Central Congregational Church, Worcester, Mass

Central Congregational Church, at the corner of Grove Street and Institute Road in Worcester, around 1906. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2016:

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This church is one of many historic Romanesque style buildings in the city of Worcester, and like many of the others it was designed by Stephen C. Earle, a local architect who designed public buildings in Worcester and across New England. The church congregation that occupied this building was originally established in 1820, but as the city grew in the second half of the 19th century, they sought to move out of the rapidly developing commercial center.

Located just north of downtown at Wheaton Square, construction of the church began in 1884, and was completed the following year. Its design included many elements that were found in Romanesque churches of the era. Its exterior walls were made of Longmeadow brownstone, and it had an asymmetrical design that included a tower plus smaller turrets, along with plenty of arches and stained glass windows. Further down Grove Street in the first photo is the Worcester National Guard Armory. This castle-like building was completed a few years after the church, and it similarly features Romanesque architecture. Also visible in the distance are two other historic Romanesque buildings of the same era. Just beyond the church, near the corner of Grove and Salisbury Streets, is the 1891 Worcester Historical Society building, and just to the left of the Armory is the 1889 North High School.

Today, all four of these late 19th century buildings are still standing here at Wheaton Square, and aside from the tree partially blocking the view of the church, almost nothing has changed in this scene over the past 110 years. Because of this, all four are listed as contributing properties in the Institutional District, a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places that encompasses much of the surrounding neighborhood.

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (2)

Another view of the Wadsworth Atheneum on Main Street in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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As mentioned in the previous post, the Wadsworth Atheneum is the oldest public art museum in the country. It dates back to 1844, when this building first opened, and although it has been significantly modified over nearly 175 years, the original Gothic Revival facade remains as a prominent landmark along Main Street. Among the museum’s artwork is an extensive collection of paintings by artists of the Hudson River School, a movement that was popular in the first half of the 19th century. The museum’s benefactor, Daniel Wadsworth, was a patron of Thomas Cole, one of the leading artists of this era, and many of Cole’s works are now part of the museum’s collection.

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (1)

The Wadsworth Atheneum on Main Street in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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The Wadsworth Atheneum is an art museum that has been located in Hartford since this building opened in 1844. At a time when most art collections were found within the homes of the wealthy, the Wadsworth was one of the first public art museums in the country. Its Gothic Revival building was designed by architect Ithiel Town, a Connecticut native who designed a number of prominent buildings, including the state capitols of Connecticut, Indiana, and North Carolina.

The museum was funded by the prominent Wadsworth family and built on the site of Daniel Wadsworth’s home on Main Street, diagonally opposite from the First Church. Over the years, additional benefactors such as Elizabeth Jarvis Colt and J.P. Morgan have expanded the museum’s collections, and along with it the building itself has grown, with additions to the back and on the right side. It remains in operation today as the nation’s oldest public art museum, and the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Elks Lodge, Hartford, Connecticut

The B.P.O. Elks Lodge on Prospect Street in Hartford, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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Hartford’s Elks Lodge was built here in 1903, and over the years very little has changed on either the exterior or interior. The Neoclassical building is made of yellow brick, a popular building material at the turn of the century, and on the inside it is finished with oak and mahogany. It has two stories, with assembly rooms on the first floor and the octagonal lodge room on the second floor, on the other side of the arched windows seen here. The neighboring buildings have grown up around it during the past century, but the historic building remains, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old State House, Hartford, Connecticut

The Old State House in Hartford, seen from the Main Street side around 1907, during its time as Hartford City Hall. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The building in 2016:

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The Old State House in Hartford is one of the oldest existing buildings in the city. It was completed in 1796, and its design is generally credited to prominent architect Charles Bulfinch as one of his early commissions. Just a few years later, he would design the present Massachusetts State House, and he would later play a role in designing the US Capitol.

At the time, Connecticut actually had two capital cities, with the legislature meeting alternately between Hartford and New Haven. It may seem somewhat unusual for one of the smallest, most densely-populated states in the country to have two capital cities, each complete with its own capitol building, but the arrangement was not unheard of. Similarly-sized New Jersey had two capitals in colonial times, and, not to be outdone despite its small size, Rhode Island had five capitals in the early 19th century, with the legislature rotating through each of the state’s five county seats.

Here in Connecticut, ease of transportation thanks to railroads meant that it was unnecessary to have redundant capitals just 35 miles apart, but the location of the capital city still carried significant symbolic value. In the end, Hartford won out over New Haven. In 1875, it was designated as the sole capital city, and three years later a new, much larger capitol building was completed at Bushnell Park.

When its days as a capitol ended, the old building became Hartford City Hall. It served in this role until 1915, when the current Municipal Building was completed. Since then, it has been threatened with demolition several times over the years, but it remains standing as a relic of Connecticut’s history, and it is listed as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Linden, Hartford, Connecticut

Looking south on Main Street from the corner of Sheldon Street, around 1903-1906. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library.

The scene in 2016:

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This view shows some of the same buildings as an earlier post, just from a different angle a block away. The building in the foreground here is The Linden, a Romanesque-style apartment building that was completed in 1891. Most of the other buildings in the distance beyond it are still standing, including the Hotel Capitol, built in 1875 a block away, and the South Congregational Church, completed in 1827. The only building not still standing from the first photo is the South Baptist Church on the far right. It was built in 1854 and demolished to build the present Central Baptist Church. Today, most of the buildings in this scene are part of the Buckingham Square Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.