Boston Art Club, Boston

The Boston Art Club building at the corner of Dartmouth and Newbury Street in Boston, around 1882. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

The building in 2017:

The Boston Art club was founded in 1855 by local artists, as a way of exhibiting and promoting their work. The organization met in a variety of locations throughout much of the 19th century, but by the early 1880s the Art Club had expanded to nearly 600 members, and there was a need for a new building. Like many of the city’s other cultural institutions, they moved to the recently-developed Back Bay, where they hired architect William Ralph Emerson to design a new building here at the corner of Newbury and Dartmouth Streets. It was an ideal spot for an art club, since it was just a block away from Art Square. Later renamed for Boston artist John Singleton Copley, this square has long been the main focal point of the Back Bay neighborhood, and it was the home of the Museum of Fine Arts from 1876 until 1909.

Upon completion of this building in 1882, membership in the Boston Art Club continued to grow, and the exhibitions that were held here were major events, attracting many of the nation’s leading artists. However, non-artist members began to vastly outnumber actual artists, which led to the organization becoming more of a social club, with conservative members who were reluctant to embrace modernism and other new art styles in the early 20th century. They continued to hold exhibitions for many years, and even allowed women to join as members in 1933, but the club would never reach the level of prominence that it had enjoyed in the late 1800s. The building was finally sold in 1950, and it is now a public school, the The Muriel Sutherland Snowden International School at Copley.

Newbury Street, Boston

Looking west on Newbury Street from Arlington Street in Boston, around 1880. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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Newbury Street in 2015:

Like the rest of the Back Bay, Newbury Street was originally developed as an upscale residential street, starting in the early 1860s. The oldest building on the street is the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which was completed in 1861 as one of the first of many churches that would eventually relocate to the Back Bay. It is partially visible on the right side, just to the right of the steeple of another historic church, the Central Congregational Church, which was built a block away at Berkeley Street in 1867.

Aside from these two churches, the rest of the buildings in the first photo are residential brownstones, similar to those found throughout the rest of the Back Bay. However, beginning in the early 1900s, the street began to transition into an upscale shopping district. Further down the street, many of the historic houses were converted into stores, but the Arlington Street end has seen some significant changes. This is generally where most of the high-end shops are located, and the 2015 photo includes companies like Burberry, Chanel, and Tiffany in the foreground. The Burberry building, located at the corner on the far left, is original from the first photo, and just beyond the Emmanuel Church there is a group of brownstones, but otherwise most of the other houses from the first photo have either been demolished or altered beyond recognition.

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.

Central Congregational Church, Boston

Central Congregational Church at the corner of Berkeley and Newbury in Boston, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The same building, now the Church of the Covenant, in 2015:


The church was built in 1867, one of the first in Boston’s then recently filled in Back Bay.  By the time the 1904 photo was taken, the Back Bay looked very much like it does today, albeit with fewer skyscrapers.  Still, though, many of the low-rise residential buildings from 1904 are still there, including a few visible in both of these photos.  At the time of its construction, the church was the tallest building in Boston, and retained its title until the construction of the Custom House Tower in 1915.