Historic Photos Aimed at Bringing Brockton Back
April 30, 2012
Bill Hogan stood outside his downtown Brockton business recently, trying to entice customers into his store by blaring the song "Those Magic Changes" by Sha Na Na from a boom box.
Hogan, who opened Hogie's Hobbies at 138 Main St. a year ago, said because business has been slow, he some days has to coax people off the sidewalk into his store.
"I've been struggling. Nobody knows I'm here," said Hogan, 54, a lifelong Brocktonian.
City and downtown officials are hoping a new project - where historic photographs are placed in vacant storefronts - helps provide a boost.
The "City Windows Project" is a $20,000 initiative funded by the Brockton Redevelopment Authority where historic images by legendary Enterprise photographer Stanley A. Bauman will be installed in storefronts throughout downtown.
The goal is to draw the attention of downtown customers to the photos - and then to businesses such as Hogan's hobby shop.
"It creates that visual excitement," said project manager Noelle Foye, a longtime Brocktonian who has been installing the 20-by-30 inch blowups of some of Bauman's most famous pictures.
"People will stop instead of just scurrying along ... then they begin to take in the businesses that are there."
The grant is funding Foye, materials, the photos and promotional events Foye said she plans to organize.
Foye was hanging about 17 photographs last week. The images are mounted on a lightweight cardboard, and suspended with fishing line from hooks over the window frame. The images are of downtown Brockton in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Stonehill College, which is in possession of Bauman's collection, reproduced the 17 images for $524, at cost, for the project, said Nicole Casper, Stonehill's director of archives.
Foye, who is director of ArtWorks!, a community art center in New Bedford, said other cities have done similar projects to hers.
New Bedford did a similar project about five years ago, and created a partnership with city and business officials to use the vacant storefronts as a means to advertise the retail space itself, said Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
The city chose to use photographs in New Bedford that were "hip and edgy" instead of historic, Morrissey said. They often showed a business owner in action.
"We chose not to focus on our past, but to focus the images around our present and our future," Morrissey said.
Morrissey said the city came up with creative slogans for the photographs. One photograph showed an employee of a new Mexican restaurant serving tacos. Nearby was the text: "Opening up a business in downtown New Bedford? No problemo."
Passers-by could also call a telephone number next to the photograph - linking them directly to Morrissey's line, he said.
The vacant windows project in New Bedford cost about $5,000 - half of which was paid for by the New Bedford Economic Development Council. The other half, Morrissey said, was funded with private donations.
Foye said the Brockton project will evolve, and in June the the historic photographs will be replaced with artwork by various artists, Foye said.
Marc Resnick, executive director of the Brockton Redevelopment Authority, said the project aims to draw people downtown to look at the artwork and to improve the overall downtown appearance.
"It fills empty storefronts and makes the Main Street look a little more interesting," Resnick said. "It gives people something to look at."
Bill Hogan agrees - and is hopeful the project will result in more people visiting his hobby shop, especially since three of the historic photos are in the vacant storefront window adjacent to his business.
"All kinds of people stop and look at those photos," Hogan said. "They'll help. It's a positive thing."
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