Old Post Office, Concord, New Hampshire

The post office on North State Street in Concord, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building, now the Legislative Office Building, in 2019:

This building is located directly to the west of the New Hampshire State House, and it was completed in 1889 as a post office and federal building. Like many public buildings of the era, it features Romanesque Revival architecture, and it was constructed of local New Hampshire granite. The ground floor of the building originally housed the post office, along with offices for the district attorney and U. S. marshal, while the second floor was occupied by the federal courtroom, court offices, and the pension office. The third floor had a variety of uses, including rooms for juries, railway mail clerks, and janitorial space.

The building was subsequently expanded in 1913 and then again in 1938, although these changes did not significantly affect the appearance from here on North State Street. It continued to be used as a federal building until 1967, and it was left vacant for several years before being purchased by the state and converted into offices for the state legislature. Now known as the Legislative Office Building, it continues to serve this purpose today, with few exterior changes from this angle since the first photo was taken. Because of its significance, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and it is also a contributing property in the Concord Civic District.

John P. Hale Statue, Concord, New Hampshire

The John P. Hale statue on the grounds of the New Hampshire State House in Concord, around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The statue in 2019:

This statue of Senator John P. Hale is one of several on the grounds of the New Hampshire State House that honor famous New Hampshire residents. Although not as nationally-prominent as some of the others, such as Franklin Pierce and Daniel Webster, Hale was an important politician in the years immediately before and after the Civil War. He served for 16 years in the Senate, where he was a staunch opponent of slavery, and he later served as the U. S. Minister to Spain from 1865 to 1869.

Ironically, despite being a political ally of Abraham Lincoln, Hale inadvertently almost became the father-in-law of John Wilkes Booth. His daughter, Lucy Lambert Hale, was a leading socialite in Washington D.C., and she had many suitors, including Robert Todd Lincoln, whom Senator Hale hoped she would marry. Instead, though, she became secretly engaged to Booth, who was a successful actor at the time. They never married, and Booth was killed less than two weeks after he assassinated Lincoln, but Lucy’s photo was found on his body after he was killed.

Lucy Lambert Hale ultimately married William E. Chandler, a New Hampshire attorney and newspaper publisher who subsequently represented the state in the Senate from 1887 to 1901. During this time, he lobbied for a statue here on the State House grounds to honor his father-in-law, who had died in 1873. Chandler paid for the statue, and the state agreed to accept it and place it here in front of the northeast corner of the State House. The statue was designed by German sculptor Ferdinand von Miller, and it was cast in his foundry in Munich, the same place where the nearby Daniel Webster statue was cast several years earlier.

Hale’s statue was unveiled on August 3, 1892, in a ceremony that included addresses by William Chandler and Governor Hiram A. Tuttle. Other dignitaries included four former governors, along with members of the Hale and Chandler families, including John Hale’s widow and his daughter Lucy. The keynote speaker was Colonel Daniel Hall, a Civil War veteran from Hale’s hometown of Dover. His speech included an outline of the history of slavery in America and Hale’s opposition to it, noting that Hale had, early in his political career, “found his conscience and his whole better nature insurgent against the slave system.” These abolitionist sentiments are also expressed on the plaque at the base of the monument, which includes the claim that he was the “first anti-slavery U. S. Senator.”

The first photo was taken about a decade or so after the statue’s installation, and it has remained here ever since. Not much else has changed in this scene, with the exception of some alterations to the State House in the background. The building was renovated in 1909-1910 with a large addition to the rear, along with a third floor in place of the 1860s mansard roof. Otherwise, though, the State House looks much the same as it did when the first photo was taken more than a century ago, and it remains in use as one of the oldest state capitol buildings in the United States.

Daniel Webster Statue, Concord, New Hampshire

The Daniel Webster statue in front of the New Hampshire State House in Concord, around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The statue in 2019:

The grounds of the New Hampshire State House feature statues of some of the state’s most famous residents, including Daniel Webster, whose statue occupies a prominent location directly in front of the eastern entrance to the building. Webster is best known for being part of the Great Triumvirate, which also included John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and Henry Clay of Kentucky. These three senators were among the most influential American politicians of the first half of the 19th century, serving as the primary advocates for their respective regions of the country from the 1820s until their deaths in the early 1850s.

