Post Office, Boston

The old post office at Post Office Square in Boston, around 1906-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

The triangular intersection of Congress, Pearl, and Milk Streets has been known as Post Office Square since 1874, with the completion of the post office seen in the first photo. The square was actually the result of the Great Boston Fire of 1872, which destroyed most of the buildings around the post office, which was under construction at the time.  The small park is still there, although most of the buildings around it have changed.

The old post office was demolished to build the John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse, which was completed in 1933 and is still standing today.  It features Art Deco architecture, and at 22 stories and 600,000 square feet it is substantially larger than its predecessor.  It was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and it is still used as a federal courthouse, post office, and federal office building.  Just to the right of it is the former National Shawmut Bank Building, which was built in 1906 and can be seen in both photos.  At least one other building from the first photo, the 1893 International Trust Company Building, is still standing today; it is visible in the distance on the left, at the corner of Devonshire and Milk Streets.

Faneuil Hall and Dock Square, Boston (2)

Faneuil Hall, taken from Dock Square in Boston in 1930. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


The scene in 2014:


Similar to the scene in the photos in this post, this view shows Faneuil Hall as the one constant in an otherwise very different scene.  It was probably the oldest building in the 1930 photo by at least 100 years, but 84 years later it has outlasted all of the other buildings, many of which were taken down during various urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s, including the construction of the Central Artery.

Faneuil Hall and Dock Square, Boston (1)

Faneuil Hall, taken from Dock Square in Boston in 1930. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.


The scene in 2014:


Faneuil Hall and the Custom House Tower are still there, but otherwise this scene has changed dramatically.  Taken from in front of modern-day City Hall, the scene in the first photo shows the Faneuil Hall area when it was still a major commercial center in the city, as opposed to a destination primarily for tourists and city workers on their lunch break.  Today, Congress Street cuts through the area where Dock Square once was, and behind the photos, City Hall towers over the area.

Dock Square, Boston

Dock Square in Boston, taken on June 17, 1875. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The same location in 2014:


The first photo was taken when Dock Square was adorned for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill.  Probably none of the buildings in the photo existed 100 years earlier, and 100 years later they would be all gone, replaced by the bunker-like City Hall that was built on the firmer site of Scollay, Adams, and Dock Squares.

Sun Tavern, Dock Square, Boston

The Sun Tavern at Dock Square, across from Faneuil Hall in Boston, sometime in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


Dock Square and the Sun Tavern around 1898. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


According to the sign above the building in the first photo, the Sun Tavern was built in 1690, although some estimates that I have seen have dated its construction even earlier.  In either case, the building was extremely old by the time it was photographed in 1898,  It was a tavern by the first decade of the 18th century, although possibly earlier, and was at the time located right next to the town dock, hence the name of Dock Square.  It wouldn’t be until over 50 years after it opened that its familiar neighbor, Faneuil Hall, was built, and another 80 years after that before Quincy Market was built atop what was once Boston Harbor.

The building survived until about 1910 (it appears in the 1908 atlas, but is gone by the 1912 one), and sometime in the 1920s or 1930s a good portion of Dock Square was torn down.  The rest would come down in the 1960s, when the area that once made up Dock Square, Adams Square, and Scollay Square was demolished to build Boston City Hall, seen on the right-hand side of the 2014 photo.