Masonic Temple, Boston

The Masonic Temple at the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets, facing east on Boylston in the late 1860s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


According to the Boston Public Library, the first photo was taken in 1864, which is unlikely considering the building in the photo wasn’t built until 1867. This site at the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets has been home to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts since 1859, starting with the Winthrop House, which burned in 1864. It was replaced with the building in the first photo in 1867, and this building likewise burned, in 1895. The present-day building was completed in 1899, and has been home to the lodge ever since.

A number of other changes have taken place here, with most of the 4-5 story residential and commercial buildings being replaced over the years by successively taller structures. Today, only one building from the first photo still survives – the 1850 Liberty Tree Building a block down Boylston Street, seen in the 2014 photo directly behind the white van. Another significant change is the Boylston station, seen on the left of the 2014 photo, which opened on Boston Common in 1897 as one of the first two subway stations in the United States.

Colonnade Row, Tremont Street, Boston

Looking north along Tremont Street in Boston, near Avery Street around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Tremont Street has substantially changed over the past 150 years, as seen in the stark contrast between Charles Bulfinch’s 1810 Colonnade Row and the modern high-rise apartment buildings of today.  The 19 houses that made up Colonnade Row were similar to those along Beacon Street on the other side of the Common, but while many of the early 19th century homes on Beacon Hill remain today, the ones on Colonnade Row are long gone.  Some of the houses survived into the mid-20th century, as seen in this photo on the Boston Public Library Flickr account, but obviously today none are left.  There is, however, at least one building in the 2014 photo that predates Colonnade Row – Park Street Church in the distance was completed in 1809 and still stands at the corner of Park and Tremont.

Beach Street, Boston

Looking west on Beach Street toward Harrison Avenue in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Beach Street in 2014:


Taken before the neighborhood was redeveloped as a major commercial district, the first photo shows a variety of early 19th century architecture, with a combination of a hotel (the Boston Hotel on the left), a church (Beach Street Church), and residential buildings.  Notice also the awning that advertises “cool soda” at the business on the right.  Today, this area has undergone total redevelopment, and is now in the midst of Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood.

Chauncy Street, Boston (2)

Looking northeast along Chauncy Street with Bedford Street in the foreground, in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Chauncy Street in 2014:


These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the ones in this post, just facing the opposite direction on Chauncy Street. The church in the distance is the old First Church in Boston building, which was built in 1808 and was the home to Boston’s oldest church congregation until 1867, when they moved to the Back Bay. At the time of the 1860 photo, this was an upscale residential neighborhood, although it was becoming increasingly commercial by the 1860s.   Just a few years later, much of the area was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872. In the distance is the Macy’s building at Downtown Crossing, with Summer Street, the epicenter of the 1872 fire, beyond it in the distance.

Chauncy Street, Boston (1)

Looking southwest on Chauncy Street in Boston, toward modern-day Avenue de Lafayette from Bedford Street, taken around 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Chauncy Street in 2014:

Another work of noted photographer Josiah Johnson Hawes, the first photo shows a very different Chauncy Street than the present-day view. The church at the corner is the Rowe Street Baptist Church, which was built in 1847. The church, along with all of the other buildings in the photo, was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1872, which is one of the reasons why none of the building in the 1860 scene survive to this day.

Harrison & Essex Streets, Boston

The corner of Harrison Avenue and Essex Street in Boston, in 1860. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:

Located in present-day Chinatown, this scene has completely changed in the past 150 years, with none of the 1860 buildings surviving today. Even the streets have changed somewhat, with Harrison Avenue (the street in the lower left foreground) being extended across Essex Street, through where the house on the right-hand side of the 1860 photo once stood.  That house was home of Wendell Phillips, a noted 19th century abolitionist, lawyer, and candidate for governor of Massachusetts.

Incidentally, the first photo was taken by Josiah Johnson Hawes, who worked with Albert Sands Southworth in the famous Southworth & Hawes photographic company.  Together, they were among the early pioneers of quality photography, and some of Hawes’s photographs, including the one above, give a rare glimpse of Boston on the eve of the Civil War.