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About the Newport News Public Library Photograph Collection

Hotel Warwick | Hilton Village
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Hotel Warwick Photographs

The Hotel Warwick photographs are part of the Old Dominion Land Company Records (Series X. Miscellaneous Material). In 1882, the Land Company began work on the hotel, which was formally opened with a reception for 200 guests on April 11, 1883. The grand opening was fully 13 years before the incorporation of the City of Newport News, and the Hotel Warwick played a significant role in the development of the city. The hotel dominated the landscape, and was the civic and commercial center of the area during its early years.

The Bank of Newport News, the first bank in Newport News, chartered December 1, 1888, was located in the Hotel Warwick. The community's first newspaper, The Wedge, which began publication on April 21, 1883, was also located in the hotel. The hotel provided office space for the Warwick County government from 1888 to 1892, and at one time the post office and customs office conducted business on the premises. One of the most significant events that took place at the hotel was the organizational meeting of the stockholders of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company (at the time called Chesapeake Dry Dock and Construction Company), which occurred on June 24, 1886.

The Hotel Warwick was the center of all major social events for several decades with its popularity peaking in the 1920s. In close proximity to the hotel was a pleasure pier on the James River, a casino, a bowling alley, and a park. Dances, baseball games, and all manner of resort activities made the hotel a popular destination for travelers to the area as well as local residents.

The hotel was renovated in 1901, and in 1915 all of the rooms were equipped with hot and cold water and telephone service. During World War I, the restaurant was expanded and an annex was constructed on 25th Street. The hotel was again expanded in 1928 with a seven-story, 72-room, addition bringing the total number of rooms to 202. During World War II, the Hotel Warwick reached a maximum of 275 rooms.

The Newport News Photographs collection currently consists of 41 images of the Hotel Warwick taken before 1925.

Hilton Village Photographs

Hilton Village, built during 1918 and 1919, is recognized as the nation's first wartime public housing project.

Even before the U.S. entry into World War I, housing in Newport News was scarce. The situation was already aggravated by the rapid development of the area from a farming and fishing community to an expanding railway terminus and port city. World War I brought a sudden increase in activity and an accompanying need for workers. The U.S. Army built an embarkation camp, an aviation camp, large storage and shipping yards for supplies, and yards for horses and mules to be shipped overseas. Large numbers of orders were placed with the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, which greatly expanded its facilities. The lack of adequate housing greatly hampered the recruitment and retention of workers in wartime industrial plants.

So great was the labor and housing shortage that the shipyard began planning on its own for a public housing project. The shipyard purchased an option on 200 acres in Warwick County three miles north of the Newport News city limits. The "Hilton" project began in earnest in October 1917, and the shipyard sought the advice of Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., a noted city planner, who recommended the Harvard-educated landscape architect Henry Vincent Hubbard as the first town planner. The first architect, Joseph D. Leland III, soon left for a position in Washington, D. C., and was replaced by Francis Y. Joannes, who went on to design many public buildings including the Department of Justice Building in Washington. Francis H. Bulot was the project sanitary engineer. This "team" approach to the project resulted in a unified plan and was later viewed as an outstanding contribution to the new city-planning movement. Preliminary sketches were begun December 24, 1917.

In January 1918, Homer L. Ferguson, president of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, appeared before a Senate subcommittee investigating shipyard conditions. Ferguson was very persuasive regarding the impact of the war effort on the lack of housing for shipyard workers. With preliminary designs in hand and with the shipyard's offer to purchase land for the project, Ferguson was able to secure a 1.2 million dollar appropriation to begin construction immediately. The Hilton Village project was the first of its kind and the prototype of approximately 100 similar wartime government housing projects.

