Chicago – December 2018 – Making Old New Again

Our second Chicago Architecture Foundation tour of the day was ‘Hotel Boom – Making Old New Again’. It focused on the current trend of adaptive reuse, taking old buildings that may or may not have previously been hotels, and updating them as boutique hotels.

As with our first tour we headed south on Michigan Avenue, stopping across the street from the Chicago Athletic Association Building.

The CAA members were the movers and shakers of Chicago in 1893 as the World’s Fair was going on. Anxious to impress their out of town visitors, they engaged Henry Ives Cobb to build them a building rivaling anything that anyone would find in the great cities of the world. One would have to agree they did!





In 2015 the building was remodeled into the aforementioned boutique hotel style, as the club membership had dwindled. The results are one of function, but retaining most of the original look and feel.





The upstairs game room features the Chicago Athletic Association logo. Look familiar – it should as the Chicago Cubs bought the rights to use it in the 1800s.





As we made our way to the next stop we passed the Reliance Building. Designed by John Root in 1890 it remained a commercial property until the late 1990s when it was rehabbed into a boutique hotel.

As part of the Chicago School of Architecture it has the famed bay windows throughout.





On nearby Wabash Avenue is the Silversmith Hotel, so named as it is in the restored Silversmith Building on Jeweler Row. The architect, Peter Weber of the Burnham Architectural Firm, completed the design in 1896.

While it is an early example of the Chicago School of Architecture, the remodel has added modern elements to it (the exterior is required to remain ‘original’ per the Historic Registry requirements).





As we made our way back up Wabash we passed the Virgin Hotel Building, another re purposed building. Unfortunately we were unable to explore the interior.





The Chicago Motor Club Building was famously designed and completed in only 265 days in 1928. It is regarded as one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Chicago. The Motor Club used the building for office until 1986, and others used it for commercial use until 1996.

It sat vacant for many years before Hampton Inn (of all corporations) restored the building into a boutique hotel.





The lobby retains the Art Deco look.





A famed 1928 mural of the United States road system adorns one wall. Since the 1926 directive to give roads numbers was not quite implemented yet, this mural still uses the historic ‘trails’ designations such as the Lincoln Highway, etc.





The spiral staircase continues the Art Deco feel. For a company mostly known for small motels along freeways Hampton Inn really came through with this one.





Across the river, and in a different planet from a hotel room price perspective is The Langham. Often cited as one of Chicago’s priciest hotels, the Langham occupies a portion of the famed Ludwig Miles van der Rohe’s famed IBM Building.

It has a mid century meets gaudy feel.













Our final stop was the London House Hotel. The unusual name comes from the building’s original owners, the London Guarantee Company, an insurance company.

It is situated on the site of Fort Dearborn, the first settlement of any kind in what is now Chicago. As such a sculpture of the fort graces the entrance.





The traditional entrance has an impressive ceiling that amazing was covered up for 50 years by a drop ceiling.





Completed in 1923, it was topped with a cupola made to resemble the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates,





The view from the 21st floor outdoor bar is fantastic.





Earlier in the day, and totally unrelated to any of these posts we visited the 9th floor Winter Garden of the Harold Washington Library. It is not historic, but is cool.





Our night ended up with our cool view from the 23rd floor of the hotel down Kinzie Street toward the Wrigley Building, Tribune Building and others.

Our good luck with the Chicago Architecture Foundation tours continued. While the docents all have their unique approach, and you might pass by or go inside a building you have previously seen, you always learn something new. We are looking forward to more tours.





New York City – September 2018 – Grand Central Details

America’s greatest train station is Grand Central Terminal. While hundreds of thousands of people commute through the terminal every day, and nearly every tourist who comes to New York stops by, I had the opportunity (and the zoom) to check out close ups of some of the details.

The feature photo is a closeup of the clock and sculptures that are at the top of Grand Central facing south towards Park Avenue.

Let’s head inside.

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The iconic information kiosk clock backed by one of the schedule boards. The information kiosk is reached via an internal spiral staircase from the lower level of the terminal.

The clock was made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company. The clock has made appearances in numerous movies including North by Northwest, The Fisher King, the Godfather and others.

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The Beaux Arts Chandeliers frame the Main Concourse, with five on both the north and south side.

The bulbs have a basic look to them, but in reality they were replaced in 2009 with far more efficient fluorescent ones.

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Looking up from one of the lower level walkways you see a chandelier, skylights in the ceiling and the famed ceiling.

There are numerous photos on display in the terminal showing sunlight beaming through the side windows – something that is no longer possible because of the tall buildings surrounding GCT.

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Also in the lower level are some classic wooden benches. Before a restoration in the 1970s these benches were used for waiting passengers in the Main Concourse.

Since then, their primary use has been in the food court in the lower level, but others are in the corners of the lower level.

