Randall and Second Streets, Adams, Mass (3)

Looking north on Second Street toward the corner of Randall Street in Adams, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

These photos were taken from the same spot as the ones in the previous post, just facing further to the north. The original photos, including ones featured in blog posts here and here, may have actually been intended as a panorama, because they line up with just a bit of overlap; the duplex on the far left here is the same building on the far right in the previous post.

In any case, these historic photos were taken in the early 20th century, when Adams was a fast-growing factory town. Its population had doubled in the 20 years between 1880 and 1900, and this period saw the development of new residential neighborhood, including these streets on the hillside immediately to the east of the center of town. Some of the houses here had already been built by the time the first photo was taken, but there were sill many vacant lots, and the streets were simply narrow dirt paths.

As mentioned in the previous house, the 1900 census shows that the duplex on the left, at 40-42 Randall Street, was the home of two different families. On the left side was Fred Wilder, a teamster who lived here with his wife Ida, their daughter, and a boarder. The other side of the house was rented by Grace Welch, a 23-year-old woman who lived here with her three children.

Also during the 1900 census, the house in the center of the photo, at 44 Randall Street, was owned by Arthur Randall, whose family may have been the namesake of the street. He was 26 years old at the time, and he, like several of his neighbors, worked as a teamster. At the time, four generations of the family lived here, including Arthur and his wife Azilda, their infant son Everett, Arthur’s father Levi Randall, grandfather Gilbert Harrington, and niece Ella Randall. Levi, who was 58 years old in 1900, worked as a carpenter, and according to the 1904 county atlas he was the owner of the duplex at 40-42 Randall Street.

The other house visible in the first photo is at 14 Second Street, located beyond and to the right of the Randall house. In 1900 it was owned by 43-year-old Marcus Harrington, the uncle of Arthur Russell. He was a blacksmith, and he lived here with his wife Elizabeth and their three children: Walter, Velma, and Earl. According to the 1904 atlas, he also owned the neighboring house at 16 Second Street. However, this house does not appear on the census, so it may have been either unbuilt or vacant in 1900.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much has changed in this scene. The roads look very different, having been widened and paved, and the exteriors of the houses have also changed, including the removal of the shutters, installation of modern siding, and alterations to the front porches. Overall, though, the turn-of-the-century houses are still standing here, and this scene is still easily recognizable from the first photo.

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.

Fort Bridgman Road, Vernon, Vermont

The view looking north on Fort Bridgman Road, toward the intersection of Pond Road in Vernon, probably sometime around 1907-1918. Image from author’s collection.

The scene in 2018:

The town of Vernon is located in the extreme southeast corner of Vermont, and for much of its history it was small, with a population that consistently hovered around 600 to 800 people throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of this population was dispersed across 20 square miles, so Vernon never had a densely-settled town center, but the main village in town was here along Fort Bridgman Road, near the corner of Pond Road.

During the 19th century, this area was the commercial hub of the town, with an 1869 map showing a sawmill, blacksmith’s shop, carpenter’s shop, lumber yard, a church, and a building that was occupied by a store, post office, and hotel. There were also about a dozen houses clustered in the immediate vicinity, and the railroad passed through here along the Connecticut River, although the depot itself was located a little further to the north of here.

The first photo was taken at some point in the early 20th century, evidently soon after a snowstorm. It is a real photo postcard, meaning that it is a photograph that was developed directly onto postcard stock, instead of being mass-produced via printing. The photo is undated, but the markings on the reverse suggest that it was taken at some point between 1907 and 1918. On the reverse is a message written by a woman named Ethel Davis, who apparently also took the photo. It reads:

Dear Aunt Jessie,

I thought you probably would like to hear from me as I am up in Vt. with a friend. This is not a very good picture as we take them our selves. It is quite lonsome up here. This is Main St Vernon, Vt.

There is lots of snow up here. I am not very lonsome. But do wish I were home. From your niece Ethel Davis.

