State Street Baptist Church, Springfield, Mass

The State Street Baptist Church, at the corner of State and Dwight Streets in Springfield, around the 1870s or 1880s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2019:

The State Street Baptist Church, also known as the Second Baptist Church, was established in 1864 as an offshoot of the First Baptist Church. A year later, the church began construction of a new building here on State Street, and it was completed in 1867. It featured an ornate High Victorian Gothic exterior, which was designed by Boston architect Sheperd S. Woodcock, and it was constructed at a cost of just over $41,000, including purchasing the property.

The building was formally dedicated on December 18, 1867, in a ceremony that included a number of local and regional Baptist clergymen. C. D. W. Bridgman, of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Albany, preached the sermon, and other speakers included Rufus K. Bellamy of Chicopee, whose son Edward Bellamy later became a famous novelist. The church was filled to capacity for the occasion, and it was followed by a social gathering attended by members of the city’s two Baptist congregations, along with about a hundred guests from out of town. Then, the evening was marked by a second ceremony, which included a sermon preached by Justin D. Fulton of the Union Temple Church in Boston.

At the time, the pastor of the church was Albert K. Potter, an 1859 graduate of Brown University who spent five years at a church in South Berwick, Maine before coming to Springfield in 1865. He served here at the State Street Baptist Church for 18 years, before leaving for a church in Boston. The second pastor, who came here in 1884, was 25-year-old William Faunce. Like his predecessor, he was a Brown graduate, but he only remained at this church for five years, before becoming the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in New York. There, his most famous parishioner was John D. Rockefeller, who was already well on his way to becoming the richest man in the world. Faunce subsequently became president of Brown University, serving from 1899 to 1929. After his death in 1930, the school’s Rockefeller Hall was, at the request of the Rockefeller family, renamed Faunce House in his honor.

In the meantime, Springfield’s various Baptist churches underwent a series of mergers during the early 20th century. First Baptist, which had relocated to a new building on State Street around 1888, united with Highland Baptist around 1907, becoming the First Highland Baptist Church. The new congregation worshiped in the Highland Baptist building at the corner of State and Stebbins Streets, and in 1920 the State Street Baptist Church similarly merged, vacating their old building here on the lower part of State Street.

By this point, downtown Springfield had grown considerably since this building was completed more than 50 years earlier, and this area was now valuable commercial real estate. So, the old church building was ultimately demolished in 1927, and it was replaced the Arcade Theater, a 1,200-seat cinema that opened in 1931. This theater was located here until 1971, and it was demolished a year later in order to open a new road connecting Dwight Street to Maple Street, as shown in the present-day photo.

Windsor House, Windsor, Vermont

The Windsor House on Main Street in Windsor, around 1865-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

This hotel was built in 1836 in the center of Windsor, an important town located along the banks of the Connecticut River in Vermont. At the time, Windsor was a prosperous manufacturing center, and it was one of the largest towns in the state by population, with over 3,000 residents during the 1830 census. By the following decade, it was also one of the first towns in the state with a railroad connection, when the Vermont Central opened in 1849 between Windsor and Hartford.

The Windsor House was one of the finest hotels in the area during the mid-19th century. In 1840, the Boston Traveler published a glowing letter to the editor by an anonymous writer who praised the hotel with the following description:

The Windsor House is a handsome brick edifice, 3 storys high. It contains 90 rooms; 10 private parlors, 6 of them having 2 sleeping rooms attached; 2 large parlors on the first floor; a dining hall; a reading room; 1 office. The halls on each floor are 15 feet wide. Besides the above rooms, there is a wing containing 30 sleeping rooms, and in the 4th story of the house is a large hall. The whole house is well furnished, and in the latest style, and will easily accommodate 150 persons.

The politeness of Mr. S. A. Coburn, the host, who for 7 or 8 years had charge of the Merrimack House, Lowell—the activity of his head clerk, Mr. Mitchell, (who was formerly attached to one of the first houses in New York,) the general attention of the domestics, and all the internal arrangements will insure a liberal public patronage. As a summer residence its location contains many advantages, which it might be well for such travellers as seek for a spot where they can breathe the pure mountain air, personally to make enquiry into. To all who have occasion to pass through that pleasant country, we can only say, that at the Windsor House they will find every attention and comfort which can be desired.

