Documenting a vanishing landscape

Appomattox court house tavern building

Only natural, I suppose, that my thoughts are drawn to the past this week. A new online image collection at the University of Virginia Library, the Frances Benjamin Johnston Photograph Collection is helping to foster that nostalgia with a series of photos of vernacular Virginia buildings taken between 1929 and 1935. The buildings, ranging from the Tuckahoe mansion to a debtor’s prison, have much of the quiet, slightly shabby grace that still lingered in parts of the Tidewater when I grew up (though increasingly you had to go out to Gloucester or south to Chesapeake to find it—it vanished from the Peninsula a long time ago).

I looked through the list but was only able to find a few buildings that I am directly familiar with. But the names are an evocative litany of the Tidewater and the Piedmont: Abingdon. Apperson Farm. Bowman’s Folly. Bruton Parish. Cabell House. The Glebe. The Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop. Kempsville. Kenmore. Kittiewan. Landsdowne. Mangohick. Pohick. Mantua. Midlothian Pike. Monticola. Powhatan. Poplar Grove. Rich Neck. Sweet Hall. Warwick. Yancey’s Mill. Yeocomico Church.