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Two Women by the Sea

Mystery Woman circa 1900 (c) Norman Wilson


A curious photo from a Seacoast reader raises more questions than it answers. We welcome readers with knowledge about early photography to offer their views on what appears to be a painted scene of Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle, NH. Click to see full photo and discussion.




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The woman on the left appears to be wearing the old Wentworth Hotel like an epaulet on her shoulder. On first seeing a detail of the picture, I could not imagine where this picture was taken from. Today the view from Newcastle Beach to the restored hotel is blocked by homes and trees. Then on closer examination of a better copy, the scene changes. The professional lighting appears to come from studio lamps and, on closer examination, there are brushstrokes in the stormy sky.

Alice Willard Wilson  circa 1900"I was looking at this old photo of my grandmother," Norman Wilson told me, "and I said – that looks the old Wentworth in the background!"

Norman, president of the Brentwood Historical Society, produced a detail of the image while I was speaking there on the history of the hotel recently. He says the photo was taken around 1900 at an unknown location. His grandmother Alice Willard Wilson (on right) was married in December 1899 at age 19 and Norman sees a wedding or engagement ring on her hand scanning and enlarging the photo. Her mother, Frances Alice Cushing, may be on the left.

The fascination for me is the elaborate studio setting that appears to include real stones, beach sand and maybe even a "water feature" at the foot of the subjects. Or is that painted too? I did not come across a similar backdrop image while viewing hundreds of photos for a Wentworth by the Sea history. This would have been a great addition to the book.

Anyone have a similar photo? Or can any photo experts offer more on this picture? My guess is that this scene was set up one summer at the Wentworth Hotel itself. It may have been adapted from the colorized postcard image below from roughly the same time period. THe postcard shows guards at the lifesaving station at Jerry's Point with the Wentworth Hotel in the background. The treeless landscape may have followed severe storms that pulled down hundreds of trees in the VIctorian era. Sure looks like the same view to me. Or could the perspective be from Little Harbor? Or is it just fanciful? -- JDR


1900 women posing in studio / Brentwood Historical Society Photo


Wentworth Hotel from Jerry's Point, New Castle, NH /


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