Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Revisting A Cordings Tweed Suit, One Year Later...


Last August I posted about Cordings of Picadilly and their tweed suits. I did so having purchased the suit in early March, which unfortunately gave me a very short window of opportunity to wear the suit. Now a year later, I thought it time to write again about the very same suit. And while you may have to wait until next year to wear one the Cheltenham, the Maryland Steeplechase season is almost upon us, which if the current state of the weather is any indication of what the weeks ahead may bring, will bring ample opportunities to wear tweed.

While I have a rather tidy collection of American Tweed Sack Coats, this suit is entirely different. You just don't see tweed suits this, the American, side of the pond. I’m not sure why, but after enjoying my tweed suit from Crodings for the past year, I am already making plans to add another to my wardrobe.

J.C. Cording & Company began business as an outfitter and waterproofer in 1839. By 1843, Cordings was selling the Mackintosh, which is still sold today. This is a waterproof coat made possible by Charles Mackintosh who perfecting the process of dissolving rubber and binding it to cotton to allow the creation of waterproof garments. 

Cordings was awarded a Royal Warrant in 1909 as waterproofers to the Prince of Wales, and future King George V. In 1922, the Prince of Wales, and future Duke of Windsor adopted Cordings as one of his outfitters. It was at this time that their famous Newmarket boots were patented, boots which were made for Elizabeth, mother of the current Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Windsor, and Mrs. Simpson. Unfortunately, Cordings no longer makes these waterproof canvas and leather boots. It was during the 1920s and 30s that Cordings established the five core items which they are still known for to this day, the covert coat, Mackintosh, tweed jackets, corduroy and Moleskin trousers, and Tattersall shirts.

In 2003, after weathering the Second World War, the post war years, the rejection of tradition, and the years of outsourcing production from the UK by man businesses, the current management team approached their best customer, Eric Clapton, and asked if he would assist them in a management buyout. “I first became aware of Cordings in my mid-teens,” Clapton explains. “I come from the country and it was the highlight of our week to come up to London and listen to the musicians. It was difficult to get home late, so I would spend that time till dawn just walking the West End. I remembered Cordings. It stuck in my mind as a place of tradition; the heritage of England.”


Thanks to the assistance of Cordings friendly and extremely helpful staff, I was outfitted in their House Check Tweed in short order with turnups on my trousers ready in a few days. 

Their House Check Tweed jacket is made of 14 ounce 100% Scottish Tweed woven exclusively for Cordings, and features a three button front, with a single back vent, working four button cuffs, and a ticket pocket. As I mentioned in the previous article, for those who might not be familiar with the "working cuff" this simple means that the cuff buttons are not decorative, they really do unbutton. This jacket, like every one I have purchased from them also features a functional lapel button hole which allows you to add a lapel pin or flower, as the back of the lapel features loops to secure the lapel flower stem. Small details that many do not notice or even feel they are missing, but details which set this jacket apart from the rest of the crowd and make it a staple jacket in my wardrobe. 



The trousers are also made of the same 14 ounce 100% Scottish Tweed, are half lined in 100% cotton, and feature a pleated front and button fly.

The weight of this fabric is wonderful, and something not seen in many American off the peg suits with their wispy fabric to attempt to create a four season suit but creates one suit not suitable for much. This is a weighty suit, though not the heaviest weight Cordings offers. 

I have some limited experience with the suit last Spring, but this past Autumn and Winter the suit really made its mark on my opinion. Because of the natural wool fibers, this suit was never too hot, but always just right throughout the Autumn and Winter. I don't need a four season suit, that is why I wear different suiting for different seasons, and this Tweed is excellent for the seasons for which it is designed. But it is this suit which makes me enjoy the cooler days of those seasons and dread the hot and humid days of summer which will cause it to be retired for a season or two. 

As I mentioned before, the jacket is true to my American size, but the trousers are slightly different. The very helpful staff member at Cordings suggested a waist size 2 inches larger than my American. Needless to say, he was spot on in his recommendation.

I decided to not purchase the matching waistcoat, as I thought it a bit much for me, though it does look ever so smart! I’ve been regretting this decision ever since and will make this an addition in the future.

Another item which I did not originally purchase were breeks. Offered as plus twos or plus fours, these wardrobe items eluded me until last Autumn. I was out at a steeplechase race and it was rather damp to say the least. I’d worn my Cordings tweed suit, as I knew it would keep me comfortable all day. But with the rain I switched my country brogues for a pair of wellies. I tucked my tweed trousers neatly into the boots and went on my way dry and comfortable at the races. But unfortunately, the trouser lining does not go much below the knee and the top of the boot began to rub against the wool and in turn against my shin. Lesson learned, wool trousers are not to be worn with wellies.


The solution was obvious, breeks. In two different lengths below the knee, two inches with plus twos or four inches with plus fours, they are worn with long shooting stockings, perfect for wear with wellies. Their were photos of this everywhere from print magazines to websites, and I’d ignored them. But no more. Now I’ve got my breeks and I’m ready for the rain and damp in true Cordings style. They might not be for everyone, and perhaps as an American, you might feel a bit self-conscious about wearing these, but they are a classic British look designed for sporting events in the nasty damp, wet and cool weather, and Cordings will get you outfitted in style.

