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Pictures from Peterborough’s past on display downtown

  • One of the earliest known photographs of Peterborough, showing lower Main Street in 1860, shows some buildings which are still standing today.

    One of the earliest known photographs of Peterborough, showing lower Main Street in 1860, shows some buildings which are still standing today.

  • A photo of Cunningham Pond in 1886, taken by Robert Swain Morrison, shows much more deforested pasture land than the current landscape.

    A photo of Cunningham Pond in 1886, taken by Robert Swain Morrison, shows much more deforested pasture land than the current landscape.

  • An unexpected tropical warm front moving through Peterborough in March of 1936 caused torrential rain and snowmelt, flooding downtown Peterborough.

    An unexpected tropical warm front moving through Peterborough in March of 1936 caused torrential rain and snowmelt, flooding downtown Peterborough.

  • Along with many other old-time Peterborough photographs, this shot of the inside of Derby's Department Store taken in 1946 will be on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, formerly known as the Peterborough Historical Society, through May 11.

    Along with many other old-time Peterborough photographs, this shot of the inside of Derby's Department Store taken in 1946 will be on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, formerly known as the Peterborough Historical Society, through May 11.

  • One of the earliest known photographs of Peterborough, showing lower Main Street in 1860, shows some buildings which are still standing today.
  • A photo of Cunningham Pond in 1886, taken by Robert Swain Morrison, shows much more deforested pasture land than the current landscape.
  • An unexpected tropical warm front moving through Peterborough in March of 1936 caused torrential rain and snowmelt, flooding downtown Peterborough.
  • Along with many other old-time Peterborough photographs, this shot of the inside of Derby's Department Store taken in 1946 will be on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, formerly known as the Peterborough Historical Society, through May 11.

Images of young men slogging through ankle-deep floods in the 1930s, Derby’s Department Store selling dry goods for 36 cents, and views of sprawling, deforested fields that are now fully developed fill the walls of The Monadnock Center for History and Culture. There are a lot of ways that Peterborough has changed over the past 100 hundred years. But there are also views down Grove Street where familiar sights like the building that now houses Harlow’s Pub and the Dennis Building are still identifiable.

“It’s amazing to also see all the ways the town has changed and, really, all the ways it’s stayed the same over time,” said Michelle Stahl, the executive director of the The Monadnock Center for History and Culture, formerly called the Peterborough Historical Society. “This view of Union Street,” she elaborated, pointing to one of the photos on display, “except the fact that it’s not paved, could have been taken last week, it’s so much the same.”

The center decided to dig into their archive of more than 35,000 old photographs taken around Peterborough, dating as far back as 1852, to showcase all the ways the town has changed — and all the ways it’s still the same. The exhibit includes nearly 100 years of time, including photos from the first known photographs of town in 1852 and 1860, all the way up to the 1940s. The exhibit is in place for interested residents to stroll through, but for a more in-depth look at Peterborough’s past, visitors are invited to attend a gallery talk on the exhibit with Stahl on Wednesday.

The photos show off street views and the inside of what were once well-known stores, such as Derby’s or Perl Sheldon’s Barber Shop, shots of people setting up for Old Home Day, or posing in front of the Peterborough Academy. Some were taken by well-known Peterborough residents, such as Robert Swain Morrison, an amateur photographer who took photos everywhere he went. The center holds about 2,000 of his photographs, dating from 1883 to the 1920s. Several of his landscape photos of Cunningham Pond and the Noone Falls Mill were selected for the exhibit.

And as digital technology has evolved, Stahl said, it’s become easier to take these old photos and blow them up to show them off in full detail. The center was even able to delve into its extensive collection of stereoscope photographs, which are only a few inches across, in order to display some scenes from town in the 1860s and 1870s.

“That was the motivator behind this, to show these photos in a larger format. It’s really fun to be able to see all the details,” said Stahl.

The exhibit will be on view through May 11, and Stahl will lead gallery talks on March 20 at 1 p.m. and April 27 at 10 a.m.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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