Selections from the Frank Nivison Photograph Collection

Title

Selections from the Frank Nivison Photograph Collection

Subject

Nivison, Frank
Black and white photographs
Historic buildings - Virginia - Williamsburg
Public buildings - Virginia - Williamsburg
Architecture, Domestic - Virginia - Williamsburg
Architecture, Colonial - Virginia - Williamsburg

Description

Frank Reginald Nivison served as a contract photographer for Colonial Williamsburg during the initial restoration of the town between 1930 and 1935. Prior to this, he served as a darkroom assistant at the University Film Foundation at Harvard University. He was hired by the Williamsburg Holding Corp. to take progress photos of construction and restoration work, as well as of buildings to be wrecked or moved. According to a memo issued by architect William G. Perry to Frank Nivison on December 12, 1930, his work was to “…include the photography of all buildings and parts of buildings, exterior and interior, which the architects deem necessary for architectural and historical purposes. Such photographs would be supplemented by progress photographs of construction work as it proceeds. All buildings to be wrecked should be photographed before the wrecking takes place. In addition, there will be photographs of furniture, fabrics, and objects of all kinds.”

Nivison set up a small photographic studio in a room in the Bruton Parish House. His equipment included a Zeiss camera, 5x7 inch, with a F 4.5 lens and a special magazine for cut films, along with a Mitchell tripod with a ball and socket head. His darkroom equipment consisted of an Eastman Auto-focus Enlarger, printing machines, and various accessories such as tanks and scales. Over the course of five years, he took more than 7,000 photographs documenting each stage of the restoration or reconstruction of various 18th-century buildings in Williamsburg. Copies of these photographs were forwarded to the offices of Perry, Shaw, & Hepburn in Boston so that the architects could monitor the progress of various projects. Nivison’s photographs were also used to produce postcards, “before and after” lantern slides, and publicity relating to the restoration of Williamsburg.

By late 1935, Nivison had started taking on a lot of outside photography business and Colonial Williamsburg officials felt he should establish himself as an independent photographer. Nivison’s employment with Colonial Williamsburg terminated on July 1, 1935. However, Colonial Williamsburg continued to utilize his services on an as needed basis and assisted him in setting up his own business in Williamsburg. Unfortunately, Nivison did not attract enough outside commissions to enable him to operate independently and filed for bankruptcy in 1937. He applied to Colonial Williamsburg for a monthly retainer fee for his periodic services and was given $100.00 per month to draw upon in 1938. With the advent of World War II, Nivison moved back to Massachusetts in 1940.

Collection Items

St. George Tucker House
Progress photo of the south elevation of the Tucker-Coleman House, now known as the St. George Tucker House, Nicholson Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, March, 1931.

St. George Tucker House
Pre-restoration view of the south elevation of the St. George Tucker House, formerly the Tucker-Coleman House, Nicholson Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, January 19, 1931.

Lightfoot House
Pre-restoration view of the north elevation of the Lightfoot House, formerly known as the Nightengale House, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1930.

Robert Carter House Under Restoration
Restoration progress view of the north elevation of the Robert Carter House, formerly known as the Carter-Saunders House and the Saunders-Dinwiddie House, Williamsburg, Virginia, winter 1930-1931, after the demolition of a wing.

Robert Carter House
Pre-restoration view of the east elevation of the columned portico of the Robert Carter House, formerly known as the Carter-Saunders House and the Saunders-Dinwiddie House, Williamsburg, Virginia, winter 1931.

Merchant's Square
Progress photo of the business block, now known as Merchants Square, in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1934. The A&P Food Market (left) is located at the site of today's Craft House, and Stringfellow Electric Corp. (right) is located at the site of…

Coke-Garrett House
Progress photograph of the Coke-Garrett House under restoration in Williamsburg, Virginia, April 15, 1932.

Governor's Palace Under Reconstruction
Reconstruction progress on the southwest elevation of the Governor's Palace, December 1932.

Dedication of Duke of Gloucester Street
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's motorcade in front of the Capitol during the dedication ceremony for Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, on October 20, 1934.

Brafferton Hall
The southwest elevation of Brafferton Hall at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa early 1930s.

Public Gaol
View looking along Nicholson Street towards the pillory and stocks outside the Public Gaol soon after its restoration, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1940.

Person's Servicenter
View of Person's Servicenter, an Esso gas and service station once located at the corner of Boundary and Francis Streets in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1940.

Prentis Store
View of the front and side elevations of the Prentis Store when it housed the "Apothecary Antique Shoppe," Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1931.

Wren Building Restoration
Rear elevation of the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, undergoing restoration, circa 1930.

Capitol Near Completion
View of the southwest elevation of the reconstructed "First" Capitol of 1704 nearing completion in Williamsburg, Virginia, February 15, 1934.

Capitol under Construction
View of the apsidal end of the East wing of the Capitol under reconstruction, Williamsburg, Virginia, May 16, 1932

Brick House Tavern
View of the restored Brick House Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1940.

Taliaferro-Cole House
Pre-restoration view of the front of the Taliaferro-Cole house on Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1940.

Goodwin Building
View of the east elevation of the Goodwin Building on Henry Street in Williamsburg, Virginia, soon after its dedication on January 21, 1941. The building served as the headquarters for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation from 1941 until June 2018,…

Dr. Barraud House
Restoration progress view of the Dr. Barraud House, formerly known as the Ryland House, at its location on the corner of Francis Street and Botetourt Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, March 17, 1942.
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