BLOG: Juxtaposing the Past and Present

A look at the 500 block of York Road in 1922 and now.

This is not original, but I am a bit obsessed with the concept of taking an old photograph and placing it in the present. You can visit the blog, Dear Photograph, to see some amazing photo compositions that focus on people, but I am more fascinated with the way buildings and streets used to look in the past.

I love to imagine myself stepping back in time and walking the streets of Baltimore or Towson. This might explain why I’m drawn to books about time travel such as the Time Traveler's Wife or the Outlander series. How awesome would it be to walk the streets of Towson in 1922 for a day—only a day, might I add?

I found this picture of the 500 block of York Road while browsing through old photos on the Baltimore County Public Library’s website. This one caught my eye because it’s so old. The picture was taken in 1922 and is from an article in the Baltimore Sun. You can see a portion of the Wayside Cross of 1921, a Celtic cross war memorial honoring the 204 County individuals that died in World War I. The corner of the Towson Hotel is visible on the left behind the cross and next to that is the Baltimore County Bank building with a Model T parked out front. Also note the MA & PA overpass way down the road. The two stone pillars still stand at the corner of York Road and Towsontowne Boulevard.

I need to stop here to mention that I put my life at risk taking this picture. As you can see, this photo was taken at the south end of the Towson Circle. I took many others from that area, including some from the center of the “worst crosswalk ever” and the York Road median. I have to say that this is a very interesting area to spend time doing something other than hurriedly walking to a specified destination. I was approached by an older man who asked me what my “sign” said and wanted to know if I needed a ride somewhere. He mentioned that he liked “older women.” Lovely. I had someone else offer me some change. A few others just stared at me like I was crazy.

Once I realized that the picture was never going to be perfect, I went back to my car parked in front of the Recher Theater (the old Baltimore County Bank) and was handed a $52 parking ticket by my daughter who was inside the car waiting for me to finish obsessing about the picture. Apparently, the ticket person stealthily pulled up behind my car, threw the ticket on my windshield and speed away before my daughter could even open her door. I was only two feet in the no parking zone. Well, I guess that's the reality of 2011.

FYI, Towson, this blog post is my payment in kind.

This post has been edited.

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Joanna Franklin Bell September 30, 2011 at 06:14 PM
According to a reader who was unable to leave a comment, "You say the MA & PA went over York Road at Stevenson Lane. Not right. It went over at what now is called Towson Town Blvd, and what then was Susquehanna."
Elizabeth Voss September 30, 2011 at 06:59 PM
You are right, Joanna. Thanks so much for the correction!
Joanna Franklin Bell September 30, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Oh, it's not my correction! I didn't have a clue! :)
Richard Cook October 01, 2011 at 12:02 PM
Thanks for this interesting post and for adding the contrasting photos. Thye past is never quite past, is it?
Elizabeth Voss October 01, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Thanks, Richard. We always have a little bit of the past running through us.


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