A collection recently donated to an online digital organization offers multiple panoramas of the downtown Chattanooga streetscape.
Deep Zoom Chattanooga has scanned the panoramas, taken by Lewis Summers Duncan during the mid-1930s to early 1940s. The collection was donated by Evelyn K. Chamberlain and kept undisturbed in an attic for years until now.
The remarkable photos were most likely used to display leasing space along Market Street at the time.
Click here to view the entire collection.
"The originals are all taped together," Deep Zoom creator Sam Hall said. "He would cut them up and put them together. They're a little crude, but I don't even have a lens that will do as good of a job."
Because the photos are originals, Hall was able to piece them together and scan them at a high resolution. He applied the deep zoom technology—a way to inspect details of photos without losing resolution.
In his post, Hall also offers three comparison photos that show what Market Street looks like today versus when Duncan took the photos.
Notably, the collection highlights how bustling and active the business district was during the time. This is especially true for the 700 and 800 blocks of Market Street.
One of the most striking images is of the former Rialto Theater in the 700 block of Market Street. A marquee displays an advertisement for Boris Karloff's "Before I Hang," which was released in 1940.
If you zoom in close enough, you can see the original movie poster advertisements hanging in the display windows.
Typically, the deep zoom technology works best with glass plate negatives. But these photos—which are actual photo prints—are also ideal for the treatment.
"It's remarkable how good they look, even though they're not from negatives," Hall said. "Even if they're not negatives, you can get a lot of detail."
Hall said these are the kinds of history finds he dreams about. But it also points to the importance of finding these collections before they end up lost forever.
"This is huge," he said. "We're losing history at a tragic rate. In [Chamberlain's] case, she's a fan of history and really wanted the collection to be shared. I think people need to know there's an option to share it."
The digital version of Chamberlain's collection will be donated to the Chattanooga History Center.
Deep Zoom Chattanooga features historical photographs of Chattanooga brilliantly enhanced with a technology called Deep Zoom OpenSeadragon. It provides the ability to zoom in and out of high-resolution images rapidly without affecting the performance or crashing your browser.