Archives for posts with tag: Carytown

Anne Lewis  Easter bonnets ELFS

Easter bonnets. These days we parody them like these pictures of my aunt Anne at the family Easter egg hunt and my triplet grandbabies but back in Harry Stilson’s time, fashion was taken very seriously. I found an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch on April 12, 1925 that reported that the first man wearing a straw hat was seen at 1St & Franklin and summer attire had officially begun.  Harry’s tenants, the Crawfords, posed on Grayland Avenue and yes, straw hats were still in season in September.

poppy trip

Women wore hats (and white gloves) whenever they were in public. This hat department photo of Harry’s could have been an advertisement shot. Without notes or labels, that’s just a guess.

045 Peggy Gay hats

I believe the man posing here is in the Salvation Army band. The lady beside him is fashionably attired, I suppose. What a coat!


Bathing attire at Shields Lake was less revealing than today’s bikinis but still considered scandalous in some circles. I have a journal entry where Harry mentions showing his African-American friends, Mary Sparrow and Mary Taylor, bathing pictures which inspired bawdy comments. That visit was just one where I marvel at Harry’s audacity. For a middle-aged white man to be comfortable in a black household was uncommon but to visit and discuss bathing attire with ladies of any color was quite unheard of.

Swimming couple Shields Lake

I pity kids in those days. Their clothing was uncomfortable and not conducive to playing. Below is “Mrs. Stone’s son” with Harry’s shadow in the photo. Little boys wore dresses and I always laugh when I see this picture of my father and his sister Norma, the least girly kid ever. She grew up to be a bridge engineer and I don’t remember her in dresses. Ever. Certainly not like this!

Stone boy   nkl hdl hats sepia





Harry even documented fashionable lounge wear for men. His neighbor, Jack Proctor, appeared in many photographs but this one of him in his jammies is a rare view of intimate clothing. Jack married the daughter of the Stilsons’ neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Elam. Ironically, decades later, I discovered that my friend Dolores Miller is kin to the Elams. She shared a story for my WWI book, From Richmond to France, and it sounded so familiar. It was familiar. Harry related the same story in his journal in 1918. Now the Elams’ descendants can giggle over great-uncle Jack’s PJs.

jack proctor robe

This Grayland Avenue photo of Harry and his daughter, Anita (my grandmother) indicates the formality of those days. I believe this was a reunion when Anita and her husband came to Richmond but, unlike today’s hugs, a handshake sufficed. I suppose that in a society that wore suits to the beach and heels to garden, a PDA or any demonstration of affection was simply out of the question. It just wasn’t done.

HHS and Anita  vera and baby beach

Right: Harry’s sister Vera, with women he sold photos to on a two-day vacation to Virginia Beach.


My great-grandfather, streetcar man and photographer Harry Stilson, didn’t take as many Christmas pictures as you would expect. Or, if he did, they didn’t survive. I’ve shared most of these before but maybe you didn’t see them  or don’t mind seeing them again. If that’s the case, about Christmas trees…

Xmas tree blog

Christmas trees were usually cedar, it seems. I have no idea who the folks below are but the piano is a player piano and the tree is circled by a white fence.

Christmas family

Those fences must have been popular because there’s also one around the base of the family tree on Grayland Avenue, between Cary Street & the Downtown Expressway. The children are Harry’s grandkids, Howard and Norma Lynch and neighbor, Ralph Carr. Many of the ornaments adorning those long-ago Christmas trees hang on my tree every year.

nkl hdl rc  house ornament  Stilson Christmas ornaments



In those days, gifts weren’t lavish. An orange, one toy (often recycled) and that was about it. My father and his friend Ralph Carr displayed all their vehicles in this Christmas Day photo but there is no way to tell which was the new prized possession that year. I think the building may be in the ‘village’ beneath the tree above.


Bike parade! I doubt any of these were new gifts but an audience of neighbors  inspired the kids to mount up and hit the sidewalk on December 26, 1927.


We are currently trying to separate damaged negatives that are stuck together. If the attempt is successful, there may be more holiday images to share in the future. Whatever we salvage will be added to the 5,000 or so Stilson photographs we have now and I’d consider that a wonderful Christmas present.



