The Boston Holiday Scene: Then and Now

Events, Opinions Posted Dec 18, 2015 by Kayla Krause

It may not seem like it with the unseasonably warm weather but Christmas is just a week away.  Like my colleague JT mentioned in her latest post, I’ve also found it a little challenging to get into the holiday spirit this year.  I recently came across an article in Boston Magazine, “Eight Vintage Photos Show Boston’s Bygone Holidays,” which displayed incredibly beautiful photographs of Boston’s storefronts, streets and more from the early 1900’s around the holiday season.  As I live and work in the city, I know where each storefront and streets are located as I basically walk passed them daily, which makes seeing these photos that much more special.  After reading the article, I was inspired to venture around Downtown Crossing (DTX) and the Financial District, comparing the then and now.

 Jordan MarshMacy's todayLeft: Jordan Marsh department store in 1954.

Right: Macy’s department store today.





Did you know? Beginning in 1861, Jordan Marsh Company was the first department store of its size in Downtown Crossing (450 Washington St.) In 1949, the building was renovated with an addition and updated with the latest technology, air conditioning, etc. It wasn’t until 1996 when the Macy’s corporation took ownership of Jordan Marsh (due to bankruptcy) and converted the store to today’s Macy’s in DTX.


Filene's xmas treeprimark view with clockLeft: The Filene’s department store tree in 1954.

Right:  The Primark department store today occupies four floors.




Fun fact: Like New York used the phrase, “meet me under the clock” in reference to Grand Central Station’s clock, Boston’s variation was in reference to the Filene’s clock. When Filene’s officially closed, the Boston Landmark Commission unanimously voted to protect the facade of two of the Filene’s buildings, which included the clock and it can still be seen there today (as pictured here.) The former flagship Boston store is the first U.S. location of Primark, which is an Ireland-based store.


Macy's xmas tree


Left: The Christmas tree is now outside of Macy’s along the Summer Street side entrances.







Good to know: The Macy’s tree lighting is always the Friday following Thanksgiving. There are performances by musicians who were featured in New York Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and of course a visit from Santa Claus.


 trains on washington streetwashington and summer, no triansLeft: Crowds and electric street cars on Washington and Summer Streets in 1912.

Right: Washington Street today.




Interesting tidbit: The electric street cars pictured on the left are Boston’s first version of what we have today, the T. Actually, Boston has the oldest subway system in North America – dating back to 1897 when the first streetcar was created and operated.

Shoppers at Tremont and Winter streetscurrent day tremont and winter streetsLeft: Intersection of Tremont and Winter Streets in 1945.

Right: Intersection of Tremont and Winter Streets today.




Here are some other photos from 2015 holiday festivities and decorations:

North end_Chris Columbus parkRoche Bros.Believe sign in Macy'sLeft: Christopher Columbus Park in the North End.

Middle: Roche Bros. and Primark in DTX.

Right: Inside Macy’s department store.