Urban Archeologist: Every Picture Tells a Story, Don’t It?

Watch a short film and see if you recognize the mystery estate.


There’s something about pictures from the past. They are a window on another time, another world. If you think of all the years, months, days, hours, all the minutes, all the seconds, all the blinks of an eye… that’s a lot of moments. So, every photograph, captivating or mundane is really just one in a billion moments that someone somewhere decided to capture.

This past Saturday, I received a last minute tip of an estate sale at a property in Danbury caught in financial and legal entanglements. This was the home of a collector and the variety and quality of items was staggering. I don’t want to give the impression that I can find a sale like this every weekend, though lately it seems my successes would prove otherwise. Can’t last, though… or can it?

After a quick review of the sale, I passed on the hand thrown pottery jar, the railway lantern, and the pachinko machine and went right to the old paper. If I were a dealer or a true collector, I could probably fill up a warehouse in an afternoon, but I’m like the beachcomber that appreciates shells and never collects them. When asked why, the beachcomber says, “No need to collect them; they’re spread conveniently on the beaches all over the world. I can look at them any time I choose.” The same could be said for my feeling about antiques.

Old paper is my kryptonite and to a greater extent, old photographs. Take a look at the image before you watch the video. The photographs I wanted were wound tightly in a roll and any preservationist would tell you that isn’t exactly the way photos should be stored. But it could be a clue as to their origin.

I peeled off a few and was taken aback by the quality. There were 14 black-and-white or sepia 8” x 6” images with only “Hopkins and Boyd – 312 Madison Ave” on the back. All images of a large and seemingly empty estate, or several estates, surrounded by uneven and rocky land that could be New England, but it could be anywhere. “Hopkins & Boyd” were involved in banking, mercantile, and real estate (Ah-ha!) and Hopkins was a Yale graduate in 1895. I found one record of theirs — a real estate transaction around 1912, but it was an apartment house in NYC. Watch the video; the buildings and property are unique. After viewing, leave your guess in the comments. Help me place the property and solve the mystery.

Another piece of history surfaced at this sale — Help me find out what happened to air travel like Pan American Air Ways used to do it. Click here to see their annual report from 1937 and a commercial for air travel like it used to be in — the good ole’ days — the 70s.

Greg Van Antwerp is a Brookfield resident and blogger, who can be found on the weekends in search of a good “dig” or a good story.  You can read more about his adventures by visiting his blog.

Paula Antolini June 24, 2012 at 10:56 AM
The large mansion reminds me of Tarrywile in Danbury. My "kryptonite" is photos too!
Greg Van Antwerp June 24, 2012 at 02:47 PM
whoa! Paula, it is similar to Tarywile. I will have to take a closer look. That would be cool! Thanks!
Paula Antolini June 24, 2012 at 03:03 PM
It looks like your photo COULD b a view from the other side of the building? Look at the chimney placement. Also find out if those roof/windows at the top were altered at some point, and maybe this is the mansion! (or maybe not). The rounded stone porch was similar too.


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