First Congregational Church, Blandford, Massachusetts

The First Congregational Church on North Street in Blandford, Massachusetts, around 1892. Image from Picturesque Hampden (1892).

The scene in 2024:

These two photos show the First Congregational Church in Blandford. It was built in 1822, and it was designed by Isaac Damon, a prominent local architect who was responsible for designing a number of churches in the area, including similar ones in Springfield and in Southwick. The building here in Blandford is characteristic of his style, which featured a mix of late Federal and early Greek Revival features.

The building replaced an earlier meeting house, which had been slowly constructed over a span of 65 years. Work had begin in 1740, around the time that the town was settled by Scots-Irish colonists, and it was used throughout the 18th century, although it was not finally completed until 1805, less than 20 years before it was replaced by the present-day building. The need for a new building may have been in part due to the significant increase in population in Blandford by the early 19th century. From a population of 406 in 1765, the town had grown to 1,778 by the 1800 census. The population would fluctuate in the subsequent censuses, but it remained above 1,500 people throughout the early 19th century.

However, as was the case throughout the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, the population declined precipitously in the second half of the 19th century, eventually dropping to under 900 people by the time the top photo was taken in the 1890s. The church building underwent some changes during this time, including a renovation in 1866. This work was primarily on the interior, but it also included some exterior work, such as reducing the size of the second-story windows. At some point during the late 19th century a chapel was added to the rear of the building, but it was removed in 1937.

Today, more than 130 years after the top photo was taken, very little has changed in this scene, aside from the house behind the church. The exterior of the church has remained mostly unaltered, and the interior is also well preserved. It is no longer actively used for church services, but it is owned by the Blandford Historical Society and used as a venue for weddings and other events. It stands as perhaps the most distinctive landmark in the town, and it is one of the most architecturally significant early 19th century church buildings in Western Massachusetts.

Fenway Park Grandstands, Boston (2)

The view looking toward the outfield bleachers from the right field grandstands at Fenway Park, in the fall of 1914. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.

The scene in 2024:

These two photos were taken from around the same spot as the ones in the previous post, just facing the opposite direction. As with the previous post, the top photo here was taken in 1914, when workers were preparing the park for the upcoming 1914 World Series. Although the Red Sox were not in that particular World Series, the Boston Braves were, and they played their home games here because it had a larger seating capacity than their own home field, the South End Grounds.

Fenway Park was just two years old when the top photo was taken, and it shows the original outfield bleachers and right field grandstands. These were constructed of wood, and they remained in use until 1934, when the park was heavily renovated. The outfield and right field seating areas were reconstructed with concrete and steel, while keeping roughly the same footprint and field dimensions. Additional changes occurred in 1940, when the bullpens were added in front of the bleachers. This significantly shortened the home run distance to left field, and was supposedly done in order to benefit left-handed hitter Ted Williams.

Later changes included the addition of the large video screen atop the bleachers, and a seating area on the right field roof. Overall, though, this part of the park still looks largely the same as it did after the 1934 renovations. Although there is likely no original 1912 material here in this part of the park, other portions of Fenway Park are original to 1912, and it remains in use as the oldest active Major League Baseball park.

Fenway Park Grandstands, Boston (1)

The view looking toward home plate from the right field grandstands in Fenway Park, on September 28, 1914. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain Collection.

The scene in 2024:

These two photos were taken from close to the same spot, although the top one was likely taken a little closer to home plate. Either way, they both show the infield area of Fenway Park from the right field grandstands, and they show the many changes that have occurred here over the years.

The origins of the Boston Red Sox date back to 1901, although the team would not acquire its Red Sox name until 1908. For the first 11 years, the team played at Huntington Avenue Grounds, located on the modern-day campus of Northeastern University. It was there that the team won the first World Series, in 1903, and the Red Sox played there until the end of the 1911 season.

Fenway Park was constructed the following winter, and it opened on April 20, 1912. In that game, the Red Sox played the New York Highlanders—the future Yankees—and defeated them by a score of 7 to 6 in 11 innings. The Red Sox would go on to win the American League pennant that year, and defeated the New York Giants to win the World Series.

