A portal to the past

A historic photo album preserves the impressions of a campus visitor in 1885.

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“The Rose Porch Entrance is so named from the Lady Banksia Rose which completely hides the great fluted columns and runs up on the building forty-five feet. It is all from two roots and has several branches as large around as one’s wrist. It blossoms in early May in immense clusters of snowy white, and is a sight which visitors come many miles to see.”
—Reverend Rodney Tabor

Photo digitization courtesy of Vince Beiderbecke, California State Library

Like many visitors to the bucolic grounds of Mills College, the Reverend Rodney Tabor was struck by the beauty of the landscape and elegant campus buildings. He was also an early adopter of the newest technology—in 1885, that was photographic cameras and film plates.

“The grounds consist of ninety acres of hill, glen, meadow, wood, and stream—a natural park immensely improved by culture, which is full of pictures,” he wrote in an album of images he recorded of this lovely place. “We have over 80 negatives taken here, and the picturesque effects are by no means exhausted.”

One hundred and thirty years later, Tabor’s album resides at the California State Library, which recently digitized the entire book and has made it available for public view at www.library.ca.gov/calhist/flipbooks/mills.html. The State Library retains an extensive Mills College collection—including annual catalogs, biographies of past presidents, and works authored by Mills alumnae—most of which are kept in the California History Room.