Old photo yields clues for Edwards photographer
EDWARDS, Colorado – In March, the Vail Daily published an article I wrote titled “Photo detective,” which dealt with old glass-plated photo negatives, dating from approximately 1890 to 1910, photos taken in this general area.In that article, I mentioned finding a trove of glass-plated photo negatives from a photo source in Virginia. The images were taken in Colorado at the turn of the century by an unknown photographer. Through extensive, timely research, I was able to identify two of the glass-plated negatives: a photo of the famed Georgetown High Trestle Bridge as well as identifying the railroad station at WolcottIn the Wolcott photo,a passenger train is at rest, taking on passengers and water for the steam engine. The photo looks north from the present day junction of Route 6 and Route 131 to Steamboat Springs. I re-created a present day photo utilizing the same vantage point as was used by the unknown photographer at the turn of the century. The match provided a look at Wolcott of days gone by as well as Wolcott today – not a great deal of change.I was able to identity these images quickly as I have been living in this area since 1970, and I am a former history teacher turned photographer.A third glass plated image took considerable more time and research. Initially, my thought was that this image was likewise close to Wolcott, perhaps taken in the Edwards/Wolcott area. The evidence looked promising for this location.
I was also placing myself in the shoes or footsteps of this turn of the century photographer. At that time, the railroad was the means of transportation – all the glass plated negatives provided evidence that this unknown photographer was using the rails for transportation, going from Clear Creek County (the Georgetown Trestle) to Eagle County(Wolcott station). At the turn of the century, there were approximately six major railroad companies, if not more, servicing the Front Range and the gold and silver fields in the mountains and westward. The photo showed railroad tracks on both sides of a body of water, as well as the mountain ridge in the background.My study and research of this image concentrated on three factors in the original photo: the railroad tracks on both sides of the body of water, the body of water itself, and the mountain ridge line itself.Although there were Victorian dressed ladies and others in the photo, this evidence was of no use. Enlargement of the photo did some good – a row boat was perhaps visible.I kept coming back to somewhere just west of Edwards, yet when the original image was magnified, rock boulders/outcroppings just didn’t add up to positive identification here in the valley.Discouraged, I shared this information with a fellow photographer friend of mine, Rick Spitzer. Between both of us, we decidedly said “no, this image was taken elsewhere.” Further evidence in the photo – the vegetation, trees, the sun/shadows were also taken into account.
Mulling over these issues in our heads, we let the matter drop, until I thought of “old town Dillon” submerged by the present day Lake Dillon Reservoir. I had already viewed images of the digitized photos on the http://www.digital.denverlibrary.org (Denver Public Library) web site and found some leads.It warranted a drive over to Dillon/Keystone area for a look see as the Snake River was perhaps that body of water. Rick did some research on the Midland Railroad Co. and its tracks, which serviced the mining towns of Montezuma/Keystone in Summit County – perhaps we could pull the evidence together. Things still did not add up, nor were there any new leads. Discouraged again, we let things sit.In the middle of the night, I thought of the photo again. Steam engines needed “water stations.” Enlarging the original photo, the water depot was visible. So I went to the digitized Denver Library of photos, typed in “Water Stations Depot”, and pages of images showed up which required further research, viewing one image at a time. Scrolling through the images in the Denver Digitized library takes time, and late into the night – eureka! – a match and positive discovery, and major oversight on my part.
The unknown image can now be positively identified as similar to “Palmer Lake – view across lake of the Denver & Rio Grande RR Depot, Eating House, Water Tank, Boat House, El Paso County, Colo.”My oversight, which my friend Rick caught, was significant. Late into the night as we zeroed in on the mysterious photo, I overlooked, not knowing, a major fact which Rick pointed out. We both were going on the original assumption that the original negative was correct. However, with modern technology, we discovered that the original image from my Virginia source was reversed. This was a major find. The image presented to us had been flipped, unintentionally.Palmer Lake is on the Front Range, south of Denver and just north of Colorado Springs. Palmer Lake was named after Civil War Medal of Honor receipient William Jackson Palmer, who founded Colorado Springs and started the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Co.. Palmer Lake at the turn of the century was very much a tourist mecca, offering cultural events and recreational opportunities.Raymond A. Bleesz lives in Edwards.
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Vail’s updated plans regarding the state guidelines and isolation housing requirements is one of several pieces of information guests are waiting on heading into the 2020-21 season.