Hold your horses: Photo remains a mystery

March 3, 2013
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Readers have been unable to identify the location of the house in this photo, part of the O-R archive.
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A reproduction of an old postcard submitted by Aaron W. Carson of Washington shows a house similar to the one in last week’s Mystery Photo.

Our previous Mystery Photo – showing the Greenfield Bend in the Monongahela River – was no mystery to many dozens of readers who called and emailed us to set us straight. But this photo of a horse and buggy outside a frame house with an ivy-covered porch was entirely different. We received just two emails and three phone calls, and, sadly, the location of the house and the identity of the man standing in front of it remain unknown.

But, one thing we do know, now. Wick Walker of Washington sent us this message: “Not much help on the photo, but the horses are indeed wearing net, probably cotton, ear nets for protection from flies. Ones with tassels very similar to the photo are illustrated in the 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalogue. They had probably been around a long time by then, and they are still used today.”

Austin Johnston of Canonsburg called to say that the funny-looking hats were good for keeping horse flies and ticks out of ears. He also recalled the days when doctors still rode to calls in buggies, sometimes with midwives, which might be the case with the pipe-smoking man in shirtsleeves and the barely detected woman in the carriage.

Aaron W. Carson of Washington sent us a reproduction of a postcard from 1910 showing a Marianna house of similar construction. Though the houses are of the same basic design, one is brick and the other frame. There are other architectural discrepancies, as well.

Jim Arigo of California swears the house is the one on Fourth Street in California, just across the street from Mariscotti Funeral Home. The house was owned by Cheryl Shaunghnessy, whom he married and lived with there for a time. “The houses on the hill are in Newell, across the river,” Arigo said.

But Arigo is incorrect. The house in the old photo and the one in which he lived have some similarities, but the roof lines and dimensions are obviously different.

This style of construction must have been quite popular at the turn of the 20th century: The house’s narrow width with a porch along the front corner was an efficient design for the small, elongated lots packed tightly together.

My wife, Alice, suggested that the house is similar to several along East Maiden Street in Washington. Indeed, it is, but if this home was on that street, it no longer is. The background seems to match, however: a steep hillside upon which many older houses ascend.

For now, this photo from the O-R’s archives will have to remain in the “unidentified” file, unless someone can someday solve this puzzle.

Look for another Mystery Photo next Monday.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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