Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Two Scollay Scenes

I fell in love with this 1860 photograph of a horsecar passing by Pemberton square along Tremont Row.This is Scollay square wayyy back in the day. The day in this case is pre-Civil War days, when the horse car was a new conveyance on the streets of Boston. Just a few years before this photograph was taken, there were no rails in the streets, and passengers would have been riding in omnibuses, which were long, multi-passenger coaches pulled by a team of horses. With the use of rails, horses were able to pull significantly more weight, and cars got larger.

Scollay's building, very near the time of the top photograph, and just before it was taken down in 1870.. Both photos show the sign for the Middlesex Railroad, which operated the horsecar line shown above, which ran to Cambridge. 

When I first saw the top photograph, I wondered if I could identify S. R. Niles. Sure enough, Stephen R. Niles showed up in the 1855 Boston Directory at 1 Scollay's building. And the 1865 Directory identifies him as an advertising agent, with a home at 17 Pinkney street. The city took the building to open the street in 1870, and in 1870 Niles' business is located at 6 Tremont street.

George R. Hichborn, auctioneer,  first appears in the Boston Directory in 1855 at 10 Faneuil Hall. In 1865, Hichborn (and son, apparently) are in the Scollay building as seen above. In 1872, the building has been removed, and Hichborn & Co. is at 63 Court st. They were still present at that address in 1885, but by 1905, the company is not listed, and Samuel Hichborn is principal assessor in City Hall.

George H. Chapin doesn't appear in the 1865 Directory, showing up in 1870, just as the building is going to be taken and pulled down. This dates the second photograph above (if we can trust the directories) to a date between those two years. Google informs me that the farm agency was a real estate agency selling farms. When Scollay's building came down, Chapin moved to 24 Tremont Row, basically across the street. In 1885, Chapin is also listed as a publisher, and is located on Washington street, and in 1905, the listing is 'real estate and publisher' - no mention of farms any more - although in 1925, it's back to 'farm agency.'

Scollay square, with the Scollay building, marked in red, 1851 (BPL).The top photograph look from a building at Cornhill and Court streets, past the Scollay building, across Tremont Row and up Pemberton to Pemberton square.

If you're interested in Scollay square, make sure you visit this great blog.


  1. Beautiful images of old Boston!

  2. This is an outstanding post! I've never seen these photos before. The map with the red box really helps. I wonder if the footprint of the building might need to be rotated a quarter turn clockwise though. The top photo leads me to believe the building is facing more Southwesterly than southeasterly.

  3. Anonymous, I encourage you to visit my Scollay Square website ( for more pictures of the bygone area.

    And Mark, my thanks once again for linking to my site from your wonderful blog.

  4. The original buildings were wood, and extended back to Hanover street. Those were apparently torn down, and the brick building was build at the Court street end. The building separated Court street from Tremont Row, as shown above. It was torn down when traffic increased and the two narrow passages on either side of the building were causing traffic blocks.

  5. I recently reread all of Louisa May Alcott's books and a lot of her short stories on my Kindle. Seeing the photo, especially the one of the horsecar, and the woman getting on, really helps in visualizing what was going on in the books! Thanks so much, Mark!

  6. Wow I have never seen this photo. I am a descendant of the Hichborn family. Do you have more photos or information about them? I saw your blog on George Hichborns Diary. Where did you get this from?
    Diane Hichborn