A few weeks ago, some casual browsing of the internet turned up a fascinating connection for NSLM’s staff members. We found that Frances Benjamin Johnston visited Middleburg in the 1930s to photograph the town’s historic buildings. Like so many accidental discoveries, we knew we had to get it onto the blog to share with our readers!
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) was a hugely influential figure in the history of American photography. Raised in the Washington, D.C. region, Johnston embarked on her photography career when a friend of her family, George Eastman, gave her a camera as a gift. Johnston would go on to become the official White House photographer for five separate presidential administrations before turning her focus to architecture.
Johnston began to explore photographing architecture in the 1920s, and by the 1930s, she had developed a plan to photograph early structures that were at risk of deterioration or redevelopment. Johnston embarked on what would become the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South.
Originally planned to last one year to tour Virginia, the project stretched out over eight years and Johnston visited eight states and traveled thousands of miles. One of her stops was Middleburg, Virginia, where she photographed Vine Hill.
Vine Hill was built by in 1804 and was occupied by the Cochran family through the Civil War. Following the war, the house was owned by the Rogers and Noland families before being owned by Fanny Dudley Woodward in trust for her daughter, Katharine “Foffy” Woodward, who was deaf.
Foffy Woodward owned the house into the 1960s, opening the region’s first antiques shop out of the house. When Johnston visited Middleburg in the 1930s, the house was referred to as the Rogers House, and all her photos are labeled as such.
The name “Vine Hill” referred to a time when the Noland family when the house was surrounded by vineyards, and appears to have supplanted “Rogers House” in the 1940s or 1950s.
Vine Hill was purchased by George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. in 1968 to serve as the offices of The Chronicle of the Horse and the National Sporting Library. The two organizations would share the building for thirty years before new buildings were constructed for each in 1998.
In 2010, new gallery space was added to Vine Hill and in 2011, the Museum opened and the National Sporting Library was re-named the National Sporting Library & Museum.
John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail
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“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
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