Prosperity: 1900-1950[edit | edit source]
Photos, l-r: Lincoln Building, Leray Hotel, YMCA, Woolworth Building. Click each photo to enlarge.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the square saw still more construction, as the industrial boom of the late 19th century continued apace. The Harris House, at the time the square’s oldest structure, having survived the 1849 fire, was torn down to make way for the current Franklin Building in 1906. In 1907, the Universalist Church was torn down, and the Leray Hotel (later the Electric Building) was built in its place. Watertown's first movie house, The Wonderland, opened in the LeRay Hotel the same year .] In 1908, Doolittle and Hall Block was extensively remodeled, with two additional floors, and a white brick façade, and became known as the Lincoln Building. Washington Hall was torn down and replaced by the current YMCA building in 1913.
In 1921, two years after F.W. Woolworth’s death, the Woolworth Corporation tore down the American Building and built the six story Woolworth Building in its place. Half of the Paddock Building was also torn down to make way for the Woolworth Building, only the section fronting the Arcade remained standing. When fire destroyed the Taggart Building in 1922, the current Commerce Building was erected in its place two years later. Also at this time, The Woodruff House, now known as the Hotel Woodruff, expanded, adding an additional 210 rooms to the back of its main structure] .
The Great Depression in the 1930’s struck Watertown hard, but Public Square remained the economic and social center of the city. During the World War Two, Watertown’s economy revived as local industry boomed due to the war effort. On May 8th, 1945, tens of thousands of people thronged Public Square to join in the VE Day celebrations.