Eleck Frederick Hall (American Photographer, 1857-1910) was a prominent photo-pictorialist and portrait photographer from Buffalo, NY. He was born on December 31, 1857 to Isaac Hall (1820-1893) and Huldah M. Ash (1822-1873) in Bath, NH. He had ten siblings to include; Hannah Jane Hall (1841-1908), Frances Phineas Hall (1843-1912), Viola Elizabeth Hall (1847-1904), Persis Hurd Hall (1849-1907), Edward Hall (1850- ), Eda Clemintena Hall (1852-1939), Helen H. Hall (1854-1857), Addie Lucy Hall-Barrett (1859-1932), Isaac Hall, Jr. (1861-1864) and Mildred “Millie” Hall (1862-1910). Eleck attended public school in Bath and first studied the fundamentals of photography with photographer, George H. Aldrich (American, 1842-1889) who managed his photographic studio G.H. Aldrich & Co. in the Milton Block of Littleton, NH. From 1875-1886, Eleck trained and worked in various other portrait studios in Hanover and Lisbon, NH.
On January 25, 1881, Eleck married Ida May (née Brown) Hall (1862-1955) in Littleton, NH. In July of 1883, he opened his first photography studio in Littleton which was located above the furniture store of L.D. Sanborn & Co. (for: Luther Dow Sanborn, 1841-1907). The studio was a success, but in 1889, (some sources state 1887) Hall wanted a broader market, so he sold the studio to Charles F. Bingham (1858-1943) and the couple soon moved to Buffalo, NY where Hall purchased the photography studio and gallery of the late photographer, Benjamin Franklin Powelson (American, 1823-1885). The new studio, E.F. Hall & Co., was located at 306 Main Street at the corner of Main & Erie Streets. That same year, he became an elected officer of the newly formed Buffalo Camera Club (founded in 1888) and was later made a Member of their Executive Committee in 1891. Within a short time, Hall found success with his artistic and portrait photographic work which brought him notoriety and a high reputation as one of the leading photographers not only in Buffalo, but across the country. Hall was a master of figural composition and elegant lighting, and patrons actively sought out his talents. His portrait photographs included countless prominent clientele throughout the Western New York region. It was said that he made friends wherever he went, being a man of a remarkably striking personality and an agreeable manner. In addition to being a talented photographer, he was also an accomplished musician and played clarinet in a small band in Littleton before coming to Buffalo.
Over the course of his career, Hall received many accolades for his photography and was a member of the American Photographers’ Association (AKA The Photographers’ Association of America), the National Association of Photographers, the Professional Photographers’ Society of New York, The Buffalo Camera Club, The Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo, and The Bohemian Sketch Club of Buffalo. The Bohemian Sketch Club was a club of nine members, founded in 1892 that included notable Buffalo artists such as; James Francis Brown, George B. Bridgman, J.W. Bridgman, Raphael Beck, G. Merritt Clark, W.C. Ide, Paul King, H.T. Koerner. Interestingly, artist James Francis Brown (American, 1862-1935) sent Hall a hand-printed invitation to attend the very first meeting of the Bohemian Sketch Club in 1892, which read, “To Mr. E. F. Hall, You are cordially invited to be present at the first meeting of the “Bohemian Sketch Club” Tuesday evening Jan 19th at 8 o’clock 180 Main St. James Francis Brown, Host.” An original copy of the invitation (a monotype in red ink on brown paper depicting a small house on the cover), is in the permanent collection of the Burchfield Penney Art center in Buffalo. Hall exhibited portrait photography at “The Convention of the American Photographers’ Association” in July of 1891, where he won First Place (Class B) for his work. He also exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Socially, Hall was a member of the Buffalo Club, as well as the Buffalo chapter of the Knights Templar and the Buffalo Consistory Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite Masons.
By 1894, with the success and wealth from his business, Hall was able to build a new residence and photo studio located at 469 Virginia Street in the Allentown district of Buffalo, just steps away from Delaware Avenue. The 4,549 sq ft residence was built in the romantic French Château style by noted Buffalo architects, Fred H. Loverin & Frederick A. Whelan, of Loverin & Whelan. The architectural gem was built with two towers that flank a sloping tiled roof with large skylight, leaded windows and a Moorish Revival style interior decor with vaulted ceilings and opulent rooms with wood floors (some with parquet flooring), a mosaic-tiled fireplace, hand-painted and hand-gilded decorative trimwork and ceilings which features intricate patterns and designs of stars, moons and geometric shapes, gorgeous hand-carved woodwork as well as sculptural lighting fixtures and decorative hanging lamps. In more recent years, the historic residence has suffered a lot of deterioration, but was purchased in 2015 by local entrepreneur, David S. DePasquale and his married partner, Brazilian artist Cristiano “Cris” Pereira, who are restoring it back to its former glory. As of September 2021, the home, now called Hall Château, has been used for home tours and art classes, and the couple hope to complete the restoration by summer of 2022, with the plan to open a public café and gallery.
On November 11, 1897, Hall exhibited some of his portraits at the “Exhibition of Living Pictures”, which was held at the Guild House of the Church of the Good Shepherd which included his photo “Marguerite’s Vision” a modern classic allegory that featured Miss Mabel Rupp as Marguerite and Mrs. R.W. Long as the Spirit of the Past.
Interestingly, in 1898, the noted Buffalo photographer, Francis J. “Frank” Sipprell (Canadian-American, 1878-1958) who specialized in portraiture, began working in Eleck F. Hall’s studio. By 1902, Sipprell was able to open his own studio at 487 Delaware Avenue. In 1905, his sister, Clara E. Sipprell (Canadian-American, 1885-1975) partnered with him in the studio. Clara went on to have a very successful career and was renowned internationally for her photo-pictorialist photography, landscapes and portraits of well-known actors, artists, scientists, and writers as well as being an author. Francis later moved the studio to 795 Elmwood Avenue in the city.
In 1908, the Buffalo photographer, Howard D. Beach (American, 1867-1954) purchased Hall’s photographic studio on Virginia Street for the sum of $27,000 (equivalent to about $818,223- in 2022). At the time, Hall had been in ill health with heart trouble and he and his wife Ida soon left Buffalo to travel. After a year of traveling abroad, the couple returned to the States and spent part of their summer in Littleton, NH. They left in the fall for Pasadena, CA where it was hoped that he might receive benefit with his ongoing heart trouble which he suffered from for many years. While in California, Hall died of heart disease that following Spring at the age of 52, on April 1, 1910. His funeral was held in Pasadena and he was cremated with his remains interred in the permanent vault section of the Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena, CA. His wife Ida continued to live in Pasadena’s Old Ford Place Historic District at their home at 465 Ford Place and she passed away on February 27, 1955 at the age of 94, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Littleton, NH where the couple share a cenotaph gravestone. Some early sources often spelled (and/or misspelled) his name as ‘Elec F. Hall’, while other sources state that he died in 1913 or 1918, which are both incorrect death dates for this photographer.
In more recent times, a selection of Eleck Hall’s art photography was shown at the exhibition, “The Photo-Pictorialists of Buffalo” October 3-November 8, 1981 at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and also the same-titled exhibit was later held November 21, 2008-April 4, 2009 at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo.
(Written & compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY 14052, meibohmfinearts.com, sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)