Edith Shelton's Richmond

The Valentine

Edith Shelton's Richmond
When you think of how Richmond looked during the 1950s, do you see it in grayscale or in glorious Technicolor? While color imagery dates back to photography’s infancy in the mid-19th century, it did not become dominant until the late-20th century. Our impressions of the past are often distanced by black and white photography. Color brings these impressions vividly to life. Post-WWII Richmond is animated in this way through the imagery of local amateur photographer Edith K. Shelton. Miss Shelton’s more than 3,000 35mm color slides document a city whose landscape and customs echoed the past, even while it began to experience the physical and social changes that marked the post-war era. The Edith K. Shelton Slide Collection provides a glimpse into Richmond’s older neighborhoods, often ones that have since changed dramatically with road construction and redevelopment projects. Miss Shelton favored Richmond’s downtown districts and focused particularly on the Jackson Ward and Carver neighborhoods during the 1950s. Though visually appealing, Miss Shelton’s images serve as a valuable resource to those interested in the history of Richmond neighborhoods, businesses and buildings – many of which no longer exist.   Want to see more? Through a generous grant from the Universal Leaf Foundation, the Edith K. Shelton Slide Collection is now viewable through the Valentine’s online database at thevalentine.org.
Who was Edith Shelton?
Edith Keesee Shelton (1898-1989) was born in Richmond, Virginia, to Edith Morton Keesee and W. Penick Shelton, a banker.  She attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia, graduating in 1918 with a degree in Latin. She began working for the University of Richmond about 1927, where she continued to work as a cashier in the Treasurer’s Department until her retirement in 1969.  After her mother’s death in 1950, Miss Shelton apparently lived alone until her death in 1989. What makes a university cashier spend her spare time and money, traipsing through old and sometimes decaying Richmond neighborhoods to take photographs? When Miss Shelton’s cousin, Mrs. Edgar Fisher, Jr., donated the slides to the Valentine in 1991, each one came with a descriptive index card.  Miss Shelton obviously had a plan and an appreciation of the past - she was not just a casual observer.  We may never know Miss Shelton’s intentions, but we can certainly enjoy her photographic legacy.

514 E. Broad Street, City Center
October 1977

Edith Shelton inadvertently created this self-portrait when she captured her shadow on the sidewalk outside the Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1 Confederate Veterans Hall, now the site of the Richmond Marriott hotel.

514 E. Broad Street today

533 Brook Road, Jackson Ward
August 1955

Now the site of Abner Clay Park.

533 Brook Road today

812 Albemarle Street, Oregon Hill
December 1956

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is in the background.

812 Albemarle Street today

754 N. 9th Street, French Garden Hill
August 1955

Now the site of the VCU Larrick Student Center.

754 N. 9th Street today

2-4 E. Grace Street, Monroe Ward
April 1957

Now the site of Chez Foushee Restaurant.

2-4 E. Grace Street today

216-218 S. 1st Street, Monroe Ward
May 1956

Now the site of the Downtown Expressway, State Route 195.

216-218 S. 1st Street today

1428 Coalter Street, Mosby
December 1955

Now the site of Mosby Court Public Housing.

1428 Coalter Street today

302 E. Jackson Street, Jackson Ward
July 1956

Now the site of Virginia Bio Technology Research Park.

302 E. Jackson Street today

700 Block E. Baker Street, Jackson Ward
August 1956

Pictured are ice deliveryman George Seay and his horse Nellie.

700 block E. Baker Street today

800 W. Moore Street, Carver
August 1955

Now the site of Interstates 64 and 95.

800 W. Moore Street today

1212 E. Cary Street, Shockoe Slip
September 1970

Now the site of Kai Dance Club.

1212 E. Cary Street today

718 W. Cary Street, Fan District
October 1973

Now the site of the VCU Gladding Residence Center.

718 W. Cary Street today

Easter Sunday, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church
14 W. Duval Street, Jackson Ward
April 1956

14 W. Duval Street today

6th Street Market, 300 N. 6th Street, City Center
May 1955

300 N. 6th Street today

00 block of N. 17th Street, Shockoe Bottom
October 1955

00 block of N. 17th Street today

31st and P Streets, Church Hill North
September 1956

31st and P Streets today

17th and Dock Streets, Shockoe Bottom
October 1955

17th and Docks Streets today

VCU Baptist Student Union Building, 1000 Floyd Avenue, Fan District
June 1977

1000 Floyd Avenue today

Carrington and Russell Streets, Union Hill
April 1980

Carrington and Russell Streets today

522-524 N. 2nd Street, Jackson Ward
October 1978

524 N. 2nd Street is now the site of the Speakeasy Grill.

522-524 N. 2nd Street today

Credits: Story

This project was made possible by Universal Leaf Foundation.

Exhibition Curator - Laura G. Carr

Project Manager - Meg Hughes

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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