By the early 1840s, the hotel had evidently changed hands, as it was being run by Jehiel H. Simonds, who subsequently owned it for many years. During this time, the hotel apparently catered to both travelers and long-term residents, with the 1850 census showing 43 people living here, including Simonds himself and his wife Harriet. It is difficult to determine how many of these were hotel staff, but one of the resident employees here was Henry Parks, a 30-year-old African American who worked as a groom. He would later go on to enlist in the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first African-American units in the Civil War.

Simonds was still living here and running the hotel when the first photo was taken sometime around the 1870s. The 1880 census is much more helpful in determining the occupations of the people who lived here around this time. That year, there were a total of 17 people living here. Two were Jehiel and Harriet Simonds, and seven more were hotel employees, including a chambermaid, cook, porter, two waiters, and two laborers.

Of the eight boarders who were listed here during the 1880 census, five were from the Richards family, originally from Charlestown, New Hampshire. They included 60-year-old Harriet Richards and her son Jarvis, along with E. Jane Richards, who was the wife of Harriet’s son DeForest. DeForest, who would later become governor of Wyoming, was not living here at the time, but his two young children, Inez and J. DeForest, were here at the Windsor House with their mother, uncle, and grandmother. J. DeForest was five years old at the time, and he eventually went on to become an accomplished college football player at the University of Michigan, where he played halfback and quarterback during the mid-1890s.

In the meantime, Jehiel Simonds operated the Windsor House until his death in 1885 at the age of 83. The hotel remained in business for many years afterward, and it has long been a prominent landmark in downtown Windsor. It was threatened by demolition in the early 1970s, but it was ultimately preserved and repurposed, with a variety of commercial tenants. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and it is still standing today, nearly two centuries after it was completed. The neighboring 1824 Pettes-Journal Block on the far left side of this scene is also still standing, and there have been few exterior changes to either this building or the Windsor House since the first photo was taken.

Junction House, White River Junction, Vermont

The Junction House on South Main Street in White River Junction, around 1865-1878. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

The village of White River Junction is located within the town of Hartford, Vermont, on the New Hampshire border at the confluence of the White River and Connecticut River. Hartford’s original town center is located about a mile to the west of here, along the banks of the White River, but by the second half of the 19th century much of the town’s commercial activity had shifted here to White River Junction, thanks in large part to the advent of rail travel.

The late 1840s saw a frenzy of railroad construction in Vermont, and this site became an important hub in the state’s rail network. By the end of the decade, four rail lines converged here, with the Vermont Central Railway from the northwest, the Connecticut River Railroad from the south, the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad from the north, and the Northern New Hampshire Railroad from the east. A fifth railroad, the short 14-mile Woodstock Railroad, subsequently opened to the west of here in 1875, connecting White River Junction to Woodstock, Vermont.

Prior to the construction of these rail lines, this part of Hartford was sparsely populated, with only a few farms and a one-room schoolhouse. One of these farmers was Samuel Nutt, who had lived here since 1817 and owned about 500 acres of land. The rail lines met right near his house, and he was quick to recognize the strategic location of this property. By 1849 he had purchased the Grafton House hotel in nearby Enfield, New Hampshire, dismantled it, and rebuilt it here in White River Junction, as shown in the first photo. It was named the Junction House, and it thrived on business from the railroads, providing both meals and overnight accommodations for travelers.

Throughout the 1850s, advertisements for the Junction House regularly appeared in local newspapers, promising “Meals in readiness on the arrival of each train of Cars” along with “Horses and Carriages to Let.” One newspaper, the Independent Democrat of Concord, New Hampshire, published glowing remarks about the hotel in 1852 while describing a short layover here at White River Junction:

Here, being informed that we had half an hour’s waiting to do for the up-river train, most of our company—ourself in particular—went over to the Junction House, situated a few rods from the Depot, where we found a well-set and well-furnished table, at which we replenished the inner man to our hearts’—perhaps we should say bowels’—content. The Junction House is a new, commodiously built house, kept by Mr. H. F. Willis, who understands himself and the wants of his guests.

Three years later, the Vermont Phoenix of Brattleboro provided similar praise:

The “Junction House” at White River Junction, is one of the neatest and best managed hotels we have ever visited in Vermont; and, what is of more consequence to the proprietor, it does a capital business. Being favorably located for public travel it receives and entertains the travellers of three trains which have their terminus nightly at the Junction. Col. Samuel Nutt is the popular landlord who does the honors of the house, and he is very efficiently assisted by Mr. Wm. H. Witt, formerly of this village. The journey to Montpelier is made exceedingly pleasant and convenient by stopping over night under such care and with such excellent keeping.

