Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bascom Hall, the way it used to be, from an amazing postcard time capsule, mailed to Holland 92 years ago


Did you know that State Street once had domes at both ends, that the stately dome of the Capitol faced another dome a mile away, capping what we now know as Bascom Hall, but which was then called Main Hall? This is how it looked in 1915 (click to enlarge). And this is how it looked when the dome was destroyed by fire a year later. Although the building was saved, the dome was never replaced.

This image is part of the series of 1915 postcards from a visit to Madison that year which were mailed by the visitor back to his relatives in Holland. Postmarked Milwaukee, the folder of cards presumably went through the Great Lakes, up the St. Lawrence, and made their way to Holland by sea in a time when there was no intercontinental air travel. It was an arduous journey taking weeks. But in today's global village, it took just an instant for a link to the images to show up in the comments on my photo of The Lorain, which I had uploaded to Flickr.
Just out of curiosity: Is there anything left from this Madison, the Madison my grandfather visited in 1915?
The comment was from vfm4, an artist and photographer in the Netherlands, which is about all I know about her -- except that she has an unusually creative and varied photostream on Flickr, made up of thousands of images. Take a look. A good way to start is by getting an overview on her page of collections, each of which leads to numerous individual sets.

I'll comment on some more of these individual cards in future posts. But you don't have to wait for me to get around to it. Click here to go the page of images shown above. Each is a clickable link to a full-sized image of an individual postcard. You'll be able to experience the Madison of 1915 just as the recipients did, paging through the folder one image at a time.

Note: I'll give each posting as I post it a "Madison 1915" tag, so you'll be able to call them up as a group simply by clicking on the label.

6 comments:

Dr Diablo said...

What a beautiful, evocative set of pictures. All of these landmarks are still around and still recognizable. The photos are a reminder that when we look down from atop Bascom Hill, we are seeing the past as well as the present.

The color renderings really bring those old sites to life. Thanks to you and to the woman who made them available.

Madison Guy said...

Dr. Diablo, thanks for your thoughts about the past in the present that surrounds us here in Madison. I want to join you in thanking vfm4, who made it possible for us to page through these evocations of the past, nearly a century ago.

vfm4 said...

thanks, dr diablo and madison guy.. to be honest, i never realized that they were special... not that i don't like them, on the contrary, but there must be hundreds, if not thousands of these folders lying around, in kitchen table drawers and old dusty boxes in attics, all over the world...

Dr Diablo said...

I'm not a huge internet enthusiast, but I'm coming around. Lots of people own photos and documents that would have more significance to others than to them. In the past, though, finding that audience was an arduous-to-impossible task; now, you can lay it out there for millions of internet browsers.

Thanks again, vfm4. I like old achromatic photos and movies, but they highlight the antiquity of their subjects. The color postcards, in contrast, revive the past, reminding us that it was "only yesterday." I had a similar reaction recently when I viewed color films of the Third Reich and World War II combat. The effect was startling; the time seemed much less distant from our own.

MadGuy, I hope you get around to your series on these postcards. I was about to suggest that you juxtapose the images with contemporary photographs, but you didn't go to school just to eat lunch. You'll think of it yourself.

Madison Guy said...

Dr. Diablo, I know what you mean about the internet connecting people with artifacts and photos around the world.

That's probably happening even more with Flickr than with blogs, because Flickr image tags and descriptions are searchable and the photo sharing service seems to cross national and language barriers more easily than blogs, as well.

Nifty Pete said...

Hi, I just met Madison Guy via flickr minutes ago. However, I wanted to share a link to another postcard collection, this by Walker Evans:

http://www.metmuseum.org/special/se_event.asp?OccurrenceId={4AF0B4EC-3013-4FD9-B3A3-59993F3A68C7}&HomePageLink=special_c3a