Tweed suits are not easy to find in America and when you wear one from Cordings, even without a waistcoat, you will stand out in a crowd, well dressed and comfortable.
And while you are getting yourself outfitted with a suit, do not fail to pick up a pair of their boxcloth braces. More on these in a future blog post, but these are brilliant!

Cordings make a wide range of items in their House Check Tweed, including caps, bags, and accessories. They also offer a number of other Tweeds in addition to their House Tweed. I would be remiss in mentioning that they also offer Tweed Action Back jackets designed for shooting, which give you superb ease of movement while at the same time retaining the perfect silhouette associated with a Cordings jacket, as well as Tweed shooting waistcoats which feature generous bellow pockets for cartridges, Alcanta gun patches on both sides and inside shoulder insert pockets for the addition of a recoil pad.
Over the past year, I have worn the suit jacket numerous times alone as a sports jackets, as well as paired with the trousers as a suit, and cannot recall a time when I have received so many compliments on my clothing as I have wearing this suit.
Cordings does advertise a "no quibble returns" so as long as none of the clothing has been altered, you may want to take a chance on an order without visiting London, though I can't imagine not visiting their shop in Piccadilly, as it is an experience not to be missed. Also, note that their website prices include VAT of 20% so this is removed from your order before payment is made. For online orders, they generally arrive in less than a week, but with their shipping fees, but to place a larger order and spread the cost of shipping out over many items rather than just one.

And for those buying in London, they will provide you with the paperwork needed to recover your VAT payment at the airport when you are leaving the UK.

You can find Cordings online here at www.cordings.co.uk.

I eagerly look forward to my next visit to Cording of Piccadilly and as always will be sure to leave space in my luggage for new acquisitions I am positive I will be making!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Clubbical Baltimore of Days Gone By... The Baltimore Club

Once upon a time, Baltimore, like many American cities, has a number of private clubs. Formed for a variety of purposes a few still survive to this day, but quite a few succumbed, first to the Great Depression, and secondly to the economic decline of cities in the 1960s and 70s as well as a movement away membership in such organizations.

Yet today, you can still find reminders of these clubs of days gone by in the architecture of American cities. Their buildings have been adapted and reused for a variety of purposes, but they remain part of the landscape.


Baltimore Club on the right

The Baltimore Club was organized on January 9, 1878. Composed largely of the sons of members of the Maryland Club. It was to the Maryland Club what the Calumet was to the Union or the Rittenhouse was to the Philadelphia.


"Smoking Room," which appears in the plans as the "Main Hall"

In 1887 a new clubhouse opened for the Baltimore Club. It was designed by J.A. & W.T. Wilson, specifically for the Baltimore club and built by Henry Smith & Sons.  The cost of the building without furnishings was about $25,000. Located at 916 North Charles Street, it occupied 34 foot wide lot, with a 6 foot wide space on the north for light. The lot also possessed a grade which was 5 feet higher at the rear of the building than at the front. The exterior is of specially made red brick, 16 inches long, with moulded brick around the original double and triple windows, now replaced, and moulded brick mullions. The dormer was copper, and the roof was of dark brown glazed tiles. The first story and basement, with sills and lintels as the upper windows, are of Manassas red sandstone. The steps are 12 feet wide with stone seats on either side, into a vestibule originally wainscoted with polished Etowah marble from quarries near Marietta, Georgia. This was the first use of this marble in Baltimore. The floors of the vestibule and inner hall were of marble mosaic.

First Floor

The outer and inner doors were originally of quartered oak, with massive elaborate hinges and lock-plates of hammered iron. A window to the small waiting room in the entrance hall and the upper light of the inner door were protected by handsome wrought iron grilles. The main hall was 31x23 feet and originally wainscoted 6 feet high with paneled work. A feature is the main staircase, 6 feet wide, to the second floor, originally with elaborate newels and columns to the ceiling. This was arranged to give a seat for messengers, etc, below the first landing. Originally the most prominent object upon entering is a large mantle in the main hall, 9 feet wide, with carved brackets supporting the massive shelf. On the frieze of this mantle was a quotation from an old English glee. The fireplace was 5 feet wide, faced with polished St. Bohem marble, and had a very handsome mosaic hearth. All the woodwork in the hall and stairway on both floors was originally quartered oak. The parlor was finished in natural cherry and has a wide bay window on Charles Street. Passing through the hall the cafĂ© was reached. This was 20 feet square and communicated with the billiard room, 40x21 feet, originally with a raised platform for spectators on all sides. These rooms were originally of ash. The lavatory, opening out of the billiard room, was finished in polished white marble and enameled brick and was supplied with the most modern plumbing appliances. The partitions throughout the building were of fireproof construction. The large windows originally on the staircase, with main skylight and the reception room window, were filled with stained glass from Hester Brothers of New York.

The second floor, now essentially gutted for modern office space, was comprised of a library with an immerse triple window on Charles Street, two card rooms, public and private dining rooms, and a roof garden opening from the public dining room for use in the summer. This roof garden space was eliminated in a second floor expansion of the building some time after the Baltimore Club vacated the space.

The third floor contained four sleeping rooms for the use of members, with bathrooms and linen closets. The rear portion of the third floor was given up the kitchen department, with necessary storerooms, ice rooms, etc. A service stairway, which still exists, ran from the cellar to the roof, and there were numerous lifts for carrying food to the different floors, The steward's department was on the first floor, and was connected by electric bells and tubes with all parts of the building.

