North Main Street, Fall River, Mass

Looking north on North Main Street from the corner of Bank Street in Fall River, around 1914-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

Throughout the 19th century, Fall River was a prosperous textile manufacturing center. The city saw dramatic population growth during this time, particularly in the post-Civil War period. Between 1860 and 1900, the city grew nearly eightfold, from 14,000 to nearly 105,000, and by the turn of the century it was the third-largest city in Massachusetts, behind only Boston and Worcester.

However, the same textile industry that had brought such prosperity also led to the city’s decline, as mills closed and businesses relocated to the south starting in the 1920s. This, combined with a catastrophic fire that destroyed much of the downtown area in 1928, both hurt the local economy, and these problems were only exacerbated by the stock market crash at the end of the decade.

The first photo was taken in the final years of the textile industry’s heyday in Fall River, probably sometime between 1914 and 1920. The earliest possible date is 1914, when the Fall River Five Cents Savings Bank building was built on the far right side of the scene, at the corner of North Main and Bank Streets. The neighboring building to the left of it was also built in 1914, and in the first photo it was occupied by the Fall River Electric Light Company.

Just beyond the electric company building is the Mount Hope Block, which was perhaps the oldest building in the first photo. It was built in 1845, in the aftermath of a large fire two years earlier, and it was originally known as the Mount Hope House. At the time, it was one of two hotels in Fall River, and in 1847 a state gazetteer declared that “in the erection and furnishing no pains have been spared to make it a desirable place for any one disposed to spend a few days.” Later in the 19th century it was known as the Narragansett Hotel, and by the early 20th century it was the Evans House. The building initially occupied the entire length of the block between Bank and Franklin Streets, but the southern portion was demolished to build the bank and the electric company buildings, leaving only the northern half as shown in the first photo.

Beyond the Mount Hope Block, on the other side of Franklin Street, the largest building in the first photo is the Hotel Mellen. It opened in 1888, and was the city’s finest hotel throughout the first half of the 20th century. The building survived the 1928 fire, but it was subsequently gutted by a fire in 1943, leaving only the brick walls still standing. The hotel was rebuilt inside the brick shell of the old building, although the new one was six stories in height, rather than five.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, there is very little that survives from the first photo, especially in the foreground. The bank is still standing at the corner, but the former electric company building and the Mount Hope Block are both gone. Both of these buildings were here when the Downtown Fall River Historic District was created in 1983, but they were demolished at some point after that, and the site is now occupied by a large wing of the bank building. This facility still serves as the main offices of the Fall River Five Cents Savings Bank, which is now branded as BankFive.

Further in the distance, the reconstructed Hotel Mellen is also gone. The hotel closed around the early 1960s, and the building was converted into a temporary city hall after the old city hall building was demolished to build Interstate 195. The current Brutalist-style city hall was completed in 1976, and the old hotel was then demolished soon after. Beyond the Hotel Mellen, there are several surviving buildings from the first photo, but for the most part this side of North Main Street has undergone signficiant changes, unlike the right-hand side of the street, which has been better-preserved over the years.

First Congregational Church, Fall River, Mass

The First Congregational Church, seen looking up Cherry Street from the corner of June Street, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The church in 2020:

The First Congregational Church of Fall River was established in 1816, and throughout most of the 19th century the church worshipped in a building at the northwest corner of North Main and Elm Streets. However, in 1913 the church moved into this new building, which was donated by one of its parishioners, Sarah S. Brayton. The building was designed by the prominent Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, and it features a granite, Gothic Revival exterior. It was formally dedicated on January 9, 1913, on the 97th anniversary of the church’s founding. Among those in attendance was Sarah Brayton, who was 78 years old at the time, and the dedication sermon was delivered by the Rev. Nehemiah Boynton of the Clinton Avenue Congregational Church in Brooklyn.

