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:

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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:

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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.

Park Street Subway Station, Boston (3)

The outbound platform at the Park Street station in Boston, on August 5, 1901. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The same station platform in 2015:

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As mentioned in previous posts showing the interior of Park Street Station here and here, Park Street was one of the first two subway stations in the country, along with Boylston about a quarter mile to the south, when it opened in 1897.  The photos in those two posts show the station before it opened, but this 1901 photo here is interesting because it gives a glimpse into the day-to-day activity inside the station.  Because of the long exposure time, most of the figures are blurred, except for the woman seated on the bench in the foreground.  Another fairly clear figure is the man standing at the entrance in the distance.  In the years before turnstiles, passengers would purchase a ticket at one of the kiosks, and then give the ticket to the attendant at the gate, similar to the way movie theaters operate.  There were also separate entrances for entering and exiting passengers, hence the “This Is Not An Exit” sign above the gate.

Park Street station, along with the rest of the Tremont Street Subway, was originally designed for trolley cars rather than rapid transit subway cars, and this distinction can still be seen today in the trolleys that run on the Green Line, as opposed to the more conventional subway cars on the other three lines.  However, from 1901 to 1908, the tunnel was also used by the Boston Elevated Railway, so the station platforms had to be retrofitted to accommodate the higher subway cars, which is why the first photo shows wooden platforms along the track.  During this time, these cars used the two outer tracks in the station, while trolleys used the inner two tracks.  In 1908, the Boston Elevated Railway was rerouted through its own tunnel under Washington Street, which today forms the downtown section of the Orange Line.

A few years later, in 1912, the Boston Elevated Railway built another subway line through Park Street, forming what is now the Red Line.  Separate platforms were built underneath the existing station, with stairs now located around the spot where the passengers were waiting on the benches in the 1901 photo.  Other significant changes to the station over the years have included lengthening the Green Line platforms, as well as some of the more cosmetic changes that are seen in the 2015 photo, such as tiles on the floor and sheet metal covering the original columns.

Interior of Old First Church, Springfield, Mass

The interior of Old First Church in Springfield, around 1915. Photo from The First Church, Springfield, 1637-1915; Milestones Through Twenty-Seven Decades (1915).

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The church in 2015:

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Old First Church was featured in the first post on this blog, and it is probably my favorite historic building in Springfield.  It is also the oldest church building in the city, having been completed in 1819, and it is one of the oldest buildings of any type in Springfield. Although the exterior of the church hasn’t changed much in the past 195 years, the interior has gone through some changes, as the two photographs show.

As built, the church had different pews, which had tall backs and were not particularly comfortable. These were replaced with the current pews in 1864.  Also at this time, the high pulpit was replaced with a platform, and the arch was constructed over it. The first organ was installed in 1849, but it was on the balcony in the back of the sanctuary; it wasn’t until 1881 that the organ was moved to the front, and the current organ has been there since 1958.  Since the 1915 photo was taken, most of the major changes to the interior came in 1924, when it was renovated to early 19th century designs.  This included modifying the arch over the organ and adding the two columns, changing the curve of the ceiling, and adding decorative scrollwork to the ceiling.

The church was dedicated in a special ceremony on August 19, 1819, with Reverend Samuel Osgood preaching on the occasion.  Osgood had been the pastor of the church since 1809, and would continue in that capacity until 1854.  During the ceremony, Colonel Solomon Warriner led the performance of four songs.  Warriner was the director of music for the First Church from 1801 to 1838, and served as a colonel in the Massachusetts Militia during the War of 1812.

In the years that followed, the sanctuary at Old First Church has hosted a number of notable guests, including Secretary of State and Senator Daniel Webster, abolitionist John Brown, singer Jenny Lind, and evangelist D.L. Moody.  I don’t know if any living presidents have ever visited the church, but in 1848, the body of John Quincy Adams lay in state in the center aisle when his body was being brought back from Washington, D.C. to Quincy.  Far more recently, several other notable politicians have spoken at Old First Church, including former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and former Mayor of Boston and Ambassador Ray Flynn.

The church congregation disbanded in 2007, after 370 years of existence, as a result of declining membership and the increasing costs of upkeep.  The City of Springfield purchased the building and uses it for various functions.  It is, however, still used as a church – WellSpring Church leases the building from the city for Sunday services and church offices.

Grand Central Terminal, New York City

Grand Central Terminal, between when it opened in 1913 and around 1920. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The same view in 2019:

Grand Central Terminal in New York City was built in 1913 on the site of a previous station, and although it is no longer the inter-city rail hub that it used to be, it is still a major part of rail transit in New York City, as seen in the 2019 nighttime photo of the concourse.  The concourse has undergone renovations and restorations along the way, which included building a staircase on the opposite end – using stone from the same quarry as the original structure – but it retains a very similar appearance, even down to the constellations on the ceiling, which can be seen in both photos.  The first photo is dated by the Library of Congress as being between 1910 and 1920, but it was likely taken around the time that it opened, to show the world for the first time what this station would look like.