estate when the first two photos were taken.  The hotel building in those photos, the Massasoit House, opened in 1843, right next to the railroad depot (the building partially hidden by a tree in the right-center of the 1882 photo), just four years after the railroad came to Springfield.  It was the perfect place for a hotel, because the railroad depot made this location the transportation hub of the city, and the building was soon expanded, first with a wooden wing to the south along Main Street in 1847, and then a brick wing to the rear of the original building in 1853. Then, in 1857 the wooden section here on Main Street was demolished and rebuilt in brick. The first two photos show the original 1843 section of the hotel, which stands in the distance in the center of the photos. On the left side of both photos is the 1857 expansion, with its Italianate-style architecture.

With these additions, the Massasoit House had 130 guest rooms. It was one of the premier hotels in the region, and over the years it had many prominent visitors. Among these were authors such as Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Civil War generals William T. Sherman and George B. McClellan; abolitionist John Brown; prominent politicians such as Henry Clay, Jefferson Davis, Stephen Douglas, William Seward, and Daniel Webster; and at least four US presidents: Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s visit occurred right around the time that the first photo was taken, when he and his first wife Alice spent their wedding night here in 1880.

Also around the time that the first photo was taken, the Massasoit House hosted a series of meetings that helped to establish many of the important rules of football. This sport had become popular in the post-Civil War era, especially in Ivy League schools, but there were few standardized rules; some schools played a sport that was similar to modern soccer, while others had rules that were similar to rugby. Because of the need for unified rules, delegates from various schools gathered here at the Massasoit House in 1876 to iron out the details. The result was the adoption of 61 new rules, which helped form the basis for modern American football. Similar meetings would occur here on a regular basis through 1882, giving Springfield a strong claim to having been the birthplace of modern football, in addition to its more famous role as the birthplace of basketball.

In the meantime, the exterior of the hotel saw few changes between the 1882 and 1908 photos. However, within a few years it would undergo dramatic changes. In 1912, the Main Street façade of the building was rebuilt with a Classical Revival design, as shown in the present-day scene. It would remain a hotel until 1926, and then the building was again altered. The hotel rooms were converted into offices, and in 1929 the Paramount Theater was added behind the building. It was one of the finest movie theaters in the area during its heyday, but by the 1960s it was in decline. It was later renamed the Julia Sanderson Theater, and then in 1999 it became the Hippodrome nightclub.

Today, despite the many additions and alterations over the years, portions of the old 19th century hotel still stand behind the newer façade, although it is hard to tell in this scene. In recent years, the building has seen only sporadic use, aside from the ground floor storefronts along Main Street, but it nonetheless stands as an important landmark in downtown Springfield. As was the case nearly 180 years ago, it still enjoys a close proximity to the railroad station, being just a short walk away from the newly-restored Union Station. This building has likewise been the subject of revitalization plans, although none of these have quite come to fruition yet.

One thing lacking in the 1882 photo is the iconic stone arch, which wasn’t built until 1890. It helped to alleviate congestion on Main Street by elevating the railroad, and it also coincided with the opening of a new Union Station just a short walk away on Lyman Street. By the 1908 photo, the railroad arch is there, and the scene captures an interesting combination of transportation modes. Along with the railroad in the distance, it shows trolleys alongside a roughly equal number of automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, during the period of transition from draft animals to internal combustion engines.  Today, as seen in the 2017 photo, buses have replaced the trolleys, and automobiles clearly won out over horses; not a single horse-drawn carriage is to be seen on Main Street anymore.