Historical photos are windows to the past

Photo Provided The Trinity Episcopal Church, built in 1878 and the rectory next door, built in 1863, have changed little since this photo was taken around 1898 from the middle of Juliana Street looking southwest toward the Little Kanawha River. Juliana Street is now a major artery through Parkersburg. If you have a historical photo of the Parkersburg area, submit it to Art Smith at asmith@newsandsentinel.com for possible inclusion on this page.

Photographs provide a glimpse into how things once were. Whether last year, or a century ago, they give us a frozen view of how things were at a particular place at a particular time. Historical photographs simultaneously show us both how much things have changed, and how much they have stayed the same.

Today we kick off a new feature in The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. Window to the Past will showcase an historical photo each week and hopefully place it in a modern context to help the reader understand what they are looking at.

I have always had a love for history and I am thrilled to be part of this new feature. As a photographer in the Mid-Ohio Valley for the last 40 years, you may from time-to-time see some photos that I shot decades ago.

I’m hoping though that readers will share images they may have tucked away in shoeboxes and long forgotten shelves. We are looking for photos that showcase the Parkersburg and Marietta area in the past. A train stopped at the Ann Street Station, the first Parkersburg High School, and a Christmas parade in the 1950s would all be examples.

You get the idea; we want slice of life photos from different eras, ideally older than around 1975.

We are working on a number of history projects both in the News and Sentinel and The Marietta Times that readers will be seeing in the coming months. Your photos could appear in one or several of them.

* Window to the Past — Historical photos that will be published every Sunday. Beginning today.

* 100 years of PHS — A hardback book featuring hundreds of photos commemorating the 100th anniversary of the opening of Parkersburg High School will be published this fall.

* PHS anniversary section — A supplement to the newspaper that will be published on the anniversary of the school opening.

* Throwback Thursday — An historical photo feature that is published every Thursday on page two of The Marietta Times.

* Picturesque Past — A collection of historical photos of the Marietta area originally published in 2000, will be updated and republished this fall.

* More Picturesque Past — An all-new collection of historical Marietta photos will be published around the same time.

At Ohio University in the 1980s I majored in photojournalism, but I minored in history. I took a lot of history classes, so many that my photojournalism advisor asked me what I was going to do with all that history. I wish I had had the foresight to tell him I would work on a bunch of history- and photo-based projects decades later. I likely told him I didn’t know. I do now.

I can’t do it alone; I want as many readers as possible to be part of these projects. Here’s how you can be part of any or all of them.

Loan me your photos. I will scan them and return them to you promptly. You can mail them to me at the News and Sentinel, 519 Juliana St., Parkersburg, WV 26101.

You can also bring them down. I just need them for a few days. You can also email me scans that you might have made of the photos. I do need them to be high resolution to use. This tends to mean they need to have a resolution of 200 dpi and be sized at around 10 inches. You can email them to me at asmith@newsandsentinel.com.

Photos that have faded with time can normally be restored. If I fix your photo I will share the repaired image with you.

I look forward to hearing from the community; together we can reconstruct the community of the past.


Art Smith is online manager of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel and is a self-proclaimed photo and history nut.