A new exhibition featuring 22 historical panoramic views of Westport opens Thursday, Jan. 3 at the Westport Free Public Library, presenting astonishing expansive visions of the landscape as well as …
A new exhibition featuring 22 historical panoramic views of Westport opens Thursday, Jan. 3 at the Westport Free Public Library, presenting astonishing expansive visions of the landscape as well as fascinating tiny details of everyday life in old Westport.
Covering locations from Westport Factory, the Head of Westport and Westport Point to the Harbor, these images reveal Westport as it appeared in the early 1900s — on the cusp of modernity, but still very much frozen in the horse and buggy era. "Retro Perspective: Panoramic Vistas from Westport's Past" is being presented at the library by the Westport Historical Society.
From a collection of many hundreds of historical images, the exhibition presents a select few that, when paired with another image, form wider panoramic views. The images have been digitally merged to form a single view and enlarged from small postcards to as wide as four feet.
“The large size of the prints provides an immersive experience for the viewer,” Jenny O’Neill, the society's executive director, said. “It’s almost like being at that particular location and at that particular point in time.”
The rural landscape depicted in the images, delineated by an intricate maze of stone walls and wood fences, appears starkly treeless.
“Today it would be impossible to take a comparable photo because our views are generally obscured by trees,” she said.
The images are instantly accessible to the general viewer. Many of the buildings shown in the photographs still exist, making it easy to recognize many locations and to compare Westport then to now.
“I hope visitors can look at these images from both a macro and a micro perspective,” O’Neill said. “I especially enjoy picking out the many details such as the washing hanging out to dry on a clothes-line, the photographer’s horse and buggy, the style of fencing, dogs wandering across a road, or the haphazard outbuildings in backyards. We offer a special photo detective scavenger hunt to engage younger audiences.”
This exhibition represents the work of three photographers — Oscar Edwin Dubois, John Howland and The Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company — and draws from several collections. The Westport Historical Society holds an extensive postcard collection, including the Lees postcard collection, the Jan Hall collection, and Berwyn Field Collection. The exhibition also includes images from the Penobscot Marine Museum and from privately held collections.
Dubois (1863-1940), a Fall River-based photographer, documented this region extensively, traveling through Little Compton, Portsmouth, Westport and Tiverton. Photographers of this era used hefty, large format wooden cameras which were difficult to carry without a horse and buggy. Dubois’ horse and buggy can be spotted in a number of images in the exhibition.
Howland (1848-1919), a farmer, carpenter and a photographer, lived on Pine Hill Road and took many photographs at the Head of Westport, South Westport and Cadmans Neck. Most of his images survive as postcards.
The Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, based in Belfast, Maine, focused on small rural towns of New England. A small crew of photographers traveled throughout this region capturing images of locally known landmarks, street scenes, country stores and businesses, events and people. The negatives survived and the collection is now at the Penobscot Marine Museum.
The Westport Historical Society’s collection encompasses thousands of photographs and postcards. The entire collection of photographs can be browsed or searched at www.wpthistory.org/collection/online-collections-database/
A selection of images are available for purchase. Proceeds will support the Westport Historical Society. Visit www.wpthistory.org/retro-perspective/ for further details.