Along with serving travelers, though, the hotel was also a meeting place for locals. During the 1850s and 1860s it was used for a variety of events, including railroad shareholder meetings, agricultural society meetings, public auctions, and nominating conventions for political parties. Most of these political conventions were for local and congressional district races, but the 1856 Republican state convention was held here in White River Junction, in a tent near the hotel. The event drew over two thousand attendees, but not all approved of the location, with the Middlebury Register writing:

We regret to close by hoping that the people of this state will never be called again to White River Junction for a similar purpose. The location is absurdly inconvenient, and a good many complaints of petty extortion at the Junction House, have reached our ears. One dollar for a hard dinner, at a Mass Convention of plain farmers, is cutting it rather fat.

By this point, Samuel Nutt was no longer running the hotel. He sold it earlier in 1856 to C. S. Hambleton, who was evidently responsible for making the attendees pay a dollar for dinner. Although it seems trivial now, this was a substantial amount of money at the time, equivalent to nearly $30 today. This controversy aside, the hotel continued to prosper in the years that followed.

However, in 1863 the owner at the time, Asa T. Barron, faced some legal trouble, first when one of the boarders accused him of assault. He was ultimately absolved after it was discovered that the boarder had instigated the disturbance and Barron had acted out of self defense. Just a few months later, though, Barron faced more serious trouble when he sold liquor here despite the state’s strict prohibition laws. He was found guilty of 36 violations, for which he was fined $360.

Barron continued to run the Junction House throughout the 1860s and 1870s, and the first photo was almost certainly taken during his ownership. It shows the view from near the railroad depot, looking southwest across the tracks. The village was still only lightly developed at the time, and the photo shows a gravel bank on the side of the hill beyond the hotel. An 1869 map of the village shows only a handful of buildings along this section of South Main Street, and most of these appear to have been houses, with the exception of the Junction House and a nearby store that was operated out of a converted farmhouse.

The original Junction House stood here until 1878, when it was destroyed by a fire on the morning of August 10. The fire began in the kitchen, and it soon spread throughout the building. Without any local fire companies, it took about an hour for firemen and equipment to arrive by train from Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire. By this point, the hotel was beyond saving, but the firemen were able to prevent it from spreading to other nearby structures.

The fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damage to the property, only about half of which was insured. Apparently, not everyone saw the fire as a tragedy, though. Writing just over a decade later in History of Hartford, Vermont, July 4, 1761-April 4, 1889, author William Howard Tucker argued that “It was a den of wickedness and its destruction should have been regarded by the senior proprietor thereof as the natural sequence of the unrestricted looseness that characterized his system of running this public house.”

Such disapproval notwithstanding, the Junction House was soon rebuilt. The new building was completed in 1879, and it was about one and a half times larger than the old one, featuring room for about 200 guests and a hall that could seat about a thousand. It was four stories in height, and it had two towers, which were located on either end of the front facade. Asa Barron still owned the hotel at the time, but he sold the property within about a year of the completion of the new building.

The new Junction House remained an important hotel into the 20th century. It was eventually expanded to 340 rooms, and in 1925 it was renamed the Hotel Coolidge in honor of the owner’s close friend, John C. Coolidge, the father of then-President Calvin Coolidge. Many evidently assumed that it had been named for the president, and the Caledonian Record of St. Johnsbury humorously observed that the change was done “probably in the hope that it will be quieter at night,” in reference to Calvin Coolidge’s famously silent demeanor.

Only a few weeks later, though, the newly-renamed hotel also burned. This time, it was caused by an oil heater that exploded on the second floor. As with the fire nearly a half century earlier, crews from New Hampshire arrived to fight the flames, but the building was a total loss. The fire also destroyed eight stores on the ground floor, but all of the guests were safely evacuated from the hotel and there was no loss of life.

As before, the hotel was quickly rebuilt, and this time it had a brick facade. Its exterior lacked the ornamentation of the previous hotel, but it featured two towers that echoed those of its predecessor. This building has now stood here for longer than the two earlier ones combined, and it remains the Hotel Coolidge nearly a century after it was completed. During this time, it has even hosted its namesake president in May 1929, when Coolidge spent several days at the hotel while on a fishing trip, several months after leaving the White House.

