Crooked and Narrow Streets: Annie Haven Thwing’s “Old Boston” Scrapbook
I recently received a scrapbook from a friend moving away from Boston who needed to weed out her hefty book collection. She texted me a series of pictures of the books she was giving away, which included a Victorian volume with one word, “Scrapbook,” emblazoned in gold on the cover. The book was large (usually a deterrent for me, since I don’t have much room for books in my apartment either) and I didn’t entirely know what I would find inside, but of course I wanted it. I was happy to add this mysterious book to my collection and excited about flipping through its pages to find out what was tucked away between its covers.
I was similarly excited about looking through the Annie Haven Thwing Scrapbooks. It was the printed collection guide that first piqued my interest, the title list of the scrapbooks indicating volumes on ‘Old Boston,’ ‘Portraits,’ and ‘Friendly letters to A.H.T.’ I decided to pull the volume for ‘Old Boston’ and see what treasures it contained. Inside I found maps of Boston, reviews of Thwing’s book The Crooked and Narrow Streets of the Town of Boston, and a number of cut-out sketches and photographs of Boston.
What I found most interesting about these images, seemingly clipped from her own book as well as other publications, was the view they provide not just of Old Boston, but of lost Boston. A compilation of images depicting areas and buildings later demolished or destroyed, as well as maps of the city’s shifting boundaries satisfied some curiosities I had intended to research (What did Louisburg Square look like in the past?), some I didn’t realize I had (Who owned the pasture the State House was built on?), and raised others I have yet to thoroughly investigate: What’s the story behind Smokers’ Circle on Boston Common? The Water Celebration of 1848? The building replaced by the Boston Public Library? Thwing devotes several scrapbook pages to buildings and locations severely impacted by the Great Fire of 1872, highlighting the extent of destruction, damage, and change that such an event can precipitate. I certainly have enjoyed looking into these topics so far and will continue to do so.
Map of Beacon Hill with preceding land ownership divisions.
Smoker’s Circle on Boston Common.
The Water Celebration of 1848 on Boston Common, commemorating the introduction of water from Lake Cochituate to Boston.
The Samuel N. Brown House on the corner of Dartmouth and Blagden Streets, where the Boston Public Library now stands.
Artist’s rendering of Boston after the Great Fire of 1872.
Annie Haven Thwing’s interest in Old Boston, every crooked and narrow street, is captured in her scrapbooks and writings. Other volumes in the scrapbook collection include personal correspondence, letters regarding the publication of her book, obituaries, and portraits of notable American figures, British political figures, Civil War regiments from New England, and newspaper clippings regarding the activities of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Visit the library to view the Annie Haven Thwing Scrapbooks and other collections to see what answers you can find to the questions and curiosities her clippings inspire. For a more detailed history of Old Boston from Thwing herself, read The Crooked and Narrow Streets of the Town of Boston online via the Internet Archive.
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