Although Webster spent most of his political career in Massachusetts, he was born in New Hampshire and represented the state in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1813 to 1817. He subsequently moved to Boston, but he was not forgotten here in his native state, and in 1886 this statue was dedicated here in front of the State House. The commission for designing the statue had originally gone to Martin Milmore, but he died in 1883 and the statue was completed by noted sculptor Thomas Ball, whose previous works had included a large statue of Webster in Central Park.

The first photo was taken several decades after the statue was installed here, and shortly before the State House underwent a major renovation in 1909-1910. From this angle, the result of this renovation can be seen with the third floor, which replaced the 1860s mansard roof from the first photo. Otherwise, though, not much has changed here in this scene, and the statue of Daniel Webster still stands here overlooking downtown Concord.

New Hampshire State House, Concord, New Hampshire

The New Hampshire State House in Concord, around 1900-1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The State House in 2019:

Completed in 1819, the New Hampshire State House is among the oldest state capitol buildings in the country, and it is the oldest one with both of its original legislative chambers still in use. Despite this, though, the building has undergone substantial changes over the past two centuries, on both the interior and exterior. The original design was the work of architect Stuart James Park, and it was two stories in height, with a cupola at the top and an exterior of locally-quarried granite.

By the mid-19th century building had become too small, and the city of Manchester offered to build a new capitol building if the state government relocated to the much larger industrial city to the south. However, the state ultimately chose to remain in Concord, and hired noted architect Gridley J. F. Bryant to renovate the building. His expansion, which is shown in the first photo, was completed in 1866. It included a mansard roof, which allowed for more interior space, along with the addition of a columned portico here on the east facade. Bryant also replaced the old cupola with a much larger dome, although he retained the wooden eagle that had originally sat atop the cupola.

By the time the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, the building was again too small, which reignited the debate about moving the capital to Manchester. Once again, though, the building was expanded instead of being abandoned, and this time the renovations were designed by the Boston architectural firm of Peabody and Stearns. Most significantly, this project included a large addition to the rear of the building for the governor’s office, Executive Council chambers, and other government offices.

The other major change, which is much more visible from this angle, involved removing the 1860s mansard roof and adding a full third floor, topped with a flat roof and a granite balustrade along the roofline. Like the rest of the building, the third floor was constructed of granite, but the blocks were sourced from a different quarry. As a result, the present-day photo shows a noticeable difference in the shade of the granite between the second and third floors.

This project was completed in 1910, and the building has remained in use ever since. Today, aside from the age of its legislative chambers, the building is also significant for housing by far the largest state legislature in the country. With 400 representatives and 24 senators, the New Hampshire General Court is nearly twice the size of the next two largest state legislatures, and its House of Representatives is almost the same size of the United States House of Representatives.

Well over a century after the first photo was taken, the removal of the mansard roof is still the only significant change to this scene. Otherwise, this scene has remained essentially the same as it looked at the turn of the 20th century, and even the two statues are still standing in front of the State House, honoring two famous native New Hampshirites. On the left is General John Stark, and further in the distance on the right is Daniel Webster. The gold dome is also still topped with an eagle, although the current one is a copper replica of the original wooden one, which was removed in 1957 and put on display inside the State House.

Benjamin Franklin Grave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The grave of Benjamin Franklin in Christ Church Burial Ground, seen through the iron fence along Arch Street, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

As discussed more detail in the previous post, Christ Church Burying Ground is the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin, who is interred here alongside his wife Deborah under the stone slab on the other side of the fence. Although located just a few feet from the sidewalk, his gravestone was originally hidden from the street by the brick wall that encircles the graveyard. Over time, the gravesite languished in this corner of the graveyard, and was largely forgotten. However, in an effort to boost civic pride in the city’s famous statesman, this section of the wall was replaced by an iron fence in 1858, allowing passers-by to easily view the gravesite.

By the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, Franklin’s grave was an important tourist attraction in the city. As shown in the photo, though, the 125-year-old brick wall had fallen into disrepair. It would continue to crumble over the next few decades until it was finally rebuilt in 1927, using many of the original materials in the process. The rest of the graveyard continued to deteriorate, though, and it was closed to the public from 1977 until 2003, when it finally reopened following an extensive conservation project.

