Archives for posts with tag: Idlewood Park

On this Fourth of July, how about a collage of images of traditional events celebrating our Declaration of Independence from England?  Because I’m heading out to a family celebration later and have to get the homemade ice cream frozen, I don’t have time to look for photos dated July 4th in my great-grandfather’s collection (it’s 5,000 images, after all!) but we’ll start with a photo of the graveyard of St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. If you have never seen a re-enactment of that speech, you need to correct that this summer. Go to for schedules.


The next pictures are of a Monument Avenue 4th of July parade. Harry also took movies of this event which show cadets, soldiers, and others. There’s also a Confederate entry in the parade. Last July 4th I wrote my blog about bands so you might want to scroll back to that for those pictures. Parades, music, fireworks.  All part of our national celebration.

Monument ave band

Fourth of July means vacation for some and that means BEACH. It did even in Harry Stilson’s day. He took mini-vacations (all that his streetcar schedule allowed) to Virginia Beach, Buckroe, Newport News, Yorktown, and the Bay. That means, of course, that he took photos of the beach, too. First picture is Virginia Beach, second is beauty pageant at Virginia Beach (I also have movies of that), third is Yorktown ferry, and fourth is Virginia Beach Coast guard station. Last is what the beach looked like back then.

crowd   contest

yorktown ferry    coast guard

houses on beach

If you couldn’t get to the beach, there was Shields Lake. Harry took pictures of divers as well as movies, which I share in presentations. If you have a pool that requires maintaining the chlorine, you throw in a few tablets. At Shields Lake, this man went around the lake dispensing chlorine from his boat. That allowed the swimmers to cool off in the humid Richmond summer days.

diving  chlorinating

Idlewood Park, now absorbed into the Downtown Expressway and Fountain Lake, was the place for ice-skating in winter and boating in summer. The buildings in the background are still there if you want to match then and now. Idlewood rowers

The Fourth also means baseball. Whether it’s a neighborhood kids’ team or the Squirrels at the Diamond, which will always be Parker Field to me, it’s as American as mom and apple pie. Here’s a team at Byrd Park. By the way, in Harry’s time, the Virginia State Fair was held on the grounds where the Diamond stands today. this team is at Idlewood Park/Byrd Park.

ball team

When life in these United States feels like it’s careening ahead like the roller coaster at Virginia Beach behind Harry here, it’s comforting to recall that a century after Harry Stilson preserved these summer scenes, we’re still celebrating with the same activities.



Well, here we are on an icy Sunday afternoon…what to do? Oh! I can share some pictures of past ice storms and snowy times with you! It might just make you feel a little less frustrated about not being able to do the holiday chores on your things to do list. While collecting pictures to show at Christmas presentations and book signings, I “rediscovered” a Harry Stilson photograph of Idlewood Park in a four-day ice storm…hopefully not in our future!

Idlewood Park was a streetcar destination in the Byrd Park area. Horse show pavilion, vaudeville shows, even a casino and a “natatorium” (indoor swimming pool) were all enticements for Richmonders to ride to the end of the Boulevard streetcar route. I’m cloudy on the exact location but my father said it was “absorbed by the Downtown Express” and the Friends of William Byrd Park website has this reference: “In 1902, the privately-owned Idlewood Amusement Park was opened on land immediately adjacent to the lake, (Boat Lake) to the east and north. It attracted thrill-seekers with its Aquarama, merry-go-round, and Rathskellar (beer hall).”

Idlewood Park was pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, it crashed and burned in financial disarray and was eventually torn down to make way for residential development. Harry, however, preserved Idlewood Park for posterity in his photographs so here are a few:


The caption Harry included says it all: “Idlewood Park, Richmond, Va, Sleetbound 4 days, Feb. 14 to 18, 1922”



The picture above was labeled “Idlewood Park” but may have been considered part of Byrd Park in 1934. The sled is being pulled by my aunt, Norma “Kit” Lynch and holds my grandmother. The little girl in the box sled is my aunt Margaret and the other person is a Moseley, probably a neighbor. This is one of the images in our 2014 Richmond In Sight calendar, a great Christmas gift.


Idlewood Lake ice skating


Horse show winner at Idlewood Park



Streetcar men taking a break in Idlewood Park