ABOUT THE HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHS Two subway headhouses, on almost the same site at State Street and Atlantic Avenue, are bookends to a century of changing tastes in architecture. The older headhouse opened for business in 1906. It stood at the downtown end of a tunnel that squirreled its way beneath the water of Boston Harbor, emerging at Maverick Square in East Boston. This was the world's first underwater transit tunnel. It served streetcars until 1924 and rapid-transit cars afterward. The headhouse was built tall in order to connect not only with the below-grade subway but also with an elevated line that continued to serve the station until 1938. Four elevators made the vertical connections. Atlantic Avenue Station, as it was called, was a charmer. Like a traffic cop who wishes to be the pedestrian's friend, it frustrated auto traffic by firmly standing right in the middle of State Street. There weren't any cars, of course, when it was built. Architecturally, the headhouse looks as if a couple of misplaced temples from the Roman Empire had met unexpectedly in Boston and embraced. Especially charming is the rather oddly-proportioned half-round porch looking up State Street, with what resembles a pilot's house above it. With its domestic scale, the headhouse looks more like a real house than like a public utility -- maybe a house in a children's story, bravely sited in the midst of traffic. The station was the product of the last era before the dawn of modernism, a time when it was thought OK to make a building by pasting together motifs from the past. Its life came to an end on January 28, 1949. A fire broke out when workers, who were removing the elevators to replace them with escalators, ignited grease and caused an explosion in an acetylene tank. Three died and many were injured. A not very interesting new station was then built, in a manner that's usually called Stripped Classical (or sometimes WPA Style, after the Roosevelt-era agency). In that style, classical Greek, Roman, or Renaissance motifs are flattened out to look more modern (Central Square Post Office in Cambridge is a fine example). That headhouse disappeared in its turn, to be replaced by the one we see in the new photo, which still isn't quite finished although it opened last year. Designed by Cambridge architect Harry Ellenzweig, it's modern in its love of contemporary materials like metal and glass, in its lack of unnecessary ornament, and in the dramatic way it seems to plunge like a diver into the ground. Down at track level, where it meets the old tunnel, it's a superbly elegant public space. -Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker, "CITYSCAPES - Doors to the Underground", Boston Globe, 13 February 2005