Today, with the decline of rail travel, White River Junction is no longer the bustling railroad hub that it once was. The area is still at the juncture of two major transportation routes, with Interstates 89 and 91 crossing just to the west of here, but the highways bypass the village itself. However, many of the historic buildings in the center of White River Junction have survived over the years, including the Hotel Coolidge and the surrounding commercial buildings, such as the large 1890 Gates Block on the right side of this scene, and the c.1910 Greenough Block, located beyond the hotel on the left side. All of these buildings, along with a number of others in the area, are now part of the White River Junction Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Old North Bridge, Concord, Mass (3)

Looking west across the Old North Bridge over the Concord River in Concord, around 1875-1885. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in an earlier post, the Old North Bridge over the Concord River was the site of the Battle of Concord at the beginning of the American Revolution. It occurred on April 19, 1775, only a few hours after the opening shots of the war in nearby Lexington, and it was the first American victory of the war, resulting in the British abandoning their search for colonial munitions and returning to Boston.

Because of its historical significance, the battlefield is now marked with two monuments. On the east side of the river, directly behind the spot where this photo was taken, is a granite obelisk dedicated in 1837, and on the west side of the bridge is the statue The Minute Man, visible in the distance of all three photos. This statue was the work of prominent sculptor Daniel Chester French, and it was dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the battle on April 19, 1775, in a ceremony that included dignitaries such as President Ulysses S. Grant.

Aside from the monuments, the most significant landmark here on the battlefield is the bridge. The original one was removed in 1788, and from 1793 to 1875 there was no bridge on this site after the roads were rerouted. However, as part of the centennial celebrations of 1875, a new one was built around the same time that the statue was installed. This bridge, shown here in the first photo, bore no resemblance to the original one. It was designed by noted architect William R. Emerson, and it featured a rustic Victorian-style design, with cedar logs for railings and two half-arbors at the middle of the bridge.

The centennial bridge was ultimately destroyed in a storm in 1888, and it was replaced by a simpler yet sturdier wooden bridge, as shown in the second photo. It was similar to, although not identical to, the original bridge here at this spot, and it stood here until it too was destroyed in 1909. Its replacement, built later in 1909, lasted until 1955, when it sustained serious damage in a flood. The current bridge was completed the following year, and it was designed to be a replica of the original colonial-era bridge.

In 1975, this bridge became a focal point for the bicentennial celebrations here in Concord. As was the case a century earlier, the event included a visit from the president, with Gerald Ford speaking from a platform here at the eastern end of the bridge, which was located just out of view on the right side of the scene. Since then, very little has changed here. The battlefield has been well-maintained in its 1775 appearance, and today the site probably looks more like it did on the day of the battle than in either of the two earlier photos. Much of this is due to the efforts of the National Park Service, which has administered the battlefield since 1959, when the bridge and the surrounding area became a part of the Minute Man National Historical Park.

Willey House, Hart’s Location, New Hampshire (3)

The view looking north in Crawford Notch in the White Mountains, with the Willey House in the distance on the left, around the 1860s or 1870s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

These photos show the view looking north in Crawford Notch, a long, narrow valley through the heart of the White Mountains. For many years, it was the only east-west route through the mountain range, and since the late 18th century it has been a vital transportation corridor. As explained in more detail in an earlier post, the first road through the notch was opened in 1774, and over the years it was steadily improved, eventually becoming part of the Tenth New Hampshire Turnpike in 1806.

To serve these travelers in the midst of the northern New Hampshire wilderness, a series of inns were opened in and around the notch. The first building within the notch itself was a house that was constructed in 1793. Later known as the Willey House, it stood in the left-center of the first photo, where the peak of its gabled roof is barely visible beyond a much larger three-story hotel that was constructed in 1845.

The house served as both a residence and a small inn, and it had several different owners in the early 19th century before being acquired by Samuel Willey in 1825. It was an isolated location in the middle of the notch, several miles away from the nearest neighbor, but Willey moved here in the fall of 1825, along with his wife Polly and their five young children. He spent much of the fall improving the property and preparing it for the long, cold northern New England winter, and the result was a modest but comfortable place for travelers to stop for food, drink, or shelter.

As the Willeys would soon discover, though, the house’s location at the base of a steep cliff made it susceptible to landslides. One occurred in June 1826, and it narrowly missed the house. Then, two months later, another one occurred during a heavy rainstorm on the night of August 28. This time, the house was completely encircled by the debris, although the house itself survived unscathed thanks to a low ledge just above it, which split the flow into two channels.

