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Volume 26, Number 10 — October 2018

Wertz photo exhibit opens in Abingdon

Wertz was known as a quality  portrait photographer in Abingdon  and surrounding communities. His  photographs are on exhibit at the  Historical Society of Washington  County.
Wertz was known as a quality portrait photographer in Abingdon and surrounding communities. His photographs are on exhibit at the Historical Society of Washington County.

September 26, 2018

The grand opening of the new building of the Historical Society of Washington County Virginia is combined with an exhibition of historic photographs, “Abingdon and Washington County through the Lens of Photographer, George N. Wertz 1875-1924.”

The festivities are Friday, Oct. 26, from 5-7 pm and Saturday, Oct. 27, from 1-4 p.m. at the society’s new building on West Main Street at Russell Road.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s Wertz was the best known and most respected photographer in Southwest Virginia. The Historical Society of Washington County Virginia has taken up the challenge of finding and preserving Wertz photographs. It currently has documented 300 images.

Wertz was born in 1852 in Cave Springs, Roanoke County, Virginia. At age 18 he followed his urge to become a photographer and attended classes at the Plecter Photographic Studio in Salem. Shortly thereafter he became a traveling photographer using a studio known as a Skylight railroad car. He went from Salem to Pearisburg in 1872 and then on to Christiansburg in 1873-4 before arriving in Abingdon in 1875. He decided to stay in Abingdon, and over the years established a series of studios along Main Street.

Wertz became known as a quality portrait photographer in Abingdon and surrounding communities. While adults wanted family images for display at home, Wertz’s interest turned to taking pictures of children. Wertz learned how to best capture the image of a child or baby, and many surviving pictures today are a tribute to that passion.

In addition his portrait skills, Wertz is remembered for his 1915 panoramic photo of the town of Abingdon. Taken from Fruit Hill looking south, the photo is entitled “Birds Eye View Abingdon, Va., 1915,” and it is housed in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Wertz’s career was cut short in 1924 when he suffered a debilitating stroke. He never took another photograph and tragically soon after, his studio burned to the ground, with a total loss of all his photos, negatives and equipment. He died in 1926.

For more information about the exhibit, call 276-623-8337 or visit www.hswcv.org.