Thursday, July 9, 2015

Willard Worden—Photographer of the Bay Area and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Willard E. Worden was in the prime of his career at the time of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) held in San Francisco in 1915.  Worden was one of the official photographers of the Fair, and he won a medal of honor for his own work that was exhibited in the Palace of Fine Arts.  The upcoming deYoung Museum exhibition opening on July 25, The Portals of the Past:  The Photography of Willard Worden, showcases five Worden photographs from the California Historical Society collections.  Two of the images are of "Portals of the Past," the remains of the 1101 California Street home of Alban Nelson Towne, general superintendent of the Central Pacific Railroad.  Towne's home was decimated during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.  The remnant left standing, the portico, known as "Portals of the Past," was given to Golden Gate Park by Towne's wife in 1909.  The other photographs are representative of Worden’s body of work, which focused on Bay Area locations and events, most notably the 1906 Earthquake and Fire and Chinatown.

Worden was born in Smyrna, Delaware in 1868.  He began practicing photography while serving in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars.  Though not a studio portrait photographer, he opened his first photography business in Cow Hollow.  After the PPIE, Worden established a gallery at 312 Stockton Street which remained in business until the 1940s, though he appears to have ceased making photographs after the gallery opened. 

The Portals of the Past (Ruins of the Towne Residence, California Street), 1906



The Portals of the Past, Golden Gate Park, 1910





The Call, Examiner, Chronicle, Palace Hotel and Crocker buildings from Kearny Street after 1906 Earthquake and Fire




Anglo American Bank reconstructed one month after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire



Market Street decorated for the encampment of Grand Army veterans, 1903


Wendy Welker
Archivist & Librarian
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