Thirty Seconds Over Milton: Aerial Views, Old and New

As some of you may already know, in mid-September the Milton Historical Society will open a new exhibit, “Milton’s Hottest Summer: The Great Fire of August 13, 1909.” The photographs of Dr. W. E. Douglas, taken before and after the fire, are a hugely important part of the exhibit. Dr. Douglas, an amateur shutterbug, took many other photographs of the town, which the family kept after his death, and these provide a valuable visual record of Milton in the early 20th century. The Douglas collection, now owned by the Milton Historical Society, includes photographs all the way up to the 1950’s, and two of these resurfaced as I was looking through the collection yet again.

The photographs in question were taken from an airplane or perhaps a hot-air balloon; we have no information as to exactly when they were taken, nor do we know if Dr. Douglas himself took the photos or he acquired them from another party. From the look of the vehicles and the presence of certain buildings, the late1950’s are my best guess as to when they were taken. Looking closely, we can pick out a few structures that have since disappeared.

Aerial view, ca. 1955, centered on the intersection of Front, Union, and Federal Streets in foreground (Courtesy MHS)

In the views of the same photograph that follow, I’ve marked up some of the structures that no longer exist.

Vanished structures: top left, the Milton Public School. between Walnut and Chestnut Street on the Odd Fellows Cemetery grounds; near center, the old Goshen M. E. Church, on Federal Street; top right, the old Jester Hotel
Vanished structures: Bottom left, three-story structure was the S, J. Wilson Funeral emporium and furniture store; buildings to the left are smaller commercial structures and outbuildings; at the intersection of Federal and Union Streets there is gas station, and to its right are two small houses.

The photo below was taken from the M&T Bank parking lot on August 22, 2021, using a drone; the idea was to capture as much of the area as possible that was encompassed by the original aerial photo. On close inspection, it is surprising to note how little the downtown area has changed over the last six or seven decades.

Present day view: lower left, considerably expanded fire station, M&T Bank and parking lot, expanded auto repair building opposite M&T Bank; upper right, Goshen UMC; far background, Cannery Village (photo by Phil Martin)

The next photograph centers around the Milton Public School on Federal Street.

Looking northwest on Federal Street, with the Milton Public School at center, Wagamon’s Pond in the background (courtesy MHS)

The annotated version of the same photo, on close inspection, reveals the structures that have disappeared since it was taken.

At the extreme right is the old Goshen UMC. A little further to the left, the Jester Hotel and Diamond Roller Mills, on opposite sides of Mulberry Street, can just be discerned. The biggest changes are in what has been added to the Milton Public School, especially in the last three years of renovation.

The final photo in this series was taken on August 22, 2021 from the parking lot of the medical center on the east side of Federal Street. The dramatic changes to Milton Public School are clearly visible.

View of Milton Elementary School, looking northwest toward Wagamon’s Pond.

One final note: there is a question in my mind as to how low the aircraft (or balloon) was flying to get the 1950’s-era shots. I flew my drone at its maximum permitted altitude of 400 feet, but it looks like the older photographs were taken at a lower altitude. A small prop-driven plane would have been buzzing the town just above the height of a crop-dusting approach, and that might have gotten some people annoyed. If anyone among my readers knows more about the story of how the old photos were taken, please comment or send me an email.

7 thoughts on “Thirty Seconds Over Milton: Aerial Views, Old and New

  • Helen Lockwood Camenisch

    I was living in Milton in 1955 but just don’t remember the old Jester Hotel.

    • Phil Martin

      Dale Scott advised me that the aerial photo of the Milton Public School was made in the winter of 1952-53, because of the presence of the foundations being prepared for 1st and 2nd grade classrooms. That puts the time frame a few years earlier than I originally thought. The Jester Hotel may not have been called that in the 1950’s; I don’t have information on whether it was abandoned, derelict, or operating under a different name, but I suspect that is why you don’t remember it.

  • Joy Kelly

    Fascinating, Phil! Thanks for your thoughtful research and reporting.

  • Susan Blouse

    Well done, Phil! Really enjoyed this blog!

  • Gerald Jones

    If remember correctly the old Milton public School located between Walnut and Chestnut St was destroyed in a fire in the mid 1960’s, it was home to a cable making company (Foley Cable?) After the fire they moved into the old Grace Church and resumed operations.

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