Norfolk Historical Society Page Header

Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881
By George Holbert Tucker

Chapter 56

The Virginia Club

The Virginia Club, Norfolk's oldest male coterie, still functions in downtown Norfolk, although today the club is co-ed.

Its beginning, according to a copy of its constitution and bylaws published in 1891, dates from June of 1873, when a party of bon vivants met "by chance one evening" in the rooms of John Vermillion above Taylor's Drug Store at Bank and Freemason streets.

Mutually agreeing that Norfolk was badly in need of a silk stocking male refuge away from home, the group appointed a committee to look into the matter. By June 26, 1873, things had progressed so rapidly that the first meeting of the new club's board of directors was held, at which Colonel Walter Herron Taylor, General Lee's former aide-de-camp, was chosen president.

Strict deportment was stressed from the beginning, as the following excerpts culled at random from its bylaws show:

"Crockery and glassware, furniture, or other property of the Club, broken or injured by a member, must be paid for at the time."

"No dog shall be allowed in the Club house."

"No member will be permitted to lie or sleep on any sofa or lounge in the Club house."

During its existence, the club (its name was proposed by Frank Dornin, an original member) has occupied many buildings, notably its former ornate headquarters built in the early 1900s at the southwest corner of Granby and Plume streets.

Three years after its founding, the club celebrated its third anniversary with a gastronomic binge in its original club-rooms at 59 Main Street. And as January 8, 1876, the date of the banquet, fell on Saturday that year, allowing the members the weekend to recover from the Epicurean and Bacchanalian excesses of the night before, the caterer was given carte blanche when it came to preparing the menu.

Even a reading of the bill of fare that was printed in The Norfolk Virginian for January 9, 1876, is enough to set one's taste buds working overtime, while one is also inclined to speculate if any of the present members could survive for long after partaking a similar setup of edibles and beverages.

Things got under way with stewed Cherrystone oysters and raw and pickled bivalves from Lynnhaven and Horn Harbor. These were followed by baked Todd's old Smithfield hams, baked beef tongues, old Lane hams, and spiced rounds of Baltimore beef.

Then came the roasts -- a saddle of mountain mutton, turkeys dressed with meat jelly, beef tongues á l'Escarlate, and ham au jus. These were followed in stately gastronomic procession by boned chicken in jelly, stewed terapins, mayonnaise of lobster, lobster á l'Indienne, and anchovy and chicken salads.

As if this wasn't enough, the waiters then brought in canvasback ducks, blue-wing ducks, venison, and patridges on toast. And to provide zest to all the above, the caterer also provided ample supplies of celery, cole slaw, pepper sauce, London Club sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mixed pickles, chow chow, tomato catsup, English mustard, horse radish, English pickles, and French mustard.

Then when dessert time finally arrived, the tables were cleared and bowls of oranges, bananas, pears, apples, and Malaga and Isabella grapes were set out.

Last, but not least, all of the above was washed down with the best liquors ranging from cream-rich bourbon to vintage champagne.

Chapter 57
General Pickett's Funeral

Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881

Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881

See the "Table of Contents" for links to every chapter in Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881 by George Holbert Tucker.