Province Court, Boston (2)

Facing Province Street from Province Court in Boston, in July 1901. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

These photos were taken facing the opposite direction from the ones in the previous post, and they give a glimpse into how Boston once looked along the old alleys and side streets of downtown Boston. Tucked away from the main commercial centers in the city, this area was home to less glamorous but nonetheless important businesses like plumbers, painters, roofers, carpenters, sign makers, chimney sweepers, tailors, and hat cleaners, as the signs here show.

None of these buildings are still standing today. The one on the right was demolished around 1922, when the present Province Building was built there. In the center, the wooden building along Province Street was demolished by 1908, and today most of the west side of the street is occupied by 45 Providence Street, a 30-story condominium building in the center of the 2015 photo.

Province Court, Boston (1)

Looking down Province Court from Province Street in Boston, in July 1901. Image courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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Province Court in 2015:

Province Court was once part of a maze of alleys in the block between Washington Street, School Street, Province Street, and Bromfield Street. Most of these are now gone, but Province Court is still here, functioning mainly as a service entrance for the surrounding buildings. When the first photo was taken, though, this area was much busier. In contrast to the busy shopping district on nearby Washington Street, Province Court was more of a blue collar area, with signs advertising a number of tradesmen, including plumbers, painters, carpenters, and tailors.

Both Province Court and Province Street were named for the Province House, a colonial mansion that was built here in 1679. For most of the 18th century, it served as the home of the colonial governors of Massachusetts, which is why early maps show Province Street as being named Governors Alley. The house burned in 1864 and was mostly demolished, although one of the walls was left standing and was incorporated into the buildings on the left side of the 1901 photo. Most of these buildings, including the remaining section of the Province House, were demolished in 1922 to build the Province Building,which is still standing today to the left and the center of the 2015 scene.