McGraw Rotunda, New York Public Library, New York City

The McGraw Rotunda on the third floor of the New York Public Library Main Branch, around 1911-1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:New York Public LibraryN

The main branch of the New York Public Library, located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, was completed in 1911, and the first photo was probably taken soon after, as it is part of a series of photos that the Detroit Publishing Company took to show the interior of the new building. The rotunda includes walnut paneling and a valuted ceiling, and the present-day photo also shows the murals that were added after the first photo was taken. Located on the walls and on the ceiling, the murals are entitled “The Story of the Recorded Word,” and were painted in 1937 by Edward Laning. One of them depicts Johannes Gutenberg holding a page from his famous Bible, which was the first book to have been printed using movable type. Appropriately, the McGraw Rotunda is also home to the New York Public Library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which can be seen in the center of the 2016 photo. It was the first Gutenberg Bible in the United States, when James Lenox brought it here in 1847, and today it is one of only 49 existing copies in the world.

Lost New England Goes West: Main Cell Block, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Alcatraz guard Carl T. Perrin, on duty on March 21, 1963, the last day of the prison’s operation. Photo taken by Keith Dennison, courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The scene in 2015:

The corridors between the cell blocks at Alcatraz were named after major streets; this particular one was known as Broadway, and it was the central corridor in the facility, separating blocks B and C. The block had three levels of cells, and most of the inmates were kept in either B or C blocks, with the more isolated D block being used for isolation and punishment, like solitary confinement.

Because Alcatraz was intended for the nation’s most problematic federal prisoners, the prison enforced many strict regulations. Each cell housed only one person, and conversations between inmates were strictly limited to discourage them from coordinating escapes. “Lights out” was at 9:30 P.M., and, unless they worked a prison job, the inmates spent nearly 23 hours a day in their cells, passing the time by reading, smoking, and occasionally playing musical instruments or making artwork. Images of the interior of the cells can be seen in this earlier post and this one.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Alcatraz Dining Hall, San Francisco

The dining hall at the Alcatraz Federal Penitentary, sometime between 1933 and 1963. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The dining hall in 2015:

This dining hall is part of the main prison building at Alcatraz, which first opened in 1912 as a military prison. The first photo, taken during its time as a federal civilian prison, shows the dining hall set up for some sort of holiday dinner. All of the inmates ate their meals here together, and the food was supposedly the best in the entire federal prison system. Meals were 20 minutes long, and inmates could help themselves to as much food as they wanted, provided that they ate it in time and left no waste.

In the distance on the far left of the 2015 photo is the breakfast menu from March 21, 1963, the prison’s last day in operation. The meal consisted of assorted dry cereals, steamed whole wheat, scrambled eggs, milk, stewed fruit. toast, bread, butter, and coffee. Today, the dining hall is one of the stops on the self-guided tour of the island, which is operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Clarence Anglin’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #152 in Alcatraz, shortly after Clarence Anglin’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

Clarence Anglin and his brother John were convicted bank robbers whowere both incarcerated at Alcatraz. As explained in more detail in the previous post, they participated with their friend Frank Morris in what was possibly the only successful escape attempt from the prison. The first photo was taken in Clarence’s cell shortly after the escape was discovered, and the second one shows the cell as it appears today, complete with a replica of the dummy head that Anglin created to hide their disappearance.

In over 50 years since their disappearance, there have been no confirmed sightings of the three men, nor were their bodies ever discovered, which has led to plenty of speculation and reported sightings ever since. Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence to surface recently, though, is a 1975 photo that was released last year, which supposedly shows the Anglin brothers in Brazil. Despite the resemblance to the escaped convicts, it remains inconclusive, but it is certainly possible that the men, now in their mid-80s, could still be alive and hiding in South America.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Lost New England Goes West: Frank Morris’s Cell, Alcatraz, San Francisco

Cell #138 at Alcatraz, seen shortly after Frank Morris’s attempted escape in June 1962. Image courtesy of the National Park Service.

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The cell in 2015:

The prison at Alcatraz is probably best known for the June 11-12, 1962 escape attempt by Clarence Anglin, John Anglin, and Frank Morris. The three men, plus a fourth one who ultimately did not participate in the escape, began planning six months earlier. With Morris as the ringleader, they used discarded saw blades, spoons, and an improvised drill to slowly chip away at the corroded concrete around the ventilation openings in their cells. On the other side of the wall is a utility corridor, and once they had escaped from their cells they climbed up to the roof, constructed a makeshift raft, and left the island.

To prevent their absence from being noticed, they had created papier-mâché heads and left them on their pillows. As a result, the escape was not noticed until the following morning. The first photo here was taken in Morris’s cell, probably only a few days after the escape. The men were never found, and despite the publicity at the time and in the years since, there has been no conclusive evidence to suggest either that they drowned in the frigid waters or successfully made it to shore.

Less than a year later, the prison closed, not because of the escape attempt, but because of the exorbitant cost of running a prison on a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Today, the property is administered by the National Park Service, and the old prison is now open for tours. The cells of the escaped inmates, including Morris’s as seen here, have been furnished to show how they would have appeared on the night of the escape.

This post is part of a series of photos that I took in California this past winter. Click here to see the other posts in the “Lost New England Goes West” series.

Park Street Subway Station, Boston (4)

Another view of the Park Street station on the Tremont Street Subway, taken on July 31, 1897. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The station in 2015:

The first photo shows the interior of Park Street station as it appeared about a month before it opened as one of the first two subway stations in the United States.  It was taken from around the same location as the one in the previous post, just facing the opposite direction.  These two photos, taken nearly 120 years apart, show some of the changes that have taken place over the years inside this historic station.  The original 1897 trolley platforms soon became inadequate for the number of passengers that used the station, so from 1914 to 1915 they were extended to the south, which is why the station appears much larger in the 2015 photo.  Other changes have included removing the two stairwells that can be seen at the southern end of the platforms in the first photo; today, the station can only be accessed through the entrances closest to Park Street.

Not everything has changed, though.  One of the defining features of the Green Line is that it still runs trolleys rather than conventional rapid transit subway cars like those on the other three subway lines.  As a result, the station platforms are level with the tracks, and there is no third rail, with power instead being supplied by overhead wires.  Many of the destinations haven’t changed either.  Although Boston’s trolley network is significantly smaller than it was in 1897, many of the places on the sign in the first photo can still be accessed from here, including the Back Bay, Copley Square, Brookline, Allston, Brighton, and Newton.