Posts Tagged ‘historic photographs’

Centenary College Choir members pause at the historic Hodges Gardens entrance, circa 1967-69. Hodges Foundation Archive.

“Centenary College Choir; this VW courtesy of Moffitt Volkswagen, Inc.”  This undated photograph from the archive provides an exercise in dating older photographs–a useful tool for recognizing and documenting landscape change.  Where maps are unavailable or lack a specific focus or detail, clues about the historic landscape can often be found in older photos–even those that were intended for entirely different purposes, such as a highlight of this student choir trip as photographed above.  A visit to the landscape can then assist with comparing the historic with existing conditions.

In the above example, it is difficult to revisit the exact location in the landscape, because this entire entrance area has changed since its original design in the mid-1950’s.  When U.S. Highway 171 (the road from which these students just exited) was expanded to a divided highway, nearly all the additional land acquired by the highway department came from the Hodges Gardens (east) side of the road.  The entrance sign and fence were removed, and autos now travel on top of the land in the foreground above.

The shiny Type 2 (T2) Volkswagon pictured above dates the photo to no earlier than 1967.  Though similar to Volkswagon’s Type 2 (T1)–originally marketed in the U.S. from 1950-1967–the Type 2 (T2) was sold in the U.S. from 1967-1979.  On the other end of my timeframe estimate, I’m considering vegetation, the appearance of the students, and the fact that the vehicle is a courtesy car from a Volkswagon dealership.  Given only the latter clue, I’d say the photo is not much more recent than 1979, because the dealership was more likely to provide a new/recent model for courtesy vehicles–particularly for advertisement purposes.  Considering the height of the planted pines and the style of the students, I would estimate this photo was snapped between 1967 and ’70.  If you see any other helpful clues in the photograph, I’d love to hear from you in this post’s comment space.  Volkswagon fans: do you see anything else in the character of the van that helps pinpoint the manufacture year more precisely than ’67-’79?

Established in 1941, Shreveport’s Centenary College Choir has performed around the world, and plays an important role in the culture and community of the Shreveport / Ark-La-Tex region.  Through both performances and retreats, the Choir has been closely tied to Hodges Gardens for five (5) decades.

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Comparing historic images with current views can be an excellent way to explore recent landscape change, which is important in understanding the full story of a landscape.   After finding the location of an historic image, I attempted to place my camera in just the right spot to capture a view for such analysis.  I must admit, this was an exciting exercise.  See examples of the process below.

Stonework waterway. Comparison of c.1960 image from nearly same location, June 2011. For reference, note the two major lines of curving stone waterway walls, as well as the curving stairway in the top left and three stone benches in the top left quarter of each photo. Clearly, several trees are present and providing welcome summer shade that were not present in the earlier landscape. Though less prominent in the current photo, this area still hosts additional colorful annuals, especially earlier in the spring.

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The next day was a Tuesday.  Debbie and I drove to Hodges Gardens State Park.  We called ahead to make sure Park Manager Kim Kelly could meet, as she is the primary contact for our interest in park archives here at Hodges.  Again, with the southern heat in mind, we departed Natchitoches a little after 7am, and spent the morning photo-documenting the park landscape.

We met Kim in the Gift Shop at 11am and had a brief chat about some of our discoveries in the field.   We then walked through the break room into an office space in the back of the building.  Though we had heard some archives items existed, the amount of material that lay before us was incredible.  Scrapbooks piled up to three or four feet off the ground occupied a shelf on the left wall.  Kim took one book down, and it was full of historic site photographs.  I saw 4 or 5 book-sized scrapbooks, plus several oversized (a foot or so by a couple feet in closed dimensions) scrapbooks.  We opened three or four more, and found several more sections of photographs as well as newspaper clippings.  Slightly overwhelming, but wonderful–and full of so much potential.  Many answers to recent landscape evolution and backing details of certain elements of the significance of Hodges Gardens could be in these books.  Several more hours will likely be spent with these materials.

Scrapbooks at the Park. Here is a sample of some of the awesome scrapbooks at the Park. A.J. Hodges, founder of Hodges Gardens, hired historians to document correspondence and press that dealt with the Gardens.

Hodges Gardens promotional image. An colorful sample from the park archives. Image credit: Hodges Gardens archives.

Illuminating Engineering Society. Another archive sample. We were noting the architect Walker & Walker in the bottom left of the document. As the firm seems to be out of business, we are having trouble contacting anyone from this party. A landscape masterplan from Walker & Walker or someone else could be very beneficial at this time. Image credit: Hodges Gardens archives.

In addition to her showing us the archives, Manager Kim Kelly also shared several contacts with us–folks who might hold clues or have suggestions on where to look for more answers to questions that may arise during the documentation process.   Attempting to plan for the unknown can be overwhelming on complex projects, but this is often the best way to go.  [Here today..not necessarily here tomorrow].  We will continue to consult the list throughout the summer.

To-do List. A list of additional opportunities and tasks that was created in response to the park archives visit.

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