In 2019, Penobscot Marine Museum photo archivist Kevin Johnson presented a night of nostalgia in Brooksville, delighting a packed community center audience with historic postcard photos of the coastal hamlet made by the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company more than a century earlier.
One image Johnson projected onto the screen showed a church, bandstand, flower-dotted meadow and a group of people gathered around an open-topped automobile at a dirt crossroads. He asked if anyone recognized where it was taken.
“I knew where,” said Jo Andrews, who was there that night. “That was taken from my driveway.”
Andrews, a local photographer herself, got a laugh from the audience that evening with her exuberant and fast answer.
She also got an idea.
For the next three years, while working her steady day job managing an ice cream factory in Surrey, Andrews picked through the museum’s collection of Brooksville postcard images and recreated them, taking new pictures from the exact same vantage points.
At the start of this year, Andrews published the combinations in a calendar, which sold out its initial run of 75 copies. Now, with demand for her photographic creation still high, three months into 2023, she’s contemplating an additional printing — plus a second set of images for 2024.
This week, we talked to Andrews, a Bangor native who has called Brooksville home for 40 years, about her project.
BDN: So you knew exactly where that photo had been taken?
Andrews: Yes, right in my driveway — and it was so beautiful — the women in bustled skirts. I think it would have been taken sometime between 1908 and 1910. It was prior to the town being wired for electricity. I don’t think Brooksville was actually wired up much before 1912 or 1916. It was really bucolic and very pretty
BDN: And you got the idea for the project right away?
Andrews: Well, pretty much. I talked to my husband, who grew up here, and if you grow up in a spot, sometimes you think it never changes. But no, a town does change. It’s just that when you live here for a long time you don’t notice it.
BDN: The old postcards really proved that?
Andrews: Each of the Eastern Illustrating photos really brought that to light. Little things, like the bandstands, are gone. We used to have two of them here in town. And houses have either gone to the wayside or been repurposed. Other things have been remodeled so much you don’t recognize them. There used to be five schools in this town. Things certainly change.
BDN: How did you decide which postcard views to recreate?
Andrews: I tried to pick ones that were easy to see from a car because these guys went around with big cameras in their Model Ts, so it had to be things people could see from the road. Sometimes, when they set up on a road, they’d shoot a picture and then just swing around and shoot in the other direction while they were there. They’d end up taking six or 10 images on one road. But things have changed, there’s been erosion and they’ve changed the angle of the road to accommodate modern cars. Some places that had a great bend in the road may not have that now and vice versa.
BDN: That must have been tough sometimes, to find the right spot?
Andrews: Not too hard, really. The most difficult part was my own critical eye, looking at my photos. Of course there were fewer things to obstruct their photos back then. There were no telephone poles, or very few. And the trees have grown up over the past 80 to 100 years. There are many pictures of Brooksville in the museum’s collection with no trees. You could stand at the top of what we call Kench’s Mountain, look down toward the harbor and just see everything on the way to the water because they’d taken down all the trees to make houses, floats, ramps and for heating. They got unobstructed views of whatever they wanted, back then.
BDN: Do you see your pictures as transitional, as a link between the old postcards, Brooksville today and a future town that’s on the way?
Andrews: Yeah. I think so. Maybe future generations aren’t going to have any idea what Brooksville is like now if I don’t. Most of the folks moving in have no emotional or family ties to Brooksville at all. They came during the pandemic, looking for the lowest numbers of COVID.They bought places sight unseen.
BDN: Was this your first photo calendar?
Andrews: No. I started making them by accident in 2017. I made some for Christmas presents that year — for friends and family. I had three left and I put it out on the town Facebook page, asking if anybody would be interested in maybe buying one. I got 45 responses. Now, I sell 40 to 80 a year, usually. I try to keep them Brooksville centric and scenic.
BDN: Do you have a website we should tell people about?
Andrews: No. I probably ought to work on that.
If you’re interested in one of Andrews calendars or other prints, email her at email@example.com. You can search the Penobscot Marine Museum’s vast collection for photos of your hometown here.