In addition the Springfield, Massachusetts train station recently installed some restored GCT wooden benches that were unused. They are currently on ‘permanent loan’ to Springfield, who restored them as part of the deal.

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While technically not in Grand Central Terminal, the Graybar Building has been closely associated with GCT since it’s construction in 1927.

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The building has the classic art deco mailboxes in the granite wall, as you walk through the GCT passage to Lexington Avenue (more on the Graybar Building later).

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Back in the Main Concourse one of the chandeliers accents the departure boards perfectly.

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The famous sky ceiling – 125 feet across and hung from steel trusses, the ceiling has 2,500 gold stars.

One of the earliest passengers in 1913 quickly figured out that the sky is ‘backwards’, on the ceiling east is on the west side of the concourse, and vice versa.

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Until the 1990s the grime was so bad the ceiling was barely noticeable. As a reminder they have left a black patch to show how dirty it was.

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A random look up shows amazing detail.

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GCT ‘hidden’ high up on one of the side walls.

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A ticket sellers window.

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Down in the lower level even the elevator lobbies have amazing detail.

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As do the track entrances.

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Heading out onto Lexington Avenue we see the main entrance to the Graybar Building. Note the giant reliefs on each side.

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Eagles are a recurring them in GCT, and the entire area.

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More detail on the exterior of the Graybar Building.

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The Graybar Rats – The sculpted rats are depicted as though they are climbing ropes that anchor a ship. In reality it is what is holding up the canopy over the entrance.

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Other canopy supports have more traditional artwork on them.

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Easily one of the most overlooked vintage New York Skyscrapers, the Graybar is worth spending some time looking up at.

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Another building that is closely associated with GCT is the Helmsley Building.

While not quite as famous as GCT’s clock facing south, the Helmsley clock greets the Park Avenue traffic coming from the north.

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This building too has numerous gargoyles and other sculptures throughout.

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More Helmsley Building detail.

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The former Postum Building at 250 Park Avenue is a prewar survivor where all the other buildings of it’s time (circa 1924) have long since been torn down and replaced with taller, newer giant glass boxes.

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Finally one last look at another of the famed GCT Eagles.

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Auburn, Indiana – August 2018 – The Start of a Car Weekend

The small city of Auburn, Indiana was the home of early 1900s auto manufacturers including Cord and Dusenberg. Each Labor Day weekend the town holds a festival and auto auctions celebrating those cars, and others.

As part of the celebration they have a large custom car show on Friday around the courthouse square. With more than 800 cars on display it was an impressive sight.

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So come along – just enjoy it.

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In addition to the shows there are two very large classic car auctions during the weekend. A massive one is held by Sotheby’s at a grounds outside of town – with hundreds of cars sold.

Another smaller one was held at the historic National Automotive and Truck Museum. We arrived in time to check out the cars during the preview.

This classic 1957 Pontiac Star Chief Custom Safari Wagon is a rare two door wagon.

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Among the vehicles was this 1940s car carrier. I guess if you buy enough cars, you need to bid on the carrier to take them home.

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Outside the building was this sweet Alpha Romeo.

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While back inside  we passed by a George Barris custom car. George is famous for designing cars for TV and the movies including the 1966 Batmobile, and the Munster’s car.

This car was originally a 1950 Mercury.  Designed by Leo Lyons, with assistance from George, it was displayed at the 2015 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

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After checking out the auction cars, we headed back to the courthouse square show where we found a brief preview of the Auburn’s we would see far more of on Saturday.

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This early 1960s Chevy El Camino had a great vintage bike in the back.

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Back in the day the idea of air conditioning was to pop open the windshield a bit.

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A vintage Chevy Pickup.

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With the arrival of the jet age, fins on cars mimicked the airplane look.

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Nearby was the Kruse Auto Museum. Located in a building that seems to being vacated, but they did have some movie cars including a Batmobile.

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A Carl Casper creation. Carl was another custom car creator like George Barris.

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Our day ended at the Kruse Museum in a collection of Indy Cars. While this was a nice day with some cool cars, we knew the best was yet to come.

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Columbus – August 2018 – Cars Have Noses and Tails Too

A quiet Sunday found us at a car show close enough we could ride our bicycles too. Since I take lots of photos of custom and classic cars, I decided to focus on the ‘noses and tails’ for something different.

Including a 1967 Ford Mustang fastback.

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1950s Ford Thunderbird.

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A custom 1932 ragtop.

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1959 Chevrolet Pickup.

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1971 Buick Gran Sport

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Late 1940s Buick Roadmaster.

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A heavily customized 1950s pickup (so customized I have no idea what it started as)

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1950s Ford Pickup.

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How to stuff a big block engine in a VW Beetle – stretch it!

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1940 Cadillac Fleetwood.

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1929 Dodge Roadster.

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Customized 1967 Ford Mustang.

