Archives for posts with tag: Historic Richmond photographs

It’s summer in Richmond and we all know that means humidity and heat but it also offers events, everything from Dogwood Dell to museums, parks and ball games, homemade ice cream and watermelons. But what was it like in the early 1920s? Let’s focus on some of the fun things going on in the summer…circa 1925. My great-grandfather, Harry Stilson, took pictures of summer activities in Richmond and elsewhere. I’ll just share a variety of them and hope you’ll forgive me for not writing something profound and historical. It’s just too hot.

Summer vacations started with loading the car up. Here are the Stilsons’ tenants, Mr. & Mrs. Crawford, leaving on vacation. Their landlord was also their photographer and film developer so I have their pictures in the Stilson collection.

poppy tripDuring one Stilson/Lynch vacation, the family toured Natural Bridge and Endless Caverns.

natural brHarry’s family went to Newport News, Yorktown, Deltaville, and Virginia Beach as often as possible. The Yorktown Ferry was shown in several shots.

ferryThis rowboat scene was interesting because I have both photographs and movie clips of the Stilsons on a fishing boat so that seemed the usual water outing. Maybe finances were tight that trip and a rowboat was all they could afford!

rowboat yorktownBeachwear was a bit different in those days. Harry’s daughter, Anita Lynch (my grandmother) and her brother Don at Virginia Beach:

anita and don beachThe boardwalk at Virginia Beach:

boardwalkHarry at Virginia Beach:

hhs rolling deepWhen you couldn’t get to the beach, Shields Lake offered swimming and other activities. The Dolphins swim team posed here. Perhaps Harry took the shot because two boys on the team were sons of Mr. Hurdle who owned a drugstore at Hancock & Clay in Jackson Ward on Harry’s West Clay Line street car route.

dolphins teamNothing says “summer” like a good hot dog. Harry’s grandchildren, Howard & Norma Kathleen Lynch, and a friend, were relishing these hot dogs (pardon the pun) at Shields Lake.

HDL NKL RCAnd what would summer be without watermelons? No idea who this guy is but he would be my new best friend with those watermelons.

watermelonBaseball was really popular back then. Streetcars advertised “Ballgame today” at Mayo Island but Idlewood Park, near Byrd Park, now lost to the Downtown Expressway and development, had its amateur teams. Harry’s son, Don, was probably on this team:

ballgame idlewoodIf you were more of a homebody, just being outside was a joy. Harry and his wife Mary both loved to garden. In this hand-tinted photograph, Mary Stilson held her grandson, Howard, and neighbor, Virginia Montague.

MPS with HDL & VaIn those days, money was scarce and sometimes you had to create your own entertainment. This last image is one of my favorites. No idea where it was or who they are but it’s sweet, isn’t it?

dancingHopefully these images have created a desire to get out and take advantage of the summer. When you visit some of these places this summer, maybe you’ll recall the way they looked back in Harry Stilson’s time. Our mission at Richmond In Sight ( is to remind you of those days through presentations, books, and this blog. Enjoy it. And enjoy your summer.

Classy costume, huh?

Classy costume, huh?

The Virginia State Fair was one of my great-grandfather’s favorite places. He went a lot and took pictures (and movies!) every time. Everything from performers to the Ford Tractor exhibit caught Harry Stilson’s eye. Nearly 100 years later, we benefit from his zeal.

Ford Exhibit, State Fair

Ford Exhibit, State Fair

The fair has been in a few locations over the years. In Harry’s day, it was at Hermitage Road, basically where the Diamond (Parker Field to us old Richmonders) is today. In my Jackson Ward book,released soon, I have oral histories of some of the “kids” who sneaked in to see the attractions. Morris Goldberg’s memories included motorcycle races where they used castor oil “to make them run better” and a story about confronting the Fair barker about the authenticity of one of the “freaks” advertised. He declared that if he paid his money, that person had BETTER not have a head or he wanted his money back. “Get lost, kid” was the response. P.T. Barnum’s “sucker born every minute” theory didn’t apply to Morris Goldberg. If he had slipped through the pried-apart fence to get into the fair, he wanted his money’s worth. So what if he hadn’t spent any?



The movies I donated to VCU Libraries included scenes from the fair 1929-1931. They had elephants! And the rides are still the same…the Caterpillar and the Flier (swings), among others. They had water shows, too. One was the traditional dive from a dizzying height and another showed women doing some kind of tricks in what was basically an above-ground swimming pool. Horse racing was captured for future generations in both stills and movies. If I ever had a minute to spare, I’d research the races to see if a champion was tearing around the Richmond horse track the day Harry filmed.

Bareback riders, 1920 State Fair

Bareback riders, 1920 State Fair


Caterpillar ride, State Fair

Harry Stilson was the poor man’s photographer and as such, we have found no images of famous Richmonders. No Maggie Walker (but we have her bank!), no John Mitchell, Jr. …but wait! Who is that African American man dancing in that picture? Could it be Bill “Bojangles” Robinson? Naw, probably not but I am still going to the library to check out the newspaper for that year’s fair. You just never know.