Calling All House Detectives: Can You Name These Buildings?

The following is a guest post by Gay Colyer, Digital Library Specialist, Prints & Photographs Division.

We need your help to identify 68 photos of historic structures. They’re posted in a Flickr album called “Mystery Houses,” so that it’s easy to add your notes.* The photographer, Frances Benjamin Johnston, did leave a basic clue for each image—the state and county name. So much more could be said, though, about these intriguing buildings.

Buckingham County, Virginia. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1933. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/csas.04408

Buckingham County, Virginia. (Now known to be the Davidson House in Buckingham Courthouse! See https://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/14261440243). Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1933. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/csas.04408

Losing track of the building names might sound like a big oversight for an architectural photographer. But Miss Johnston took more than 7,000 photos of 1,700 structures for her impressive Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South. To complete the valuable work she did in the 1920s-1940s, we’re calling for help from observers “in the field.”

Natchez vicinity, Mississippi. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1938. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.32351

Natchez vicinity, Mississippi. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1938. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.32351

A description of the type of building would be welcome, too! Some of the structures were already abandoned and near collapse when Miss Johnston saw them. A description based on the photo may be all that’s possible.

Wilkes County, Georgia. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1939 or 1944. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/csas.01187

Wilkes County, Georgia. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1939 or 1944. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/csas.01187

Every building has a story.  Part of the story is the structure itself:  where was it built, and for what purpose? And then there are the people who called the building their home. Who were they, and how were they known in the community? Please help us reveal more of the story!

House designed by Palmer Lamdin, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1926. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/csas.06957

House designed by Palmer Lamdin, Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1926. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/csas.06957

* You’re also welcome to supply identifications through comments on this blog post, if you choose!

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