Restoration work has continued since then, including repairs to Franklin’s gravestone that were completed in 2017 and largely funded by Jon Bon Jovi. Today, the scene looks very similar to the first photo, aside from the lost buildings in the background along Fifth Street. The graveyard is open to the public for a small fee, and it features both self-guided and group tours that highlight the many famous people buried here, including Franklin and a number of other prominent 18th and early 19th century Americans.

Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (3)

The south side of Independence Hall, seen from Independence Square around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

This view is similar to the one in a previous post, but this one shows the scene horizontally from a little further back, revealing more of the surrounding buildings near Independence Hall. As discussed in that post and another one, Independence Hall was the site of some of the country’s most important events in the years during and immediately after the American Revolution.

Independence Hall was completed in 1753 as the meeting place of the Pennsylvania colonial legislature, but at the start of the American Revolution it took on a second role as the de facto national capitol. The Second Continental Congress convened here on May 10, 1775, less than a month after the start of the war. The delegates met in the Assembly Room on the first floor of the building, which is located directly to the right of the tower in this scene. The building is most famous for the fact that the Declaration of Independence was voted on and signed here during the summer of 1776, but the building continued to be used by the Continental Congress throughout the Revolution, aside from two interruptions during British occupations of Philadelphia.

Congress finally left Philadelphia in June 1783, after a mob of about 400 soldiers descended upon the building, demanding payment for their wartime service. The state of Pennsylvania refused to deploy its militia to protect Congress, so the delegates left the city on June 21, and reconvened nine days later at Nassau Hall in Princeton, which became the first of several temporary national capitols over the next two years. Independence Hall would never again serve as the federal capitol building, but it nonetheless played another important role in 1787, when delegates from 12 of the 13 states met here for the Constitutional Convention. The result of this four-month convention was the current United States Constitution, which was signed here on September 17, 1787.

In the meantime, Independence Hall continued to serve as the seat of the state government. The federal government also returned to Philadelphia, although not to Independence Hall. Instead, two newer and smaller buildings were constructed, flanking Independence Hall. On the west side, barely visible on the extreme left side of the photos, is Congress Hall. This was the national capitol building from 1790 until 1800, with the House of Representatives occupying the large chamber on the first floor, and the Senate in a smaller chamber on the upper floor. On the opposite side of Independence Hall, on the extreme right side of the photos, is the Old City Hall. On the exterior, it is essentially identical to Congress Hall, and it was originally built to house the city government. However, during the 1790s it was also occupied by the Supreme Court, which had its courtroom on the ground floor.

The state government ultimately left Philadelphia in 1799 and moved to a more central location in Lancaster. Then, a year later, the federal government moved to Washington D.C., despite the best efforts by Philadelphians to retain the city’s status as the capital. No longer needed for governmental purposes, Independence Hall was threatened by demolition during the early 19th century. By this point the original wooden steeple was already gone, having been removed in 1781 and replaced by a low roof. Then, in 1812 the original wings on either side of Independence Hall were demolished, although the rest of the building was spared a similar fate after the city purchased it from the state in 1816.

It often takes many years before the significance of historic buildings is recognized, and in many cases this comes too late. For Independence Hall, though, it seems that its significance was widely understood by the 1820s. It was around this time that it came to be known as Independence Hall, rather than as the State House, and in 1825 the public square here in the foreground was formally named Independence Square. Three years later, a new steeple was constructed based on the plans of the original one, and it still stands atop the tower today.

By the time the first photo was taken around 1905, this scene had undergone further changes. Most significantly, the buildings that had replaced the old wings in 1812 were demolished in 1898, and new wings were constructed as replicas of the originals. Another change would come two years after the photo was taken, when the statue of Commodore John Barry was installed here in Independence Square, as shown in the 2019 photo.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, Independence Hall still looks essentially the same. Both Congress Hall and the Old City Hall have also been preserved, and all three of these buildings are now part of the Independence National Historical Park. However, one notable difference in this scene from the first photo is the row of buildings beyond Independence Hall on the other side of Chestnut Street. All of these buildings, along with two more entire blocks further to the north, were demolished in the mid-20th century in an effort to improve the aesthetics of the area surrounding Independence Hall. However, in an example of historic buildings not being recognized until they are gone, the project included the removal of the remnants of the old President’s House, where George Washington and John Adams had lived during the 1790s. This site, at the corner of Sixth and Market Streets, is now marked by a partial reconstruction of some of the house’s architectural elements.