Baker-Barber Photo Memories


Billiards is among activities local youths enjoyed in the Teen Canteen, shown here in 1965. Baker-Barber Collection. Courtesy of Community Foundation and Henderson County Public Library.

The slideshows are normally the first and third Thursdays year-round, at 1:30-3 p.m., in the Henderson County Public Library’s main branch at Third Avenue and Washington Street. The site is usually Kaplan Auditorium, near the main entrance in the back. The 100th showing was June 1. It drew nearly two dozen people.

The Community Foundation of Henderson County owns the photos. Joseph “Jody” Egerton Barber (1923-2001) willed them to CFHC, which got them in 1993. The library houses these photos, which span 1884 to the mid-1990s. Special Collections Librarian Mark Burdette is the caretaker. He displays some in the library, on a rotating basis. The aim is “to provide cultural, educational, historic, and civic enrichment for the community.”

Organizing and moderating the slideshows is Ron Partin, retired teacher. He and Burdette are leading the effort to digitally scan, catalog and identify people, places and approximate year of each photo.


Tom Wilson, at left, and Charlie Byrd, at right, are among West Henderson football coaches in 1966. Baker-Barber Collection. Courtesy of Community Foundation and Henderson County Public Library.

So far nearly half — almost 30,000 of the nearly 70,000 — of the Baker-Barber images have been scanned, compared to 4,000 at the onset of the project two years ago. The first slideshow was Feb. 27, 2015.

“We’re making progress” in the scanning and public accessibility of images, and in developing their historic stories, Burdette told the crowd of about 20 people.

Foundation Senior Program Officer Lee Henderson-Hill said donations to the project help “preserve this great treasure.” Sixty-two people have donated to the project fund.

Residents from the greater area are encouraged to attend — especially people who lived a while in Henderson County. Parton noted “we do have a few participants from Buncombe County, who attend occasionally” with more sought. “Some of our photos were taken in that county, as well” such as Baker-Barber commercial shoots there for clients.

Partin moved here in 2000. He is retired. The professor emeritus from Bowling Green State University also taught high school social studies. He is a life-long genealogist.

Identification is done in phases, a batch of 50-100 at a time each session. Some images are shown again in a slideshow, to fill in gaps and especially after families or individuals are recognized in the photos and urged to show up later to provide more details.

About one in five photos got identified significantly in earlier sessions, and the rate has risen in many recent sessions, Partin said.

This advances the quest to “unearth and share” photos behind the stories, as Partin puts it. “The collection’s images illustrate the changing face of our community through the years. There are pictures of rural life, urbanization, transportation, recreation, tourism, families, businesses, news events, and formal portraits of area residents.”

Slide groups are organized by eras and topics. They are listed online — now on Flickr this year — and emailed in spreadsheets a day ahead to project supporters on the emailing list. These outlets enable people to know what is coming up in the next slideshow, and to figure who from that era and subject matter they might invite to check out the show.

Further, in recent weeks there have been more instances of people seeing themselves in the photos. This happened June 1. The late State Sen. Royce Phelps “Bo” Thomas’ widow, Margaret Stonecipher Thomas, 86, grinned and said how that was her with Bo 50 years ago in a 1967 photo in the slideshow.

She glowed about his “Go Bo” political and business slogan, pictured on apple crates. Bo was the local state senator in 1979-88. He ran in the Democrats’ U.S. Senate primary, in 1990.

Bo was a produce broker. His packing house was at 475 S. Church St., from the Thirties until it burned down in 2001. Bo died in 1997 in Florida, riding a bicycle hit by a car. Blue Ridge Community College named its main auditorium in his honor, opening it in 2001.

Others active in the conversation at the the 100th show included Nancy Crozer, Ruth Kidd and Lamar Harberson.

Imagery was from the Forties through Sixties, such as wedding receptions and businesses. Youths are at a billiards table, in the popular subterranean Teen Canteen in 1965. Sports portraits included Dana Pony youth baseball in 1951, and 1966 West Henderson Falcon football coaches. They include would-be Hendersonville High principals Charlie Byrd and Tom Wilson. Byrd was later the city schools’ superintendent.

Mayor Albert V. Edwards, Hendersonville’s long-serving (1932-69) mayor, is shown during World War II. He is shown with the six-man police force led by Chief Bill Powers, another time with cows. A Red Cross parade entry is from 1942. Locals are shown parading for WWII war bonds in ‘43. Veterinarian Dr. Walter Glazener is shown using an early mobile radio, in 1951.

Most photos are from high-quality negatives, some from early large plates. Arthur Farrington (A.F.) Baker apprenticed under Alessandro Bassano, leading royal society portrait photographer in Victorian London. The Baker brothers in 1884 opened photo studios in Chester and Rock Hill, S.C. and one here part-time then full-time by about 1900, according to UNC-Asheville library data.

Baker did dry-plate processing. He used state-of-the-art cameras, such as a Premo Jr. 2A in 1914. He took early aerial photos of downtown Hendersonville. “Uncle Baker” took on relative Armitage Farrington “A.F.” Barber Sr. (1889-1980) as a partner. He turned the business over to Barber in 1930, amidst the Great Depression. Baker’s studio had as backgrounds a stage, with detailed scenes painted on canvasses. They hung from the ceiling. The chosen one was lowered to the stage.

For more on the ongoing project, call coordinator Ron Partin at 698-2763. To see some historic photos including a gallery of recent slideshows, check A growing online catalogue is at

Check that side also to order copies of Baker-Barber photos (with proceeds funding the collection), or call librarian Mark Burdette at 697-4725. To donate tax-deductible to the project, go to

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