Vintage Richmond in the Public Domain

I love Richmond, VA history. I especially love finding old photos showing the way things used to be in this lovely east coast city. Some things have changed dramatically and some things have stayed mostly the same.


I just found out from that the New York City Library recently made nearly 200,000 photographs, documents, posters, and sheet music digitally available for public use. We can easily search the collection and quickly download the articles. There is a box you can check when you search to search only public domain articles, which means you can use those images for whatever use you like. Click here for the entry site to search anything. Click here for the Richmond, VA stuff I found.

Both buildings are now gone, but used to be at 14th and Franklin. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “Exchange Hotel and Ballard House, Richmond, Va.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1875.
Another look at the Ballard House and Exchange Hotel

Many of these images have already been online, but this site makes it easy to search for and download what you’re looking for. I found duplicates of some files over on the Library of Congress site, but there could potentially be some previously “undiscovered” or little known digital images in this treasure trove. If you’re familiar with historical photos of Richmond, VA, I’d be curious to know if you see anything new in the New York Library collection when you search “Richmond, VA.” Try searching other related phrases too (like “Richmond”, “Richmond, Virginia”, “Church Hill”, etc). I’ve certainly found a lot of fun ones that I’ve never seen before.

Elizabeth Van Lew, the Union spy who lived in Church Hill (at the current location of Bellevue Elementary School) is seated on the right. Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Elizabeth Van Lew with her nieces, brother John, and servant on main mansion grounds.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1862 – 1901.
The Libby Hill prison
View of the James River and Richmond, VA.
View from Gambles Hill Park (up the hill from Tredegar Iron Works and near the current site of the Richmond Folk Festival). You can see the Christopher Newport Cross in the distance, which is now located on the Canal walk down the hill and east a bit.
A very overgrown grassy St. John’s Church stereograph
View from Libby Hill Park

Can you find any new pics that you haven’t seen before? Who loves RVA history?!

Downton Abbey Premiere RVA

Tonight, Sarah and I joined a bunch of friends for the USA premiere of Downton Abbey. I used to make fun of Sarah for watching her “soap opera,” until I started paying attention to the plots more and got into the series along with her. We also happen to live in the city that has the largest premiere showing in the nation apparently: Richmond, VA.

What I would guess was a couple of thousand people packed out the Altria Theater (designed by the same architect who did our house back in 1919, Charles M. Robinson, I’m happy to say) for the showing. We were delighted by a surprise celebrity visit by Phyllis Logan, the Downton actress who portrays the beloved Mrs. Hughes. She was joined by her husband, Kevin McNally, who appeared in some earlier episodes of Downton. The event was put on by WCVE, our local PBS affiliate.

Everyone had a lot of fun dressing up in their vintage style clothing. We did our best to match the feel of the roaring twenties. Sarah cut up one of my balancing peacock feathers and gracefully pinned it to her hair. I grabbed my Dube derby from my juggling supplies and that seemed to work well in my attempt to look like Mr. Bates. We’re looking forward to a fun final season.

Phyllis Logan (aka Mrs. Hughes) paid us a surprise celebrity visit!
Mrs. Hughes!

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