Dock Square toward Union Street, Boston

Dock Square looking toward Union Street in Boston, in 1865. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


These photos were taken from almost the same spot as the ones in this photo, just slight ahead and to the right.  The first one shows the variety of businesses that were located in Civil War-era downtown Boston, ranging from feathers and furniture to hardware and whips.  The tracks in the foreground are for a horse-drawn trolley line; this was an early version of Boston’s present-day subway network, before the trolleys were electrified and put underground.

Washington Street and Dock Square, Boston

The corner of Washington Street and Dock Square in Boston, on June 17, 1875. Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The scene in 2014:


Taken on the same day as the photo in this post, the first photo is taken from a different angle, but shows the Dock Square area as it once looked, long before the urban renewal projects of the 1960s During this time, the neighborhood was replaced with Boston City Hall, which can be seen on the left-hand side of the 2014 photo.

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.

Old Feather Store, Boston

The Old Feather Store at Dock Square in Boston, around 1860. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.


The location in 2014:


The building in the 1860 photo looks like it belongs in Elizabethan England, not in 19th century Boston.  However, the building actually dates to the same century as Queen Elizabeth – it was built around 1680, and survived until around the time that this photo was taken.  Despite its age and unique architecture, historical preservation was not a major concern in the 1860s, and it was demolished.  At least one of its contemporaries survives to this day, though.  Just a few blocks up North Street (the road in the foreground of the 2014 photo) is the Paul Revere House, which was built around the same time, and is the only remaining 17th century building in downtown Boston.

As an example of the way Boston has expanded in the past few centuries, the Old Feather Store was built right on the waterfront, but by the time it was taken down, it was over a quarter mile from the harbor.  This area was originally known as Dock Square, because of its proximity to the Town Dock.  As a result, it has long been a center of commercial activity in the city.  Although the buildings that replaced the Old Feather Shop are also long gone, there is one commercial building that is in both photos; Faneuil Hall can be seen behind and to the right of the Old Feather Shop, and on the right-hand side in 2014.