Some of the photographs we inherit from our now-long-gone relatives are of the non-labeled type maddeningly portraying people we are sure must be family members. We agonize over such pictures, wishing to know which faces might match the names from our research database—those names we already know too well.
Some snapshots, however, capture the sights from our relatives’ past, constructing for us a tale of the places they’ve been. Usually, we can guess—or, more happily, even infer—identities of such locations, based on our knowledge of the whereabouts of our ancestors.
In the case of Bill Bean, however, the act of guessing may not come remotely near the fact of the matter. In his later years, Bill—along with his wife, Ellen, of course—was quite the traveler.
Such is most likely the case with one picture in Bill Bean’s collection of unmarked photographs. Set in a geography I can’t quite place, the subject of the composition is not Bill, not his wife, not even “natives” of the area he was visiting.
The subject is a building.
Set on what appears to be a sandbar at the edge of a lake perched near bald hilltops, the building looks like a hotel—all except for one distinguishing detail: no people. Oh, there may be a speck or two on this photograph that might be human, but the building is conspicuously void of the throngs of people one might assume would accompany a building of this size.
Another surprise: the building seems to lack any of the customary signage of such a commercial enterprise. What kind of building is this? And why was Bill there to take its picture?
Granted, my eyes have already failed the test of determining telltale clues. I’ve already mistaken geese for fish, not to mention a mother-and-daughter duo for twin teenagers.
So perhaps I had better leave well enough alone, and leave it to you: what do you think? Is this a remote mountain hideaway? An exclusive resort of a bygone era? A wealthy recluse’s compound?
You may be noticing my romantic muse is getting carried away with itself.