Historic Photography: Norfolk’s “Boom Years” at the Willoughby-Baylor House


A new historical photography exhibit at the Willoughby-Baylor House in downtown Norfolk takes Norfolkians back- way back to the turn of the 20th century, also known as the “boom years.”

Harry Cowles Mann (American, b. Norfolk, 1866—1926) Untitled Black and white photograph, ca. 1900 Gift of Polly Lazaron from the collection of Dr. Emanuel Wallerstein
Harry Cowles Mann
(American, b. Norfolk, 1866—1926)
Untitled
Black and white photograph, ca. 1900
Gift of Polly Lazaron from the collection of
Dr. Emanuel Wallerstein

The photography comes from the Chrysler Museum’s collection and it displays the photography of Harry Cowles Mann, who photographed the changing face of Norfolk from 1907 to 1924. Mann started off taking commemorative pictures of the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exhibition and later opened up a shop at the corner of Main and Bank Streets in Norfolk.

From his vantage point downtown, Mann was able to catch the Norfolk skyline being built and snapped images of many landmark buildings go up that we still use today. He also explored beaches and dunes and took pictures of our coastline.

Brock Curator of American Art Alex Mann (no relation) explored the collection and, together with an intern, put the show together.

Stephanie Deach, left, Virginian Wesleyan College Public History Intern and Alex Mann, Brock Curator of American Art, review photos for the Harry Cowles Mann exhibition. Photo by Kathleen B. Casey
Stephanie Deach, left, Virginian Wesleyan College Public History Intern and Alex Mann, Brock Curator of American Art, review photos for the Harry Cowles Mann exhibition.
Photo by Kathleen B. Casey

“By presenting Mann’s commercial and artistic photographs together, the Chrysler breaks new ground in our understanding of this photographer,” Alex Mann said. “Mann built a valuable architectural archive of Norfolk during a period of rapid change. Meanwhile, his beachscapes reveal a personal quest for aesthetic complexity and prove that every corner of our region has worthy pictorial subjects.”

Harry C. Mann: Norfolk Photographer will be on view from April 16, 2016 to April 2, 2017 at the Willoughby-Baylor House, 601 E. Freemason Street, Norfolk, Va. The Chrysler’s Historic Houses are open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.