Selections from the Clyde Holmes Photograph Collection

Title

Selections from the Clyde Holmes Photograph Collection

Subject

Historic buildings - Virginia - Williamsburg
Public buildings - Virginia - Williamsburg
Architecture, Domestic - Virginia - Williamsburg
Black and white photographs
Holmes, Clyde E., 1902-1977

Description

“Since 1924, a young man in Williamsburg, Mr. Clyde Holmes, has been collecting newspaper clippings and taking photographs in connection with the Restoration. This man has apparently all the newspaper write-ups that appeared in the local papers touching the Restoration from the time Dr. Goodwin first attempted to have someone buy the town in 1924; he also has from two to three thousand photographs he has taken of the various buildings and streets in Williamsburg before and after the Restoration began.”
Letter, Vernon Geddy to Perry, Shaw & Hepburn, July 29, 1930, Colonial Williamsburg Corporate Archives

The Clyde Holmes Photograph Collection originated with Clyde Holmes, a long-term Williamsburg resident with a passion for history. His employment at the Imperial Theater on Duke of Gloucester Street helped to develop his interest in film and photography. As noted in the quote above, Holmes drew inspiration from the early efforts of Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, rector of Bruton Parish Church, to convince both townspeople and wealthy philanthropists to support preservation of dilapidated structures with ties to the days when Williamsburg was a bustling colonial capital. Goodwin first approached Henry Ford in 1924 with the idea of funding preservation of certain Williamsburg buildings. Undaunted by Ford’s refusal, Goodwin pitched his ideas to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who agreed to finance restoration of the colonial segment of Williamsburg in 1927. He authorized hiring Perry, Shaw, & Hepburn, a Boston architectural firm, to begin drafting preliminary plans. Once approved, the firm assembled a team of architects and draftsmen who started what local residents jokingly termed a second “Yankee invasion” in the late 1920s as they arrived in the area to study and measure existing buildings, uncover buried foundations, and conduct fieldwork at other colonial sites in the region.

After his photographic efforts came to the attention of this team, Todd & Brown, the firm hired to oversee much of the construction work connected with the Restoration, encouraged Holmes by asking him to assist them with taking “before” photos of various sites. He also took a few to document early progress with archaeological and architectural investigations. While lacking the superior quality of contract photographers hired to aid the team, his amateur photos were recognized early on as having significant value as a working archive of the town’s pre-restoration appearance. Clyde Holmes cooperated with and supported the restoration effort by turning over his collection of clippings and photographs in 1933.

Dating from ca. 1924-1933, his photos capture the birth of the idea of Williamsburg as a tourist destination. Automobiles, a hotel, a souvenir shop, and Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities sites all attest to growing activity in the town as it stood on the brink of transformation into a laboratory for one of the nation’s earliest historic preservation campaigns. Examples of lost architecture that was either soon to be moved or torn down to make way for reconstruction of colonial buildings are also well represented in the collection.

Holmes donated his photos in a bound fire insurance volume. Adhered to the pages with glue, the photos have since been removed for optimal preservation but still await further conservation treatment to remove residual paper backings. Quite a few of the Holmes images were copied by restoration contract photographers and mounted on linen for insertion into albums used on a daily basis by the architectural team. The visible stains, tears, and creases bear witness to the role this group of photos played in providing visual evidence that guided restoration and reconstruction work.

Creator

Holmes, Clyde

Date

Circa 1928-1932

Rights Holder

Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Items in the Selections from the Clyde Holmes Photograph Collection Collection

Benjamin Powell House
Pre-restoration view of the west and south elevations of the Benjamin Powell House in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Benjamin Powell Office
Pre-restoration view of the west and south elevations of the Benjamin Powell Office in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Rabon House
Pre-restoration photo of the north and west elevations of the Rabon House [formerly known by the names Saunders House and Clowes House] in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Nicholson School
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the Nicholson School once located on Nicholson Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Peyton Randolph House
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the Peyton Randolph House on Nicholson Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Tayloe House and Office
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the Tayloe House and Office, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

George Wythe House
Pre-restoration view of the east elevation of the George Wythe House on the Palace Green in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1906.

View Along Prince George Street
Pre-restoration view looking east along Prince George Street at intersection of North Henry Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Prince George Street
Pre-restoration view looking east along Prince George Street in Williamsburg, Virginia from the Timson House, circa 1928.

Timson House
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the Timson House, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Intersection of York Street and Waller Street
Pre-restoration view looking east along York Street from Waller Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Robert Nicolson House
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the Robert Nicolson House, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Bassett Hall
Pre-restoration view of north and east elevations of Bassett Hall on Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Bassett Hall Entrance
Pre-restoration view of the entrance to Bassett Hall on Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Chiswell-Bucktrout House
Pre-restoration view of the north and east elevations of the Chiswell-Bucktrout House on Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Moody House
Pre-restoration view of the north elevation of the Moody House on Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Dr. Barraud House
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the Dr. Barraud House on Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Bracken Tenement
Pre-restoration view of the north facade of the Bracken Tenement on Francis Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.

Corner of Francis Street and South England Street
Pre-restoration view of the corner of Francis Street and South England Street looking southeast from Market Square, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa. 1928. The Moss House, now demolished, is visible in the foreground.

Ludwell-Paradise House
Pre-restoration view of the south facade of the Ludwell-Paradise House, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1928.