Archives for posts with tag: Virginia Beach

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.



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.

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

It’s really hot here in Richmond. You hear people saying “I wonder how they survived before air conditioning!” Well, here’s how. This is Harry Stilson’s backyard at 3021 Grayland Avenue, then known as Chaffin Street. For the uninitiated, that’s between Carytown (which is on what was called Westhampton Avenue) and the Downtown Express. These girls were neighbors, one named Isabel. He also took moving pictures of them cooling off in a hose. Those films, now restored, will be available as presentations by Richmond In Sight. We’ll be showing them around town so stay tuned.

Grayland Avenue's answer to the beach

Grayland Avenue’s answer to the beach

The miracle is that folks back then survived the suits, hats and gloves considered required attire even in Richmond’s heat. Here’s the water festival at Shields Lake image to remind you that shorts, T-shirts and flip flops lost out to formal attire in the early 1900s.

Shields Lake water festival

Shields Lake water festival

The Stilsons fled to the beach to escape the heat but they also liked fishing on the Chesapeake Bay so Deltaville and Yorktown fishing trips appear regularly in the Stilson collection. Again, all beach and ocean excursions demanded proper dress. Harry’s son, Don, and daughter, Anita, must have been sweltering at Virginia Beach.

Anita and Don Stilson, Virginia Beach

When the Stilsons moved from Michigan in 1907, Harry and his son Leon rode to Orange, Virginia in a freight car with the stock. Family finances took a hit when their chickens, unaccustomed to Virginia humidity, died of the heat shortly after the move. This picture isn’t in Unionville, where they rented a farm, but in Richmond, at their neighbor’s house. I’m guessing that Mrs. Garber’s hens were Richmond-bred and pragmatic about the stifling heat.

Chickens on Grayland Avenue

Chickens on Grayland Avenue

I realize that this blog entry is all over the place but then so is my family’s life these days. My daughter Anne and her husband are having triplets and things have been a bit hectic. She’s in the hospital until the babies are born but I was overdue on sharing more of Harry’s stuff so I’m throwing this together in a hurry. I hope you will forgive me. I’m not promising to do better in the future. I think God strikes you dead for THAT kind of lie and three little baby girls will need me to change them so I don’t want to take the chance on missing some of the fun ahead.
If you’re in Richmond and suffering hot, humid days, just remember it could be worse. At least you don’t have to wear wool suits to go to the grocery store or park. Bring on the T-shirts and flip flops…

Summer brings the same joys in 2013 that it did in 1918. I know that because I have my great-grandfather’s pictures of baseball teams, swimming in Shields Lake, beach excursions and exuberant flower beds.Summer’s end brings the same sorrow in 2013 as it did in 1930. I know that because I also have Harry Stilson’s journal entries where he mourns the return of cold weather and the demise of his dahlia garden.
I thought a little glimpse into summer activities of Richmond in the early 1900s would ease the pain of back to school and the closing of the swimming pool. In the first half of the 20th century, many Richmonders found relief from the steamy days of summer at Moore’s Lake. Located on Route 1 in Chester, it was a popular destination for a day or longer. Harry’s tenants spent the day in 1930, took pictures and gave them to their landlord to develop. Here is a peek at that long ago lazy day of summer…

Moore's Lake, 1930

Moore’s Lake, 1930

Harry Stilson worked long days as a streetcar driver and rarely had time off but when he did, the Stilsons enjoyed Virginia Beach and Newport News. LOTS of pictures but it makes me itch to see them in their wool suits and dress shoes trudging along in the sand. Check it out…

Harris Stilson at Virginia Beach

Harris Stilson at Virginia Beach

Boardwalk, Virginia Beach 1918

Boardwalk, Virginia Beach 1918

Norwegian figurehead, Virginia Beach, 1918

Norwegian figurehead, Virginia Beach, 1918

pocahontas hotel va beach 1918 blog

Virginia Beach, 1918

Virginia Beach, 1918

HHS at Va Beach blog

When Harry was not working, he was taking even more pictures or working in his flower beds. The 1929-1931 movies being restored by VCU Libraries include pictures of gardens of all sorts. Don’t know why he felt compelled to take “moving pictures” of flowers that weren’t moving but he did. Maymont’s gardens were on film as was Harry’s own beds. I have to admit that I am envious of his dahlias, roses, caladium and other blooms.
Grayland garden

Harry's garden, Grayland Avenue (behind Carytown)

Harry’s garden, Grayland Avenue (behind Carytown)

Harry's garden, Grayland Avenue (behind Carytown)

Harry’s garden, Grayland Avenue (behind Carytown)

OK. These pictures will have to hold you until next summer. If it makes you feel any better, I was working most of the summer on my second book, On the West Clay Line, about Jackson Ward, Carver and Newtowne based on the Stilson photos and oral histories of folks raised in that area so I didn’t get to savor the summer as much as it deserved. I’m hoping you had enough fun for the both of us!

two women in bathing suits 1918 blog