Sunday, January 6, 2013

WPA Photo

This past weekend I visited the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, CT.  My purpose was to discover more information about the previous owners of our home.  I did not find much except a few tax records which, honestly, did not reveal any new information.  It was towards the end when I asked them if they had any WPA photos.

WPA stands for the Works Progress Administration   It was implemented during the Great Depression, putting to work unemployed photographers, as well as other professions.  I wanted to know what this house looked like before it was touched during the remodel of the 1960's.  The idea was given to me by a fellow blogger, seen at the Enos Kellogg Homestead, where photographers were hired to document historic houses.  WPA workers took an overall assessment of each home, sometimes making blueprints and venturing inside.  Most of the time they took a photo.  These photos are now available online from the Connecticut State Lilbrary - WPA Collection.  Except, mine had no photo.  Nothing but a quick description.  Thinking I was one of the few unlucky owner's who's home was not photographed, I moved on disappointed.

The Connecticut Historical Society kindly retrieved all the files they had from the WPA program for my town.  Flipping through each one was déjà vu.  Yep, seen that one... yea, neighbors house, ok, next.... and so on.  Until, that is, I came to this one photo and froze.  I stared at it and I actually shed a tear of joy:
Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Historical Society

I did not even have to look at the description.  I knew this was it!  My home :)

The Historical Society of Connecticut is a non-profit group.  They have a wonderful staff who are all willing to help.  And believe me, being helped with this sort of research (previous owners, city directories, maps, etc) is worth it's weight in gold.  You could spend days in a Town Hall's vault and find nothing, spend a few hours with these delightful people, and strike gold.  As I said above, with exception to the photo, I did not find much new information.  Having said that, what I did find, was a repeat of what took me hours... if not days to decipher from other sources by myself.  Mrs. McCain and her staff gave me 1-on-1 attention.  They do charge a small entrance fee into the Research Center.  The fee is nominal and can be found here.  The museum and library are separate.  A free museum pass is available at most town libraries, however, this pass does not normally apply to the Research Center.  The reason for the fee is because of the attention and support they give to you.  It can be invaluable.

My thanks to the Society for their assistance.

On a side note, the Connecticut State Library is a vast archive of information which exceeds that of the Historical Society.  A trip to the State Library is in the works.

Rocky Hill Historic Building 043. 1935-1942. Connecticut Historical Sociey, Hartford, CT. By W.P.A. Federal Writers Project, State of Connecticut