The top photo shows the grandstands and home plate area two years later, on September 28, 1914. At the time, preparations were underway to host another World Series here, but this time it wasn’t for the Red Sox. Instead, it was for the Boston Braves, the city’s original Major League Baseball team. The team played in the National League, where they had been one of the most dominant teams in baseball during the 19th century. However, with the establishment of the rival American League in 1901, the new Boston quickly eclipsed the older National League team in popularity.

Going into the 1914 season, the Braves had not been contenders in many years. The team had finished in last place for four consecutive seasons from 1909 to 1912, and they appeared to be headed for the same fate in 1914. By July 4, the Braves were in last place with a 26-40 record, and were 15 games behind first place. However, the “Miracle Braves,” as they came to be known, then went on to win 68 of the remaining 87 games in the season, and finished in first place, 10.5 games ahead of the second place Giants.

Throughout most of the 1914 season, the Braves played their home games at the South End Grounds. However, by September they were renting Fenway Park, in order to accommodate the larger crowds who came to watch their dramatic reversal and pennant run. Likewise, the Braves played their home games here at Fenway Park during the World Series, which they won in four games against the Philadelphia Athletics.

The following year, the Braves moved into a new park, Braves Field. However, it was the Red Sox who went to the World Series in 1915 and again in 1916, and they chose to play their home games at the larger Braves Field, rather than here at Fenway Park. But, the World Series would return to Fenway two years later in 1918, when the Red Sox played their home games here rather than at Braves Field. This would famously prove to be the final World Series championship for the Red Sox for the next 86 years, before their championship in 2004.

Overall, the 1910s were a successful time for the Red Sox, who won the World Series four times in the decade. Prominent players who played here at Fenway Park during this time included Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth, Harry Hooper, Herb Pennock, and Tris Speaker. Other notable players included pitcher Smoky Joe Wood, catcher Bill Carrigan, third baseman Larry Gardner, and left fielder Duffy Lewis, the namesake of “Duffy’s Cliff,” an embankment that was once located on what is now the site of the Green Monster.

Despite the success of the 1910s, it was followed by a decade of abysmal seasons during the 1920s, due in large part to the sale of Babe Ruth and other top players to the Yankees. The team continued to use Fenway Park during this time, but in 1926 a fire destroyed the wooden left field bleachers, which are partially visible on the far right side of the 1914 photo. The owners did not have the financial ability to rebuild the bleachers, nor was there much demand for the seating with such paltry attendance figures, so that part of Fenway Park remained vacant for the next few years.

The most dramatic changes to Fenway Park occurred in 1934, shortly after businessman Tom Yawkey purchased the team. He had much of the park rebuilt, including replacing the wooden sections with fireproof concrete and steel. Most of the modern-day park dates to this renovation, including the Green Monster wall in left field. The field dimensions also changed, and home plate was moved forward to accommodate more seating. Then, in 1947 the light towers were added to the park, enabling the Red Sox to play night games here for the first time.

Over the years, Fenway Park has continued to evolve. Later changes here in this scene included work in the 1980s to increase the park’s seating capacity. Most significantly, this included adding seating areas and luxury boxes on the grandstand roof, along with a large press box and an enclosed seating area directly behind home plate. Known as the 600 Club and later as the .406 club, this seating area was eventually remodeled after the 2005 season, and it now has two separate seating areas without any glass between the seats and the field.

Today, Fenway Park is still the home of the Red Sox, and it stands as the oldest active Major League Baseball field. Although much of it has been altered over the years, it still has largely the same layout, including the field dimensions and the footprints of the grandstands and bleachers. Portions of the park are original to 1912, including the exterior along Jersey Street, and the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, during its centennial year.

Samuel Boardman House, Wethersfield, Connecticut

The house at 520 Main Street in Wethersfield, around 1935-1942. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, State Archives, RG 033:28, WPA Records, Architectural Survey.

The house in 2024:

The historical marker on this house indicates that it was built around 1769 as the home of Samuel Boardman. This date coincides with the year of his first marriage, to Ann Wright. Because new homes were often constructed for newlywed couples, this wedding was likely the basis for the date estimate. However, it may have actually been built several years later, because the book Families of Ancient Wethersfield, Connecticut states that Boardman initially lived on Broad Street, but that he had to sell that property in 1774 because of business dates. According to the book, he then moved into this house, which implies that this house was likely built in 1774 or later.

