Saturday, February 4, 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story

St. Patrick Church, stereoview

Oops, I meant to add this to the previous blog entry.  Mea culpa.

Sometimes when folks think about donating a photograph, they just toss it in the trash believing it has no historical significance.  Take a look at the stereoview.  Walt and I sat at my kitchen table with magnifying glasses (I know, we're old school.) noting details that might not seem important at first glance.  Notice the rectory with the Mansard style roof.  That is not the current rectory telling us the photo is pre1925 when the current rectory was built.  Then notice the roof of the church, no clerestory windows.  Aha, this was before the 1904 fire!  Look a little closer.  The fence is part granite and part iron.  There were small remnants of this left through the 1960s, but no one has ever seen how the fence originally looked.  Now we know. The Working Girls Home is not there.  Hmmm, before 1890s then.  Here's the kicker, the brick wall that the Sisters of Notre Dame had around the grounds is missing.  Walter also noticed, because of his personal memories going back decades, that the chapel is not there. 

Because of the Archives, we have a copy of the Sisters Journals going back to 1852.  Your trusty blogger has read it through several dozen times (I know, how boring), but I recalled an entry about the wall.  The Journal of the Sisters mostly said how many rosaries were recited and the number of students in the school.  From time to time little vignettes of convent life were brought to light.  In 1876 the Sisters said that a plan was being made to take down the wooden chapel and build a brick one.  (The one that Walter recalled.)  Another entry says that in 1881 a brick wall around the convent was near completion.  Prior to this time the Sisters sat with the congregation, but the Superior had just ordered the Sisters to become semi-cloistered and remove themselves by building a wall and attending Mass behind doors, away from the public.  So we have narrowed the dates of the stereocard to between 1876-1881. 

There's more to see as well.  The trees on the front lawn.  No one knew those existed.  Also take a look at the canal rubble along the Western Canal, interesting and worth more investigating.  So those pictures you think have no value, think again.  Let the history detectives take a look.  Hey, maybe Walt and I can have our own program.  PBS watch out.

Take a look at your own photos.  No date?  Is there a calendar on the wall?  A magazine cover?  The Name of a movie on a billboard?  Don't know where it was taken?  Look at the buildings in back.  Is there a street sign?  Store sign?  If you watch CSI, you probably have a bit of Sherlock Holmes in you.  It's all elementary, Watson.

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