Theodore Roosevelt in Boston

Former President Theodore Roosevelt leaves a house on Beacon Street in Boston, in 1916. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The same house in 2014:


As mentioned in this post, Beacon Hill has long been the home of some of Boston’s most prominent citizens.  Among those in the early 1900s was Dr. William Sturgis Bigelow (the man holding the door in the background), a physician and friend of Theodore Roosevelt, who is seen here walking down the steps to Beacon Street.  According to contemporary newspaper accounts, Roosevelt made several visits to Dr. Bigelow’s home on 56 Beacon Street after leaving the presidency.

Today, the exterior of the townhouse is virtually unchanged in the nearly 100 years since Roosevelt’s visit.  As of July 2014, the house, which was built in 1819, is for sale – for a mere $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.


The same scene in 2014:


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.

Milk/State Station, Boston

The southbound platform of what is today the State station on the Orange Line.  At the time that the photo was taken, around 1912, it was known as Milk station. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The station in 2014:


As mentioned in this post, the modern-day Green Line was the first subway in Boston and in North America.  It was opened in 1897, and was followed by the present-day Blue Line in 1904.  However, these were essentially underground trolley lines, as opposed to heavy rail rapid transit most commonly associated with subway systems.  Boston’s first true heavy rail rapid transit line was the Washington Street Elevated, which opened in 1901 and, as the name suggests, was elevated above Washington Street.  However, through downtown it was routed through the present-day Green Line’s Tremont Street Subway.

This changed in 1908, when the Washington Street Tunnel was opened, allowing elevated trains to bypass the trolley tunnels.  One unusual feature of this line, though, was that the northbound and southbound platforms were treated as different stations, with different names.  In the case of the 1912 photo above, northbound passengers would access the subway through the State station, located at State Street under the Old State House.  However, southbound passengers would enter a couple blocks away, at Milk Street, near Old South Meeting House, which meant the station, as seen on the walls in the 1912 photo, was called “Milk.”

Today, renovations have connected the two platforms, so that passengers can access trains in either direction from any entrance.  However, the southbound platform, as seen here, has survived largely unchanged in over 100 years.  The only major difference is the tunnel connecting to the northbound platform, which is barely visible in the 2014 photo off in the distance.

Park Street Subway Station, Boston (2)

Another view of the interior of the Park Street station, around 1898. Photo from The New England Magazine, Volume 25, Issue 5.


The station in 2015:


This photo was taken just across the center tracks from the photos in this post, standing on the edge of the outbound platform facing in the inbound direction.  The stairs in the very distance, which lead up to Boston Common, are the same ones visible in the other post.

As mentioned previously, Park Street is one of the two oldest subway stations in North America, having opened in 1897.  Today, the Green Line platform configuration remains mostly the same, with two island platforms surrounded by tracks on both sides.  The two center tracks lead to a turning loop, which can be used by inbound trains to reverse direction.  Both tracks along the outbound platform are served by all trains; Boston does not have express trains.

Park Street Subway Station, Boston (1)

The Park Street station, around the time that it opened in 1897. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The same view in 2014:


Although New York has by far the busiest subway system in the country, Boston’s actually came first.  The idea was to relieve congestion on Boston’s surface streets by putting trolleys underground.  Known as the Tremont Street Subway, trolleys entered the tunnel in two separate locations, at the corner of Arlington and Boylston Streets and at the corner of Tremont and Pleasant Streets.  The two lines converged at Boylston Station, and then continued up to Park Street.

Boylston and Park Street were the first two stations to be opened, on September 1, 1897, and consequently they are the oldest subway stations in North America.  The following year, the tunnel was extended to North Station.

Today, much of the original tunnel is still used by the MBTA Green Line, which still runs light rail trolleys, as opposed to the heavy rapid transit trains that Boston’s other subway lines operate.  The branch to Pleasant Street is closed south of Boylston, and the tunnel and stations north of Government Center (originally Scollay Square) have been substantially changed.

As far as the Park Street station, the overall platform configuration remains mostly the same as it was 117 years ago.  However, there have been a number of changes to the station, with probably the most significant one being the addition of the lower level in 1912 for the Red Line, as it is now known.  One of the stairways to the Red Line platforms is visible on the far left of the 2014 photo.  Today, it is one of the main hubs on the Green Line, and is the main transfer point between the Green and Red Lines.

As a side note, both photos were taken from the inbound platform. The station’s layout is unusual in that both platforms have tracks on both sides; these photos face across the two center tracks toward the outbound platform and the stairs leading up to Boston Common.

USS Constitution, Charlestown Navy Yard

The USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, sometime between 1897 and 1906. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.


A similar view in 2014:


The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy, having been launched in 1797 as one of the original six frigates authorized by Congress.  She is also the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, the adjective “afloat” being necessary because of HMS Victory, which was commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1778 and remains so today, although she has been in drydock since the 1920s.

The Constitution played an important role in the early years of the US Navy, particularly in 1812, when she earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” after cannonballs bounced off the strong live oak timbers, giving the impression that she had an iron hull.  She served both in a combat role and also later on as a training ship, although by 1881 was no longer fit for active duty.

It was at this point that the large structure seen in the first photo was built across the top of the ship, and the Constitution was used as a receiving ship to house new naval recruits.  However, the ship was deteriorating, and in 1897 she was brought to Boston, where the future of the then-100 year old ship was in serious doubt.  Some proposed turning the ship into a museum ship, while the Secretary of the Navy suggested sinking her as a target ship.  Eventually, in 1906, the ship was restored and the large structure on top was removed.

Today, the Constitution is still in Boston, and although the navy yard is now a national park, the ship still has an active US Navy crew, who give tours to visitors.  Many of the surroundings are the same; the Bunker Hill Monument is still a prominent landmark, surrounded by Charlestown’s low-rise development, and many of the buildings in the navy yard are still there, including the one that is barely visible behind and to the right of the ship in the first photo; this building is the one that is directly behind the Constitution in the 2014 photo.