About the Waynesboro Public Library Photographs

About the CollectionNotes on Some Images | Notes on Some Photographers
Format of Original Images | Related Resources | Ordering Publications | Search Tips

About the Collection

The Waynesboro Public Library photograph collection consists of approximately 1,500 photographic images and approximately 380 postcards. About half of the collection consists of 8 x 10 black-and-white prints which are often mounted on a stiff backing. The remainder of the collection ranges in size from 1 x 2 inch prints to large panoramic views (8 x 43 inches). This portion of the collection varies a great deal. Photographs are loose, framed, and mounted in albums and can be black-and -white, color, hand-tinted, and sepia-toned.

All images are of Virginia subjects, mainly from the cities of Waynesboro, Staunton, and Harrisonburg and the surrounding counties of Augusta, Rockingham, and Rockbridge. There are also views of Albemarle, Bath, and Nelson counties, Charlottesville, and Winchester. In addition To general views, there are images of: businesses, industrial concerns, and government facilities; schools, churches, and cemeteries; streets and residences; individuals, groups, and family documents; and events, geographical features, and natural disasters.

Notes on Some Images

Basic City Photographs

Basic City was founded in 1890 as one of the Virginia "boom towns." Before being chartered as Basic City, the area was known as "Waynesboro Junction." Its nickname was "City of Iron Cross" as the Norfolk and Western and the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad tracks both passed through the town. Although named for the Basic process for making steel, Basic City never had a steel foundry, but was home to a number of various manufacturing plants. In 1923, Basic City and Waynesboro united to become a single entity.

Brandon Hotel

The Brandon Hotel was built in 1890 in Basic City. The architect was Mr. Poindexter of Washington, D.C. The name "Brandon" came from a James River estate. The Brandon opened to the public November 27, 1890. On November 14, 1901, the Hotel was the scene of the wedding of Phyllis Langhorne of Mirador to Reginald Brooks. Among the guests in attendance were John Jacob Astor and Charles Dana Gibson. The building has existed in a variety of identities. In 1913, the hotel became the coeducational Brandon Institute during the school year, but remained a hotel during the summer. Later the school became an all-female institution. In March 1920, the school became Fairfax Hall, a finishing school for young women. From 1976 to 1993 the building housed the Virginia Academy for Staff Development to train prison guards. In 2001 the old hotel opened to provide housing for mid-income senior citizens.

Evolution of One Building: Presbyterian Church, Star Theater, and News-Virginian

About 1878 the Presbyterian Church acquired land on Main Street and built a church on Main Street hill. In 1911, a new church was built on Wayne Avenue and the congregation moved. In 1922, Max Patterson and Carl C. Loth purchased the old Presbyterian Church building and converted it to the Star Theater, showing silent movies and holding local events there. The theater closed in 1926. The building was then used as a gymnasium for Fishburne Military School and for local dances. In 1940 the building was purchased by the local newspaper, the News-Virginian, whose occupancy continues to date.

Fishburne Military School

Fishburne Military School was founded in 1879 by James Abbot Fishburne as the coeducational Waynesboro High School. By 1881 it was an all-male institution, and by 1882 and 1883, the young men were drilling in dress uniform. By 1884 the school had a full military system and a frame barracks. James Abbot Fishburne died in 1921. In 1922 the brick barracks designed by T.J. Collins of Staunton were built and in 1928, the administration and gymnasium building was completed. The school was integrated in 1971, and Fishburne continues to flourish today with the new Hobby-Hudgins building and much advanced technology.

Hotel Brunswick

The Brunswick Hotel was built in 1890 and located on the east side of the 600 block of Wayne Avenue. It was briefly known as Fords Hotel. For a time the hotel was owned by the Loth family. Blue Ridge Parkway engineers were housed in the hotel in the early 1920s. In 1928 it was remodeled and housed DuPont construction workers in 1927-1928 and again from 1932-1935. The hotel was torn down in 1936.


Swannanoa "palace" was built about 1912 on top of Afton Mountain. The 52-room building was commissioned by James Dooley of "Maymont" in Richmond. The contractor was M.R. Ellis of Waynesboro. Virgil Moyer, Sr. of Waynesboro was the plumbing contractor. Swannanoa was built of Italian and Georgian marble in the Italian Renaissance style. After the Dooleys died in the 1920s, the estate was sold. Attempts were made to turn it into a country club. A golf course that still exists was built. President Coolidge and his wife visited Swannanoa during a Thanksgiving holiday. In 1949 Walter (1871-1963) and Lao Russell (1904-1988) leased the palace for the Walter Russell Foundation which in 1957 became the University of Science and Philosophy now located in Blacksburg. In 1998 Swannanoa was taken over by the Dulaneys who anticipate turning it into a facility for meetings and special events. Former visitors to Swannanoa also included Norman Vincent Peale and Gloria Swanson.
Notes on Some Photographers

William Warden

Many photographs in the collection (and most of the train photographs) were the work of William Edward Warden (1928-1994). Mr. Warden sold many of his photographs at craft shows. Some of his work appeared on various railroad calendars and in his published books on trains.

R. L. Hiserman

R.L. Hiserman ran a photography studio in Waynesboro during the early years of the 20th century. Most of the panoramic views of the area and the various large group photographs were taken by Mr. Hiserman as were a number of the photographs taken before 1950.

Format of Original Images

The images were scanned from photographic prints of varying sizes and from postcards.

Related Resources

The following publications provide additional information on the history of Waynesboro and contain numerous photographs and maps.

Also, the Waynesboro Heritage Foundation Bulletin contains information on historic downtown Waynesboro.

Ordering Publications

Waynesboro Heritage Foundation

The Waynesboro Heritage Foundation is located at 420 West Main Street. The building houses a collection of antiques from Waynesboro's history and a selection of photographs of Waynesboro. Many photographs in the digitization project are available in the books by Curtis Bowman and George Hawke. These are available from:

The Waynesboro Heritage Foundation
Box 517
Waynesboro, VA 22980

Bowman, Curtis. Days of Yore

Hawke, George. A History of Waynesboro, Virginia to 1900

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 subject) to initiate a search on that element. 

Each record in the Waynesboro Public Library Photograph Collection database consists of:


Personal names in the database are in the form of last name followed by first name.  Names of studios are entered in direct order.


About half of the titles are found on the back of the photograph or postcard. Some titles appear on material accompanying the image such as a mounting or album page, and some titles have been supplied by the cataloger.



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


Notes often contain additional information about the subject of the photograph. Notes can also contain information about the physical condition of the original image. All of the information in the notes is keyword searchable.


Image Numbers

Image numbers were arbitrarily assigned to the photographs as they were cataloged and are visible only in the MARC display.  These numbers are keyword-searchable.

Examples: image numbers:

Subject Headings

Each record contains several subject headings which may be names, places, buildings, or other topics:


Click on the URL at the top of the full record display to view the digitized image. 

For more detailed help with searching, click on the "Help" link on the main search screen and scroll down to "Search Functions" and "Search Tips."

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