The first photo was taken within a few years after the building was completed. It is a rather strange angle, because it shows the rear and side of the church, with the parish house in the foreground on the left. Further up in the distance, on the other side of Rock Street, is the B.M.C. Durfee High School, which was built in 1886. The three girls on the sidewalk are likely students at the school, and are apparently walking home at the end of the school day. During the early 20th century, the Durfee High School ended at 1:25 p.m., and the photo was taken ten minutes later at 1:35, according to the school’s clock tower.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, almost nothing has changed in this scene except for the trees, which now partially hide the buildings. The church is still an active congregation, and the exterior of the building has remained well-preserved. Further up the hill, the old high school building was converted into a family and probate courthouse in the 1990s, but it has retained its historic exterior appearance. The high school building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981, and two years later both it and the church were designated as contributing properties in the Highlands Historic District.

Rock Street from Pine Street, Fall River, Mass

Looking north on Rock Street from the corner of Pine Street in Fall River, around 1913-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2020:

The first photo shows a street scene in Fall River with an interesting assortment of commercial storefronts, single-family homes, and multi-family homes, along with a church and a school. The buildings also vary widely in age; some date back to the 1840s, while others were built just a few years before the photo was taken. Remarkably, though, all of the buildings from the first photo are still standing today, and this scene does not look substantially different from its appearance more than a century ago.

The city of Fall River developed into a major textile manufacturing center during the early 19th century, and some of the oldest buildings in this scene were built during that time. In the distance, on the left side of the street, is a group of four houses, located at 222, 232, 242, and 254 Rock Street. The oldest of these, number 222, is hidden from view by the building in the foreground, but it was built around 1815. Just beyond it, and also hidden here, is number 232, built around 1848. Both of these buildings have had significant exterior alterations, but the two that are visible in the distance of this scene, at 242 and 254 Rock Street, were built in the mid-1840s and have remained well-preserved over the years. In particular, 254 Rock Street survives as an excellent example of Carpenter Gothic architecture.

On the right side of the street, the oldest building here is at 223 Rock Street, which is the three-story building just beneath the clock tower. It was built around 1845, but it was originally located at 151 Rock Street. It was moved to its current location in 1913, so its presence here in the first photo establishes the earliest possible date for the photo.

Closer to the foreground, on the far right side of the scene, is 201-203 Rock Street. It was built around 1861, and its original owner was Albert Winslow, a former New Bedford whaling ship captain who retired to Fall River. According to the 1861 city directory he ran a grocery store here at the house, presumably in the basement storefront, and the 1870 census shows him living here with his wife Permela, their five children, and his sister Rowena. By 1900 both Albert and Permela were still living here, as were their three daughters: Hope, Amelia, and Ella. Permela died in 1902, and Albert in 1908, but the three sisters were still here when the first photo was taken. They evidently rented a portion of the house, because both the 1910 and 1920 censuses show a second family living here.

Until the late 19th century, this section of Rock Street primarily consisted of small wood-frame houses. However, in 1886 the city constructed the B.M.C. Durfee High School a block to the north of here. Most of the building is hidden from view in this scene, but its prominent clock tower is visible in the distance on the right side of the photos.  Another major addition to this scene is the First Congregational Church, which stands opposite the high school building in the distance on the left side of Rock Street. The church was designed by the prominent architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, and it was dedicated in January 1913, probably only a few years before the first photo was taken. Aside from the school and church, the other new building in the first photo was the Gee Building, the two-story commercial building in the foreground on the left side. It was built in 1910, at the northeast corner of Rock and Pine Streets.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, some of the buildings here have undergone changes, but overall this section of Rock Street remains well-preserved. In the foreground, probably the most visible difference is the ground floor of the Gee Building, which has been completely altered from its early 20th century appearance. The storefront on the Winslow house across the street has also changed, but not to the same extent. Further in the distance, both the church and the high school are still standing, although the high school has since been converted into a probate and family courthouse. The only building in this scene that was constructed after the first photo was taken is the house in the distance at 253-255 Rock Street, which was built in 1923. Because of their preservation and historic significance, all of the buildings on this block of Rock Street are now part of the Lower Highlands Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens House, Cornish, New Hampshire (2)

The home of Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish, around the early 20th century. Image from The Reminiscences of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Volume 2 (1913).

