The Nichols Collection of Virginia Courthouses

643 35mm slides, 45 postcards, 98 prints, assorted booklets/pamphlets/travel brochures/maps, 1 travel notebook

Southampton County Courthouse

27 March 1968

Charlotte Shaver Nichols (1911-1999) of Arlington and her assistant Pansy Wiltshire (1905-1998) set out to photograph all 96 Virginia courthouses between 1966 and 1970 in anticipation of publishing a book. According to a write up in the Byron Weston Record, Vol. 45, No. 3, the original collection contained 360 slides of courthouses.

Charlotte, or Lottie as she was known to her family, was born in Prince William in 1911 and lived in Fauquier as a child. She graduated from Oakton High in Fairfax and then lived in Alexandria as a young woman. She married a physician, Harold Nichols, and they lived in an apartment building in south Arlington overlooking Four Mile Run, just north of the City of Alexandria.

Pansy Wiltshire was a friend of Charlotte’s who lived in Arlington and worked for the federal government at the Federal Communications Commission. She accompanied Charlotte on many of the courthouse trips and can be seen in a few candid shots, along with Ms. Nichols, in the courthouse series.

After Lottie died in 1999, one of her sisters, Dorothy Shaver Harrington Yancey, received her courthouse project collection, as well as her slides. Dorothy willed the collection to the Virginia Bar Association where they declined the gift and returned part of the collection to the estate, which was executed by Dorothy’s neighbor, Dana Lawhorne, the sheriff of Alexandria.


Charlotte Shaver Nichols

The Library of Virginia received the collection in two parts: the first donation was from the Virginia Bar Association which had not returned the complete collection to the estate; the second donation was the remainder of the collection from the estate.

The collection currently contains 273 slides of courthouses with no documentation about what happened to the 87 missing slides, 98 prints of all the courthouses, 370 slides of historic sites around Virginia and vacations in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. In comparison with other courthouse collections at the library, this one has a complete set of prints for each county; including Nansemond which no longer exists.

Ms. Nichols kept a detailed travel log during the courthouse project; presumably to write a book. There are also travel brochures, road maps, and prospectuses about each county in the collection.

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