Governor Buckingham Statue, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The statue of Governor William A. Buckingham in the west atrium of the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

William A. Buckingham served as governor of Connecticut from 1858 to 1866, including for the entire duration of the Civil War. During that time, he was instrumental in recruiting soldiers for the state regiments, in addition to raising money to equip them. In several instances, he even took out personal loans in order to ensure that Connecticut soldiers were paid in a timely manner. Because of his actions, he earned the respect of the state’s veterans, and he was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1869 until his death in 1875.

The current Connecticut State Capitol was completed in 1878, and the west atrium was designated as the Hall of Flags, to display the battle flags of the state’s various Civil War regiments. These flags were placed here on September 17, 1879—the anniversary of the Battle of Antietam—with a celebration that included a parade of more than ten thousand veterans. Then, five years later, the state installed this statue of Governor Buckingham, which was designed by Olin L. Warner, a prominent sculptor from Suffield, Connecticut. It was unveiled here on June 18, 1884 with similar fanfare, including a large parade of veterans and speeches by state dignitaries.

The first photo was taken around 1891, and very little has changed since then. The atrium is a little more crowded now, because of added security at the entrance, but the statue of Governor Buckingham is still here, as are most of the regimental flags. The capitol building was extensively restored during the 1980s, and during this time many of the flags were also restored. After being on display for well over a century, most were badly deteriorated, with some even falling off of their poles. Of the 110 flags, 73 were restored in the 1980s. Funding has been a challenge since then, but more flags have continued to be conserved over the years, and have been put back on display here in the Hall of Flags.

South Entrance, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The view just inside the south entrance of the Connecticut State Capitol, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

These two photos show the entryway at the south entrance of the Connecticut State Capitol. The building was completed in 1878, and it features a highly ornate interior comprised primarily of marble, along with polished granite columns. This entrance is located directly beneath the House of Representatives chamber, which can be accessed by either of the two staircases here. In between the staircases is the rotunda at the center of the building, underneath the dome.

Today, this particular scene has hardly changed in about 130 years since the first photo was taken. The building has been well-maintained and preserved over the years, and it stands as an important architectural landmark. The only significant difference between these two photos is the replica Liberty Bell to the right of the west staircase. This was one of 55 produced by the Department of the Treasury in 1950 as gifts to each of the states and territories, and it even features a painted-on crack to mimic the one on the original Liberty Bell.

Staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

A staircase in the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The staircase in 2019:

The Connecticut State Capitol is an architectural masterpiece, on both the interior and exterior. It was the work of prominent architect Richard M. Upjohn, and it was completed in 1879 with an ornate High Victorian Gothic design comprised largely of marble and granite. At the center of the building, beneath the dome, is a large rotunda that is flanked on either side by marble staircases. This particular staircase is on the east side of the rotunda, and in the distant center of the scene, on the second floor, is the door to the House of Representatives chamber.

Today, around 130 years after the first photo was taken, there are hardly any differences between these two photos. The building underwent a major restoration from 1979 to 1989, and on the interior this included cleaning grime off of the marble floors and other stonework, along with restoring the intricately painted details throughout the building. As a result, the building now looks the way that it did when it first opened nearly 150 years ago, and it remains an important architectural landmark while also continuing to serve as the seat of the Connecticut state government.

Nathan Hale State, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The Nathan Hale statue inside the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The statue in 2019:

Perhaps the most celebrated Revolutionary War figure from Connecticut is Nathan Hale, the young schoolteacher-turned-soldier who was hanged as a spy in 1776. He is memorialized by several statues throughout the state, including here in the east wing of the state capitol building. This statue was designed in 1886 by sculptor Karl Gerhardt, and it is made of bronze atop a marble base, on which is inscribed Hale’s famous, if possibly apocryphal last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The statue was formally unveiled here in the capitol on June 14, 1887, in a ceremony attended by dignitaries such as Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury and Mayor Morgan Bulkeley, who would later go on to become governor and U.S. senator. The dedication address was presented by Charles Dudley Warner, a writer whose most famous work was the novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which he had co-authored with fellow Hartford resident Mark Twain.

The first photo was taken about four years after the statue was installed here, and since then essentially nothing has changed in this scene. The statue is still here in the same spot, and the interior of the capitol itself has remained well-preserved, retaining its original ornate Victorian-era design.

The Genius of Connecticut, Connecticut State Capitol, Hartford

The plaster model of The Genius of Connecticut, located inside the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, around 1891. Image from Hartford Illustrated (1891).

The scene in 2019:

Connecticut’s current state capitol building was completed in 1878, and it was originally topped by The Genius of Connecticut, which was designed by sculptor Randolph Rogers. This 18-foot-tall bronze statue stood atop the building’s dome for many years, but the original plaster model was also retained, and it stood here on the main floor of the capitol, just inside the northern entrance. The first photo was taken around 1891, showing the plaster model along with some of the ornate Victorian-era decorations inside the building.

