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Norfolk 1919 Photograph Collection

Collection ID: MG 69

Scope and Contents

This collection is a portfolio of 46 prints, each were contact printed from the original 6.5" X 8.5" glass plate negative. These photographs were taken in November of 1919 by an anonymous photographer. Most of the businesses depicted in the photographs appear to have been located in the area of East Main Street between Commercial Place and Union Station in Norfolk. The collection has been digitized and is available in the Old Dominion University Libraries Digital Collections.


  • 1919 November
  • Other: Date acquired: 11/21/1988


0.6 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

The photographs presented here show some of the people and businesses of Norfolk, Virginia about one year after war ended on the western front in 1918. The anonymous photographer was clearly interested in certain kinds of businesses as the pictures feature scenes that other observers tended to miss. Rather than portraying the political leaders and the finest homes in Norfolk, the unknown photographer depicted small shop owners and employees, along with a few of their customers. The folks portrayed in this fashion look reasonably normal, but neither the nation nor Norfolk were experiencing normal times when the pictures were taken. The Norfolk of 1919 differed considerably from the city of the 1980s. Then, as now, there were distinct districts within the city, but these varied drastically from any current configuration. Between Water Street (now Waterside Drive) and the river were warehouses amid steamship and railroad terminals. Main Street presented an appearance entirely different from that of today. East Main Street, which commenced at Granby and ended at the large Union Station featured dozens of small shops, many of which appear in the collection of photographs. The eleven or twelve blocks contained some brothels for which this part of the city became notorious, but in 1919 it also held at least twelve lunch counters or restaurants, an equal number of tailor shops or garment makers, several groceries, shoe stores, and emporiums of various descriptions. Of the handful of photographs that have been identified, all were taken of the small businesses on East Main or nearby streets. The Boston Cafe, managed by Hop Sing and Joe Eng, stood at 711 East Main while the New York Lunch Room was located just a few doors down across the street, at 728. Demetrious Feleros, the proprietor of the latter establishment, may be the fellow standing behind the lunch counter at the New York Lunch Room. The address on one of the menus, 1115 East Main, confirms the presence of the Olympic Restaurant in the collection while the Maryland Fruit Store and Cleopatra's can be identified by the signs on their store fronts. The local directory fails to confirm the existence of these places in Norfolk or Portsmouth, but Cleopatra's neighbor, Brown's which sold breakfasts, stood near the ferry slip. Many of these establishments appear quite tiny and of questionable longevity.

Language of Materials



A portfolio of 46 prints that depict small shop owners and employees of businesses in Norfolk, Virginia in 1919. Also, includes a study written by Dr. Peter Stewart, an Old Dominion University History Professor and local historian, that examines what Norfolk was like in 1919. This study is located in the collection’s control folder.

Physical Access Requirements

Due to the fragile nature of the photographs, researchers are encouraged to use the online images in the Old Dominion Univeristy Libraries Digital Collections.

Preservica Internal URL

Preservica Public URL

Source of Acquisition

Gift of David E. Johnson, Associate Professor of History

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A88-5

A Guide to the Norfolk 1919 Photograph Collection
Peter Stewart and Janice Halecki
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US