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Awning Chasm: 1906

Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1906. "Washington Street." Or, "The Dentist Steps Out." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.

Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1906. "Washington Street." Or, "The Dentist Steps Out." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Co. View full size.


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RH White & Co.

The building on the right, just past the dentist's office and with the striped awning, is RH White & Company, a popular department store of the time. You can just barely read the name on the building.

Summer time

The era of awnings refused to go down without a fight, even after AC became common, The awning was a cheap way of cooling and a venue for advertising that wasn't taxed like a sign. I remember running from one awning to the next during a Brooklyn downpour, you got wet but it was still fun.

Cars in 1906

Dr Horatio Green of Vermont, the first person to drive across the country, completed his epic journey in 1903. Cars, at least among the wealthy and tech inclined, were a common sight in 1906. There were a few car makers in Massachusetts as early as the 1890s.

B.F. Meant Big Fun

The rather ornate white building just this side of O'Callahan's is B.F. Keith's New Theatre at 547 Washington Street -- a huge venue for vaudeville in its day.

Thomas Edison demonstrated his new Vitascope projector there on May 18, 1896, the first projection of a movie anywhere in Boston.

At its peak, Benjamin Franklin Keith's organization controlled well over a hundred theaters east of the Mississippi, many of them named after him.

Opera House

Could that be the Boston Opera House on the left? It was originally called the B.F. Keith Theatre, and the sign on the street looks like it might read "Keith's".


Opera House (B.F. Keith's) on the left.

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It's truly a blessing we can enjoy this beautiful picture today, more than 100 years later

Has anyone else noticed

the number of credit clothing stores that have shown up recently. In practically every vintage picture, there seem to be two constants: the ubiquitious cigar seller and the credit clothier.

Funny until someone gets hurt

A door opening to a 15-foot vertical drop is a really bad idea, especially when you have patients loopy on laughing gas.

Vintage Vantage

Where would this have been taken from? It seems to be at the third story level. Was there a bridge? or is there a cross street that the photographer would have been on the far side of?

The Sounds of Summer

I can only imagine what this scene sounded like.


I've always wondered why Washington Street is so narrow. Obviously it has been a major urban street for a long time. I suppose the answer has something to do with a colonial cow path.

An automobile?

I have never seen a 1906 pic with an automobile. Is this a misprint?

[You're right. Must be from 1907. - Dave]

Ornate facades and elaborate cornices

These building look like they were designed to last a thousand years.

Quite a Pair

I love the two derby wearing fellows standing at the curb, at the bottom (right of center) of the photo: the tightly wrapped one and the wide open one. I try not to impute too much personality or inner life to the folks frozen in Shorpy pictures, but I hope these two were best buddies.

Has to be at least 1909

I spy Filene's off in the middle distance:

[You're confusing Filene's with Filene's Basement. Filene's got its start in 1881. - Dave]

Ah, that I am! Thanks!

Pleased to see

that Dave hasn't lost his touch for clever captions.

Eccentric perch

Putting aside his "stepping out" behavior, the dentist looks like he belongs at Puritan Dental Co.

Too Late!

If I miss the streetcar, how long do I have to wait for the next one?

Not so painless dentist

If he takes that first step.


I spotted Filene's in the photo and I know where I'm headed next. To the basement! Can you imagine the bargains awaiting for you there in 1905? Why are the streets so crowded at the moment? Filene's must be having a fire sale!

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