About the Collection


The Historical Society of Washington, D.C. holds in its collections the John P. Wymer Photograph Collection (SP 0052) which consists of about 4,000 images of the District. These photographs were taken by John P. Wymer between 1948 to 1952. To read more about Wymer's thoughts on the project,visit the "In his own words" page.

This collection is ideal for implementing into a interactive map because it is a comprehensive representation of the city within a limited time frame. Additionally, Wymer was meticulous and noted the geographic location of each of the 4,000+ photographs. This allows for easy integration of this collection into a map format.

Project Design

For the project, Wymer divided the city into 57 districts, each of approximately the same size. He then numbered the blocks in each area, then chose 1 sample block for every 50 blocks in the area at random to photograph.  He considered these blocks to be representative of the residential areas of the city, although no attempt was made to restrict the selection to purely residential blocks

In general, Wymer adhered the following rules for how to photograph the sample blocks:

  1. Avoid taking pictures of buildings which were begun after his first visit to the area
  2. Avoid taking pictures of buildings which were demolished subsequent to the beginning of the project
  3. Both sides of the boundary streets were considered as belonging to the block
  4. All other objects of interest in the area were photographed even if they did not fall in the sample blocks. This led to the inclusion of photographs of churches, schools, public buildings, views of business districts, statuary and monuments, well known businesses, historical sites, architecturally interesting and curious buildings, and views in parks.

These guidelines led to the production of a comprehensive photograph collection of the city taken over the course of four years. Wymer's conscientious attention to detail has provided Washingtonians with an extensive collection of photographs from which to study their city. 

How to Use the Wymer Collection

The Wymer Collection is an invaluable tool for anyone looking to glimpse the city as it was in the mid-twentieth century. This photograph collection has aided in numerous house histories, historic building reconstructions, and countless other projects for researchers at the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

Now with online access to the Wymer Collection, this collection can be used for walking tours, digital educational programming, and much more.

Information for this page was gathered from the Historical Society of Washington, DC.