Very little of Corinth’s social landscape escaped George Holland’s camera. Although the majority of his community images were staged to promote a local business or a civic organization, some photographs provide a street-level perspective of the community, offering candid views of Corinthians while inadvertently documenting streetscapes and historic structures.
Corinth’s children were often the subjects of Holland’s “street” photographs. A group of newsboys in front of the old Saratogian newspaper office on Main Street; young dancers standing beneath the steps of the Corinth Hospital; a group of boys having a Coke at the soda fountain in Russell’s Pharmacy; a First Communion class walking in a procession along Palmer Avenue. Unlike the many photographs taken of Corinth school activities, these images document Corinth’s young people active and engaged within the larger community.
The Holland photographs of Corinth’s young people document activities that would have been typical in most American small towns during this era. The transformation of childhood that has occurred in the intervening years, and the concern that modern parents have for the safety of their children in public places, creates a tendency for these images be viewed today with a degree of nostalgia. Children in Holland’s photographs appear to be carefree, happy, and innocent. Moreover, the images invite a comparison of the social and cultural context in which children of this era were raised to the community experience of Corinth youth today.
Holland’s numerous photographs of holiday parades also document Corinth’s streetscapes, including structures that have long since disappeared from village streets: the original Corinth high school located on Palmer Avenue; the four-story Pitkin Building that sat on the corner of Main and West Maple Streets; the Densmore Building and adjacent buildings that burned to the ground in 2008, essentially eliminating the village’s central business block. These photographs reveal the extent to which Corinth’s built environment has been transformed over the past fifty years.
Perhaps the most revealing photograph is one of a parade that looks north along Main Street, just above its intersection with West Maple Street. With Potash Mountain visible in the far distance and parking meters evident in the foreground, the full length of Main Street appears crowded with people waiting for the 1962 Labor Day parade. The former Pitkin Building and the Standard Furniture “Appliances” sign are visible on the left, and across the street, Bud’s Diner, Meyer’s Department Store, and the Densmore Building are in clear view. The view from the same vantage point today reveals a radically transformed streetscape.
Holland’s photographs also reveal the majestic trees that were once defining elements of the community’s built environment. In the Main Street parade photograph, part of the crowd stands in the shadow of a towering elm tree, a species that was common in Corinth in early decades of the 20th century. The photographs of the First Communion procession and the Hudson River Mill manager’s home show the stately maple trees that used to grace Palmer Avenue, providing a canopy of green in summer and brilliant color in the fall. In another parade photograph, a mother and her two children stand beneath large maples that once grew in front of the Elixman House that sat on the corner of Palmer Avenue and Main Street.
George Holland’s street photos of Corinth provide a glimpse of small-town Americana in an era where families celebrated holidays with downtown parades, and youth actively participated socially within the wider community. While some of these activities continue in Corinth, the contemporary built environment has changed dramatically from the community landscape that Holland documented. With these photographs George Holland has inadvertently left Corinth with visual documents that might prove useful as the community continues to contemplate and chart its future.