Boylston Market, Boston

Boylston Market, at the corner of Boylston and Washington Streets in Boston, around 1870. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

Boylston Market was built here in 1810, and it was designed by noted architect Charles Bulfinch. It functioned as a market on the first floor, and a meeting space and performance hall on the third floor, known as Boylston Hall. Both the building and the street were named for Ward Nicholas Boylston, a Boston philanthropist who gave substantial donations to Harvard in the early 19th century. Prior to its construction, the city’s primary marketplace was Faneuil Hall, which was a considerable distance away from here. At the time, this area was in the southern end of the city, and some of its residents, including future president John Quincy Adams, formed the Boylston Market Association to built the market here

Aside from its use as a marketplace, the building was also used by organizations such as the Handel and Hadyn Society, which held concerts in the third floor hall, and the New England Anti-Slavery Society, which held conventions in the same hall. In 1859, it was expanded, and in 1870 it was moved 11 feet south away from Boylston Street. This is presumably why the building to the left in the first photo, home of the White Bear Billiard Room, has a sign that reads “Building to be Torn Down.”

Although moving the large brick building was a significant undertaking, Boylston Market was demolished just 17 years later, in 1887. It was replaced by the Boylston Building, which served much the same function as its predecessor, with retail space on the first floor and warehouse and office space on the upper floors. As seen in the 2015 photo, it is still standing today, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is at least one surviving element from the original building, though. The cupola was saved, and it now forms the steeple of the Calvary Methodist Church in the nearby town of Arlington.

Old MIT Campus, Boston

The former Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, looking west on Boylston Street from near Berkeley Street in Boston, around 1890-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

The first permanent home for Massachusetts Institute of Technology was in this building in the foreground. Completed in 1866 and later named the Rogers Building in honor of the school’s founder, it matched the architectural style of the adjacent Museum of Natural History, which is still standing today just to the right of here. The school was established to fill a need for a college education that focused on modern developments in science and technology, and despite some initial challenges such as the Civil War in the 1860s and an economic recession in the 1870s, the school began to grow. In 1883, the campus expanded with the Walker Building, which can be seen to the left in the first photo, at the corner of Clarendon Street. Even this was not enough, though; from 1881 to 1897 enrollment nearly quadrupled, and by the early 1900s the school was spread out across 10 buildings in the Copley Square area.

In 1916, most of the school moved to a new campus across the river in Cambridge, although the Rogers Building was retained as the home of the School of Architecture until the 1930s, when it was sold to the New England Mutual Life Insurance Company. Both the Rogers and Walker Buildings were demolished in 1939, and the insurance company built their new headquarters here, as seen in the 2015 photo. New England mutual merged with Met Life in 1995, and today their former headquarters is mixed-use building with retail and office tenants.

Hotel Lenox, Boston

The Hotel Lenox at the corner of Exeter and Boylston Streets in Boston, around 1900-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The hotel in 2015:

By the early 20th century, the Copley Square area was home to a number of high-end hotels, including the Copley Square Hotel, Copley Plaza Hotel, Hotel Westminster, Hotel Vendome, and the Hotel Lenox, as seen here. The Hotel Lenox was built at the southwest corner of Boylston and Exeter Streets in 1900 by Lucius Boomer, the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. At the time, it was the tallest building in Boston, and it was also the last building on the south side of Boylston Street in the Back Bay. Beyond the hotel to the south and west was a large rail yard that was eventually redeveloped as the Prudential Center.

Over the years, the Hotel Lenox attracted a number of notable guests and residents. Famed opera singer Enrico Caruso stayed here during a 1907 visit to Boston, and in the decades that followed Babe Ruth was also a frequent guest. Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach lived here part-time for 13 years starting in 1955, during which time the Celtics won the NBA Finals nine times in ten seasons. Another resident during this time was actress Judy Garland, who lived here for three months in 1965.

The neighborhood around the Hotel Lenox has seen some dramatic changes over the years, but the hotel itself is still standing as one of the few surviving historic buildings on the south side of Boylston Street. It was extensively renovated and restored in the 1960s, and today it is still operated as a boutique hotel.

Berkeley Building, Boston

The Berkeley Building at the corner of Boylston and Berkeley Streets in Boston, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

Not to be confused with the old John Hancock Building a block away, which is also known as the Berkeley Building, this building was completed in 1905 and is an excellent surviving example of Beaux-Arts architecture in Boston.  It was designed by Stephen Codman and Constant-Désiré Despradelle; the latter was a noted architect and professor at MIT, which at the time was located diagonally across from here.  Over a century later, the building is still in good condition, with even the original 1905 storefronts still intact.

Also of note in the first photo is the group of rowhouses just to the right of the Berkeley Building. These were built in 1861 and were among the first houses to be built in the newly-filled Back Bay area.  Over time, Boylston Street became a major commercial center, and most of the original homes were demolished.  These ones survived into the early 20th century, but the first photo shows drastic changes on the ground level to create storefronts.  The one in the middle would be demolished soon after the first photo was taken, but the houses on either end are still standing today, although they are mostly hidden behind 20th century alterations.

Trinity Church, Boston (2)

Another view of Trinity Church at Copley Square, taken around 1909. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

As mentioned in the previous post, Trinity Church has been a prominent landmark at Copley Square since its completion in 1877, and this scene shows the view from in front of the Boston Public Library facing east across Copley Square and down Boylston Street.  It is essentially the opposite direction of the photos in this post, which were taken from the steps of Trinity Church. The church itself is still standing, but not much else from the first photo survives today.  The original MIT campus, seen in the distance on the left side of Boylston Street, is gone; the school relocated across the river to Cambridge a few years after the first photo was taken.  The other buildings behind the church to the left and right have also since been replaced with modern skyscrapers, so today the only other buildings that remain are the ones on the far left on Boylston Street, which were featured in this post.

Trinity Church, Boston (1)

Trinity Church at Copley Square in Boston, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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Copley Square in 2015:


Trinity Church has been the defining feature at Copley Square since it was completed in 1877, and over the years it has remained the one constant in this scene.  It was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, and its architecture helped to spark the Richardsonian Romanesque style that was popular in the late 1800s, especially in the Northeast. The congregation itself is much older than the church building, though; the Episcopalian parish was established in 1733, and for many years it was located on Summer Street.  However, the Great Boston Fire of 1872 destroyed the building, along with the homes of many of the church members.  Many began relocating to the newly-developed Back Bay, so Trinity Church, along with many other city churches, moved as well.

Today, the church still stands essentially unaltered from its original appearance, even as the city has grown up around it.  Behind the church is the old John Hancock Building, now known as the Berkeley Building.  It was completed in 1947, and in 1976 its much taller successor, the current John Hancock Tower, was completed just to the right of the church.  The base of the tower is less than 100 feet from the church, and its construction actually caused substantial damage to the church by disrupting the soil and groundwater levels.  The tower later had other design faults, including problems with the 4′ x 11′ glass windows detaching from the building and falling to the streets below; the problem was eventually resolved by replacing all 10,344 windows, and thankfully there were no injuries from falling glass.