Mystery Photo: Today, We Find Clues

Whose room is this?

In my last post, I shared a photo from the Loring archives and asked our community to help me figure out whose room it might have been. Thanks to everyone who has contributed! Today, we’ll take the photo apart and consider its clues. Please share with any experts you know. We don’t have our answer yet.

Restore Detail

“Maybe a clearer version would make it easier to examine individual pieces.” Barbara

Restoring detail to old photos requires good tools, and I’ve used several here. Sharpen AI improved focus, Gigapixel AI rescued detail, and DeNoise AI cleaned up the image (All are from Topaz Labs). Finally, I ran the restored photo through PhotoShop Express to improve clarity, color, contrast, etc., as I would with any image. Slide the “screen” below to compare before and after.

Our mystery image, before and after (Slide to compare)

The detail was always there; we just couldn’t see it before. (Doesn’t this give you hope for your own blurry photos?)


Don’t zoom past the blue print too fast, though. “Cyanotypes” (cyan = greenish-blue) came into popular use around 1880 and can still be produced, but they were especially popular with Arts & Crafts photographers from 1900-1910.


“The room looks more urban/suburban than rural or ocean front… I do not think this to be a ground level room. The light at the lower part of the windows (which look like they are quite low) would be blocked by shrubs or muted if the room were ground level.” Peggy

The few shadows we see are very short, suggesting that the photo was taken near midday, and perhaps the windows face south. How tall do you think these ceilings might be?

Raqui thought this might be Emilie’s room at the Hotel Bellevue, and Anna suggested that we reach out to architectural historians in the Boston area. I’m waiting for replies, but if you know anyone who can help, please ask them.

Lighting and Curtains

Does anyone have a catalog of early curtain/lace patterns?

“Interesting that there are two ceiling lights? One over the dressing table in the back right corner. They appear to be gas, so an earlier era. Is it possibly a room in the house Emilie grew up in?” Heide

We can see what appears to be a gas supply line and a tap for turning it on and off. Those and the high ceilings suggest the Victorian period.

The simple fixtures, however, are more Arts and Crafts than Victorian, and the same is true for the curtains hung by rings on the curtain rod with simple finials. Maybe we are looking at a nineteenth century room with an updated, Arts and Crafts style.

Armoire and bookshelf

Oh, I wish I knew furniture styles and periods! Anyone?

Some of the books in the corner have uniform spines, as in a collection. I wish we could read their titles! People’s libraries tell so much. Can you identify or date anything else in the photo?


Do we have any art historians in the audience? The picture of a woman and girl appears to be an oil painting. The others look like prints.


“Do you suppose this room was like those in several of her books that were used by the lady of the house? Without looking at my books I can’t give you an example, but the mother would often do her paperwork and letters there.” Linda Anne

“It looks like a library, somewhat formal but busy room, perhaps where the lady of the house planned her menus and paid bills, while husband read.” Peggy

Emilie’s husband was six feet tall; I don’t see a chair that would be his. I can’t quite identify everything on the desk, but I don’t see any silver boxes, do you?

Arranged for tea?

I notice that there are five chairs and two settees in the room, providing cozy seating for nine. Each is a different style. Can we identify and date them? The latest made would give us our earliest date for the photo.

The pedestal table in the center of the room could serve as a tea table, maybe expandable for luncheon?

Dressing Table or Side Chest?

Dressing table and mirror, or storage chest?

Emilie and her mother both liked fringed shawls. Of course, so did many women.

An emerging picture

Who: Likely a woman’s room.

What: An urban apartment above the ground floor, furnished for entertaining

When: Possibly 1900-1920s

Where: Unless I learn differently, I’m sticking with Boston, based on it belonging to the Loring collection.

Why: That’s the question. Why was this interior shot taken?

Was it to remember a room that someone was leaving, perhaps someone who had died? Victor’s mother died in 1901 (home in Brighton), Emilie’s mother in 1919 (home in Wellesley Hills), Emilie’s sister in 1923 (Hotel Puritan, Boston; let’s look for interiors there).

Was it to record settling into a new place, a special event? Emilie and Victor moved to their apartment at 25 Chestnut Street in 1925.

Could these two be the same rooms, 100 years apart? The spacing between the windows is wrong, and replacement would have meant changing the brick exterior, too, which isn’t apparent. Based on this comparison, I doubt that our mystery room is Emilie’s apartment at 25 Chestnut Street on Beacon Hill. That’s too bad; I had high hopes for that possibility.

Emilie and Victor lived two seasons before World War I in the Riverbank Court Hotel on the Charles River, across from MIT. Maybe we should check those windows for a match.

Without knowing whose room it is, we now have a good idea of what furnishings might have been like when Emilie Loring’s writing career began. Let’s keep sleuthing, and I’ll let you know if we have a breakthrough!

Pre-Orders Continue for Happy Landings

Now that Happy Landings: Emilie Loring’s Life, Writing, and Wisdom is on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc., I will keep pre-orders open here for autographed copies. You can navigate to the order page from anywhere on this website. Simply look at the menu and select “PRE-ORDER HAPPY LANDINGS.”

You can also request Happy Landings from your local, independent bookstore and help your community at the same time. If yours is a bookstore that welcomes author events, let me know. Maybe we can plan something next spring/summer!

Meanwhile, treat yourself to something nice as this summer nears its end.

Happy Landings, everyone!

8 thoughts on “Mystery Photo: Today, We Find Clues

  1. So interesting to wonder about the furnishings of that room. But the closing quote is so thought-provoking, Patti. Would you consider using it as a jumping-off point for discussion here? I’d love to know how readers think we can make an art of living.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you like the quote. I like it so well that I chose it for the biography’s jacket description. I invite anyone to comment about it here, and I’m glad to take it up with more focus in an upcoming post.


  2. Aloha! The photo resolution is much better. Thank you. I focused on the crystal whisky decanter on the dresser on the right. It looks like an Irish cut crystal type. Also, there was an interest in cut glass decanters in late 19th century in Cambridge, Massachusetts into early 20th century. But the stopper and neck of the decanter look very like the Irish crystal collections. That is one idea. Also, my grandparents in Northern California built their house in 1924 and had the gas to fixtures, but changed it out later. The gas pipes looked different though in a home. Perhaps the gas lines in this photographed room were before 1924 in a hotel rather than a home? Just a thought. This is quite an interesting challenge. Fun! Enjoy your weekend, aloha Pam

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pam. I have good photos of several cut glass Loring decanters that I can compare to. I agree that this looks like a hotel apartment. Emilie’s generation often stayed in hotels for seasons, and some lived in them full-time. I continue to sleuth out clues… I don’t know if we’ll figure it out, but we’ll sure know a lot more about this room before we are through!


  3. I enjoyed the investigative reporting you made on the possible clues and still believe it is in the Bellevue Hotel. Thanks for sending the newly revised image removing the blue shades and making the furniture and items sharper. Love and see you at our Defenders meeting on Aug. 3rd at 11:00-12:15 PM PST. Raqui

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Enter Puritan Hotel on search engine, look for eBay image of old ad for private sitting room. Although it is one of the rooms with the bay windows, it is obvious from an exterior shot of the hotel that there were some rooms with two windows with narrow width between windows. The ad shows a sitting room with round table, several chairs and settee,etc.

    Liked by 1 person

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