Basement Plan

In the basement were the cellars and laundry, and in the front portion a telegraph office and barber shop was fitted up.

By 1907, the Baltimore Club was in need of a larger clubhouse and sought out the former Abell mansion. on the northwest corner of Madison and Charles Streets opposite the University Clubpurchased April 5, 1883 by Arunah S. Abell, founder of the Baltimore Sun from the Kremelberg estate. When Abell bought the house it already contained 25 rooms. Abell contracted for plans for the remodeling of the house by George A. Frederick. The lot, 60 feet on Madison and 150 feet on Charles Street and the house was gray painted bricks with white marble trimmings to the base of the second floor. The entrance had only a sill elevation and passed through a wide hall. All the finishings were hardwood, and highly polished with decoration to great effect. The first floor contained a large reception room, waiting room, parlor, library and other rooms. There were hand decorated ceilings throughout and a handsome winding staircase in the center of the residence towered to the roof. The second floor contained six rooms, and the third floor had as many rooms of similar character. On the fourth floor were the servants quarters. There was a garden between the stable and house which as on a level with the second floor. hand decorated ceilings. handsome winding staircase in the center of the residence towers to the roof. The purchase price of this house and lot for the new Baltimore Club was $106,000.

Former Baltimore Club at the North-West corner of Charles and Madison Streets

In December 1907, the Baltimore Club, still located at 916 North Charles Street, awarded a contract to John Cowan, for general alterations and construction of two additions to the new club building at the corner of Charles and Madison Streets. The plans devised by Ellicott & Emmert, provided for a complete remodeling of the interior, marble and mosaic tile work, installation of new electrical, heating and plumbing systems, pneumatic tubes, two electric elevators, a refrigerating plant, and electric dumbwaiters. The additions were a one story billiard room 29x60 feet and a two story restaurant 28x60 feet. The total cost for this work was more than $75,000.

A complete re-trimming of the interiors left nothing but the frame of the structure. The Madison Street entrance with colonial pillars was moved 10 feet to the west, to the center of the building and made the main entrance. The Charles Street entrance was also rebuilt. The vestibules were of white marble with sienna and white marble border and the floor of the hallway on the Madison Street entrance was laid with the smallest size of vitreous mosaic tiles with a Sienna marble border. The stable of the Abell mansion was replaced with the two additions. This addition in rear of the first floor was a billiard hall built of brick and painted pearl gray to match the rest of the building. Between the two new buildings, which faced on Charles Street, connected with the main building corridors, was a garden. The old marble was be re-polished and new pieces were set where needed. The four marble newels to the iron stairway were reset as pedestals in the garden and the cast iron lamps were repainted and also used in the garden. The fountain was re-piped and consisted of two galvanized and painted cast iron frogs with spray jets in their mouths.

On the first floor of the main building was the was a large ballroom, next was the "strangers room" with telephones, the office and coatroom. Behind that was the bar and finally the billiard room. Running the entire length of the Charles Street side was the smoking or lounging room. The furniture on this floor was of oak. As the hallway was dark, several partitions were knocked down and replaced with iron pillars.

On the second floor was the drawing room, directly over the lounging room on the first floor and the most beautiful room in the house. Portraits of the First and Second Lords Baltimore by Florence Mackubin were hung on either side of the mantle there. Furniture on this floor was of mahogany. The drawing room was filled with Tiffany and Hayden furniture. At end of drawing room was the roof garden, with the steps of the roof garden leading down into the yard. Opposite the drawing room was the library and magazine room, in the rear of which was the main card room looking out over the garden.


On the third floor was the dining room in mahogany, with a serving room to the rear of it and two smaller rooms for private dinners or card games.

The fourth floor was a living floor with nine apartyments, three of which had attached baths. There are two other bathrooms with showers and baths.

The kitchen was on the fifth floor, thus keeping from the lower floors the odors of cooking. The stewards office, laundry and servants quarters were also on the fifth floor. And the stained glass skylight was changed to clear glass.

New electric wiring and gas pipes were installed throughout the building as well as electric buttons and annunciators and a new heating system. A pneumatic tube system for sending orders to the dining room was also installed, as were two electric elevators, one for passengers and one for freight. A new telephone service connecting every room in the building was provided and as was also a refrigerating plant which occupied one side of the cellar, and a wine cellar the other side, and electric dumbwaiters. Outside, the yard walls on Charles Street, a retaining wall in area and the Abell mansion porch were taken down. 
Upon completion, the club was filled with many famous etchings loaned by Mrs. Harrison Garrett.

On August 31, 1908, 50 members marched from 916 north Charles street to the new clubhouse, formally marking its opening. The old clubhouse was bought by Gustavus Ober and mainly used as a hall for religious purpouses after it was vacated by the Baltimore Club.

In 1924 a memorial by Baltimore sculptor Hans Schuler was unveiled to 148 members of the club who served and four members of the club who died in the First World War.

Needing more space, an addition to the club designed by Buckler and Fenhagen was begun in the summer of 1927. This work done by Thomas Hicks & Sons cost about $75,000 and consisted of a 40 foot addition on  Charles Street, four stories high which was expected to be completed by January 1 , 1928. 

Another addition was acquired in the summer of 1928, as annex at 6 West Madison, the former home of Dr. Frank Goodnow. Plans called for a double and single squash court on the top floor, with galleries, dressing rooms, baths, etc. The second floor and other available space in rear was to be converted into bachelor apartments for members. The first floor and basement were to be converted into physicians offices. Buckler and Fenhagen architects were to be the architects and the Consolidated Engineering Company was to do the work.

