CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Thousands of photos of Kanawha Valley residents have been found in a building purchased by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, and officials want to connect as many of them to their subjects as possible.
But to do so, they'll need the public's help.
Last fall, the authority purchased the building at 1601 Washington St. E. on Charleston's East End with the intent to renovate the building and return it to a mixed-use purpose.
Though listed as 1601 Washington St. E., it technically has odd-numbered addresses from 1601 through 1607 1/2.
The two-story building is split into several storefronts and had a number of uses over its life, including bars, apartments and a Subway restaurant.
But there was also a photography business - Lindsay's Studio - that produced images of hundreds of people and specialized in portraits of children.
Located on the second floor of the building, Lindsay's Studio was run by Lindsay Hignite, a self-taught photographer who was originally from Winchester, Ky.
One of his adopted daughters, Tenna Sullivan of St. Albans, said Hignite was dedicated to his business and his customers.
"That was his life," Sullivan said. "He really loved it."
After Hignite died in 2000, the studio was never re-opened, and the photos that remained were left inside, only to be discovered a few months ago by officials with the authority.
Evidence of vandalism in the building is apparent, but most of the photos remain untouched. Many are strewn throughout the former studio, which doubled as an apartment for Hignite and his family.
The studio's neon-outlined projecting sign, which once hung on the building's exterior, is sitting in a hallway. Portions of a backdrop remain in the apartment's front room.
The photos span several decades, ranging from black-and-white family portraits of men wearing browline or horn-rimmed glasses to women with 1980s-era teased hair and portraits of children and teenagers sporting fashions popular in the early and mid-1990s.
"It'd be a shame to get rid of these," Urban Renewal Authority Director Jim Edwards said on a tour of the building Monday morning. "We want to try and save them."
On one of the earlier tours of the building, East End Main Street Director Ric Cavender said he found a portrait of himself in one of the stacks of 8-by-10 prints lying on a table in an old living room.
Cavender said he was 2 or 3 years old in the photo, meaning the image was taken in 1985 or 1986.
Only a handful of the images have any sort of name attached to them. One box is full of letter-sized envelopes marked with the name of the subject, which should make connecting those photos with their subjects fairly simple.