Before construction was begun, an affordable monthly rent for the workers was calculated, and the cost of the land and its development and improvements such as roads, water, and sewers was determined. Finally, the cost of constructing the houses was computed. Workers and their families were asked for suggestions to be used in the design of the houses. The average cost per family to the government was in the neighborhood of $3,232, which included all services and improvements. In addition to houses for workers, Hilton Village was to include a village square accommodating approximately twenty stores with small apartments on the second floor, a movie theater, billiard hall, bowling alley, and lodge hall (community center). Four lots for churches and space for a grade school were also set aside.

Clearing was begun on April 18, 1918. A fire brigade was formed in September 1918 to protect the stores of lumber, houses under construction, and the barracks of the construction workers. The houses were of frame construction generally covered with stucco. Many houses were placed back-to-back or side-to-side resulting in a number of interesting designs. The architectural style of the houses resembled an English cottage. By October 1, 1918, 32 families were living in Hilton Village. All of the houses were completed and occupied by the end of 1920. Streets were paved and had curbs, gutters, and street lights. There were four churches and several stores. Because of the end of the war, the railroad station, school, and other structures were never built. An elementary school was later constructed in an architectural style that did not match the original plans.

In 1921, Hilton Village was purchased from the government (the United States Shipping Board) by Henry E. Huntington, chairman of the board at the shipyard. He formed the Newport News Land Company, which ran Hilton as an adjunct of the company. In 1922, some of the houses were put up for sale, and Hilton Village gradually became a community of homeowners. On January 1, 1945, the Warwick County government moved from Lee Hall to Hilton.

From the very beginning there was a strong spirit of community in Hilton Village. The fire department sponsored most social activities and participated in many civic events during the early years. Hilton Village has maintained its own identity and character over the years, although by the 1960s it was clear that many of the houses were not aging well. In 1968, city officials and residents began to develop a plan to preserve Hilton. In 1969, the village was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1972 the Hilton Village Architectural Review Board was created by the General Assembly. The board reviews building permits and maintains the homeowners' guide ensuring that Hilton Village will retain its unique place in the landscape of Newport News.

The Newport News Photographs collection currently consists of  233 images of Hilton Village taken during its construction phase in 1918 and 1919.

E. P. Griffith, Hilton Village Photographer

Ellis Parker Griffith (1879-1954) was company photographer for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company from 1901 until his retirement in 1948. As company photographer, he was responsible for most of the Hilton Village photographs in this collection.

Griffith's obituary in the Times-Herald for December 10, 1954, stated that few people "had a more continuous association with events that made Newport News and Peninsula history than Ellis Parker Griffith. . . [Griffith] had witnessed these events, recorded them deftly and faithfully and preserved them for history in a pictorial record." Griffith excelled in evaluating his subjects, and his work captured images of historical significance as well as snapshots of the passing scene. His photographs were widely published locally as well as in newspapers and maritime journals throughout the country.

Newport News Public Library System

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Search Tips

Punctuation and capitalization are disregarded. Entries in this database are arranged in letter-by-letter alphabetical order. In addition to the regular searches, you may click on any highlighted element of a database record (such as a title) to initiate a search on that element. Each record in the Newport News Photographs database consists of:

Titles
Titles consist of brief descriptions of the photograph taken from unpublished finding aids.

Examples:

Dates
The date the photograph was taken (if known) is recorded in the database record. Dates are keyword searchable. Examples of dates are:

Image Numbers
Image numbers were assigned to the photographs as they were cataloged based on the numbering found in the unpublished finding aids, and are visible only in the MARC display.  These numbers are keyword-searchable.

Image numbers for Hotel Warwick photographs begin with the prefix HOT.

Image numbers for Hilton Village photographs begin with the prefix HIL.

Examples: image numbers:

Subject Headings
Each record contains one or more subject headings. Words found within subject headings are keyword searchable.

All records for the Hotel Warwick photographs contain the following subject heading:

Hotel Warwick (Newport News, Va.) -- Photographs

All records for the Hilton Village photographs contain the following subject heading:

Hilton Village (Newport News, Va.) -- Photographs

Links
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