With the onset of the Great Deprerssion, the club closed july 23, 1932, with their members being welcomed into the Maryland Club.

In December 2010 a fire gutted the building, but it has been saved and is once again occupied.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Before the Ban Part 4 - Pre-Prohibition Baltimore Breweries - The Seeger & Stiefel/Germania Brewery

Theodore Seeger  and Edward W. Stiefel opened the Seeger and Stiefel Lager Beer Brewery on Frederick Road in Carrollton about 1858. This site, while in Baltimore County at the time of its establishment, is now within the bounds of Baltimore City. Stiefel was born in 1825 in Bavaria and came to Philadelphia in 1845 as a merchant. In 1857 came Stiefel moved to Baltimore and set up the first lager beer brewery in Baltimore with Theodore Seeger in Federal Hill.

Advertisement 1859

They moved to Carrollton a year later to due to disturbances by the Know-Nothings in Federal Hill. Business continued for ten years but in 1868 it was dissolved with Stiefel continuing the brewery alone. In 1878 the brewery sold 4,253 barrels of beer and in 1879 it sold 3,568 barrels of beer. In 1892 Stiefel sold the brewery to the Germania Brewing Company. Conrad Eurich, who was also born in Germany, was president of the Germania Brewing Company.

Seeger & Stiefel Lager Beer Brewery 1869

In 1899 the brewery was consolidated into the Maryland Brewing Company with most of the independent breweries in Baltimore, namely George Bauernschmidt Brewing Company, George Brehm, Wehr, Hobelmann & Gotlieb Co., National Brewing Co., Eigenbrot Brewing Co., Darley Park Brewery, Bayview Brewery, Mount Brewery, Vonderhorst Brewing Co., Baltimore Brewing Co., George Gunther Sr. Co., Oriental Brewing Co., S. Helldorfer's Sons, John F. Weissner & Bro., and John B. Berger.

Advertisement 1888

In 1901 the Maryland Brewing Company went into receivership and all the breweries in Baltimore which were part of the Maryland Brewing Company were bought by the Gottleib-Bauernschmidt-Strauss Brewing Company.

1902 Advertisement

It was one of the least productive breweries of this company and was closed in 1904 and sold to Rennous, Kleinle & Company, brush manufacturers. Today only the fermenting building, built between 1858 and 1869, survives.

Edward W. Steifel's Brewery 1890
850 Frederick Road

Maryland Brewing Company - Germania Branch (formerly Edward W. Steifel's Brewery) 1901
850 Frederick Road

Maryland Brewing Company - Germania Branch (formerly Edward W. Steifel's Brewery) Site 1915
850 Frederick Road

Friday, December 15, 2017

“The Grande Dame of the Shore” - Is The Cavalier Hotel a Phoenix?

Every building has its ups and downs, from the grand opening to slumps in the economy or fashion. Over time every building needs to be spruced up and brought up to date, if only in the bathrooms and kitchens. The Cavalier in Virginia Beach is no exception to the cycle of a buildings life. I last visited this hotel in 2003 when it still retained many of its old features, for better or for worse. Since that time it has been closed for renovation, which is progressing to a not too distance re-opening. As my visit would not reflect what will be seen when it reopens in 2018, I will focus instead of the history and features of the hotel when it was "The Grand Dame of the Shore" and only hope that much of the historic fabric and character of this hotel as well as its Southern cuisine and hospitality is retained in its new vision and not lost to whim or flights of fancy.


Cavalier Hotel Luggage Label

The architects for The Cavalier Hotel were the regionally known and prolific firm of Neff & Thompson. Neff & Thompson was active in Virginia from 1902 to 1932. Clarence Amos Neff Sr. was an architect and engineer who began his career in Norfolk in 1898 after obtaining his architecture degree from Columbia University. He also served as president of the Norfolk Federal Savings and the Princess Anne Country Club. Thomas P. Thompson  was partners with Neff until Thompson became the Norfolk city manager. The two partners designed approximately 600 projects including many office buildings, personal residences, country clubs, and large scale commercial projects. Some of the most prominent and still extant include the Country Club of Virginia clubhouse in Richmond, Maury High School, and the Virginia Theater, now Granby Theater. Finally, Clarence Neff was the primary architect for the early campus of William and Mary in Norfolk (now Old Dominion University), including the main Education Building and Foreman Field. He also designed Granby High School and Center Theater and Arena Municipal Auditorium. Additionally a number of prominent commercial buildings still stand, including many in Norfolk. 

Ariel View of the Cavalier Hotel, Beach Club and Grounds before the surrounding area was developed

Opened in 1927, the seven story "Y" shaped building is which every possible aspect of the design was chosen to reflect the relationship of the hotel to the ocean including views of the ocean from many public areas, a salt water swimming pool, salt water bath spigots in each room, and even the central cupola invoking a light house. The exterior evokes Classical Revival design and Jeffersonian concepts, many directly inspired by elements from Monticello and the University of Virginia, and echoed in the name of the hotel itself. The hotel is approached from walkways up the terraced hill or along a boulevard driveway from the side and, despite nearly eighty years of large scale hotel development in Virginia Beach, still offers the most commanding position on the ocean front. With the exterior much the same as when it was built, and the prominent interior public areas retaining much of their historic features and character.