The house in 2019:

As explained in more detail in the previous post, this house was the home of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, who used it as a summer home starting in 1885, and as his full-time residence from 1900 until his death in 1907. The house itself is far older, dating back to the early 19th century, but Saint-Gaudens made substantial improvements to both the house and the grounds. Here in this scene, this included piazzas on both sides of the house, a dormer window above the front door, and stepped parapets next to the chimneys. He also planted Lombardy poplars at the corners of the house, and a honey locust to the right of the front steps.

The first photo was probably taken soon after Saint-Gaudens’s death, and it was published in his biography in 1913, which was written by his son Homer. In 1919, his widow Augusta established the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Memorial, and two years later she transferred the property to this organization, which preserved the house and grounds. Then, in 1964 the site became the Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park, and it was subsequently acquired by the National Park Service.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, this scene has hardly changed, except for the loss of the Lombardy poplars. The exterior of the house still looks essentially the same as it did in the early 20th century, and even the honey locust is still here, although it has grown substantially larger than the house. The site is still run by the National Park Service, and it remains the only National Park System unit in the state of New Hampshire.

Washington Irving Grave, Sleepy Hollow, New York

The gravesite of Washington Irving in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

Washington Irving was the first widely-successful American fiction writer, best known for his short stories such as “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” His lifetime coincided with the early years of the country; he was born in New York City in 1783, just months before the Treaty of Paris, and he died in 1859, less than a year and a half before the start of the Civil War. Throughout this time, he published many works, including short story collections, biographies, and histories. He served in the War of 1812, as recognized by the flag next to his headstone, and many years later he served as the US minister to Spain during the John Tyler administration, from 1842 to 1846.

Although he grew up in New York City, and spent a number of years in Europe, Irving spent much of his later life in the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. In 1835 he purchased Sunnyside, his estate in nearby Tarrytown. With the exception of his time in Spain, it was his home for the rest of his life, and after his death he was buried here in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. The cemetery is located directly adjacent to the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow and its churchyard, both of which Irving featured in his “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”

Washington Irving never married, and he had no children, but he is interred here in the cemetery with a number of other family members. When the first photo was taken in the early 20th century, these included his parents William Irving and Sarah Sanders immediately to the left of his gravestone, and his brother Ebenezer Irving and Ebenezer’s wife Elizabeth Kip to the right.

In the second row of the first photo, starting on the left, is Lewis Irving, the grandson of Washington Irving’s older brother William. Further to the right in the second row are Mary and Julia Irving, who were daughters of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Irving. On the far right is William R. Grinnell, the husband of Mary and Julia’s sister Charlotte. The two rounded headstones in the back row are Julia Granger and her husband Sanders Irving, and to the right are Amanda Tenant and her husband Edgar Irving. Both Sanders and Edgar were sons of Ebenezer and Elizabeth. There is also a flag in the back row, which might be a temporary marker for Washington Irving, the son of Edgar and Amanda, who died in 1910. The first photo was taken around this time, so it may have been taken after he died but before a permanent stone was installed.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much of this scene has remained the same; even the pine tree in the background appears to be the same one in both photos. However, the headstones are significantly more weathered than they had been in the early 20th century, and there have been several more interments here in the Irving family plot. Immediately behind and to the right of Washington Irving’s headstone is Catherine Irving, the last surviving child of Ebenezer and Elizabeth, who died in 1911 at the age of 95.

In the back row is the headstone of the younger Washington Irving, in the place of the flag from the first photo. Further to the left in the back row is his sister, Mary Irving Huntington. She died in 1932 at the age of 82, and hers is the most recent headstone in this scene. She was ten years old when her famous great uncle died in 1859, so she may have been the last living member of the family who would have had memories of Washington Irving.

