Stereo views provide glimpse into unseen past

THE BOOK COVER of “Green Lake Scenery” features stereoview images of a steamboat that William Lockwood operated in Green Lake in the 1870s. The images were stored in Gordon Hoffman’s closet for more than 40 years, before the idea came to make a book out of the rarely seen photos. submitted photos

by Reagan Zimmerman

Imagine traveling through time just by turning a page.

One moment you are experiencing a ride on one of Green Lake’s famous steamboats and the next, you are in front of one of the area’s greatest resorts.

This is possible inside the book “Green Lake Scenery” with the help of historical stereoviews.

By the end of the 1980s, Gordon (Gordy) Hoffman had more than 30,000 stereoviews he stored for more than 40 years in his closet.

Hoffman discovered a passion for the historic, 3-D pictures around 15 years before and realized he had an even larger interest — local stereoviews from the Lockwoods.

Hoffman sold the majority of his collection, but kept 400 of the Lockwoods stereoviews.

Bret and Kimi W. Sandleback heard of Hoffman’s collection and were fascinated by the secrets hidden within them and took the opportunity to ask to publish them.

Around a year ago, the trio met and the story began.

The locally written and recently published book, “Green Lake Scenery,” is based off of a series of the William and Eunice Lockwood’s stereoviews also titled, “Green Lake Scenery.”

“The whole concept of the book is you pretend you are in Green Lake in the 1870s and you discover what it was like and how it has changed since then,” Bret said.

William and Eunice met when Eunice was only 17 at Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam. At the ages of 22 and 17, they got married and opened a photography studio in Oshkosh in 1857.

That building burned down so they decided to move to Ripon and open a business in 1859. The business lasted for 10 years before that building succumbed to fire as well.

It then moved across the street to a corner building on the square, but it too burned in 1875.

Lockwood built a steamboat after the building was destroyed. He gave tours on Green Lake from his personal boat, the Camera.

By the end of his career, he owned two steamboats on Green Lake: the Camera and the Palette, formerly known as the “Minnehaha.”

“They were the Escapade of the 1870s,” Bret said.

Many photos were taken during those times, but some of them have never been seen.

In the last fire and over time, all of Lockwood’s negatives were destroyed leaving the stereoviews Hoffman owns as the only remaining photographs taken by the Lockwoods.

“All we have are Gordy’s cards,” Bret said. “It is so fortunate he has been able to collect all of them.”

Around 90 percent of the views printed in the book have never been published before.

“Most of the stereoviews were in good condition, but some of them were pretty faded so we had to use photo editing to enhance them,” Bret said.

The majority of the pictures in the book are stereoviews divided into only one photo so the detail is more prominent.

Stereoviews were tourists’ postcards in the 1800s. Two identical photographs were placed side-by-side so the image appeared 3-D when seen through a stereoscope.

“Once you have the image in the [stereoscope] viewer, it jumps to life and really feels like you are there,” Bret said.

Hoffman calls it the “social media of their time.”

He noted the area was a big tourist attraction back then.

“[Green Lake] was special. It was the first resort area west of Niagara Falls,” Hoffman said. “People from Chicago, Saint Louis and New Orleans would bring their families up and stay here all summer.”

The stereoviews were mostly taken of the four major resorts of the town; Oakwood, Sherwood Forest, Spring Grove and Pleasant Point.

Each chapter of the book focuses on each resort and its history told through the views.

Other chapters were added as well, including an introduction of the Lockwoods and Hoffman’s favorite story, Sunnyside.

Sunnyside was Gen. John McDonald’s estate he built when he moved his family here.

McDonald was famous for his involvement in the local whiskey ring.

The book features stereoviews of his property and family but one photo has a hidden story behind it.

“[The family photo] is quite interesting,” Hoffman said. “Each person in the photo is part of the McDonald family, including the mistress of the general.”

The story following the photo involves a long divorce between McDonald and his wife.

Hoffman believes seeing photos like these create a whole new story line because they are real.

“You get a picture in your mind of what you read in books but with this, the pictures are right here and they are rare,” Hoffman said.

Sandleback notes the project would not have been possible without Hoffman.

“This wouldn’t have happened without Gordy’s collection,” Bret said. “Nothing I have ever seen has anything close to this.”

Because of the book’s historical significance, the authors have decided to work with Dartford Historical Society and give $10 to the foundation for every book sold locally.