The photo shows the view looking north toward the town center, with the Connecticut River just out of view on the far right, and the railroad on an embankment to the left. The most visible building in this scene is the Vernon Union Church, on the right side of the road. It was completed in 1900, and it replaced an earlier one on the same site, which had burned after being struck by lightning a year earlier. Beyond the church is a building that appears to have been the store/post office/hotel from the 1869 map, and on the left side of the road is a house that probably dates to the first half of the 19th century. It appears on the 1869 map as well, when it was listed as the home of Mrs. R. S. Bryant.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, Vernon has undergone some major changes, the most significant of which was the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which operated in the town from 1972 until 2014. Thanks in part to the resulting jobs and low taxes, Vernon saw rapid population growth in the late 20th century. By the 2010 census, the town had more than 2,200 residents, which was nearly four times its population when the first photo was taken.

However, despite this growth, the town center here along Fort Bridgman Road has remained small. Many of the old buildings are gone, including the mixed-use building beyond the church, which is now the site of the town garage. The church is still here, though, as is the house on the other side of the road. Both are hidden by trees in the present-day view, but they have seen few exterior changes since the first photo was taken, and the church remains in use as an active congregation.

Main and Elm Streets, Westfield, Mass

The corner of Main and Elm Streets in Westfield, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2018:

These two photos show the scene at the northwest corner of Park Square, in the center of downtown Westfield. For the most part, these buildings were constructed in the mid-19th century, when Westfield was in the midst of a long, steady growth in its population. The town had a population of 4,180 in 1850, and it would continue to increase throughout the rest of the century, reaching nearly 10,000 by the time the first photo was taken in the early 1890s. By this point, Westfield was a prosperous manufacturing center, and it was particularly well-known for buggy whips, with the town’s firms ultimately controlling about 99% of the world’s production by the early 20th century.

All of the buildings in this scene were constructed as commercial blocks, with the exception of the three-story, wood-frame building on the far left. Located at the corner of Elm and School Streets, this was built in 1843 as the First Methodist Church. The congregation worshiped here in this building for the next 33 years, and during this time the church had several notable pastors. These included Mark Trafton, who served several stints here in the 1840s and early 1850s before being elected to Congress in 1854, and John Hanson Twombly, who served as pastor here from 1851 to 1853. He later went on to become president of the University of Wisconsin from 1871 to 1874, before returning here to this church in 1874. It was also in this building, in 1862, that Russell H. Conwell gave his first lecture. Although he never served as pastor here, he would go on to become a prominent Baptist minister, and the founder and first president of Temple University.

In 1876, during Reverend Twombly’s second pastorate, the church moved into a new, much larger building nearby on Court Street. The old church was then converted exclusively into commercial use. It had been constructed with storefronts on the ground floor, and its tenants included several different grocery stores. However, after the church relocated, the post office moved into this building, and it remained here until 1912, when a purpose-built post office was constructed on the other side of Park Square.

At some point, the original tower and belfry were removed from the building, but otherwise it still retained much of its Greek Revival exterior by the time the first photo was taken. It would remain largely the same until the 1940s, when it was dramatically altered by the removal of the third floor and gable roof. Now down to two stories, the old church is still standing here today on the left side of the photo, although it is barely recognizable from its historical appearance.

To the right of the church in the first photo is a row of three brick commercial buildings. Furthest to the left was the home of the First National Bank of Westfield. This is the only building from the first photo that no longer exists in any form, as it was demolished around 1930 to build the present-day bank on the lot. To the right of it is another two-story building at 32-34 Elm Street, which was built around 1860. For more than a century, it was occupied by Conner’s, a book, stationery, and gift shop that had been founded in 1867. It moved to this location by the mid-1890s, and it would remain here until it finally closed in 2007. Although Conner’s is gone, the building itself still stands, relatively unaltered from its appearance in the first photo.

Further to the right, at the corner of Elm and Church Streets, is Whitman’s Hall, also known as the Music Hall and the Opera House. It was built in 1855, but it was subsequently expanded in 1870 and renovated again in 1888 and 1904. As the names suggest, the three-story building originally included a public hall. This was used for many different kinds of events over the years, including balls, lectures, concerts, operas, and even prize fights. The building is still standing today, but like the old church it has been heavily altered. The third floor was removed around 1940, and the remaining portion of the building is completely unrecognizable from its original appearance.

