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Beantown: 1900

Beantown: 1900

Continuing our circa 1900 tour of ever more grandiose public buildings: "Boston post office." With an enterprising exterminator's wagon out front. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

RE: Angels in the architecture

The statues are indeed by Daniel Chester French. And, in this case, they did not end up in a landfill -- today they help frame the entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo:

Water Bugs

I can still hear my mother telling me those little critters I would see occasionally were water bugs and we had them because of the dampness in the basement. It seemed dampness has magical powers to lure them from wherever they were living before.

Angels in the architecture

Just take a gander at those inspirational classical sculptures that are a full five stories above street level! (If they are not by Daniel Chester French, they are definitely by an artist who was inspired by the great sculptor.) How can one not admire such excess in a public building? It's a tragedy that many such artworks ended up in landfills when the buildings were deemed obsolete and replaced.


The horse cart at the curb in front of the left side of the building has a THIRD wheel, perpendicular to the other two - for what purpose? To make the cart turn on a dime? Or perhaps its the 1900 version of a "Continental Kit."

[You're looking at it wrong. It's a four-wheel wagon with the front wheels turned sideways. - Dave]

Aha! Now it makes sense!

Post Office Square

This is the original post office of Post Office Square -- it played a role in the Great Fire of 1872, even though it was still under construction. In 1932, it was replaced by the Art Deco-style federal building that you can see in the Google Street View of this area today. Lots more info and photos at and

Killer Crullers

The exterminator's wagon lists its address as 235 Washington Street. Today it's a Dunkin' Donuts.

Second Empire Style

Ah, Alred B. Mullett, aka the Tennessee Waterfall. Business in front, party in the back. Not really my taste, but to each his own Victorian bric-a-brac cathouse style.

I'm much more interested in the anemometer and antenna on the roof, and the fact that all those striped awnings on the building next door ARE RETRACTABLE. How obvious, yet I had no idea.

Mail Trolley!

I had no idea mail trolleys existed. But now I do!
According to the National Postal Museum:

Boston's trolley mail car service was begun on May 1, 1895. The Boston Post referred to the "six strange but beautiful vehicles" which were ordered for the service.

Quick, Henry, the Flit!

What chemicals and/or "home remedy" would a bug exterminator of this era have used? What was their effectiveness compared to the substances sprayed in an average public building today?

[Probably something with arsenic. - Dave]

I would like to go back in time

Just to hear the sounds of the city in this photo. Just the sounds, not the smell.

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