Behind the Lens of Photographer Charlie Gleason

A look at the daily life downtown landmarks of early 20th-century Hanover.

By John Galluzzo

Sometimes, all it takes is one person to make a huge difference in a community’s perception of its history. Hanover residents, for example, can clearly imagine their town’s past thanks to the watchful eye of Charlie Gleason. A traveling salesman with a passion for photography, Gleason seemed to be interested in just about everything. His images of early 20th-century Hanover as well as surrounding towns and distant vacation destinations range from sweeping landscapes to portraits. His collection is stored at the Hanover Historical Society and thousands of his images await the completion of a digitization project that will make them accessible to anybody that is interested. The images we’ve selected show Hanover when it was just a small rural town—and every bit the wonderful place to live then as it is today.

Some of Gleason’s images capture specific milestone moments in town. His caption for this photograph notes, “The last passenger train leaving Hanover station, Aug. 1938.”

Hanover, like any town, had its share of characters. One wonders if “Mr. and Mrs. Bulldog Smith” would hang around the yard long enough for the long johns to dry.

This landmark building in Hanover’s central district is now known as Sylvester School. The old Hanover High School, built in 1926, is currently facing an uncertain future as it is up for redevelopment or sale with the pending expansion of the Center Elementary School.

The work done in Hanover ranged from fireworks production to raking up the “scatters” at the end of a haying session. Here, Charles Jr. shows how it’s done.

Described by Charlie Gleason: “Williams’ old time photograph wagon laid away to rest. Used back in the 90s and as late as 1905. Traveled around from town to town taking and finishing photos for anyone wishing a sitting. Used now as a woodchopper’s shanty – Degrading!”

Each year, the high school senior class walked out to the Grand Army Memorial next to the First Congregational Church at the intersection of Silver Street and Hanover Street to have their picture taken. Here, Mrs. Young’s class and Mrs. Tolman’s class stare back at us from the past.

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