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Who doesn’t love a ’59 Pink Cadillac?

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Warren, Ohio – August 2018 – Packard Car Museum

James and William Packard built their first automobile in Warren, Ohio in 1899. By 1903 the company had moved to Detroit, but Packard remained an important part of Warren business for the next 100 years.

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Packards were always known for their very fancy hood ornaments. Today the museum boasts some scaled up versions.

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The museum has a nice collection of automobiles.

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Packard built cars up until the 1950s.

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They were known as luxury automobiles, rivaling even Rolls Royce at one point.

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Packard maintained a business in Warren – Packard Electric. Today it is Delphi.

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The museum has expanded considerably in the last 10 years, thanks to a government grant.

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Mannequin models add to the feel. Note on the back wall the wiring harnesses that Packard Electric would’ve made.

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The famed hood ornaments.

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They don’t make them like they used to.

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Note the similarity to the earlier art piece.

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While most were private vehicles, they did make commercial vehicles as well.

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I can see Clark Gable driving this down Hollywood Boulevard with the top down.

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The newer rag tops didn’t quite live up to the previous one.

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A final look at the hood ornaments.

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The Packard Museum in Warren is nice, however the privately owned one in Dayton in the former Packard Dealership has a nicer, and larger collection, and the architecture and detail of the dealership adds to it.

However if you find yourself in Warren, this museum is a good place to spend an hour or two.

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Warren, Ohio – August 2018 – Wings and Wheels

Sloas Airfield in Warren, Ohio is a nice 3,000 foot long grass landing strip that sees occasional use, except for 1 day a year – this day.

This was the day for Wings and Wheels. As we entered we immediately passed by a fantastic Porsche.

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Hurried by the Cobra.

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Skipped the Ferrari…

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Even blew by the Superbird, because on this day cars were anything but the Superbirds.

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The ‘Wings’ part of the show were the stars.

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Taking off and landing throughout the day.

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With biplanes.

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We were literally standing next to the runway for the takeoffs.

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The classic cars lining the far side of the runway.

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The pilots were showing off their skills.

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Many completing low passes down the length of the runway.

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Before gaining altitude and heading out.

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The weather was perfect, a few big puffy clouds.

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The ‘crew’ were the volunteers.

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Old school leather helmets were in order.

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Biplanes have a majestic look to them.

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Another one heads skyward.

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I would estimate there were about 50 airplanes when we arrived, many parked with their owners hanging out or checking out the rest of the planes and the cars.

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The noses of the various plans are very distinctive.

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As well as the tails.

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An immaculate Piper Cub.

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Even a couple of ultra lights.

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We spent most of our time in the planes, as we see custom cars all the time.

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Another one heads out – we were happy we were there fairly early as by noon many had departed.

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And he takes off for home.

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While one returns.

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The symmetry of a small plane.

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This photo illustrates how close you were allowed.

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Planes everywhere you looked.

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An excellent paint job for this biplane.

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Future pilots perhaps?

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Even the Porsche pales in comparison to this.

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Inside the hangar is a museum with numerous models.

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Most of the models were custom built.

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Models everywhere.

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All of the models had amazing detail to them.

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We headed back out into the heat to check out a few more airplanes. This one is a 7/8 scale Italian WW1 air force plane.

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The owner of this is an American Airplanes pilot. It must be strange going from 737s to a 2 seater.

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Finally it was time to fly on out (ok – drive). What a great event.

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Pittsburgh – August 2018 – Photo Antiquities Museum

On the North Side of Pittsburgh, near Allegheny Commons, is the Photo Antiquities Museum. Located upstairs near a classic old camera store, this museum is packed with great old cameras and photographs.

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As we arrived there was a sign that says ‘buzz here’ – we did and at first nobody came so we went next door to the camera shop. Someone from the shop took us back over and by then Frank from the museum was waiting at the door for us.

He lead us upstairs to a real hidden treasure of Pittsburgh.

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After a brief explanation on the history of photography, he showed us where the various rooms were located for each topic – Antique photographs – The Pittsburgh Photo History Room – and finally the Camera Collection!

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Their collection is vast. Many have small tags detailing important facts like manufacturer and date.

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Many look very different to today’s cameras.

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Most have a great look to them – imagine the memories each created over the years.

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In addition to the still photography there was an extensive collection of video recorders (aka – movie cameras).

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Kodak had a grouping by itself.

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Also included were ancillary items such as light meters.

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And film (what is film???)

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Shelves of cameras.

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An early motion picture cameras with a crank.

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A Magic Lantern viewer. It was an image projector for transparent plates.

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If you are reading this blog you must like photography – and if you like photography you will love the Photo Antiquities Museum for the camera collection alone.

And if you love vintage photographs this is the place – there are plenty to keep you occupied for hours.

A bit thanks to Frank for showing us around.

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