Unfortunately, though, the Willey family attempted to flee the house in the midst of the storm, evidently fearing that the house would be destroyed. However, in the darkness they unknowingly ran directly into the path of the slide, and all seven were killed, along with two hired hands who lived here with them. Searchers subsequently found six of the bodies, some of them badly mangled, but three of the Willey children were never recovered.

The sudden deaths of nine people, more than half of whom were children under the age of 13, quickly gained national attention. This helped to spur tourism to the White Mountains, and over the next few years many curious visitors came to Crawford Notch to see the Willey House, the aftermath of the landslide, and the surrounding wilderness. The story also became the subject of a now-lost painting by noted artist Thomas Cole, and a short story, “The Ambitious Guest,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

By the mid-19th century, the area was a popular destination thanks in large part to the publicity generated by the Willey disaster, and there were many hotels in the vicinity of Crawford Notch. These included the Willey House itself, which had been purchased by Horace Fabyan in 1845. He constructed a new, much larger hotel building adjacent to the old house, and it can be seen on the left side of the first photo. Both buildings stood here until nearly the end of the 19th century, but they were ultimately destroyed by a fire in September 1899.

Today, the site of the house and hotel is now the visitor center and park headquarters for the Crawford Notch State Park. There is little evidence of the buildings that once stood here, although the location of the Willey House is now marked by a small stone monument. The road has also changed significantly since the first photo was taken some 150 years ago, and the narrow dirt path is now U.S. Route 302. Overall, the only thing from the first photo that has not changed is the surrounding landscape, which has been preserved as part of the state park. This includes the most prominent feature in both photos, the 2,804-foot Mount Willard, which dominates the background of the scene and marks the northern end of Crawford Notch.

Willey House, Hart’s Location, New Hampshire (2)

The Willey House in Crawford Notch, around 1872. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, this building was constructed in 1793 in Crawford Notch, a long, narrow pass through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. At the time, it was the only building in the notch, and for the next few decades it was operated as a tavern, providing food, drink, and lodging to travelers along this important transportation route.

In the fall of 1825, Samuel Willey moved here with his wife Polly and their five children. The family lived in the house, and Samuel continued to run the tavern. The house proved to be in a precarious location, though; it was at the base of a steep cliff, and the site was vulnerable to landslides, as the Willey family learned in June 1826 when one such slide narrowly missed their home.

Undeterred by this threat, the Willey family decided to remain here, in an isolated location far from any other neighbors. Samuel Willey was apparently convinced that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event, but another landslide came just two months later, during a torrential downpour on the night of August 28. This time, the house sat directly in the path of the slide, and the family—which also included two hired men—evidently heard it coming and evacuated the building. However, in the darkness outside they were engulfed by the landslide, and all nine of them were killed. Ironically, though, the house itself survived the landslide with minimal damage; a low ridge just behind the house had divided the landslide into two streams, causing it to circle around either side of the house before rejoining in the front yard.

The sudden, unexpected death of a young family, combined with the harsh wilderness setting and the seemingly cruel twist of fate that saved the house, resulted in national attention for this tragedy. Within a matter of months, tourists were flocking here to see the site of the disaster for themselves, and this would only increase over the next few years. Up until this point, the White Mountains were largely seen as an obstacle to travel, but in the aftermath of this event the region began to be seen as a destination in itself.

The tragedy also became the subject of various works of art and literature. Prominent painter Thomas Cole made a visit to the site early in his career in 1828, and he subsequently painted a now-lost landscape of the scene. Another young, aspiring artist was Nathaniel Hawthorne, who came here a few years later and, in 1835, published a fictionalized account of it as a short story, titled “The Ambitious Guest.”

In 1845, Horace Fabyan purchased the property and built a three-story hotel directly to the left of the house. It had room for 50 guests, and it was one of many hotels that were constructed around this time to accommodate the influx of visitors to the region. The first photo was less than 30 years later, showing the house in the foreground with the hotel behind it to the left. The buildings would stand here until September 1899, when both were destroyed by a fire that was apparently caused by a defective chimney.

Today, this site is now the location of a visitor center and the park headquarters of the Crawford Notch State Park. However, the Willey tragedy has not been forgotten. The spot where the house once stood is now marked by a small stone monument in the lower center of the 2018 photo, and the 4,285-foot mountain behind the house has been named Mount Willey, in honor of the family.