Fenwick (Niernsee) Collection - PP15

Collection finding aids of Photograph Collections in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Maryland Historical Society Library

Not dated and 1872-1932

Prints and Photographs Division, Maryland Historical Society201 W. Monument St. 
Baltimore, MD 21201

Finding aid created by Katherine Cowan with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, December 1999


John Rudolph Niernsee (1814-1885) was an architect who lived and worked in Baltimore at times in the 1840s-1880s. Born in Vienna, Austria, Niernsee trained as a civil engineer and architect, but worked first as a surveyor after coming to the United States in his twenties. He did surveying work for railways in the southern U.S. and for the army engineer’s office in Washington, D.C. Settling in Baltimore, he worked on the staff of Benjamin Latrobe, and married Emily Bradenbaugh of Baltimore. Becoming active as an architect, Niernsee formed a partnership with James Crawford Neilson in ca. 1848, designing many city and country residences, and churches in several states. Projects at this time in Baltimore included a depot for the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad (later known as Calvert Station), the houses at 1 and 3 West Mount Vernon Place, and Grace and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (1850).

In ca. 1856, Niernsee returned south to work on the State House of South Carolina in Columbia. Residing in Columbia through the Civil War, he was again involved in surveying, this time for military fortifications in the region, and he suffered heavy personal losses of property when Union troops attacked the city. Returning to Baltimore from ca. 1865-1883, he was a consultant but not a designer of buildings for the Johns Hopkins Hospital, and was a U.S. representative to the Vienna International Exhibition at Vienna in 1873. Many of his buildings from this time in the Baltimore business district were destroyed in the 1904 fire, but the Academy of Music on Howard St., the Y.M.C.A. at Saratoga and Charles Sts., and additional residences were among his projects. Back in South Carolina by 1883 to complete the State House, Niernsee died there in 1885.

Ellen McNally Atkinson was the daughter of Michael Rogerson McNally and his wife Eleanor. Michael McNally was a teacher who lived on Centre St. Ellen married Thomas Covington Atkinson in 1844, and their youngest son was George Gibson Atkinson (d. 1918).

Collection Origin

Gift of Eleanor B. Fenwick, 1980 (74717).

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 1 box with 1 folder containing 42 photoprints and 1 negative which are undated or date from 1872-1932. Subjects include portraits of Niernsee and Atkinson family members, and Columbia, S.C. and vicinity. Identified individuals include John Rudolph Niernsee, Emma Niernsee, Ellen McNally Atkinson, George Gibson Atkinson, Karl Hoffmeister, and Willi Hoffmeister.

Note: The collection also contains one piece of printed ephemera, a postcard of the St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Columbia, S.C.

Note: Related materials are found in the Manuscripts Department of the Maryland Historical Society: MS. 2457, the Niernsee Papers (1838-1967).


The photoprints are arranged according to PP catalog number. Duplicate/copy negatives are stored in the Photographic Services Department at the Maryland Historical Society.

Container List

PP15.1 – Dr. Karl A. Hoffmeister, n.d.

PP15.2 – Willi Hoffmeister, n.d.

PP15.3 – J. R. Niernsee house, sitting room, Columbia, S.C., n.d.

PP15.4 – New State House, Columbia, S.C., n.d. Copy of print (drawing?).

PP15.5 – J. Rudolph Niernsee, circa 1865-1870. Carte de visite.

PP15.6 – Emma Niernsee, n.d. Carte de visite.

PP15.7 – George Gibson Atkinson, n.d. Cabinet photo.

PP15.8 – Columbia, S.C. and environs, 1930s. 25 items. Photos by Mrs. George Gibson Atkinson.

PP15.9 – Lillian Niernsee Davis and A.C. Davis, n.d. Tintype.

PP15.10 – J.R. Niernsee in Vienna, Austria, 1872. Cabinet photo (damaged).

PP15.11 – J.R. Niernsee, n.d. 2 items. Copies of Vienna portrait by Bachrach.

PP15.12 – George Gibson Atkinson, n.d.

PP15.13 – Ellen McNally Atkinson and George Gibson Atkinson, n.d. Cabinet photo.

PP15.14 – Group portrait, 4 unidentified persons, 1884. Tintype.

PP15.15 – Niernsee family, 13 persons, n.d.

PP15.16 – Pavone family, Rome, 1932.

PP15.17 – Portrait, 2 unidentified persons, n.d.

PP15.18 – Helen, Emma, and Lillian Niernsee, n.d. Original negative not found. Duplicate/copy negative Z4.1.PP15. © 2001 Maryland Historical Society - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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