Note* A mystery solved! The unidentified camera obscura on this page is now definitely identified as Melville Garden.
Images of Lost US Park Camera Obscuras in Our Collection

We are always on the lookout for references to camera obscuras that no longer exist. We are aware from the literature of the time that many parks included a camera obscura building. In some cases we have found only mentions in texts and no images. In other cases we have found wonderful pictures with no identification as to location. We are always working to discover to put together location and images. On this page we will share images of "lost" camera obscuras located in parks in the United States.

Fairmount Park, Philadelphia

Fairmount camera obscura

The stereo card above shows the camera obscura building in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia c. 1870. It is not in the good condition we expect of cards we collect but the subject is so interesting that we made an exception. It shows a camera obscura building typical of the type found in parks of the period. The round viewing table can be seen through the open door. The sign over the door reads "CAMERA OBSCURA ADMITTANCE 10CTS"

To the right is a close up of the sign by the door. With enhanced contrast it reads "MAGIC MIRROR OF LIFE - FAIRMOUNT PARK IN MINIATURE - GLIMPSE A FAIRY LAND".

This sign gave the title to our web site and the portable tent camera obscura we designed and built.

Central Park, New York City

Central Park camera obscura

The stereo card above of Central Park in New York City is in excellent condition. It shows a camera obscura building similar to the one above. We know that a building of this type was located in the park in the 1870s and are searching for references to its location and the years in which it operated.

The trade card on the right features a camera obscura building with the round table visible through the door. It states, as seen in the enlarged view at the lower right "Located in Central Park, representing a Perfect Living Pictures of all Surrounding Objects". Ironically the illustration does not seem to match the building in the stereo above but is much more like the Fairmount Park camera obscura at the top of this page and the view of Melville Garden below. Perhaps it was a generic illustration.

The print on the left is from the 1877 Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly showing a scene inside the Central Park camera obscura. We have only the illustration and the text on its back and not the balance of the article.We are still searching for the magazine which was identified as the 1877 holiday issue in the hope that the rest of the article will answer some of our questions.

We have no photographs or prints in our collection that show the location of the camera obscura in the park. We have been shown a wonderful carte-de-visite in another collection that shows the little building on a rise above Bethesda Terrace. We continue to look for a view that shows the location. We have an E & HT Anthony stereo view of the terrace but it appears to have been made before the camera obscura was added.

On the left the camera obscura has been digitally added in the approximate position we have seen in the carte-de-visite.

Downer Landing, Melville Garden, Massachusetts c. 1880
Melville Garden 1

Melville Garden 2

The two cards above which have been identified as an "unknown" location are now known. We have added a page on the Downer Landing, Melville Garden camera obscura with the story of our hunt for the location.

Magic Mirror of Life Home Page and Site Map

What is a camera obscura?

Why we created this site

Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
The Camera Obscura at War
Advertising flyer for a Camera Obscura
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras < You are here
Melville Garden Camera Obscura
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
Lost European Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications

Bright Bytes Studio Home Page (Jack and Beverly's Home Page)

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Modified 4/2006