Railroad Station, Chatham Mass (1)

The former railroad station in Chatham, probably around the 1940s. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The station in 2015:

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The former railroad station in Chatham is the only original railroad station left on Cape Cod, which is a little unusual given that today it is over 12 miles from the nearest active rail line. Built in 1887, the station was once the terminus of a 7.1 mile-long spur that was operated by the Chatham Railroad Colony, and connected the town of Chatham to the Old Colony Railroad, which ran the entire length of Cape Cod.  The line was later acquired by the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad, who operated it until 1937.  The Boston Public Library estimates that Leslie Jones took the first photo between 1934 and 1956, but I’m guessing it was probably sometime in the 1940s or early 1950s, given that the building looks like it has been abandoned for some time.  However, it wouldn’t stay like that for long, and in 1960 the old station became the home of the Chatham Railroad Museum.  Today, it looks far better than it did when Leslie Jones visited around 70 years ago, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Visits Springfield

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s car travels down Elm Street past the Court Square Theater in 1940. Image courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

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The same scene in 2014:

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On October 30, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a stop in Springfield on his way to Boston to give a campaign speech. Just six days before the election, he stopped to inspect the Springfield Armory and give a speech. The top photo shows him passing by Court Square along Elm Street, with the Court Square Theater in the background. The building is still there today, but the theater section itself is gone – it was demolished in 1957, and is now a parking lot. The main entrance for the theater, which is seen in the background of the 1940 photo, is now the entrance to the parking lot.

Roosevelt, however, is far from the only past, present, or future president to visit Court Square. George Washington once lodged at Parsons Tavern, which occupied part of what is now Court Square. According to one 19th century account, Washington “tasted liquid refreshments of a strong flavor” at the tavern. In addition, President William Howard Taft, several months after leaving office, presided over the dedication ceremonies for City Hall and Symphony Hall. On the day before the 1960 election, then-Senator John F. Kennedy spoke from the steps of City Hall to a crowd gathered in Court Square. More recently, just two days before the 1996 election, President Clinton also gave a speech in front of City Hall, in support of Senator John Kerry.

Football at Fenway (2)

A football game at Fenway Park, sometime between 1947 and 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same view in 2006:

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As mentioned in my previous post, football was a common occurrence at Fenway Park. However, this photo was taken a couple decades after the other one – a couple telltale signs are the right field bullpens and the light tower, which was not added to Fenway until 1947.  I don’t know the exact date of the first photo, or whether this was a college or professional game, but it could be a Boston Yanks game.  The Yanks were a short-lived NFL team that played at Fenway Park from 1944 to 1948, which would put it within the time frame of the first photo, and the scoreboard above the bleachers has “Boston” and “Visitor” as the two teams, which suggests this was a professional team that regularly played home games here.

Old South Meeting House, Boston

The view looking north on Washington Street toward Old South Meeting House, sometime shortly before the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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The same view, in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.

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Around 1875. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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Sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.

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The same scene in 2011:

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The Great Boston Fire of 1872 was the most disastrous fire in Boston history.  It came just a year after the Great Chicago Fire, although Boston’s fire couldn’t hold a candle to Chicago’s (pun intended) when it came to the death toll and property losses.  Boston’s fire killed about 30, destroyed 776 buildings, and caused about $73.5 million in damages (about $1.4 billion in 2013 dollars).  Chicago, by comparison, killed 200-330, destroyed 17,500 buildings, and caused about $222 million in damage (around $4.2 billion today).

Still, Boston’s fire was extensive in its damage – it destroyed much of downtown Boston, including sections of Washington Street as seen in the first two photos.  However, the historic Old South Meeting House, built in 1729, survived thanks to volunteers using wet blankets to fend off the flames.

By the time the 1875 photo was taken, Boston was rebuilding, but so was Old South Church.  Because the fire destroyed so many homes, people began relocating to the newly filled in Back Bay, and the church followed them, constructing the oxymoronically-named New Old South Church at Copley Square.  No longer needed, the historic building was sold and was to be demolished.  However, given the building’s role in the events leading up the the Revolutionary War, Bostonians rallied to preserve it, making it one of the first such buildings to be preserved for its historical significance.

In the last two photos, most of the buildings in the foreground remain the same, although the skyline in the background has changed.  The building immediately to the right of the church is actually the same in the last three photos, and it looks similar to the burned-out building that occupied the spot before the fire.  I don’t know whether it is the same facade, or if it was just rebuilt with a similar style, but at the very least the existing building dates to the immediate aftermath of the fire.  As for the church, today it functions as a museum, although the congregation holds its annual Thanksgiving service at the building.

Union Oyster House, Boston

Union Oyster House in Boston, sometime in the 19th century. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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The historic building around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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In 1930, courtesy of Boston Public Library:

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Sometime between 1934 and 1956. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The Union Oyster House in 2010:

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The above four photos show over 100 years of the history of the oldest restaurant in the United States, the Union Oyster House in Boston.  Although the restaurant opened in 1826, the building itself is far older, having been built around 1704.  The second floor was once used as the publishing office of the Massachusetts Spy in the 1770’s, and in 1796 the future King Louis Philippe of France lived in exile, also on the second floor.  Since becoming a restaurant, the Union Oyster House (originally Atwood & Bacon Oyster House, as seen in the 1898 photo) has served many notable patrons, including Daniel Webster, John F. Kennedy, and other members of the Kennedy family.

National Mall from the Washington Monument

The National Mall, looking toward the Capitol Building, as seen from the Washington Monument between 1906 and 1915:

The scene in 1945. Image taken by Reginald Hotchkiss, courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA/OWI Collection.

The scene in 2021:

The National Mall is one of the most-visited places in Washington DC, yet it did not always have its carefully-manicured appearance, as shown in the first photo. Several major landmarks were already standing here along the Mall, most notably the National Museum of Natural History on the left and the Smithsonian Castle on the right, with the Arts and Industries Building just beyond it to the right. Further in the distance of the first photo is the Capitol, with the Library of Congress behind it. However, most of the Mall was still vacant at this point, and it would be many more decades before all of the current Smithsonian museums were constructed here.

The second photo, taken in 1945, shows several newer buildings in this scene, including the National Archives on the far left, the National Gallery of Art just beyond the Museum of Natural History, and the Supreme Court Building behind the Capitol. Aside from these major institutional buildings, though, the Mall area also became the site of many temporary War Department buildings during World War I and II. Some of these can be seen in the second photo, particularly in the lower left and upper middle of the photo. During the first half of the 20th century, the landscaping of the Mall also changed significantly, and in the 1930s a number of elm trees were planted in rows along the Mall, as shown in the second photo.

Today, more than 75 years after the second photo was taken, the Mall is home to even more museums, many of which were constructed on the sites of the temporary wartime buildings. In the lower left corner of the scene is the Museum of American History, and in the upper right is the Hirshorn Museum, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Further in the distance on the left, the National Gallery of Art has since expanded, and now has a second building to the east of its original facility. Despite these additions, though, the scene is still easily recognizable from the second photo, and even many of the elm trees are still standing, despite being threatened by Dutch Elm Disease.