It was a busy day in the heart of Jamestown's business district.
Men in starched collars lined the sidewalk and women donned elegant hats in order to protect themselves from the midday sun. The waiting crowds lingered off the curb but were mindful of the streetcar tracks which curved from West Third Street and proceeded south - passing numerous storefront awnings - to the Gifford Building in the heart of Brooklyn Square.
This vignette is one of about 200 images that can be found in a new book about urban life in the Pearl City. Authored by Karen Livsey and Dorothy E. Levin, ''Jamestown'' is the latest addition to the "Postcard History Series" of local history by Arcadia Publishing.
On the corner of East Third and Spring streets, old City Hall and the Lyric Theater have been replaced by Tracy Plaza and Taco Hut, respectively. These and many other images can be seen in the new book, ‘‘Jamestown,’’ by Karen Livsey and Dorothy E. Levin.
POSTCARDS AS HISTORY
Last year, the pair of local history enthusiasts offered a postcard tour ''Around Chautauqua Lake.'' In their latest offering, they said the medium of postcards is a unique way to city view everyday street scenes, festive civic events or just simple recreational opportunities that can no longer be found today.
"The postcards capture a lot of the scenes of the time - what people were seeing when the came to visit and how they communicated their experience back then," said Ms. Livsey.
But she added the images, bound to a consistent size format and often featuring hand-coloring effects, takes the filtered view a photographic image one step further. Ms. Livsey said most successful postcards documented "pretty" scenery, and this left out parts of the everyday city life like industry and manufacturing.
Despite this, images that show steamboats on the Chadakoin River, or popular downtowns streets frequently had warehouses and brick factories in the background with their signage proudly displayed with a bit of post-darkroom enhancement. A postcard of the Dahlstrom Metallic Door Company is featured in the book, and Ms. Livsey noted its present-day landscape is due to be altered when the portion that spans the river is taken down.
She said postcards, their postmarks and available city directories combine to create an accurate representation of when downtown stores were active and patronized.
BUILDING A BOOK
Arcadia Publishing uses a template that makes it easy for the veteran author of the series to know what it takes to assemble another book. The first requirement is collecting between 180 and 220 images, and at the core of Jamestown's postcard history is the family collection of Ms. Levin.
"I've been collecting postcards since about 1976," she said. "Once I started, my mother joined in because she didn't want to be left out, and once that happened my sister joined. We've been a family of postcard collectors for some time."
The authors said they pitched their proposal to Arcadia in the autumn of 2010, shortly after the publication of their first collaboration. Then they began a send-and-receive cycle of the book's images that would be set on the front and back covers, the remaining images inside and the accompanying text.
Ms. Levin said they spent time in a "triage process" to weed out redundant postcards and find sufficient examples to fill our their defined book chapters. She said they made a few trips to book and paper shows in the Buffalo area for scenes they lacked. Ultimately, their collection was supplemented by colleague Marlin Casker and a number from the Fenton History Center.
With existing titles already showcasing Chautauqua Lake, the Chautauqua Institution and now Jamestown, both authors said there is a finite number of local landmarks in which to add to the Postcard History Series. Ms. Livsey said historic scenes from the county level might be an avenue for consideration, but she added, "You can think of a lot of things, but did they appear on postcards?"
Ms. Levin added, "I don't have them and at this point trying to find them would be defeating - and probably expensive."
They said the Arcadia books, which also include an expansive "Images of America" series, is embraced by residents for the personal connections that can be found within their pages.
Ms. Levin said one of her favorite images shows the old City Hall and adjoining Ellicott Hook and Ladder and Prendergast Hose Company facing Spring Street. Along the street is the fire fighting equipment and police chief vehicle, which at the turn of the century was known as the "Black Mariah."
"My grandfather was chief of police and my father, believe it or not, took his driver's test in the police chief's car," she said.
Ms. Livsey, noting that both she and her colleagues were high school and Jamestown Community College alumnae, said she appreciated a series of four postcards depicted a youth "Brush Burning Bee" at the Hundred Acre Lot on Curtis Street.
The correspondence written on the postcard does not make it into the interior of the book as an image, however the authors' captions describe some notable instances in which the communication on the reverse adds to the story. In the case of a postcard advertizing the new amenities of the Hotel Everett in 1910, the owner put only a portrait of "Bingo" the dog on the front of the postcard. But a patron expressed his own sentiments on the back: "Some old dog, same old place."
''Jamestown'' and several Arcadia Publishing history books that document the region are for sale at the Fenton history Center, Brigiottas, Frame & Glass Shoppe, KC's Emporium, and Off the Beaten Path bookstore in Lakewood. The authors will signing copies of books at the What's New Fair and the Swedish Christmas Market events at Jamestown Community College.