Devonshire and Water Streets, Boston

The northwest corner of Devonshire and Water Streets in Boston, around 1860. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

Based on its architecture, the building in the first photo was probably built sometime around the 1820s to the 1840s, and by the 1860s when the photo was taken it appears to have been a place for all things paper. According to the signs, the tenant on the left was a job printing company, which was a collective term for a printer who made small items such as tickets, cards, letterheads, and other such documents. To the right was Peter C. Jones’s wholesale paper business, which he operated in Boston for many years. He had four sons, so I don’t know which one was the “& Son” that is mentioned on the sign, but it certainly was not his son Peter, Jr., who moved to Hawaii in 1857 and became a prominent businessman and politician both before and after the kingdom was acquired by the United States.

I don’t know exactly when this building was demolished. The great Boston Fire of 1872 hit this area 12 years later, but according to maps of the disaster, the fire stopped just across the street from here. If this building was still standing at that point, it probably survived the fire, but it was certainly gone by 1908, when the present-day Lawrence Building was built on the site. When completed, it housed the Federal Trust Company commercial bank on the ground floor, and professional offices such as lawyers, investment brokers, and real estate agents. Today, the historic building is still standing here at the corner of Devonshire and Water Streets.

Equitable Building, Boston

The Equitable Building at the corner of Milk and Devonshire Streets in Boston facing south on Devonshire Street, on June 17, 1875. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The view down Devonshire Street in 2015:

Like the photo in the previous post, taken just around the corner on Milk Street, this scene shows Boston during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill, when many of the city’s buildings were decorated with flags and patriotic bunting. The building in the foreground here was the home of the Equitable Life Assurance Society’s Boston branch, and it was also known as the Henry H. Hyde Building, after the company’s founder. This area was devastated by the Great Boston Fire of 1872, but within a few years the city had largely rebuilt, and in 1874 Equitable opened this elegant Second Empire style building as their Boston office, in a prominent location directly across from the Post Office, which can be seen to the left in the first photo.

Based on city maps, the Equitable Building was demolished sometime between 1912 and 1938, and was replaced with the old First National Bank Building. his was, in turn, demolished in the 1970s to build One Federal Street, a 38 story skyscraper that now fills the rectangular block between Milk, Devonshire, Arch, and Federal Streets. Since this is the heart of Boston’s Financial District and the home of many of its skyscrapers, there are no surviving buildings from the 1875 photo in the 2015 scene.