Old photographs are full of historical clues, but sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly where the pictures were taken. A new book, "Ogunquit Then and Now," by Kathryn M. Severson, Susan Day Meffert and Marie D Natoli, pairs old photos with current views taken from the same vantage point.
Several years ago, Kathryn Severson combined a photographic talent with her master's degree in business administration to found "Lasting Impressions: Old Time Costume Photos" at York Beach. Through her seasonal business she learned of Arcadia Publishing's desire to add to its "Then and Now" book series.
On weekends, Dr. Marie D. Natoli helps Severson set up gangster-, Civil War- and Western-style photographs at her 11 Main St. studio. She had already authored several scholarly political science books, including the soon to be released, "American Prince, American Pauper: The Contemporary Vice Presidency and Presidential-Vice Presidential Relations."
The two women, who share a love of Ogunquit, set about writing a proposal for an Arcadia Then and Now book. They selected 10 interesting old Ogunquit postcards and Severson took her camera to some peculiar locations to capture current views.
"I can tell you it was no easy task!," said Natoli during a recent interview. "Kathy climbed knee-deep into rivers and stood on roofs to get virtually a replica of the "then" photo."
In the meantime, Susan Day Meffert, co-author of the fascinating 2007 book "The Ogunquit Playhouse: 75 Years," was contemplating a new book of her own. Meffert grew up in Ogunquit. Her parents owned Dunelawn Hotel where for more than 30 years they welcomed many of the actors and stars that played at John Lane's Playhouse.
"It was really for my parents, both deceased, that I wrote a history of the playhouse," she said. Susan enjoyed the book-writing process so much that she decided to write about the history of Ogunquit. When she contacted Arcadia Publishing they recommended she join forces with Marie and Kathy. The women met and got to work on their three-way collaboration. Meffert's extensive professional experience as a writer/editor and her wide circle of Ogunquit friends contributed greatly to "Ogunquit Then and Now."
The more than 80 vintage photographs included in the book were borrowed from private citizens, the Ogunquit Heritage Museum, and the Historical Society of Wells and Ogunquit. Each is accompanied by a short historical narrative and a current view. Nearly all the corresponding "now" photographs were taken by Kathryn Severson. A very early photograph of Adams Island in the Perkins Cove chapter clearly shows water flowing on both sides of a lone house that was to become part of Hamilton Easter Field's art school. Today, one of the channels into the cove has been filled in.
Equally interesting are the photos that show buildings that have changed very little since the 19th century. Many of the opulent old hotels and restaurants in the Village chapter are still recognizable if one can see past an odd porch or addition here and there. Notably absent from the new photos of the Ogunquit River are the graceful sailing vessels and fishing dories that used to work the river.
Ogunquit old-timers and newcomers as well will enjoy the convenience of studying historic photos in the comfort of their own home. Future historians will undoubtedly use "Ogunquit Then and Now" as a reference long after the "now" pictures become vintage shots.
"I hope the book gives readers a deeper appreciation of Ogunquit's past," said co-author Meffert, "and the town's forefathers who took such care to preserve its treasures."