A friend shared this on Facebook recently and I thought it needed to be posted here!
Previously I had posted a film from a 1906 San Francisco trolley ride. In that post, I noted: "It's hard today for us to imagine what city streets were like in 1905. There was an element of lawlessness--and pedestrians, newsboys, bicyclists, trolleys, cars, horses, and wagons/sleds all occupied the streets willy-nilly."
The opening of this film shows traffic on Tremont and Washington Streets, which was one of the most congested areas in the city. (You can clearly see the old Jordan Marsh store.) In 1897, Boston had opened its first subway line, right under Tremont and Washington, to help with the traffic. It's so crowded in the film, it's hard to imagine there were even more trolleys and people there before 1897!
Construction of that first subway tunnel was just like the Big Dig--they built it in the middle of the living city! Each night, they would dig 12 foot wide strips on Tremont Street, and then cover them and shore them up with timbers. In the daytime, traffic down Tremont could continue unabated, and the workers could continue with digging and construction underneath.
In 1901, the elevated line from Charlestown to North Station opened--you can see the elevated station (which looked the same for a century!) in the middle of the film.
The final section of the film shows Boylston Street and Copley Square.
A year or so after this film was made, in December of 1904, Boston would open its first under-harbor tunnel, the East Boston trolley tunnel.