Wells Adams House, Boston

Looking up Salem Street from the corner of Cooper Street, in Boston’s North End, before 1894. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same scene in 2014:

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The building in the first photo was known as the Wells Adams House, and according to late 19th century sources was built sometime in the late 1600s, probably around the same time as the Paul Revere House.  Like many other historic colonial-era North End buildings, it was demolished in 1894, and the current building was probably built shortly after that.  The only building that appears in both photos is the one on the far right; it was built in the 1840s, and is one of the few bow fronted houses that remains in the North End.

South Station, Boston

South Station around the time that it opened in 1899. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view around 1905, after the construction of the Atlantic Avenue Elevated. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

Transportation

South Station in 1956, during construction of the Dewey Square Tunnel. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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South Station in 2014:

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These four photos reveal the changes that have taken place here at South Station over the past 115 years.  While the building itself (or at least most of it) has remained essentially the same, its surroundings have continually changed.

Before 1899, four different railroads had terminals in the general vicinity of the present-day station.  To make things simpler, South Station was built, and all four lines were rerouted to it.  A few years later, in 1901, the Atlantic Avenue Elevated was built, as seen in the second photo.  The rapid transit line included a station at South Station, which can be seen on the far right of the 1905 photo.

The third photo shows the result of changes in the way people travel; the Atlantic Avenue Elevated closed in 1938, and was demolished four years later.  Even South Station was seeing a severe drop in passengers in postwar America, as cars became the primary method of travel.  However, Boston’s colonial-era street network was not particularly accommodating to large number of cars, so the Central Artery was built in the 1950s.  Most of the Central Artery was elevated, but it was put underground for a few blocks near South Station, and was known as the Dewey Square Tunnel.

The Dewey Square Tunnel, which is seen under construction in the 1956 photo, turned out to be a foreshadowing of things to come; part of Boston’s infamous Big Dig involved putting the entire Central Artery underground.  Today, the tunnel is still there, directly underneath where I was standing when I took the photo.  It is the only existing part of the Central Artery; the remainder of the 1950s-era expressway was demolished upon completion of the Big Dig.

Today, South Station has been trimmed a bit – notice that the facade on both sides is shorter than in the first two photos.  This was a result of demolition in the 1960s, at a time when many railroads were cutting back or eliminating passenger service.  However, today South Station is a busy transportation center again – it is the busiest railroad station in New England and the sixth busiest in the country, and it is the northern terminus of the Northeast Corridor, the busiest rail line in the country.

Quincy Market, Boston (3)

Quincy Market, facing west toward Faneuil Hall, sometime in the 1800s.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2014:

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Another view of Quincy Market, showing the difference between the business-oriented market in the 1800s, and the tourist-oriented scene today.  In this particular 2014 view, it was taken during the Urban Raid, a 5k race and obstacle course that went through the City Hall area of Boston.

Quincy Market, Boston (1)

The view of Quincy Market looking east from in front of Faneuil Hall, sometime in the 1800s.  Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same view of Quincy Market in 2014:

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Built in 1825, Quincy Market has been a major commercial center for nearly 200 years.  However, its role and the surrounding neighborhood have certainly changed.  Originally, as seen in the first photo, it was a place for Bostonians to buy and sell food products, ranging from fruits and vegetables to cheese and meat.  It was also built right along the waterfront; today it is several blocks from Boston Harbor.  But, the building hasn’t moved – the waterfront has.  Over the years, Boston has significantly expanded its land area, both through annexing surrounding towns but also through landfill, which included dumping dirt, rocks, construction debris, and even old ships into the harbor and building atop it.

Because of that, Quincy Market is no longer has a waterfront location, but it is still a commercial center, although today it consists of fast food vendors that primarily cater to tourists and workers from nearby City Hall.  The Quincy Market area also offers shopping, gift stores, and in this particular scene, photos with Spider-Man.  It is also located along the Freedom Trail, which is marked by the brick path in the foreground.

Beacon Street looking east from Charles Street, Boston

Looking up Beacon Street toward the State House, sometime in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same scene in 2014:

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The first photo was probably taken around the 1860s or 1870s, and many of the townhouses predate even that photo by half a century.  One of the houses in this view, featured in this post when Theodore Roosevelt came to visit, was built in 1819, and many of the other houses likely date to the same period, which was around the time when Beacon Hill was first being developed.

For being close to 150 years apart, the two scenes are remarkably similar – most of the townhouses in the foreground appear virtually unchanged, and trees in Boston Common and a wrought iron fence (probably the same one) still line the left-hand side of Beacon Street.  It’s a picturesque neighborhood, and also a pricey one – the house featured in the Roosevelt post is currently on the market with an asking price of $11.9 million.

Beacon Street, Boston

Looking west on Beacon Street in Boston, near the State House, sometime in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same scene in 2014:

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These views show Beacon Street looking down the hill, just past the Massachusetts State House (the State House would be behind and to the left from this angle).  The street to the right in the foreground is Joy Street, and Boston Common is to the left.

Ever since Beacon Hill was developed in the early 1800s, it has been a wealthy neighborhood, and given its location adjacent to the State House, it has been the home of a number of prominent politicians over the years.  Aside from wider, paved streets, and automobiles instead of horse-drawn carriages, not much has changed with the appearance of the neighborhood. The streets are still lined with brick townhouses, and many of the ones from the first photo (which I suspect was probably taken around the 1860s-1870s) are still around today, including the one on the far right in the foreground, and the one in approximately the center of the 19th century photo, which is partially obscured by trees in the 2014 photo.