USS Detroit at Boston Navy Yard

The cruiser USS Detroit in Dry Dock 2 at Boston Navy Yard, on December 16, 1928. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

Taken about 23 years after the photo in the previous post, this view of Dry Dock 2 shows the USS Detroit (CL-8), an Omaha-class light cruiser, undergoing work at the Boston Navy Yard. The Detroit had been built in nearby Quincy, Massachusetts, and was commissioned in 1923. Several years after the first photo was taken, she was transferred to the Pacific, and was based out of San Diego before being moved to Pearl Harbor in 1941. She was present during the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, and survived the battle without any damage, and went on to see extensive service in World War II, including being present in Tokyo Bay for the surrender in 1945. Following the war, though, the Detroit was sold for scrap in 1946, along with many other obsolete surplus ships.

The Boston Navy Yard, as mentioned in the previous post, closed in 1974, and part of it was taken over by the National Park Service. Today, many of the historic buildings and other structures have been preserved, including Dry Dock 2 and some of the buildings in the distance. One of the most distinctive buildings in the yard is the octagonal Muster House, which can be seen just to the left of the ship. It was built in the 1850s, and it is still standing today, partially hidden by trees in the distance. The long building in the center of the photo has also been preserved and repurposed; it is now the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

USS Maryland at Boston Navy Yard

The cruiser USS Maryland in Dry Dock 2 at the Boston Navy Yard, around 1905. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The scene in 2015:

The first photo shows Dry Dock 2 at the Boston Navy Yard, which was completed in 1905, not long before the first photo was taken. It was part of a large expansion of the facility, and it supplemented the much older and smaller Dry Dock 1. At 750 feet long, it could accommodate the Navy’s newest ships, including the Maryland, a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser that, like the dry dock, was completed in 1905.

In the years after the photo was taken, the Maryland was eventually renamed the Frederick to free up the name for a new battleship, and the ship served in World War I. Like many other early 20th century American warships, though, the ship’s service history was brief. She was decommissioned in 1922, and sold for scrap in 1930.

As for the Boston Navy Yard, it remained in use throughout World War I, World War II, and beyond. It was finally closed in 1974, and part of it was taken over by the National Park Service as part of the Boston National Historical Park. Dry Dock 2 is just outside the park limits, but it is still intact, including the pump house, the small round building directly in the center of the 2015 photo. Just to the left of the pump house is Flagship Wharf, one of several modern condominium complexes that have been built on parts of the former navy yard.

For another scene of Dry Dock 2 in use, see the historic photo in this post, taken in 1929.

USS Constitution, Charlestown Navy Yard

The USS Constitution at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston, sometime between 1897 and 1906. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.


A similar view in 2014:


The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy, having been launched in 1797 as one of the original six frigates authorized by Congress.  She is also the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, the adjective “afloat” being necessary because of HMS Victory, which was commissioned in the Royal Navy in 1778 and remains so today, although she has been in drydock since the 1920s.

The Constitution played an important role in the early years of the US Navy, particularly in 1812, when she earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” after cannonballs bounced off the strong live oak timbers, giving the impression that she had an iron hull.  She served both in a combat role and also later on as a training ship, although by 1881 was no longer fit for active duty.

It was at this point that the large structure seen in the first photo was built across the top of the ship, and the Constitution was used as a receiving ship to house new naval recruits.  However, the ship was deteriorating, and in 1897 she was brought to Boston, where the future of the then-100 year old ship was in serious doubt.  Some proposed turning the ship into a museum ship, while the Secretary of the Navy suggested sinking her as a target ship.  Eventually, in 1906, the ship was restored and the large structure on top was removed.

Today, the Constitution is still in Boston, and although the navy yard is now a national park, the ship still has an active US Navy crew, who give tours to visitors.  Many of the surroundings are the same; the Bunker Hill Monument is still a prominent landmark, surrounded by Charlestown’s low-rise development, and many of the buildings in the navy yard are still there, including the one that is barely visible behind and to the right of the ship in the first photo; this building is the one that is directly behind the Constitution in the 2014 photo.

Charlestown Navy Yard

The Boston Navy Yard, seen from across the harbor, between 1910 and 1920.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The view in 2014:


The two views don’t line up perfectly; the 2014 photo was taken from the waterfront in the North End, while the original appears to have been taken from a boat slightly further into the harbor.  When the original photo was taken, the Charlestown Navy Yard (as it was then known as) was a major naval base; the photo shows a collection of ships, including at least two cruisers (a Denver-class protected cruiser, possibly the USS Des Moines (CL-17), on the far left, and a Chester-class light cruiser, with the four smokestacks in the right-center of the photo).

In the ensuing years, the navy yard built a number of ships, especially during World War II, when the yard constructed destroyers and destroyer escorts, among other naval vessels.  However, the yard closed in 1974, and became part of the Boston National Historical Park.  Today, there has been some new development, particularly the large condominium building on the right-hand side of the photo, but many of the historic structures in the yard are still there, including the building on the far left of the 2014 photo (visible just to the left of the smokestacks on the white-hulled ship), and the small round building near the left-hand side of the condominium building (visible just below and to the right of the tall smokestack near the center of the first photo).

One of the ships from the original photo still exists today, and although it’s not visible in the 2014 photo, it isn’t far away.  The USS Constitution can be seen on the left-hand side of the first photo, just beyond the white-hulled cruiser.  At the time, it was the oldest ship in the US Navy, and it remains so today; it is moored at a pier slightly to the left of the 2014 photo, and still has an active naval crew.

View from Bunker Hill Monument, Boston (3)

The view from the Bunker Hill Monument, sometime between the 1860s and 1880s. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library.


The same view in 2010:


These two photos show three sections of Boston – Charlestown in the foreground, East Boston in the distance, and the North End of Boston barely visible to the right.  Other than the approach ramp to the Tobin Bridge, not much has changed in Charlestown – many of the houses in the foreground can easily be identified in both photos.  On the waterfront, many of the buildings at the former Boston Navy Yard are still there, and have been incorporated into the Boston National Historical Park. ln the distance, East Boston has been substantially expanded for Logan International Airport, which is barely visible on the far side of East Boston.

Drewry’s Bluff, Chesterfield County, Virginia

The view looking down the James River from Drewry’s Bluff, in 1865. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Civil War Collection.


The same view in 2012:


When the top photo was published on a stereo card in 1865, the caption was “One reason why we did not go to Richmond.”  Indeed, this gun was perhaps the reason why Richmond wasn’t taken until the very end of the Civil War.  As seen in the photos, the gun overlooks a long, downstream section of the James River.  Built as part of Fort Darling, it was located downstream of Richmond, so any attacking Union naval force had to contend with this and two other guns at the fort in order to reach the capital.  An attempt was made in 1862, and five navy ships, including the famed USS Monitor, headed upstream.  At Drewry’s Bluff, the wooden ships were unable to advance, so the ironclad Monitor did.  However, the Monitor’s guns didn’t elevate enough to reach the top of the 90-foot cliff, so the Union forces had to retreat.  Another attempt was made in 1864 to capture the fort, but this too failed, and the fort remained in Confederate hands up until the final days of the war.

Today, the site of the fort is preserved by the National Park Service, and the cannon in the 2012 photo is an original cannon, although not necessarily the same one in the 1865 photo.  The carriage beneath the cannon, however, is a modern reproduction.