 Main Entrance to The Cavalier
 

The interior of the hotel features several largely intact, elaborately decorated public areas. The entry lobby, or ‘Rotunda,’ features its historic cast terrazzo stair with iron railings which has a central section gaining access up to the main lobby area, and two side wing flights down to the Hunt Club. The swimming pool and attached loggia feature a historic floor plan with some historic materials. The two balconies, the shape of the pool, and the metal roof support system all appear in early postcards. The pool loggia feeds into three long runs of enclosed porches of equal proportions before turning southwest on the rear end of the hotel, where it becomes an enclosed dining porch attached to the traditional formal dining room, the Pocahontas Room, on its southeast and southwest sides. These arcaded and colonnaded porches were in part inspired by the Jefferson designed covered walkways connecting the pavilions on The Lawn at the University of Virginia.


Main Lobby of The Cavalier


The Pocahontas Room has served as the formal dining room since The Cavalier was constructed. The ballroom is in its historic location but non-historic partition walls have altered the layout somewhat and it is currently used as an entry area for the non-historic ballroom addition.

Pocahontas Dining Room Menu Cover from 1949

The most prominent historic room on the main floor, and the most intact room, is the Raleigh Room, or Lounge as it was called originally, located opposite the Pocahontas Room at the end of the lobby hallway and running parallel to the pool area. The Raleigh Room retains its checkerboard terrazzo floor, its large, square support beams with historic plaster capitals, the historic chair rails, and fluted pilasters along the porch wall. 

Sir Walter Raleigh Lounge of The Cavalier


The hotel originally featured 200 guest rooms, each twelve by twelve feet. These rooms were appointed with hot water, cold water, sea water, and ice water spigots. During my visit in 2003 it was clear that our room was actually two rooms converted into one room, doubling the original size. However, six historic rooms on the ocean side of the hotel originally did have attached sitting rooms. 

The architects for The Cavalier Hotel were the regionally known and prolific firm of Neff & Thompson. Neff & Thompson was active in Virginia from 1902 to 1932. Clarence Amos Neff Sr. was an architect and engineer who began his career in Norfolk in 1898 after obtaining his architecture degree from Columbia University. He also served as president of the Norfolk Federal Savings and the Princess Anne Country Club. Thomas P. Thompson  was partners with Neff until Thompson became the Norfolk city manager. The two partners designed approximately 600 projects including many office buildings, personal residences, country clubs, and large scale commercial projects. Some of the most prominent and still extant include the Country Club of Virginia clubhouse in Richmond, Maury High School, and the Virginia Theater, now Granby Theater. Finally, Clarence Neff was the primary architect for the early campus of William and Mary in Norfolk (now Old Dominion University), including the main Education Building and Foreman Field. He also designed Granby High School and Center Theater and Arena Municipal Auditorium. Additionally a number of prominent commercial buildings still stand, including many in Norfolk. 

The Cavalier Hotel featured the still relatively new concept of reinforced concrete construction. Neff & Thompson pioneered this construction method in Tidewater Virginia, utilizing it as early as 1906 in the Monticello Arcade. Also, the unusual V-shape of the Seaboard Air Line Railway Building can be seen as a precursor to The Cavalier Y-shaped design just one year later. The builder of The Cavalier was Roland Brinkley of Baker & Brinkley, a builder for many years in the Tidewater area. The Cavalier was the firm’s most important project, but they completed numerous commercial projects, particularly in Norfolk. The best known of these was the now demolished City Market, which dominated an entire city block in downtown for decades.

The official process of creating this new hotel began in 1925 with the creation of the Virginia Beach Resort and Hotel Corporation and a call for suggestions from the public to name the new hotel. By this time the site and design had been selected. On May 9, 1926, the cornerstone was laid with a formal ceremony attended by Lieutenant-Governor Junius E. West speaking on “Virginia in the Future.”  In early 1927 in anticipation of the opening of The Cavalier Hotel, it was announced that the radio station WSEA would be launched as the “voice of The Cavalier.” The 500-watt radio station was located on the first floor of the hotel and run by the Radio Corporation of Virginia. The station could be heard initially for several hundred miles and eventually was broadcast nationally carrying the many bands that played at the hotel.

When The Cavalier Hotel finally opened there was a week of events to celebrate the completion. The festivities opened with a ceremony and evening dinner and entertainment. There were daylight fireworks depicting life-sized Cavaliers on horseback to accompany the first official flag-raising at the hotel. Architect T.P. Thompson was toast master at the evening event which included a beefsteak dinner, elaborate decorations, a jazz band and a “display of bathing costumes by Saks’ of Fifth Avenue” by New York models around the new saltwater swimming pool.


Service Plate from the Pocahontas Room of The Cavalier


An account of the style and inspirations for the design of the hotel from the time of its opening described an exterior “in that spirit of Southern Colonial” with inspiration from locations such as Woodlawn as well as The Lawn at the University of Virginia and Jefferson’s home of Monticello. The concept of the decorative water tower atop the hotel was borrowed from James Gibbs and his work at places such as the Church of St. Mary-Le-Strand at Aldwych in London. The plaster ceiling in the Rotunda lobby was inspired by the ceiling in the Moses Myers House in Norfolk. The terrazzo floors and old pine wood trim were meant to invoke Colonial era homes.

