Public Library, Worcester, Mass

The Worcester Public Library on Elm Street, around 1905-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The scene in 2016:

Prior to the mid-19th century, public libraries were almost unheard of in the United States. However, by the late 1850s many cities were establishing their own libraries, including Worcester in 1859. It began with about 10,000 books, donated from the Worcester Lyceum and the private collection of Dr. John Green, and was originally housed on the third floor of a commercial block at the corner of Main and Foster Streets.

In 1862, the library moved into its first permanent home on Elm Street, the building on the right side of the first photo. In the following decades, though, the library’s collections outgrew this original space, and in 1891 it was expanded to the east with the massive addition on the left side of the photo. This addition was designed by Worcester architect Stephen Earle, with a Romanesque style design that bore no relation to the more Italianate-based style of the original building.

The Worcester Public Library remained here until 1964, when it moved to its current location on Salem Street. The century-old building here on Elm Street, along with its 1891 addition, were then demolished, and the site was redeveloped as a parking garage.

Boynton Hall, Worcester, Mass

Boynton Hall at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

As mentioned in the previous post, Boynton Hall and the neighboring Washburn Shops to the right were the original two buildings on the campus of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Completed in 1868 the same year that the school opened, they were named for John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn, two local industrialists who helped to establish the school. At the time, the United States was experiencing a rapid growth in industry and technology, but there were relatively few colleges that focused on mechanical and scientific training. Among the first was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, which began holding classes in 1865, but WPI soon followed, with Boynton, Washburn, and other donors recognizing the value of such an education.

As the oldest building on campus, Boynton Hall looks very different from most of the others. With its granite exterior and Gothic architecture, it looks more like a traditional university building than later buildings such as the Salisbury Laboratories, which has a more utilitarian, industrial appearance. However, both building were designed by Stephen C. Earle, a Worcester-based architect who designed many public buildings in the city and surrounding areas. He was best known for his Romanesque designs such as the Central Congregational Church, but Boynton Hall was one of his earlier works, designed at a time when Gothic Revival was still a prominent style for institutional buildings.

By the time the first photo was taken, the building was already nearly 50 years old, but its exterior appearance had not changed much, and another century later it still looks essentially the same. On the inside, however, it has changed uses several times. Originally built to house classrooms and laboratories, the labs were moved out when the Salisbury building was completed in 1888, and in 1955 it was converted into administrative offices. Today, it continues to serve in this role, with offices for the president, provost, and other administrative departments.

Salisbury Laboratories, Worcester, Mass

The Salisbury Laboratories building at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, around 1900-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.


The building in 2016:

This building is one of the oldest on the WPI campus, and was completed in 1888 to alleviate overcrowding at Boynton Hall. It provided additional classroom and lab space for the school, and was built with funds provided by Stephen Salisbury III, who had the building named in honor of his father, one of the founders of the school. Local architect Stephen C. Earle designed the building in a fairly conservative Romanesque design that more closely resembled a mill than an institution of higher learning, perhaps reflecting the practical, industrial nature of the school’s programs.

Over the years, the Salisbury Laboratories building has been significantly expanded, including a 1940 addition to the right that imitates Earle’s original design. The original building is still easily recognizable, though, and remains in use for classrooms, labs, and lecture halls. Further in the distance on the left, the historic 1868 Washburn Shops building is also still standing, and just out of view beyond it is Boynton Hall, which opened the same year and was the school’s first building.

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.


The scene in 2016:


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.

Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield

Taken between 1905 and 1915, this photo shows Christ Church Cathedral as it appeared a century ago. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

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The same view as of December 2012:


Not much has changed in these two views; even the art building of the Springfield Museums is still there, and the building barely visible to the far left also appears to be the same in both photos. The one major difference, of course, is the tower of the church. Originally built in 1876 with a tower (although I have yet to find an image of the original tower), the tower cracked within a year and was taken down for safety reasons. It would not be rebuilt until 1927.