The Resource Beth Barnard Nickels architectural collection

Beth Barnard Nickels architectural collection

Beth Barnard Nickels architectural collection, 1941-1990
Beth Barnard Nickels architectural collection
Inclusive dates
Papers, 1941-1990, of Elizabeth "Beth" Archer Barnard Nickels (1918-2012), consist of materials documenting her education, life, and career. Included are personal and professional correspondence related to her work with various architectural firms and for the Richmond Technical Center; trade catalogues and journals; specifications by firm and project; photographs; letterhead; pay stubs; drawings and plans; sketches; maps; and student drafting projects. Also included is the text of a talk given by researcher Erin J. Myers in 2012 on the life and career of Beth Barnard Nickels, along with a chronology of Nickels' life and the transcript of an interview Myers conducted with Nickels in 2011
Member of
  • Accessioned
  • Accessioned
  • Described
Biographical or historical data
  • Elizabeth "Beth" Archer Barnard was born on 14 September 1918 at her family home, "Sunnyside," in Prince George County, Virginia, the daughter of schoolteacher Judith Fenner Barnard (1896-1984) and Edgar C. Barnard (b. 1895), a traveling civil engineer. In 1935, Beth graduated from Hopewell High School and enrolled in Farmville State Teachers College. After two years, she transferred to William & Mary College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics in June 1939. Upon graduation, Beth accepted a teaching position in Lancaster County, Virginia, then switched to the Surry County school system in 1940. She began taking drafting classes offered at night, and in 1942 accepted her first job as a draftsman for the chemical plant Solvay Process Company (Allied Chemical) in Hopewell. This same year she met Samuel B. Nickels, Jr. (1918-2001), a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. They married on 11 July 1942. Beth resigned from Solvay once they were married and spent a year traveling with Sam before he was deployed for service abroad.
  • During Sam's absence she accepted a position at Camp Lee in the Post Engineer's office. Upon his return in 1946, she took a job as a storefront designer for Binswanger Glass Company. In 1948, she went to work for a small architectural firm in Richmond as a draftsman and shortly thereafter was discovered by architect Marcellus Wright, Sr. He realized the importance of having a woman on his team as her designs would appeal to the wives of his wealthy clients. Working as a a draftsman and project manager for Marcellus Wright & Son, she specialized in prominent residential design, specifically in the Windsor Farms area of Richmond. During slow times architectural draftsmen were often "lent" out to other firms to aid with projects. In this way she had the opportunity to work with many other architects, including Frederick Hyland. In 1962, wanting to gain more experience in the technical side of the field, Nickels took a position with the engineering firm Torrence, Dreelin & Associates. Here she designed the facades and entrances for many modern industrial buildings throughout the city. She worked with this firm until 1968, rounding out a 20-year career in residential and commercial architectural drafting. She spent the next 17 years as a teacher at the Richmond Technical School, retiring in 1985. Beth Barnard Nickels, recognized as one of the first women in the Richmond area to work in the architectural field, passed away on 21 March 2012.
Cataloging source
Beth Barnard Nickels architectural collection
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
Governing access note
There are no access restrictions
Immediate source of acquisition
  • Crown Collectibles
  • Crown Collectibles
Organization method
Organized into the following series: I. Professional and Office Correspondence, 1949-1989; II. Industry Trade Catalogues and Journals; III. Specifications, 1948-1968; IV. Project Files, 1941-1990; V. Miscellaneous, 2012.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (25 boxes and 93 oversize folders)

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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