by Sarah Benson-Lord
Trail Museum and Archives
For this week’s Trail Blazers, we take a look at a prolific photography firm whose work is peppered throughout the archival photograph collection.
Currently, the archival photograph collection belonging to the Trail Historical Society sits at 22,000 and growing.
A significant portion of the collection was taken by the Hughes Studio, a photography business that operated in Trail from the early 1920s until after the Second World War.
The business was owned by brothers Robert and Leslie Hughes, who emigrated from England.
Robert settled in Trail in the early the late 1910s and established a photography business. His brother, Leslie, joined him in 1924.
The business was located at 1358 Cedar Avenue, adjacent the Liberty Theatre (roughly where JJs is now), and was named Hughes Studio.
In the mid-1930s, Famous Players, owner of the Liberty, purchased the Hughes property to expand the theatre, which was renamed the Strand.
In exchange for the property, Famous Players built a business block for the Hughes’, appropriately called the Hughes Block (check for the historical plaque on the front of the building).
The building was restored in the last decade and currently houses a number of businesses and offices.
Both brothers were excellent photographers and their photos capture the importance of Trail to the economy of the West Kootenay and the province.
Granted access within smelter and hydro-electric operations, the Hughes Bros. collection means we have tremendous insight into our industrial beginnings.
The collection also chronicles the growth of our community over the 1920s and 1930s, arguably the two most important decades in Trail’s history.
Robert left the business in 1938, leaving Trail for the coast where he lived until his death in 1953.
Leslie continued to operate the business until retirement in 1945.
He died in 1948 in Nelson.
Among the Hughes Brothers collection are a number of large panoramic photos of Trail and CM&S smelter operations, including the image of the featuring the old cemetery published in our Nov. 2 Trail Blazers feature.
These photos, taken with a cirkut camera, vary in length from three to five feet and six to eight inches in depth.
You can view many of these images on the Trail Historical Society’s website at www.trailhistory.com, where they are featured in an online exhibit dedicated to the Hughes Brothers and another talented photographer, WJ Carpenter.
The artistry of Robert and Leslie Hughes have left us with a valuable visual record of our community’s growth and development.