The landscape design and features were also meant to invoke the Colonial period of early Virginia, specifically the plantation houses of Shirley, Brandon, Yorktown, and Westover. Specific examples of this influence are seen in the serpentine walls, tall posts, and formal landscaping at the entrance. The brick walkways, sloping front lawn, and sunken garden also harken back to early Virginia estates. Now gone, there were many old pines and cypress left around the hotel, inspired by Magnolia Gardens of Old Charleston.

Garden of The Cavalier


Brochures and other hotel materials from that period reveal that The Cavalier Hotel encompassed several hundred acres and incorporated numerous activities and events for their guests into their annual schedules. For many years the hotel hosted the Virginia Top Shooting Association Tournament as well as several hunting and shooting activities being available to all guests on a daily basis. Every spring at the end of May the hotel held The Annual Beach Club opening down below Atlantic Avenue at its club facility. The hotel also sponsored daily or weekly concerts, plays, card games, and other entertainments. A lengthy booklet published soon after opening described an incredible number and variety of activities. Dining options included the Captain John Smith Grill and the more formal Pocahontas dining room which was paired with an enclosed glass porch dining area. Relaxing in the hotel and nearby facilities might include the richly decorated and furnished Sir Walter Raleigh Lounge, the Ocean Front Sun Porch, the glass enclosed saltwater Pool, the Ballroom, and The Cavalier Riding Club lounge. There were also barbers and hairdressers, shops, a telegraph office, and a small stock trading office. Outdoor activities included golf at The Cavalier Golf and Country Club or at the nearby Princess Anne Country Club, and there was miniature golf in the sunken garden abutting the hotel. Several holes on The Cavalier course were modeled after famous holes at well-known golf courses around the world. By 1931 The Cavalier Hotel had added a second golf course designed by New York golf architect Charles H. Banks. Additionally there was horseback riding through many miles and numerous different trails. For the hunter there were several different bird hunts as well as the Princess Anne Hunt just one mile away, and the Cavalier Hotel was home to an Annual Horse Show. Guests could also indulge in archery, trap shooting, tennis, and salt water bathing at the ocean side club or the hotel pool.  And there were, of course, several boating opportunities sponsored by the hotel.

View from The Cavalier of the Atlantic Ocean, showing the Beach Club, Pony Ring, and Tennis Courts on land lost to development of the Renovated Hotel


Former First Lady Edith Bolling Galt Wilson was a regular visitor and Eleanor Roosevelt visited with the Girl Scouts. Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Betty Grable, Frank Sinatra, and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald all visited The Cavalier Hotel. U.S Presidents visiting The Cavalier included Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush. Sam Snead won the Virginia Open at The Cavalier Golf Course in 1935. Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and all of the nationally known band leaders came and played. The hotel was also one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the country.

Three Har-Tru Tennis Courts at The Cavalier on land lost to development of the Renovated Hotel


General manager Sydney Banks claimed that The Cavalier “became the largest hirer of bands in the United States…a different one every week.” The Cavalier was the third hotel in the country to have national broadcasts and on June 10, 1927, Norfolk Mayor Tyler was the first American to greet Charles Lindbergh returning from his transatlantic flight via The Cavalier radio station, WSEA.


The Cavalier Hotel continued to be a great success with few dips in its popularity or profitability for fifteen years until October 3, 1942. At this time the United States Navy commandeered the hotel to serve as a radar training school. Nearly every available space was converted into classroom space and living quarters. By the time the hotel was returned to its owners and manager Sydney Banks it required substantial renovations. The Cavalier Hotel also faced the loss of the “Cavalier” rail service to the hotel from the Midwest as a result of the surge in automobile use. Additionally, after three years of being out of service, the hotel had fallen from the top lists of wealthy travelers. The hotel eventually failed and became a private club for a time in the 1950s and 1960s before returning to service as a hotel. Through the second half of the twentieth century the hotel has remained open for most of the years, but off-and-on renovations of mixed effectiveness and the decline of the luxury beach hotel market has left The Cavalier Hotel in a precarious position for several generations. Over the same period, the acreage associated with the hotel diminished as the hotel’s fortunes declined and land was subdivided for additional commercial and residential development. Today the Cavalier is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and one of the Historic Hotels of America, an official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels.

And this is where the hotel was in 2003. It retained much of its historic fabric, and a nice portion of the grounds around the hotel, including croquet courts and tennis courts on the lawns leading to the Ocean. The Beach Club was closed, but the offered beach chair service on the beach. The public rooms of the hotel were classic architecture fitting for the "Grande Dame of the South." But the private rooms of the hotel were in need of a face lift.


Now Gold Key Public Hospitality Resources has undertaken a $75 Million Dollar renovation of this hotel. They have spent time and effort to restore the fireplace of the Hunt Room, but have also "modernized" the Sir Walter Raleigh Lounge. This renovation is not without its monetary costs. It seems close to 50% of the remaining grounds of the hotel, including both sides of the driveway and both sides of the iconic lawn from the hotel to the ocean, have been developed with a gated community of 81 homes, closing off what open space remained around the hotel. Gone too is the Pocahontas Room, now restyled the Becca Restaurant.

