Edward Beckwith Photograph Collection


Edward Beckwith Photograph Collection


Beckwith, Edward A.
Photographs - Virginia - Williamsburg
Architecture, Domestic - Virginia - Williamsburg
Architecture, Colonial - Virginia - Williamsburg
Historic buildings - Virginia - Williamsburg


Another collection of photos purchased by the Boston architectural firm of Perry, Shaw & Hepburn in 1930 originated with photographer and town resident Edward A. Beckwith. A letter preserved in Corporate Archives indicates that Mr. Beckwith dropped off a selection of images with Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin who forwarded a list of their subjects to Perry, Shaw & Hepburn for their consideration. Beckwith’s photos date to 1926-1933, a critical period in the town’s transformation. Tremendous changes began to occur in rapid succession as properties were acquired, buildings moved or torn down, foundations unearthed, and the first exhibition building, the Raleigh Tavern, opened in September 1932. While he was never on the architectural team’s payroll, Beckwith’s images attracted interest and became part of the growing archive assembled to aid ongoing restoration work.

Beckwith’s subjects encompass a broader geographic area and feature many examples of colonial homes in the mid-Atlantic region examined by the architects as part of their fieldwork. It is possible he accompanied them on some of their trips and helped to document extant structures. His images of Williamsburg are purely architectural in focus and highlight aspects of surviving colonial architecture under study. They offer a contrast to other pre-restoration photo collections which give glimpses into town life with street vistas, carriages, automobiles, and residents. As the third decade of the twentieth century started in Williamsburg, Beckwith stood poised with his camera to change the focus to the architectural transformations that were soon to take place. Evidence of early steps towards investigating structures and removing nineteenth-century additions and modifications is visible in several of his compositions. His contrasting views of the George Wythe House in 1926 and 1929 document its transition from a dilapidated and deteriorating building to the headquarters for Dr. Goodwin’s office to oversee restoration activities.

The collection encompasses black and white photographs and associated negatives documenting extant colonial era architecture throughout the state of Virginia in the late 1920s. They offered crucial visual references of specific architectural features of interest for the restoration of eighteenth century buildings in Williamsburg’s historic area. Williamsburg, Virginia structures depicted include Carter’s Grove, Barraud House, Bassett Hall, John Blair House, Bracken House, Thomas Everard House, Bruton Parish Church, Nelson-Galt House, Prentis Store, Powell House, The Quarter, Peyton Randolph House, Semple House, Tazewell Hall, Travis House, St. George Tucker House, Benjamin Waller House, and George Wythe House. In addition, many architectural sites elsewhere in Virginia that were visited and examined by the architectural team are represented in the photographs. They include Abingdon Church, Auburn, Belleville, Bonne Elms, Elmwood, Glebe House, Green Plains, Claremont Manor, Four Mile Tree, Hayfield, Jamestown Church, Kinloch, Larabee House, Little England, Lower Brandon, Mount Airy, Mount Clement, Nelson House, Port Royal, Prospect, Rosegill, Shirley, Smith’s Fort, Upper Brandon, Warner Hall, Westover, and Wilton.

All of the photos are 11 x 14 inch gelatin silver prints on paper. Originally presented in two folios, they clearly demonstrate a more direct intent to create aesthetically pleasing images that could possibly be used in a future architectural publication.


Beckwith, Edward A.

Date Created





179 items



Rights Holder

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

Collection Items


Beckwith, Edward A.

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1927

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A. 1926

Beckwith, Edward A.

Beckwith, Edward A. 1929
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