Horticultural Hall, Boston

Horticultural Hall, at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, around 1901-1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

Horticultural Hall was built in 1901, around the same time as its neighbors, Symphony Hall to the left across Massachusetts Avenue, and Chickering Hall, visible to the right in the first photo.  Chickering Hall has long since been demolished as part of the development of the Christian Science Center in the 1960s, but both Horticultural Hall and Symphony Hall still stand here at the corner of Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues.

The Massachusetts Horticultural Society was founded in 1829 to promote modern practices in horticulture, and this building was the organization’s third facility.  It included a large exhibition hall for plant shows, with would have included the flower show that was advertised on the sign at the corner of the building in the first photo.  The building also had a smaller exhibition hall, a 300-seat lecture hall, a library, and offices.

In more than a century since the first photo was taken, most of the scene has changed.  The buildings in the background have all been demolished, the streetcar line on Huntington Avenue is now underground as the “E” Branch of the Green Line, and Massachusetts Avenue now passes over Huntington Avenue on a bridge in the foreground.  As for the building itself, the Horticultural Society sold the building to the neighboring Christian Science Church in 1992, but its exterior has seen very few changes, and along with the neighboring Symphony Hall it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Symphony Hall, Boston

Symphony Hall, at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2015:

Boston’s Symphony Hall is one of many prominent concert halls in this section of Boston, and it has been the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops ever since it opened in 1900.  It was designed by McKim, Mead and White, the same architectural firm that built the Boston Public Library at Copley Square a few years earlier.  Like the library, it is an excellent example of Renaissance Revival architecture, but Symphony Hall is perhaps best known not for its visual appeal, but rather its acoustic properties.  Harvard professor and physicist Wallace Clement Sabine used his knowledge of acoustics to design the auditorium, making it the world’s first concert hall to be scientifically designed in such a way.  Because of this, it is still regarded as one of the best concert halls in the world.

Over the years, this section of the Back Bay has seen some dramatic changes, but Symphony Hall is essentially the same, both on the exterior and interior.  The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Pops continue to perform here, along with the Handel and Hadyn Society.  With a seating capacity of over 2,000, it has also been used for a number of other civil purposes, ranging from political rallies and inaugurations to business conventions and fashion shows.  In addition, many renowned authors have given lectures here; the building’s National Register of Historic Places registration form identifies many visiting writers from the early 20th century, including Edward Everett Hale, Julia Ward Howe, Booker T. Washington, G.K. Chesterton, Robert Frost, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Charles River Esplanade, Boston

Looking east along the Charles River Esplanade from the Harvard Bridge on Massachusetts Avenue, on October 5, 1910. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The view in 2015:

These photos were taken just a short distance along the bridge from the ones in the previous post, and the first photo here shows the Charles River Esplanade as it appeared soon after its completion.  This parkland was built on reclaimed land just north of Back Street, which was once located right along the Charles River, as seen in the 1907 photo of the previous post.  The Esplanade underwent a major change in the early 1950s, though, when Storrow Drive was built through here.  This parkway allows relatively easy access to downtown Boston from points west, but in the process it largely cut off the Esplanade from the rest of the Back Bay.

Today, the park is still there, and although it is noticeably smaller from its appearance the first photo, it was expanded in other areas to compensate for the land taken to build Storrow Drive.  Part of the expanded parkland can be seen in the distance, just to the left of the center.  The only significant landmark that is clearly visible in both photos is the Longfellow Bridge, which can be seen in the distance to the left.  It was completed in 1906, and still carries vehicles and Red Line subway cars over the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge.

Sherman Building, Boston

The Sherman Building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street in Boston, on October 28, 1911. Image courtesy of the City of Boston Archives.

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The building in 2015:

This building at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street was built in 1908, and housed a few of the many car dealerships in the Back Bay in the early 20th century.  The first photo shows two different companies occupying the first floor: Oldsmobile had the more prominent corner storefront, and the Thomas B. Jeffery Company had the storefront on the far right.  Like most early car companies, Jeffery didn’t survive the 1910s, but Oldsmobile lasted for almost another century.

Over time, car dealerships moved out of city centers and into the suburbs, so the building as used for a variety of other purposes, from apartments to an indoor golf course.  It narrowly escaped demolition for the construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike; the building directly across Newbury Street was replaced with a highway on-ramp when the Turnpike was extended through Boston in the 1960s.  Today, the building is the Boston location of the Room & Board furniture store.  It opened in 2014 following a massive renovation that modernized and expanded the building while retaining its original appearance from the street.