It is a delicate balance which must be maintained in redeveloping a property so that it can continue into the future not only as a historical feature of the skyline, but also as a viable business. I hope that the Cavalier manages to preserve the history and tradition of its past, rather than creating a commercial space which could exist anywhere, without regard for the Southern hospitality and charms of the original Cavalier Hotel. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Before the Ban Part 3 - Pre-Prohibition Baltimore Breweries - The Odenwald & Joh/Sommerfeld/Lion Brewery

Now long forgotten to history, Baltimore was once a major brewing city with over 45 breweries operating at one time. In this series, I hope to bring to life this long lost history.

Bird's Eye View of Odenwald & Joh's Lager Beer Brewery 1869

The Philip Odenwald & Ferdinand Joh brewery opened in 1862 on what is today South Calverton Street, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest surviving brewery in Baltimore. Odenwald, who was born in Germany, operated a tavern prior to opening the brewery. Joh, also from Germany, worked as a bartender prior to opening the brewery.


 Odenwald & Joh's Lager Beer Brewery 1869

By 1871/72 the brewery was producing 5,491 barrels of beer a year. The brewery was was sold in 1872 after death of Odenwald, the brewery continued under the ownership of Odenwald's widow, Mrs Julia Odenwald, and John Sommerfeld, Odenwald's brother-in-law, bought out Joh's interest in the brewery and from 1873 to 1875 it operated as the Sommerfeld & Company Brewery. Sommerfeld was born in 1831 in Freienhagen, Prussia and came to Baltimore in 1848, engaged in the liquor business. By this time there was on the site a restaurant or saloon, three dwelling houses, an office, stables, ice house,  etc. along with 650 fermenting tubs, three double team wagons, and one single team wagon.

1887 Advertisement

From 1875 to 1880 it operated as the John Sommerfeld Brewery. In 1878 the brewery sold 6,063 barrels of beer and in 1879 it sold 5,193 barrels of beer. By July 1894 it was producing 10,000 to 12,000 barrels per year.

In 1881 the brewery was sold due to insolvency. At this time it consisted of 19 fermenting tubs, 4 beer wagons, and 2 beer cooler. From 1880 to 1891 the brewery operated as the Sommerfeld Brewing Company. In 1895 Sommerfeld was unable to pay the mortgage interest and sold the brewery to the Lion Brewing Company, headed by J. Harry Biemiller. At the time of the 1895 sale the brewery consisted of a three story brick and stone brewery, a three story fermenting house, a three-story washhouse, a two-story ice machine house, two brick stables, an office building and outbuildings, two three-story brick dwellings and a two-story brick dwelling. The brewery was furnished with a refrigerating machine, artesian well, fifteen fermenting tubs, twenty-one beer vats, two copper kettles, one large and one small boiler, an iron mash tub, a fetching machine, four double team and two single team beer delivery wagons, two collectors jagger wagons, and had a 35,000 barrel capacity.


1898 Advertisement

In 1901 was bought by the Maryland Brewing Company. This company went into receivership shortly after the purchase and all the breweries in Baltimore which were part of the Maryland Brewing Company were bought by the Gottleib-Bauernschmidt-Strauss Brewing Company.

1902 Advertisement

It was one of the least productive breweries of this company and was closed in 1904. The site was later occupied by Samuel Dell Company, brush makers, and Lenmar Lacquers, a paint company.

Some of the brewery survives today. These parts include the former office, the ice machine/condensing building, the boiler house, the wash house/cooler (only the exterior walls survive), the storage building (only the exterior walls survive), two 2-1/2 story brick dwellings (one with an altered roof to two stories and the other gutted by fire), a three story brick dwelling, and the original 1862 brewery building coolers malt house.

J. Sommerfeld Brewery 1890
150 South Calverton Road

Lion Brewery (formerly J. Sommerfeld Brewery) 1901
150 South Calverton Road

 Site of the Lion Brewery (formerly J. Sommerfeld Brewery) 1914
150 South Calverton Road


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Quality food on the go in London (and now in America too)... Pret A Manger

Americans can sometimes be easily drawn to the comfortable surroundings of chain stores, especially for food when traveling domestically. Fast food restaurants naturally fill this niche, despite the nature of their food. But there are other options.

In London, you can find a reasonably prices delicious "fast food" option, Pret A Manger. I really hate to call it fast food, as it is not like typical American fast food, but it is quick, delicious and reasonably priced. On my recent visit to the UK, I had the good fortune to be introduced to Pret and enjoy its yummy food several times.

I will caveat this blog in stating I'm not much of a coffee drinker, so I did not evaluate their coffee, but I do love a good sandwich, so that is what I will focus upon in this blog post. 

 Sausage and Egg Brioche

Twice I had a chance to eat breakfast at Pret, and both times I chose the same sandwich, because firstly I'm a creature of habit and secondly, it was very yummy. For my breakfast I chose the Sausage and Egg Brioche, which is an English breakfast sausage, sliced down the middle and grilled in the oven before being wrapped in a freshly cooked omelette. Served in a deliciously light buttery brioche with a dab of unmistakably French butter. The American Pret also has a Sausage and Egg Brioche and this version is a breakfast sausage (antibiotic-free), Wisconsin cheddar and their signature cage-free egg soufflĂ©, on a buttery artisan brioche roll. I'm not sure if the American version will tickle my fancy, but the British version is a solid choice and I honestly hope the American Pret adopts this tasty British sandwich as well in the States.

