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EXTERIOR, DETAIL OF EAST GABLE, SHOWING BRICK ' TUMBLING' & OLD FIRING PORTS. - Fort Henrick Frey, State Route 5 Vicinity (Grand Street), Palatine Bridge, Montgomery County, NY. Photo by Stanley P. Mixon, 1940 June 17.

Faces in Unexpected Places

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The following is a guest post by Aliza Leventhal, Head, Technical Services, Prints & Photographs Division.

Have you ever walked by a building and seen the resemblance of a face? Once you start, it’s hard to stop!

WINDOW DETAILS, SOUTH WING. – Rock Castle, Indian Lake Road (Berry Lane), Hendersonville, Sumner County, TN. Photo by Lester Jones, 1940 August 18.

While faces are often easiest to see in a building’s exterior elements, they can also be found in architectural details such as this stairway’s grimacing banister.

STAIRWAY FIRST FLOOR NORTH BUILDING – Sea Cliff Inn, 31 Cliff Road, Nantucket, Nantucket County, MA. Photo by Jack E. Boucher, 1969 October.

Sometimes the time of year helps bring out faces from unexpected places, such as this photograph of a building’s framing that I first noticed in mid-October with Halloween in mind.

DETAIL OF FRAMING CONSTRUCTION WEST ELEVATION. – Valley Mill, East Randolph Road (State Route 183), Colesville, Montgomery County, MD. Photo by John O. Brostrup, 1936 October 20.

Or this almost owlish doorway, with slanted bullseye windows and a doorknocker for a nose.

EXT. DETAIL VIEW SHOWING ENTRANCE DOORWAY, WINDOWS & SHUTTERS. – Wyckoff-Bennett House, Kings Highway & 1669 East Twenty-second Street, Brooklyn, Kings County, NY. Photo by Stanley P. Mixon, 1940 March 18.

“The eyes are the windows to the soul” takes on a new meaning when you start to see windows as eyes!

All of the images featured in this blog post are from the Historic American Buildings Survey, which includes many more instances of faces in unexpected places, as do many of the Prints & Photographs Division’s other collections. Explore the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog to find more! (We’d love to see your finds shared in the comments.)

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Comments (4)

  1. Amazing

  2. Thank you for these cool examples of facial pareidolia! The phenomenon is fun and fascinating!

  3. Very Cool.

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