Frank Dementi Photograph Collection

Dublin Core


Frank Dementi Photograph Collection


Dementi, Frank A. (1905-1986)
Williamsburg (Va.) - Buildings, structures, etc.
Williamsburg (Va.) - Photographs
Visitors, Foreign
Military personnel - American - Virginia - Williamsburg


A selection of photographs taken mostly before 1946 of Williamsburg buildings, events, and people by Richmond, Virginia photographer Frank Dementi and donated to Colonial Williamsburg in 1965. The nephew of Anthony L. Dementi, who founded the Dementi Studio in 1924, Frank Dementi graduated from the Winona School of Photography in Indiana. After working for several years with his brother, Tony Dementi, Frank started a position as a photo journalist with the Richmond News Leader where he worked alongside colleague Park Rouse who recalled "He liked action photography which involved movement, excitement, or even danger ."

Soon after the outbreak of World War II, Dementi opened Colonial Studio in the Business Block at the West end of Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg, Virginia on June 9, 1942. He focused primarily upon photographing soldiers and sailors stationed with military bases in the area but also took on a number of important assignments for Colonial Williamsburg and even took pictures of German prisoners of war. Two of his most exciting opportunities came when members of the Churchill family visited Williamsburg during and shortly after World War II.

In 1945, Dementi relocated his Colonial Studio, offering illustrative and portrait photography, to 9 East Grace Street in Richmond, Virginia, where he operated the business until his retirement in 1984. His early experimentation with color photography led him to win an award in 1955 for a composition set in Colonial Williamsburg that he titled "The Sabbath." Colonial Williamsburg's Director of Promotions, Thomas McCaskey, assisted him with arrangements for the photo shoot and praised the resulting scene of costumed interpreters positioned along Palace Street for "...completely captur[ing] the charm and informality of historic Williamsburg." Throughout his career, he continued to document dignitaries, leaders, and celebrities who visited Virginia, shot numerous scenic views to support state tourism efforts, and continued to take many studio portraits. An engaging storyteller who put his subjects at ease, Frank participated in significant historical events and met many interesting personalities as he built his business.

Over the course of his career, Dementi completed numerous photo shoots at Colonial Williamsburg, ranging from special events and exhibition building openings to the visits of Clementine and Sarah Churchill in September 1943 and Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 8, 1946. Mary Churchill, a subaltern in the British Army, took a break from her duties serving as her father’s aide-de-camp during the U.S. visit to accompany her mother on an impromptu trip to Williamsburg organized by the British Embassy. The two started their morning at the Williamsburg Inn, where they met Vernon Geddy, First Vice-President of Colonial Williamsburg, who served as their escort, and local photographer Frank Dementi, who operated Colonial Studio in Williamsburg from 1942-1945. Lord Moran, Winston Churchill’s private physician, and two aides from the White House also accompanied the party. During a guided tour of selected exhibition buildings, including the Governor’s Palace, where costumed interpreter Midge Adolph greeted the women, Clementine and Mary learned about the former British capital. A luncheon at the Travis House Restaurant allowed the group to sample some of the famous scalloped oysters and other fare that won rave reviews from many military and diplomatic guests. Mary Churchill remarked to Vernon Geddy that her post-war plans needed to include a two week stay in Williamsburg. During their “flying visit” to Williamsburg, as Mary Churchill described it, the two learned of Italy’s surrender to the Allies while touring the Raleigh Tavern. It proved to be a momentous day for wartime Williamsburg and one memorialized by Frank Dementi in a series of photo albums he later sent for presentation to the Churchill family.

During his 1946 tour of the United States with General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sir Winston Churchill made plans to visit Colonial Williamsburg, now twelve years old after the opening of its Historic Area. Mr. Churchill and General Eisenhower arrived by a special train on Friday, March 8, 1946. Their party enjoyed a tour of the Historic Area, followed by a visit to the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary. During their carriage ride, the horses were frightened and the tour continued by car. General Eisenhower recalled how “Sir Winston didn’t pay any attention [to the frightened horses], he just lit his cigar.”
After the tour, Mr. Churchill and General Eisenhower were invited to tea at Raleigh Tavern by Mr. Kenneth Chorley, President of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, where Frank Dementi had the singular honor of being the only photographer allowed in to capture images of the event. The party proceeded to dinner at the Williamsburg Inn. Sir Winston Churchill graced Colonial Williamsburg with an eloquent speech at dinner, concluding with a generous wish: “Long may Colonial Williamsburg flourish! Firm may be the links which it may forge with our past, and may those links of distant by-gone days be reinforced by new links and new bonds which will reach across the ocean and join our two peoples together.”

Frank Dementi's Williamsburg photos constitute the subject matter of this collection while over 70,000 photos relating to the broader history of Richmond and the state of Virginia reside with the Valentine Museum. Members of the Dementi family hold the remainder of his photographic legacy.


Dementi, Frank A.



Is Part Of

Frank Dementi Photograph Collection




250 photographs



Rights Holder

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

Collection Items

1965-D-2827 w.jpg

Dementi, Frank 1938

Dementi, Frank 1940

Dementi, Frank 1939

Dementi, Frank 1939

Dementi, Frank 19360704

Dementi, Frank 19341020

Dementi, Frank

Dementi, Frank

Dementi, Frank

Dementi, Frank Circa 1935

Dementi, Frank 19430908

Dementi, Frank 19430908

Dementi, Frank 19430908
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