I had a chance to try three different sandwiches at Pret during my stay in London. Each was delicious in its own right and only personal preference would be reason to choose one over another. The first sandwich I tried was the Ham, Cheese & Mustard Toastie, listed among their hot food offerings. Made with seeded bloomer bread, Wiltshire-Cured Ham, Croxton Manor Matured Cheddar Cheese, English Mustard Mayo and seasoning. This is then grilled. Quite a nice sandwich on a chilly day. The American version is the Smoked Ham Mac & Cheese Melt, which consists of Niman Ranch smoked ham (antibiotic-free), Pret's mac & cheese, fontina, cheddar and a sprinkling of Pret's seasoning sandwiched between 2 slices of sourdough bread, which is then grilled. Based on description alone, I lean towards the British version, but then again, I do have anglophile leanings.

My second Pret sandwich was the Ham and Cheese Sandwich, a simple and delicious combination of Pret's Wiltshire-cured ham and sliced mature Cheddar which is served in their soft granary bread with a dab of unsalted French butter. The American version of this sandwich is the Smoked Ham & Chedar, made with sliced Niman Ranch applewood smoked ham (antibiotic-free) with sliced cheddar and a touch of whole grain mustard mayo, on our 9-grain granary bread. Again, I've not had the American version, but I would find it hard to beat the British version and how can one improve upon mature Cheddar. (If you have not tried mature Cheddar, once you do, it will ruin you for typical American Cheddar forever.

Pret's Christmas Lunch

The third and final sandwich I tried was Pret's Christmas Lunch, which consists of thick slices of Norfolk free-range turkey breast on malted bread with a dollop of slightly tart port & orange cranberry sauce. It is served with Pret's herby stuffing ,made with beautifully seasoned minced pork, streaky bacon and apricots. Finally the the sandwich is topped with crispy onions and fresh baby spinach. The current American version is Pret's Thanksgiving Lunch, which consists of all of your favorite Thanksgiving Day flavors in one hearty and delicious sandwich, roasted turkey breast (antibiotic-free), fresh spinach, crispy onions, pork and apricot stuffing, tangy cranberry sauce and cage-free mayo on 9-grain bread. Again, I have not had the American version, and which they are close in description, my mouth still waters at the thought of the British versions I enjoyed in London.

But regardless of your preferences, Pret offers a quick and affordable, delicious meal in London. Not to be missed and found throughout Central London, and also at Heathrow Terminal 5 for international departures.

For more information visit Pret A Manger at their British website http://www.pret.co.uk/en-gb or at their American website https://www.pret.com/en-us.
 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

More Than Just Tweed... Cordings of Picadilly

In a previous blog post I spoke of Cordings of Picadilly and their wonderful tweeds. Founded in 1839, J.C. Cording & Company began business as an outfitter and waterproofer. By the 1920s and 30s, Cordings established five core items which they are still known for to this day, the covert coat, Mackintosh, tweed jackets, corduroy and Moleskin trousers, and Tattersall shirts.

In 2003, after weathering the Second World War, the post war years, the rejection of tradition, and the years of outsourcing production from the UK by man businesses, the current management team approached their best customer, Eric Clapton, and asked if he would assist them in a management buyout. “I first became aware of Cordings in my mid-teens,” Clapton explains. “I come from the country and it was the highlight of our week to come up to London and listen to the musicians. It was difficult to get home late, so I would spend that time till dawn just walking the West End. I remembered Cordings. It stuck in my mind as a place of tradition; the heritage of England.”

After my first visit to Cordings, I began to place orders with them online with extreme satisfation. I already knew my sizes with Cordings so I'd not have to worry about returns. They do offer no quibble returns and the speed of the shipments to the States from the UK was within a weeks time.

One of the items I received from Cordings was a pair of their corduroy trousers. I eagerly awaited the cooler weather of the Autumn season so that I could enjoy them at long last. Long having grown up with a fixation on the sedate navy blue or brown shades for corduroy trousers, I was excited to enjoy something a bit more adventurous, I this case a pair of their 17oz sage green 8 wale corduroy.



Made of 100% cotton, they feature a plain waist band with tunnel top side adjusters, a flat front and button fly. There is one back jetted pocket with a button fastening, a hook and bar, plus button, fastening on the waist band, and has a fully lined waist band in 100% cotton. 



I ordered mine unfinished so that I could have my local tailor finish them with turn ups.

Cordings Sage Green Corduroy Trousers, paired with their House Check Tweed Jacket and Navy Blue Slipover

I find corduroy trousers the perfect trouser for the weekend and they work well with or without a jacket. These corduroys are warm and comfortable without measure. And while Cordings offers the sedate shades of navy blue and brown, they offer 14 colors in a full spectrum of the rainbow, for the conservative to the adventurous.

As with my tweed trousers from Cordings, these corduroys measure 2 inches larger than my American trousers.

If I wear these half as much as I've already worn their House Check Tweed Jacket, these trousers will be getting plenty of service this Autumn and Winter, and that is something to which I very much look forward. And I am quite certain that other colours of these corduroys will be added to my wardrobe over the years.

Please note that Cordings website prices includes VAT of 20% so this is removed from your order before payment is made. For those buying in London, they will provide you with the paperwork needed to recover your VAT payment at the airport when you are leaving the UK.

You can find Cordings online here at www.cordings.co.uk.

I eagerly look forward to my next visit to Cording of Piccadilly and will be sure to always leave space in my luggage for new acquisitions I am positive I will be making! Until then I remain quite the regular customer on their website.