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RVA Legends — Westmoreland Club

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

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AKA, Stanard House
601 East Grace Street
Built, 1839
Demolished, 1937

It was always a place for entertaining.

(Find A Grave) — Robert Stanard

In 1835 James Gray bought the southeast corner of Sixth and Grace Streets and by the following year had begun to build a mansion which was to rival in size and beauty the one Abram Warwick had just finished on the next block west. But his affairs became involved, and in 1839 he sold the partly finished building, together with the building-material intended for the house, to Robert Stanard, who finished it that same year.

(Find A Grave) — Jane Stith Craig Stanard

Born in 1781, Robert Stanard married Jane Stith Craig. At the time their son, little Robert Craig Stanard, was bringing his friend Edgar Allan Poe home to see his rabbits, the Stanards were living in the George Hay house on Ninth Street, where the Federal Reserve Bank now stands. Jane Craig Stanard lost her mind and died in 1824. One of the leading lawyers of Richmond, Stanard was appointed to the Virginia Supreme Court in the same year that his new house was completed. He hardly lived there six years before he died.

Five years after his death his widow sold the house to William H. MacFarland. Born in Lunenberg County in 1799, MacFarland had a distinguished career as a lawyer, legislator, businessman, and churchman. In the public mind he was chiefly associated with the Farmers’ Bank, of which he was president from 1837 until the bank closed in 1865. For nearly thirty years before buying the Stanard house, Mr. MacFarland had lived across Grace Street in the one built by Christopher Tompkins and owned, after MacFarland sold it, by John H. Tyler. Judge Christian quotes a disrespectful characterization of MacFarland as “the curly-headed poodle from Richmond, nearly overcome with dignity and fat” which it is amusing to contrast with the praises bestowed by St. Paul’s vestry on their Senior Warden at the time of his death:

“His long residence in our midst, his … varied talents, his refinement and tact, the urbanity of his manners, the prominent posts which the confidence of the people assigned him as a statesman, jurist and man of pure and lofty character, placed him on an eminence which few have reached, and made him for years the representative man of our city.”

(LOC) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate K

Like his predecessors in this house, MacFarland was a “king of hospitality.” In 1870, two years before his death, the house was sold at auction to Alfred Penn of New Orleans and was the home during the next decade of the latter’s son-in-law, James Lyons. Mr. Lyons, “one of the leaders of the Virginia bar, the handsomest man of his day,” maintained the tradition of good living and of legal talent with which his new home was associated.

Wherever he lived, he entertained as many prominent visitors as Mrs. Robert C. Stanard had done. Though he was eighty-one years old when he died in 1882, he remained active and vigorous, often expressing his opinions in the local press.

(Library of Virginia, used by permission)

In 1879 the heirs of Alfred Penn had sold the Stanard mansion to the Westmoreland Club, which had been chartered two years before. After occupying the Norman Stewart house, this group of gentlemen settled in the former Stanard home, where the Club carried on the unbroken tradition of hospitality which seemed almost the gift of some fairy godmother to this house. In 1937 the Westmoreland Club ceased to exist and the house it had occupied was replaced by a parking lot.

[HOR]

This building really set the type for the Greek Revival mansions of the ’forties. The proportions were more foursquare and less low and broad than the slightly older Warwick house. It had a typical portico with Doric columns, wider and heavier than those of later houses such as the Jaquelin Taylor row or the Barret house. The large triple windows, similar to those of the Warwick house, were somewhat awkwardly spaced, making a checkerboard pattern. Unlike the Warwick house, it was stuccoed. As we shall see, this was characteristic of about half of these mansions of the neo-Greek period. The back portico as well as the outside kitchen had been eliminated when a large wing was added to the rear of the Club.

September 2014

The small porch on the east side was no doubt an addition. In one respect the house differed radically from those that followed it: the frieze windows, intended to let air into the attic, found no favor in Richmond. Many fine houses of this period in Baltimore used this type of window, and Mr. E. V. Valentine once said that the architect of the Stanard house was a Baltimorean. If that tradition was based on fact, this variation from Richmond custom would he explained. On the whole, while the Westmoreland Club was not the most beautiful of the Greek Revival mansions, it was a beautiful one and was particularly significant for its intimate connection with the social history and the legal life of Richmond from the time it was built until its demolition almost a century later. [HOR]

Parking lot it became. Parking lot it remains.

(Westmoreland Club is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


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