Looking South From the Empire State Building

The view looking south from the Empire State Building around 1931.  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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The view in 2011:

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For all of the changes that have taken place in New York City over the past 80 years, these two photos really don’t look all that different.  The buildings in lower Manhattan have certainly become taller, but even many of the skyscrapers from the 1931 photo are still there.  In the center foreground, many of the buildings along Fifth Avenue are still there, including the Flatiron Building, which was old even when the first photo was taken.  The Statue of Liberty is still there on the right in the distance, although the far left side has one major change: the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island.  Both views give an idea of the massive scale of the Empire State Building; the first was taken around the time the building was completed, and it towered over everything else in Midtown – even the 21-story Flatiron Building looks diminutive when viewed from here.  When the second photo was taken in 2011, the Empire State Building was still the tallest in the city, although it had been surpassed by both World Trade Center towers from 1972 to 2001, and in 2013 it would again be surpassed by the new World Trade Center building, which is visible under construction in this 2011 view.

French Protestant Church, Springfield Mass

The former French Protestant Church on Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The church in 2015:

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This church on Bliss Street was built in 1887 as the French Protestant Church, thanks in part to the efforts of Daniel B. Wesson, whose Smith & Wesson factory was just on the other side of Main Street from here.  Many of his workers were French-Canadian Protestants, and he wanted them to have a French alternative to the Roman Catholic church.  However, the congregation disbanded in 1909, and several other churches used the building until 1919, when it was purchased by the First Spiritualist Society, who remained at the Bliss Street location until 2013.  The property was purchased by MGM Springfield, and while several historic buildings will be demolished to build the casino, the church will be moved to a new location on the MGM property and renovated as a restaurant.

Springfield Rescue Mission, Springfield Mass

The former WCA boarding house at 19 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The building at 19 Bliss Street has had a variety of roles over the years.  It was built in 1884, as a boarding house for the Women’s Christian Association.  As Springfield’s population and economy grew in the late 19th century, so did the demand for workers.  The WCA provided a place for young, single women to live while working in the city, and this building served that purpose until the larger YWCA building was completed a block away on Howard Street in 1907.  The old building was then used as a private boarding house for many years, as seen in the first photo.  In 1962, the Springfield Rescue Mission acquired the building, and it has been used by them ever since.  There have been a few changes over the years, the most obvious of which is the removal of the front porch; the “shadow” of the porch can still be seen on the front of the building.  Another fairly recent change was the installation of new windows, which required some brick infilling of the window openings; this can be seen the clearest with the windows on the far left side.  It wasn’t planned this way, but notice how the cars in both photos are in essentially the same locations, representing changes in automobiles over the course of three quarters of a century.  Also of note is the tree in the foreground, which appears to be the same tree that was there in the first photo.

However, the historic building sits literally right in the middle of the planned MGM casino, so it is among the buildings that will be demolished.  In exchange for the building, MGM purchased a new location for the Rescue Mission, the former Orr Cadillac dealership on Mill Street, which will allow the organization to expand from 40 to 60 beds.  Currently, the Bliss Street property scheduled to be the last to be demolished, sometime in December of 2015.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (2)

Howard Street School in Springfield, seen from Union Street around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Another view of the Howard Street School, seen from the Union Street side (see this post for a view from Howard Street).  As mentioned in the other post, the school was built in 1905 and was severely damaged in the 2011 tornado.  It is scheduled to be demolished by MGM Springfield as soon as the Massachusetts Historical Commission gives them the green light, and the MGM parking garage will be built on the site.  It shouldn’t be too controversial, though; even if not for MGM, there would be no saving the building – the tornado left it damaged beyond repair, and it was never seen as a particularly historic structure to begin with.  The second photo was taken on March 24, 2015, the day of the official groundbreaking ceremony that took place on the other side of the school.

Howard Street School, Springfield Mass (1)

The Howard Street School, seen from Howard Street, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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The Howard Street School was built in 1905, and was one of many school buildings built in Springfield around the turn of the 20th century, which included Forest Park School, Classical High School, Chestnut Junior High School, and the Technical High School. This school was used for over 100 years, and was most recently known as the Zanetti School.  The Zanetti School moved to a new location in 2009, and two years later the 2011 tornado caused substantial damage to the building.  It has been vacant ever since, and it is now slated to be demolished to make way for a parking garage for the planned MGM Springfield casino.  The 2015 photo was taken on March 24, the day of the ceremonial groundbreaking, and the old school building is to be the first building demolished, once the Massachusetts Historical Commission signs off on it.

Bliss Street Parking Garage, Springfield Mass

The garage at 16 Bliss Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

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The building in 2015:

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Some then & now scenes are remarkable in how much they have changed, while others are remarkable in how little they’ve changed, like this scene on Bliss Street.  The two photos were taken over 75 years apart, yet nothing seems to have changed except for the cars.  Even the fence around the parking lot looks like it is the same one from the 1930s.  The building in the foreground is a parking garage, which was built in 1928, presumably to accommodate workers for the State Building, which was built in 1929 and can be seen behind the parking garage on the left-hand side of the photo.  The State Building at 95 State Street was built as the annex to 1200 Main Street, which at the time served as the main offices for MassMutual.

Although this particular scene has been virtually unchanged since before the Great Depression, it will be changing very dramatically this year.  All of the properties are within the footprint of the planned MGM casino, and the parking garage is currently scheduled to be demolished in June.  The State Building was originally slated to be demolished, but as of March 2015 it appears that it will be preserved as office space for MGM.  If the casino is finished according to the current plans, the location where this photo was taken will be part of the main gaming floor of the casino.