Pictures of Eagle County’s past
Ryan Summerlin January 7, 2013
Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.EDWARDS – In June of 2011, the Vail Daily published an essay I had written titled “Old photo yields clues” about my identification of three turn-of-the-century old glass-plated negatives from a source in Virginia. My source was a fellow large-format photographer who had requested help in the identification of these glass plated negatives he had in his possession. He posting some of the images on the Large Format Photography web site, a forum I frequent daily in my photographic research, and I took an interest in them. The glass-plated images were taken “out West” by an unknown photographer at the turn of the century, and my Virginia source was willing to share these 12 images with me.Upon examination of these glass plated negatives, I immediately made 8-by-10 working prints, and instinctively, I was able to identify a specific negative without hesitation. That negative No. 1 was an image of the famed Devils Gate Trestle, the Georgetown Loop, in Clear Creek County. Having lived in Georgetown 20 years prior to my coming over here to this county, I was very familiar with Georgetown’s historic past. I was also a former teacher of history in Clear Creek, and over time, I turned my attention to photography, my present profession. Identification was easy.Another photograph, which took considerable time to identify, was presented to me flipped backwards. Reversed negatives create research difficulties, however, over time, and sifting through the Denver Public Library Digital Collection for hours on end, I was able to pinpoint the image – an image that was very similar in its orientation as that taken by William Henry Jackson, the famed turn of the century photographer. That image No. 3 was of Palmer Lake, not far from Colorado Springs. What made the image identifiable was the train station and water tank for the steam engine pictured in the photograph. Without the digital collection at the Denver Library to do my research to make image comparison, identification would have been most improbable.Eureka!The next image identified in 2011 was No. 2 (train station at Wolcott), and this image is the basis of this story as it is connected to the fourth image, the one presently being identified. The second image is important for several reasons: It was taken locally in this county, was identified secondly without too much difficulty on my part, and its hidden clues were overlooked initially and were only recognized recently. In June of 2011, I had no idea that these two images were connected, and it has taken me this long to make the connection. Doing photo detective work, long hours of research, yields results now and then. Eureka!I will label this image as Exhibit A No. 2, which was identified in June 2011 as the train station at Wolcott.The photographer composed his image: A scene of a railroad station, a train at rest with smoke belching out of its stack at the station taking on passengers and cargo, in the forefront a bridge crossing a river, in the background commercial buildings with a wagon trail going northward from the station towards Steamboat Springs. The photographer’s position at the time he took the photo was from the front yard or porch of a building with a fence in the forefront with the railroad station in the far distance. In the distance on the right a commercial building states Eagle River M & F Co., and under that heading General & Hay can be seen under magnification. A man, standing along side a railroad car in a derby hat, black suit, is talking to a passenger leaning out of the railcar window. To the far left is another building stating JW Hughes & Son. The photographer also composed in the forefront of the image a “flag stone sidewalk” leading from the patio area to the road. Also shown is a three-board fence designating the front property line with the gate opened & folded back upon itself. The bridge, typical construction of the times, crosses the Eagle River. There are also telephone, telegraph lines running from the upper right hand corner of the photograph from perhaps the same building. All these details are visible in the original glass negative, however, some magnification is necessary. This photograph, Exhibit A No.2 entitled, The Train Station At Walcott identified in June 2011 provided clues to the fourth unknown negative. Those clues did not reveal themselves until this past week.Read the second part of Raymond Bleesz’ story in tomorrow’s Vail Daily.Raymond A. Bleesz lives in Edwards.