If you follow this blog and Richmond In Sight, you know that our mission is to share photographs taken by my great-grandfather in Richmond between 1909-1934. Harris Stilson was a streetcar motorman, or driver, who carried his camera everywhere. I usually show you photographs of Richmond and its people but today I thought I’d invite you into the house Harry returned to at the end of his streetcar route.

038 HHS coming home.jpg


That house was 3021 Chaffin Street, now Grayland Avenue, in what we call Carytown. He also owned the house next door where his daughter and her family lived. That was convenient for visiting but you can visit, too. Come on in and sit a spell at the Stilson home.

Vera, HHS in lr

Harry’s sister Vera moved in after her husband died. This living room scene (above) shows her tatting on the table, a table in my bedroom now. The painting over the piano was created by my grandmother. I still have it. In another view, you can see Harry’s streetcar cap on the mantle.

living room

Lots of household items in Harry’s photographs have survived and are still being used in my home.  One example: my father is banging a spoon on a tin container  in this hand-tinted picture.

HDL, Spoon, chair  tin pail

Harry’s camera was sight in so many pictures. This view of the hall shows a bookcase with his camera sitting on top of what might be a Victrola but not the one I have. Mine is huge and contains the Stilson family 78 record collection. This child-sized secretary was built by my great-grandmother for her son to match a larger one in the house. Mary Stilson was a carpenter and teacher so this photograph reflects hobbies each loved: Mary’s carpentry and Harry’s photography.  Harry’s camera and movie camera are clearly visible on top of the small secretary.

Stairs, camera  086 secretary,old

That same hall was where the Christmas tree stood. I’d love to have the display under it which must have been lost over time but I do have some of the ornaments on the tree.

Christmas tree   Stilson Christmas ornaments

I’d hate to see what the kitchen looked like before the “remodeling” that Harry described this photo as displaying but the eating nook was cool. Notice that the seats fold into the wall. Salt shaker, teapot, dog nutcracker n the window, all accounted for in the Snow household nearly a century later.

Kitchen  057 grayland kitchen

Dining area

We think Harry developed his photographs in the bathroom, glimpsed from his study in one photograph. I’m not sure if it was upstairs or not but his typewriter (got it) was used for hundreds of letters (got them). When he wasn’t developing pictures, he was catching his grandchildren in the bath.

HHS at desk  HHS desk


Next time we’ll visit the gardens, yard, and a bit of Harry’s neighborhood. I hope you’ll check back for that. You can also go to for more about the Stilson collection and our projects and books based on Harry Stilson’s images.


This isn’t an entry that I spent a lot of time on. I just grabbed a few images. It’s just that it is SO cold, I thought we might feel better knowing that warm days really are coming. This is a tiny sample of Harry Stilson’s images of spring and summer. take a look, and be comforted. Honest, the spring thaw will be here soon.

Harry owned two houses on Chaffin Street, now Grayland Avenue, between Cary Street & the Downtown Expressway. His flower gardens took up an entire extra lot beside his house and were known  as “Grandpa’s Dalia Garden.” He even rented an empty lot across the street for another garden.

Grandpa's garden

Grandpa’s garden

Their porch was loaded with plants. Maybe this is why my aunt always loved porchulaca plants. The decorative pot in the background is in my Florida room now.

flower boxes GraylandThe Stilsons owned and rented other properties including the building in Carytown where the Christian Science Reading Room is located. His favorite tenants were a young British couple, the Crawfords, and his collection includes lots of pictures of Poppy Crawford. Below, she is picking strawberries in Harry’s garden.Sweet, juicy strawberries warm from the sun and popped into your mouth. Savor that image…

Poppy, strawberriesAbout Harry’s son Don’s attire…Ettiquette dictated that gentlemen wore hats but I guess they didn’t mention shoes. Imagine your bare toes in sun-warmed grass…

Don barefootVirginia Beach was less commercial back then.Harry’s photos of empty expanses of beach and few houses mix with surf shots and bathers. The photo of Harry with his daughter and grandchildren is unusual in that he is NOT holding a camera. Only the fear of water damage could pry his camera from his hands. Recall the heat of summer sun on your back and remind yourself that summer WILL come. Just not soon enough, to my way of thinking.

Anita and Don Stilson, Virginia Beach HHS ASL HDL NKL on beach