Dating Architectural Photographs

Many photographs in the Archives do not have dates, but we can try to use clues in the photographs themselves to establish a date range. I can often narrow down the dates of photographs of Sisters based on what type of habit the Sisters in the photograph are wearing, but this process of using clues in the photographs also works with buildings. When I look at photographs of buildings, I look for architectural features that are different than other photographs of the same building.

Recently I was looking at some older photographs of the Ordnance Street frontage of the House of Providence in Kingston when I suddenly realized that there was a difference. In early photographs the original house, at the corner of Ordnance and Montreal Streets, had a chimney and no dormers on the third floor on the side facing Ordnance Street (it did have dormers on the Montreal street side.) But in other photographs it has a mansard roof and dormers. A quick search of the Congregational annals revealed that the roof was raised “a few feet few feet higher to create 10 good sized sleeping rooms and other necessary accommodations” in September 1927.

The photograph on the left was taken in 1911-1912 and the photograph on the right was taken in 1927 or later. The veranda is winterized in the photo on the right also giving us a clue to the time of year the photograph was taken.

The above photograph was probably taken between 1927 and 1933 as the dormers are present, and documentary evidence indicates that the bell tower was most likely removed in 1933.

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Providence Motherhouse

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