East India Marine Hall, Salem, Mass

East India Marine Hall on Essex Street in Salem, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is one of the oldest museums in the United States, with a complex lineage that traces back to 1799, with the formation of the East India Marine Society. At the time, Salem was one of the most prosperous seaports in the country, with merchants who were among the first Americans to trade with southeast Asia. The society was established by local captains with several goals, including sharing navigational information, providing aid to families of members who died, and collecting artifacts and other interesting objects from the East Indies. Membership was limited to captains and supercargoes of Salem vessels who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn.

The organization moved into its first permanent home in 1825 with the completion of East India Marine Hall, shown here in these two photos. The building was formally dedicated on October 14 of that year, in a ceremony that was attended by many noted dignitaries. These included President John Quincy Adams; Congressman and former Secretary of the Navy Benjamin W. Crowninshield; Associate Justice Joseph Story of the U. S. Supreme Court; former Senator, Postmaster General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering; and famed navigator and mathematician Nathaniel Bowditch.

The building was designed by Boston architect Thomas Waldron Sumner, and it features a Federal-style design with a granite exterior here on the main facade, which faces Essex Street. Originally, the main entrance was located in the center of the building on the ground floor, and it was flanked by storefronts on either side. These storefronts have long since been altered, but the names of the first two commercial tenants—the Asiatic Bank and the Oriental Insurance Company—are still carved in the granite above the ground floor. The East India Marine Society itself was located on the second floor, which consisted of a large open hall.

Despite the grand celebration for the completion of this building, though, Salem was already in decline as a seaport. Both the Embargo Act of 1807 and the subsequent War of 1812 had crippled Salem’s shipping, and it never fully recovered, with much of the international trade shifting to other northeastern ports, such as Boston and New York. Elsewhere in New England, the region’s economy was transitioning from trade to manufacturing, and Salem’s growth had stagnated by the mid-19th century, even as nearby industrial cities such as Lowell experienced rapid increases in population.

Because of this, the East India Marine Society faced dwindling membership, and by the 1850s it began considering selling objects from its collections in order to remain financially viable. However, prominent London financier George Peabody—a native of the neighboring town of Peabody—intervened, and in 1867 he established a $140,000 trust fund. The museum was then reorganized as the Peabody Academy of Science, for the “Promotion of Science and Useful Knowledge in the County of Essex.” As part of this, the natural history collections of the Essex Institute, which had been established in Salem in 1848, were transferred to the Peabody. In exchange, the Essex Institute received the Peabody’s history collections.

The Peabody Academy of Science continued to use the East India Marine Hall, but over the years it made some significant alterations to the building. In the mid-1880s the museum added a wing, known as Academy Hall, to the southeast corner of the original building. It stands in the distance on the left side of the first photo, and the sign for it is visible just beneath the awning. Then, in 1904 the storefronts were removed and replaced with museum exhibit rooms, and around this time the original front entrance was also closed. A new one-story entryway was then built on the right side of the building, as shown in the first photo. This photo also shows a large anchor in front of the building. It was made sometime around the turn of the 19th century, and it was donated to the museum by the United States Navy in 1906.

In 1915, around the same time that the first photo was taken, the Peabody Academy of Science was renamed the Peabody Museum of Salem. Throughout the 20th century, the museum continued to expand with more additions, reaching as far back as Charter Street on the other side of the block. From here on Essex Street, probably the most visible change was the addition of a large Brutalist-style wing on the left side of the original building, which was completed in 1976.

Then, in 1992 the Peabody Museum of Salem merged with the Essex Institute, forming the Peabody Essex Museum. Since then, its facility has grown even more, with new wings that were completed in 2003 and 2019. This most recent addition, which opened the same year that the second photo was taken, was built on the right side of this scene. It involved the demolition of the old 1904 entryway from the first photo, and now the original East India Marine Hall is almost completely surrounded by newer buildings. However, the main facade has remained largely unchanged throughout this time, and it remains an important landmark in downtown Salem nearly two centuries after its completion.