J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Old Boston Photographs on Flickr

After my recent postings on the now-demolished Galloupe House in the North End, Boston 1775 reader Richard De Fonce alerted me to the Boston Public Library’s Flickr set of Old Boston Photographs.

The collection includes a photograph of the Galloupe House on Hull Street, from the same perspective as its nineteenth-century engravings. I guess there was only one way to get a good look at it since it was hemmed in by other buildings.

De Fonce noted that the nearby Hart House (shown here) is also identified as “Headquarters to General Thomas Gage during the Battle of Bunker Hill” in its online caption. However, this is clearly a case of “memory creep”; all the information about the Galloupe House in MacDonald’s Old Copp’s Hill and Burying Ground, including its construction date of 1724, has been assigned to the Hart House as well. Rambles in Old Boston shows and discusses what it calls the Hartt House without noting any Revolutionary significance.

The B.P.L.’s online collection includes a picture of Province House, official residence of the royal governors—where Gage definitely had his main headquarters. This is not a photograph but an engraving which was printed in many histories.

Province House remained standing until 1922, so why don’t we have good photographs of it? By the time photography was invented, the house had been hemmed in on all sides by other buildings. It no longer looked stately, as it did in the eighteenth century. In fact, it probably looked like what it had become: a dark, rundown commercial building.

I’m going to pull up and discuss other images from the B.P.L.’s collection as it strikes me, but here are some random highlights to check out:

Not all the buildings pictured in the collection go back to the Revolutionary War, and not all of them were significant in how that war turned out, but together they offer a glimpse of lost Boston.


Anonymous said...

I realize that this is not your baliwick, but I was mystified by the BPL note on the Tileston house, which is said to be on North Bennet Street, with an address of 87 Prince Street. North Bennet Street and Prince Street are parallel, not cornerwise, so I can't make out where the building would have been. To add to my confusion, I studied for a year in the Tileston Building at the North Bennet Street School, which is on Tileston Street, but is not the pictured building at all. And here I had thought that I was in an historic place, hallowed by three centuries of teaching tradition.

J. L. Bell said...

The Tileston Building might have gotten its name from Tileston Street, which was definitely named for John Tileston the schoolmaster. So there’s some teaching tradition hovering there.

I can’t explain the caption about the corner of Prince and North Bennet, except to say that the B.P.L.’s catalogue captions do contain errors.