The statue on the dome was ultimately damaged during the 1938 hurricane and was taken down, and it was subsequently melted down for scrap metal during World War II. However, the plaster model has remained here inside the capitol, although in the 1980s it was painted bronze as part of a restoration effort. Then, in 2007, it was again used as a model, this time with the use of lasers to accurately measure every detail of the statue. Using this information, a replica statue was cast in bronze, with the goal of eventually placing it atop the dome.

Today, neatly 130 years after the first photo was taken, the plaster model still stands here in the entryway. Aside from the bronze paint to the statue and the addition of a few items inside the building, hardly anything has changed here in this scene, and the capitol remains in use as the seat of the state government. Just around the corner, out of view to the left, is the replica bronze statue, which as of right now stands at the base of the rotunda, awaiting the necessary funds to raise it to the top of the building.

Merchants’ Exchange Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Merchants’ Exchange Building, seen from the corner of Walnut and South Third Streets in Philadelphia in 1898. Image courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia, John C. Bullock Lantern Slide Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The Merchants’ Exchange Building is an important architectural landmark in Philadelphia, and it is also significant for having been the financial center of the city for many years. It was completed in 1834 as the first permanent home of what would become the Philadelphia Stock Exchange. Prior to this time, brokers and merchants met in a variety of coffee houses and taverns. However, by 1831 the city’s business leaders had recognized the need for a permanent, central location for a stock exchange, and began planning such a building.

The Exchange was designed by prominent Philadelphia architect William Strickland, who was heavily inspired by classical Greek architecture. The shape of the lot also contributed to the building’s design; although most of Philadelphia features a rectangular street grid, the Exchange was built on a triangular lot that was created by the diagonally-running Dock Street. As a result, the two main facades of the building are very different. Here at the west end of the building on Third Street, it has a fairly standard Greek Revival exterior, with Corinthian columns supporting a triangular pediment. However, on the east side of the building, facing Dock Street, Strickland designed an elaborate semi-circular columned facade that was topped by a tower. This tower, which is partially visible in the upper right corner of the 2019 photo, was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, which dates back to the fourth century B. C.

The cornerstone of the building was laid on February 22, 1832, on the one hundredth anniversary of George Washington’s birth. It was completed two years later, opening to the public in March 1834. A contemporary article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, republished from Bicknell’s Reporter, provides the following description:

It is built entirely of marble— occupies ninety-five feet front on Third street, and one hundred and fifty feet on Walnut. The basement story is fifteen feet high, and has twelve doorways on the Third Street front and flanks. The largest room in the lower floor, which is 74 by 36 feet, is occupied as the Philadelphia Post Office, at the west end of which is a hall or passage, designed for the shelter of persons while receiving or delivering letters. Beyond this hall to the west, and fronting Third street, is a large and commodious room, which has been fitted up as a Coffee Room, is now in the occupancy of Mr. J. Kerrison, a gentleman every way qualified to conduct a respectable establishment of the kind. South of the Post Office and the Coffee Room, is a large passage which runs from Dock to Third street, and further south again, a number of offices; which are to be occupied generally as Exchange and Insurance Offices. They open upon Walnut and Dock streets. No. 2 of this range will be occupied by the proprietor of this paper, as a Stock, Exchange and Publication Office.

Proceeding up stairs, the large Exchange Room, capable of containing several thousand persons, first arrests attention. It occupies an area of 83 superficial feet, fronts east, and extends across the whole building. The reading Room is oa [sic] the second floor, immediately over the Post Office, and is nearly of equal capacity. It is fitted up in the most appropriate manner, and is under the charge of Joseph M. Sanderson, Esq. assisted by Mr. J. Coffee. Both gentlemen are well know to our citizens, and are alike respected for urbanity of manner, intelligence, and attention to the duties entrusted to their care. Both have for several years been connected with the Merchants’ Coffee House of this city, Mr. Sanderson as Principal and Lessee of that establishment, and nothing can more fully show the estimation in which he is held by the Merchants than the fact of his unanimous election to the New Exchange.

The attic story is of the same height as the basement, 15 feet, contains six large rooms; the roof is of copper, and the ornaments on the semicircular portion over the front colonnade are very beautiful.

The building went on to serve as the city’s stock exchange for more than 40 years, in addition to housing other tenants such as the post office. However, in 1876 the stock exchange moved to the Girard Bank, located less than a hundred yards north of the Merchants’ Exchange on the opposite side of Third Street. This building was the home of the stock exchange until 1888, when it relocated to the Drexel Building a few blocks away. In a somewhat surprising move, though, the stock exchange then returned here to the Merchants’ Exchange at the turn of the 20th century, shortly after the first photo was taken. It remained here until 1913, when it moved into a new building at 1411 Walnut Street, near the corner of Market Street.

The Merchants’ Exchange Building was ultimately acquired by the National Park Service as part of the Independence National Historical Park. Although many other historic buildings within the park’s boundaries were demolished during this time, this building was preserved and restored, and it is now used as the park headquarters. It stands as the only surviving building in this scene from the first photo, and in 2001 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark because of its historical and architectural significance.