About the Charles Brownell Collection
The April 2, 2022 program on Artistic Mansions of West Franklin Street is a continuation of a career of teaching and leadership in architectural history by Charles E. Brownell, Ph.D. Brownell, teaching in the Art History Department, headed VCU’s Architectural History Program and for 20 years organized a symposium of architecture and decorative arts. After his retirement, Brownell has given an annual lecture exploring Richmond architecture and decorative arts under sponsorship of the Friends of VCU Libraries and the Bess Brownell Fund.
The spring lecture series is part of a longterm close working relationship with VCU Libraries. For 20 years, as an art history professor, he deposited copies of his graduate students’ research papers on architectural history topics in Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library. More than 300 of these papers exist and they offer a deep scholarly imprint on Richmond’s architectural history. Many of these papers develop into topics for master thesis and other research.
Some of the most architecturally significant buildings of 19th and 20th century Richmond are located on, or adjacent to, the campuses of Virginia Commonwealth University. A focus has been on documenting the architecture of what is known today as Richmond’s Fan District and especially the buildings of VCU’s Monroe Park Campus.
In addition to his teaching, writing and public presentations, Brownell gave personal collections to Special Collections and Archives. Some examples from the Charles Brownell Collection:
- Records, drafts and correspondence related to the creation of the book The Making of Virginia Architecture, published in 1992 and co-authored by Brownell, Calder Loth, William M. S. Rasmussen, and Richard Guy Wilson. The genesis of the project occurred years earlier, when the authors concluded that Virginia’s principal artistic achievement was architecture, and decided to write a catalog that documented the range and variety of architecture in Virginia. The book was a companion to the 1992-93 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibition entitled “The Making of Virginia Architecture: Drawings and Models, 1719-1990.”
- Artistic Tiles From The American Encaustic Tiling Company. The company was established in Zanesville, Ohio in 1875. By the 1930s, the company was one of the largest tile manufacturers in the world. The company manufactured art tile, plain and ornamental wall tile, and floor tile. The catalog was published in the early 20th century to showcase and promote American Encaustic Tiling Company floor tile. Seventy-one color plates depict available patterns, sizing, colors, lettering and numbers for myriad styles of floor tile design. Many of these designs show up in Richmond homes of the era.
- Smith and Anthony trade cards Brownell donated illustrate a popular method of advertising in an earlier time. Some items from the Brownell Collection are featured in a Flickr album.