On the far right side of both photos is the oldest building in the scene, and possibly the best-preserved of all these historic buildings. It was built in 1842 as the Westfield House Hotel, a boarding house that occupied the upper floors until 1894. The ground floor was used for shops and offices, throughout this time, and during the early 20th century the second floor housed the Westfield District Court. Today, the building stands relatively unaltered on the exterior, and it remains an important landmark on the north side of Park Square.

Overall, despite some significant alterations, most of the buildings from the first photo have survived to the present day in some form. Elsewhere in downtown Westfield, there are a number of other historic commercial buildings that are still standing, and the area is now part of the Westfield Center Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 and expanded in 2013. Because of how heavily they were altered, neither the old church nor Whitman’s Hall are considered to be contributing properties, but both the Conner’s building and the Westfield House Hotel are listed as such, as is the 1930 First National Bank of Westfield building.

St. Stephen’s Church, Boston

Looking north on Hanover Street in Boston, with St. Stephen’s Church in the center of the scene, around 1895-1905. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

These photos show the view looking north on Hanover Street from about the corner of Tileston Street, in Boston’s North End. The most prominent building here in this scene is St. Stephen’s Church, which is located directly opposite the Paul Revere Mall. Although it is currently a Roman Catholic church, it was constructed in 1804 as a Congregational church. It was originally known as the New North Church, as opposed to the more famous Old North Church less than 200 yards away, and it was the work of prominent architect Charles Bulfinch, who was responsible for designing many important buildings in early 19th century Boston.

This church was built around the same time that Unitarian theology was causing divisions within Congregational churches across New England. In 1813, New North became Unitarian, as did a number of other Congregational churches in Boston. That same year, 25-year-old Francis Parkman became its pastor. He would go on to serve the church for the next 36 years, and he was also the father of Francis Parkman Jr., who went on to become a noted historian and writer.

By the mid-19th century, the demographics of the North End had changed. As new, more desirable neighborhoods were developed in other parts of the city, affluent North End residents had steadily left the area. These largely Protestant, native-born residents were replaced by Irish Catholic immigrants, who settled in large numbers here in the North End. With its congregants leaving the increasingly crowded and impoverished neighborhood, the New North Church was ultimately sold in 1862 to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boston, becoming St. Stephen’s Church.

The church building subsequently underwent some changes, including alterations to the original cupola. In 1870, it was moved back 16 feet when Hanover Street was widened, and it was also raised six feet on a new, higher foundation, in order to create a lower level. The interior was also modified, and it saw further changes after being damaged by fires in 1897 and 1929.

The first photo shows the church, and its surroundings on Hanover Street, around the turn of the 20th century. By this point, the North End was no longer predominantly Irish. Instead, the neighborhood was filled with newer immigrant groups, particularly Italians, and the North End was well on its way to becoming known as Little Italy. However, some of the Irish parishioners maintained their connections to St. Stephen’s Church, including John F. Fitzgerald, who was a congressman and mayor of Boston. His daughter Rose – the mother of John F. Kennedy – was baptized here in 1890, and her funeral was held here 104 years later, in 1995.

Out of the five churches that Charles Bulfinch designed in Boston, this church is the only one that survived into the 20th century. By the 1960s it was also one of his few remaining churches anywhere, and it was recognized for its historic and architectural significance. From 1964 to 1965, it underwent a major renovation, which included lowering the building to its original level and restoring the cupola. The interior was also restored during this time, although it is somewhat different from Bulfinch’s original plans.

Today, St. Stephen’s Church is still an active Roman Catholic parish, and the restored building stands as an important architectural landmark in the North End. The surrounding streetscape has seen some changes since the first photo was taken around 120 years ago, with the most obvious being the three buildings on the right side, which were constructed around 1905. Overall, though, this scene has maintained the same scale since the late 19th century, which still consists primarily of four-story brick commercial blocks, and the North End remains a remarkably well-preserved section of Boston.