ca. 1900–1990s, bulk 1930s-1960s
What makes this collection unique is its focus on the depots of smaller cities, towns, and whistle-stops of rural Virginia, rather than the palatial rail hubs of major cities, such as Richmond’s Main Street Station, of which there is already an abundant visual account. The images date from the very early twentieth century to the mid-1970s, with some images from as late as the 1990s. Almost all the images were daytime shots and practically none document human activity or presence. Instead they focus on the architectural qualities of the depots themselves, significantly without regard to any depot’s ostensible architectural importance. Indeed, the passenger shelter in Ashcake, Virginia, looks to be a tiny shack overtaken by shrubbery. Williamsburg’s looks more like a faux-colonial bank than a depot, and Danville’s is an aluminum modular building. Most of the depots featured, however, are in the more familiar “cottage” style.
Arrangement and access:
Alphabetically by location
Related resources and collections:
Prince Railroad Collection
2 albums, 7 x 11 and 9 x 11 inches, 200 photographs, along with 66 modern copy photographs from albums belonging to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources
In the early twentieth century, the Appalachian Power Company built a series of hydroelectric dams on the New River in Carroll County, Virginia. Completed in 1912, the Byllesby Dam took its name from H. M. Byllesby and Company, a Chicago investment firm that helped start Appalachian Power, and it created the serene 335-acre Byllesby Reservoir still popular with local fishermen and recreational boaters.
The photographs in this collection document the phases of the dam’s construction and the building methods of the period, with interior shots of the transformer house and its giant turbines and wide-angle exterior views of the dam and cement-mixing plant with its and volute casing and draft tube forms, like abstract sculptures in the wilderness, awaiting cement. As significantly, the photographs capture the daily lives of the workers who made their home in the camp, with images of black-papered dormitories for engineers and office staff, tidy vegetable gardens growing beneath power lines, a pair of well-dressed women on horseback (on the same horse), candid shots of “natives” (locals), and various shots of workers at rest and play and gathered around a campfire at night. The collection also includes two commercially produced scenic postcards of the completed dam and an original … more
approx. 270 Kodak prints with negatives
Receiving its first prisoners in 1800, the Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond had by the 1980s, through a series of radical redesigns, grown from architect Benjamin Latrobe’s elegant horseshoe-shaped loggia on the banks of the James to an enormous modern complex of cellblocks and administrative buildings, mostly constructed with inmate labor, and partly from the brick and stone of Latrobe’s original horseshoe, itself fallen into disuse and razed in 1928.
In 1991, with the inmate population decentralized and relocated to various facilities throughout the state, and the penitentiary buildings themselves doomed to obsolescence, the Virginia Film Office sent photographers to survey the complex as a potential movie location. While ultimately no movies were filmed in “the Pen,” the photographers did gather the most comprehensive and intimate visual account of the penitentiary made near the end of its long life cycle, a year before its demolition by the state. The exterior and interior photos are rich in detail and include views of the dining hall, the chapel, and the infirmary with its distinctive green-and-white checkered floor, as well as glimpses along the inner lengths of the tiered cellblocks, various furniture, lamps, and other unexpected details of life behind bars, such as houseplants and an umbrella casually hung by its handle on an open door. One long panorama, composed of five separate snapshots, captures the penitentiary’s high-walled athletic … more
John Shaw (1942–2010) was a prolific wildlife photographer and painter strongly associated with Virginia, where he was born and made his home. Quitting his day job as a military satellite tracker in 1982, Shaw, largely self-taught, committed himself to his art, which appeared in countless incarnations—as paintings in private homes, in wildlife magazines and illustrated calendars, on postage stamps and birdseed packages.
The 35mm images in our collection demonstrate a technical sophistication and commitment to realism and detail for which Shaw’s later work was so widely admired. Striking shots of songbirds taking wing, casting shadows on what are apparently artificial backdrops, intermingle with more casual photos of Copper and Butch, the family spaniels, and colorful domestic interiors featuring a reserved older couple, probably Shaw’s parents. Other images include opossum and deer, skunks and flying squirrels, a dozen species of songbird, as many national and state parks, and locales such as California wine country and the covered bridges of Pennsylvania. Of special interest to Virginians may be Shaw’s photos of Monticello, Shenandoah National Park in autumn, and the Blue Ridge Parkway—with images of Mabry Mill and the Puckett Cabin, home of “Aunt” Orelena, the famous midwife. While most of the slides themselves are undated, images of the Seattle World’s Fair place their creation in the early 1960s.
Arrangement and access:
The 1,288 Kodachrome slides are arranged as received, labeled by … more
ca. 1940–1975, bulk 1947–1957
3,888 negatives, photographs
Spanning nearly three decades, this collection includes candid images documenting the growth of an industrial city. In 1912, the DuPont Company selected the Hopewell area as the site of its explosive powder production operations. Completion of the factory coincided with the start of World War I. DuPont built a company town around the factory, providing housing for the workers. As with other industrial planned communities of the early twentieth century, DuPont also provided for the physical, intellectual, and social lives of its workers by building schools, churches, gymnasiums, libraries, clinics and hunt clubs. By the 1930s, several local and national industries recognized Hopewell’s pool of workers and established factories alongside DuPont.
In an effort to preserve individual employee rights in a town largely controlled by industry, Hopewell plant workers joined labor unions such as District 50 of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The UMWA industrial union was formed in 1890 by the amalgamation of the National Progressive Union (organized 1888) and the mine locals under the Knights of Labor. The UMWA’s stated purpose was to address the lack of continuity of employment, limited access and ownership in company-owned towns, and the extreme occupational hazards that led to regular strikes and constant efforts to improve conditions through collective bargaining. At the time of the construction of Union Hall in 1952, five local chapters were represented within … more
64 albums, approx. 3,500 photographs
On June 15, 1942, the army officially activated the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, under the command of the army’s Transportation Corps, with its headquarters in Newport News. By the end of World War II, more than 772,000 men and women had gone to war via the port. Hampton Roads saw even more arrivals than departures: 915,116 people, including U.S. wounded and European POWs. The Transportation Corps maintained a port historian’s office and regularly assigned Signal Corps photographers to document as much port-related activity as possible. In almost all cases, the individuals in the photographs are identified by name and rank.
Our U.S. Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection includes more than 3,500 individual 8 x 10″ black-and-white photographs from the Hampton Roads Embarkation Series, 1942–1946. These photos show, often in intimate and unexpected detail, the preparation and loading of war materials, daily activities of the U.S. Quartermaster Corps, U.S. military personnel arriving and departing through the ports of Hampton Roads, the work of civilian employees, WACs, Japanese-American servicemen, and the Red Cross, group portraits, wounded personnel, entertainers, animals, German and Italian prisoners of war, military funerals and religious observances, training and drills, equipment, vehicles and warships, aerial views of the port, and servicemen going to the barber or dentist, receiving communion, and relaxing in racially segregated dining facilities. The collection is significant for its account of all aspects … more