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.
“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.
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
“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?
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?
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!