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.
In the views of the same photograph that follow, I’ve marked up some of the structures that no longer exist.
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.
The next photograph centers around the Milton Public School on Federal Street.
The annotated version of the same photo, on close inspection, reveals the structures that have disappeared since it was taken.
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.
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.