The recent warm weather has once again allowed me to comfortably walk around aimlessly with my camera and find new subjects to photograph. With the trees still bare, it’s a perfect time of the year. Everything is visible up in the hills, and I can lug my equipment around without getting cold.
Taking all these pictures can get me into trouble sometimes. Last May, on a gorgeous day, I walked around for five or six hours and shot perhaps 10 rolls of film. I was so busy with my discoveries, that I got lazy and failed to write down where each photo was taken. “I’ll do it later,” I thought. “I have a good memory.”
Several weeks ago, I spent some time organizing and labeling all my photos in preparation for choosing the ones for my new book. There were two mystery photos that I just couldn’t identify, so I put them in a padded envelope and took them with me on my next visit to the city.
One photo showed a row of large houses going up a very steep road. On my way into town, I guessed that it was somewhere off State Street, up in the Little Italy area. Sure enough, one of the houses appeared on the horizon near Haskins School, and it turned out to be on Walnut Street. When I got to the Kmart lot, I parked and jotted down “Walnut Street” on the back of the photo, and slipped it back in the envelope.
The sun was just rising over the eastern hills, and I remembered that I wanted to take some pictures of the renovated Flatiron Block on the sunny North Church Street side. I grabbed my camera and scooted over there, snapped a few shots, rounded the turn to Eagle Street, and headed for the Bean. A car pulled up and stopped next to me, and a passenger rolled down the window and asked, “Could you give us directions to Walnut Street?” So I pulled out the photo and answered, “Just drive around until you see these big houses, and that’s Walnut Street.” (I finally gave him directions).
The second photo gave me more problems. It showed 15 or 20 houses of various colors in several ascending rows. It was taken with a zoom lens, and it appeared that I must have been standing on a high spot, because the tops of the roofs of the houses in the foreground were below eye level.
My first guess was that it was located near Tyler Street, and that I might have been looking down at the scene from Hill Side Cemetery. I walked up West Main and climbed the hill to the summit of the cemetery off Brown Street, which is quite enough exercise for one day. Of course, once I got up there, I discovered that this was not where the photo had been taken.
On the way down, I noticed a woman standing on Brown Street, and she was aiming a camera my way. As I walked by, I commented, “It’s a beautiful cemetery.” She nodded and said, “I’ve never seen it before, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take some pictures.” I told her a little about the cemetery and pointed out several of my favorite spots. I asked, “You live around here?” She answered, “Just up the road in Williamstown.” I replied, “How long?” “About 20 years,” she said. “It’s my first time in North Adams.”
My next guess was that the photo was taken in the Meadow Street area. That’s off East Quincy, which is more than a mile and at least four long steep roads away from Hill Side. A half-hour later, I was standing at the corner of Meadow and Winter Streets, scanning the landscape. A lady sitting on her porch called out, “Are you looking for something?” “Yes,” I said, as I walked over to her and sheepishly showed her the picture. “You have any idea where this is?”
She was very friendly and took an interest right away. Pointing to the photo, she said, “I think that yellow house is on Church Street, but then again, it can’t be, because the houses are on a hill. You ought to try around Tyler Street.” I told her that’s where I started looking, and she smiled and said, “It’s got me stumped. But don’t give up. If you find out, let me know.”
I headed down Winter Street, and a man in a pickup stopped in front of the porch and yelled out to the lady, “Who was that man?” He seemed angry. The lady answered defensively, “He showed me a picture and wanted to know where it was. I was just trying to help him out.” I was about 50 yards down the hill when he sped away and pulled up along side of me. I was nervous, imagining that I was about to become the victim of an enraged, jealous man. But he smiled and said, “Let me see the picture.” He looked it over and offered his opinion. “I think it’s near Tyler Street.” “Thanks,” I said, “I’ll have to check it out.” He offered to drive me over there, but I politely declined.
Back downtown, my friend Pete Cronin waved, and I shouted, “Got a minute?” I pulled out the photo. “Looks like that’s around Tyler Street,” he said. When I told him I had already checked that out, he remarked, “Are you sure it’s North Adams? What if it’s not? Then you’ll keep looking and never find it.” That was not reassuring. He said goodbye and told me he was going to look around for it.
When I went home after dinner, I was no closer to solving the mystery. I woke up next morning with a bright idea. The photos are numbered, so if I examine the photos that were taken just before and after, I should be able to figure out where I was at the time. It turned out that the preceding photo was taken from the top of the sand bank behind River Street, and the subsequent photo was taken on Eagle Street.
Today, I climbed up to the sand bank and then walked back down and headed toward Eagle Street by way of River Street. When I got to Eagle Street, I turned left and walked up the hill. I noticed a house at the corner of Hall Street with a cone-shaped tower that looked exactly like the one in the picture. “That’s it,” I said out loud. Pretty soon, I was standing on Hall just east of Grove Street in the exact spot from which I took the picture.