Samuel Boardman was a merchant, and he owned ships that were involved in the West Indies trade. Although located many miles from the ocean, Wethersfield is on a navigable portion of the Connecticut River, so it became an important seaport for oceangoing vessels during the colonial period. Boardman also served in the American Revolution, and in 1775 he opened a saltpeter factory here in Wethersfield. Because this was during the war, and because saltpeter is an important ingredient in black powder, it seems likely that his saltpeter was used for the production of gunpowder.

Boardman had three children with his first wife Anne, before her death in 1774. He then remarried to Naomi Butler, and they had seven more children who were born between 1776 and 1793. Samuel lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1822 at the age of 78. His widow Naomi died four years later in 1826 at the age of 73, but the house would remain in their family throughout much of the 19th century. The 1869 county atlas shows this property as belonging to “Miss Boardman,” which likely refers to their daughter Julia. She never married, and she was the last living child of Samuel Boardman. Based on the map and the census records, she appears to have lived here until her death in 1876 at the age of 89.

The top photo was taken around the late 1930s, and by that point the house had undergone some exterior changes. Most significantly, the windows here on the front part of the house were 2-over-2 sashes, which would not have been original to the house. The documentation that accompanied the top photo indicated that the house was in “poor” physical condition, although this is not readily evident from the exterior appearance in the photo.

Today, more than 80 years after the top photo was taken, the house is still standing. It looks much better now than it did back then, including the installation of historically-appropriate 12-over-12 windows. Its design is typical for 18th century homes in the area, including a central chimney and symmetrical front façade with four windows on the first floor and five windows on the second floor. Although not visible from this angle, it also has a so-called “coffin door” on the south (right) side of the house. Overall, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved over the years, and it is one of the many homes that comprise the Wethersfield Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.

Cove Warehouse, Wethersfield, Connecticut (3)

The Cove Warehouse in Wethersfield on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2024:

The top photo was taken on the same day as the one in the previous post, as part of an effort to document the building for the Historic American Buildings Survey. At the time, the Cove Warehouse had just been restored for the second time in less than a decade. Built in the late 17th century as a warehouse for the town’s merchants, it survived throughout the colonial period and the 19th century. It was eventually restored in the early 1930s, but then in 1936 it was damaged by a major flood that caused extensive damage throughout the Connecticut River Valley. However, the building was again restored, and the top photo was taken soon after this work was completed.

Since then, there have been a few changes to this scene, most notably the retaining wall that was added in 1971 to prevent erosion. The dock in the top photo is gone, perhaps as a result of this project, but it was likely a 20th century feature anyway. Otherwise, the warehouse itself is still standing, It is an important town landmark, and it is operated as a seasonal museum by the Wethersfield Historical Society.

Cove Warehouse, Wethersfield, Connecticut (2)

The Cove Warehouse in Wethersfield on July 29, 1940. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Historic American Buildings Survey Collection.

The scene in 2024:

These two photos show the Cove Warehouse, which is explained in more detail in the previous post. It was built sometime in the late 17th century as one of six warehouses that stood here along what was, at the time, the banks of the Connecticut River. A flood in 1692 destroyed the other five warehouses, and it also altered the course of the river, creating the “Cove,” which is isolated from the river except for a narrow inlet.

This warehouse was the sole survivor from the 1692 flood, and throughout the 18th century it was used by the town’s merchants, who were able to sail oceangoing vessels up the river to Wethersfield. It was restored in the early 1930s, but it was heavily damaged in the March 1936 flood. However, it was subsequently restored, and the top photo shows the building in 1940, shortly after its restoration.

Today, the building’s appearance has not changed much in the past 84 years. The dock behind the building—which was likely added during the restoration—has since been removed. This probably occurred in 1971, when a stone wall was built at the base of the foundation in the back of the warehouse to protect it from erosion. Otherwise, though, the building is still easily recognizable from the top photo. It stands as an important town landmark, and it is operated as a seasonal museum by the Wethersfield Historical Society.