New 'Then And Now' Photos Added To Atwood Museum Exhibit

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Local History

Oyster River in the early 1900s and now. Notice the build up of homes on the opposite bank. CHATHAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY/ANDY YOUNG

Something about “then and now” shots of familiar places always captivates us – the older photographs reveal ghosts of what once existed in spots we know so well.

So you might want to take a second look at “Double Take: Historical and Current Panoramic Photographs of Chatham,” a show of then-and-now photographs of the town on display at the Atwood House and Museum. If you already saw the show, which opened earlier this summer, this time around you will see something fresh — a dozen previously-unseen old photographs with six set against photos showing the same views today. New prints include views of the Oyster River, Oyster Pond, Sears Pond, Black Pond, Cotchpinicut Landing and the George Kendrick House. Details are easy to see in the 48-inch wide panoramic shots.

The “then” photographs were made from 30 glass plate and 62 acetate negatives found in a box in the attic of the Mayflower Shop by its previous owners, William and Jacqueline Cotter. The negatives are believed to be from the former Mayflower Studio operated in the building by photographers Charles Smallhoff and Harold Sawyer, both postcard photographers in the early 1900s. Portions of the early photographs were used to produce black and white postcards, says Danielle Jeanloz, CHS executive director.

“These postcards were later hand-colored and sold until chrome (photo) postcards came into fashion in the 1940s,” she says.

A granddaughter of the Cotters, Christine Padgett, donated the collection to the Chatham Historical Society (CHS) as a memorial to her grandparents in late spring 2016.

CHS’s late archivist Jean Young “was so inspired by the photographs that she dedicated the last two years of her life to cataloguing them, identifying their precise location with the help of her husband, Andy, and studying the changes from the past to the present,” Jeanloz says.

The CHS scanned and digitally-restored 38 of the panoramic shots which show Chatham’s twin lighthouses, the Mitchell River Bridge and the shoreline early in the 20th century most likely, according to the Youngs’ research, between 1910 and 1922.

Andy Young next positioned himself as near as possible to the same spot from which the early photograph was taken and, using similar angles and perspectives, shot a contemporary photograph.

“By making the photographs easily-visible in an exhibit, Jean and Andy were able to document more of Chatham’s history as they gathered details and stories from those who viewed the exhibit,” Jeanloz says.

Jean Young died on May 1 at Cape Cod Hospital from complications of lung cancer, two weeks after the initial exhibit opened.

Jeanloz says the show in its current form would not have been possible without the work and generosity of the Youngs. The couple “brought history to life by developing the exhibit, producing the images and funding the program,” she says. They also produced limited edition prints which are available through the museum’s gift shop. Proceeds from the sales of both the custom prints and a special edition hardcover catalog will go toward supporting the CHS’s research and programs. 

Double Take: Historical and Current Panoramic Photographs of Chatham
At the Atwood House and Museum, 347 Stage Harbor Rd., Chatham.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission is free for members; $10 for adults; $5 for students (ages 8 to 18); and free for children ages seven and under.
For more information visit