This Former Eagles Meeting Hall in VA has been converted into Apartments

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia
Date added: June 13, 2024 Categories:
Board Room, 1st Floor (2004)

The building at 220 East Marshall Street was erected in 1914 for the Richmond Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a national organization "dedicated to the ideas of democracy and brotherhood" was founded in 1898. The Richmond chapter was established on 22nd March 1903 and called "Dixie Aerie No. 338". The Dixie Aerie occupied the clubhouse on East Marshall Street from 1914 until the mid-1980s. The three-story, Flemish bond brick building is a well-articulated example of Neoclassical Revival styling and is representative of the work of Asbury and Whitehurst. Asbury and Whitehurst, while only associated for eight years, were highly regarded designers of residential structures. The F.O.E. is one of the few non-residential buildings associated with their practice. They were locally recognized for the quality and innovation of their designs.

Six theater owners in Seattle, Washington founded the Fraternal Order of Eagles on 6th February 1898. Initially, the theater owners met to discuss a musicians' strike. After resolving that issue they recognized the need for an organization based on the principles of democracy and brotherhood. To this end, they formed an organization called "The Seattle Order of Good Things." The first meetings were held at various local theaters and after the business was settled a keg of beer was rolled out and all enjoyed a few hours of social activities. As membership grew, the organization chose a Bald Eagle as their official emblem and renamed the organization The Fraternal Order of Eagles. The eagle was selected because it represents the virtues of liberty, truth, justice, and equality. The emblem of the organization depicts an eagle holding the scales of justice in its beak, ever ready to defend equality. Continuing the theme of the eagle, the term aerie was selected to identify the individual groups as opposed to a club or lodge. An aerie is defined as the lofty nest of an eagle or other bird of prey. In April 1898, a Grand Aerie was formed, a constitution written, and a president elected. Their constitution asked its members to "make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness, and hope." Like many early fraternal organizations, members of the Eagles received free medical attention, but this organization was unique because medical care was extended to immediate family members, as well. In addition, members received weekly payments in case of sickness and funeral benefits. These were valuable services in a time before public welfare or medical, disability, and life insurance. More importantly, they formed a powerful voice that advocated various types of reform that would benefit the average working person. The Fraternal Order of Eagles was instrumental in the passage of the Workman's Compensation Act, Mother and Old Age pensions, Social Security laws, the "Jobs After 40" bill, and Medicare. In 1904, one of the officers from the South Bend Aerie of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Frank E. Hering, made a public plea for a national day to celebrate and honor mothers. In 1914, the U. S. Congress passed legislation which President Woodrow Wilson signed making the second Sunday in May a national holiday, Mother's Day. The F.O.E. is still engaged in fighting to liberalize social benefits and combating disease through their sponsorship of a number of charitable organizations.

Most of the earlier members of the F.O.E. were actors, playwrights, and stagehands, and as they went on tour they carried the story of the new order with them across the United States and Canada. Within the first ten years, the organization had 1,800 lodges scattered throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico, boasting a membership roll that exceeded 350,000. The Seattle Aerie No. 1 became the largest aerie in the nation. In 1924, they built a large meeting hall for themselves, Eagles Auditorium. Many social and political leaders have been members of the Eagles, including seven Presidents of the United States; Theodore R. Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. But the true strength of the Eagles is a fraternal organization founded for and by the common man.

Fraternal societies and their members have played an important role in the establishment of national laws and social growth in the United States. Most societies were founded on an ideal of mutual aid and "dedicated themselves to the advancement of mutualism, self-reliance, business training, thrift, leadership skills, self-government, self-control, and good moral character." While societies differed in their methods and goals, the majority operated in a decentralized lodge system, had some type of ritual, and offered payments in times of sickness and death. The Fraternal Order of Eagles was one of the first organizations to offer free medical care and was one of the few to extend that benefit to immediate family members. A lodge would often enter into a contract with a general practitioner to provide medical services on a flat fee basis. This system of "lodge practice" was particularly strong in urban areas. By 1910, the (medical) profession had launched an all-out war against fraternal medical services, and local medical societies imposed manifold sanctions against doctors who accepted these contracts. One highly effective method of enforcement was to pressure hospitals to close their doors to members of offending lodges. In response, a number of organizations began to operate hospitals. In the early years, the Eagles were successful in lobbying for the Mother's Pension Law (1908), Workmen's Compensation Laws (1911), and America's first Old Age Pension Law (1923). It is interesting to note that the loss of medical benefits and the expansion of government-sponsored social services that the Eagles lobbied for contributed to a decline in membership. In 1915, the magazine of the Fraternal Order of Eagles observed, "the State is doing or planning to do for the wage-earners what our Order was a pioneer in doing 18 years ago. All this is lessening the popular appeal of our benefit features. With that appeal weakened or gone, we shall have lost a strong argument for joining the Order, for no fraternity can depend entirely on its recreational features to attract members." To increase waning membership, Ladies Auxiliaries were created in 1926, thus opening the all-male organization to women. Women were not fully incorporated into the Eagles until 1951 with the formation of the Grand Auxiliary. The organization and its leadership continued to be responsible for generating ideas and leading the fight for the passage of other important legislation including the Social Security Act (1935), Jobs After 40 (1965), and Medicare (1965). According to the September 2005 membership report there were 1,692 Aeries and Auxiliaries in the United States and Canada with 6,788 members. Today, the Eagles continue to stand by their slogan of "people helping people" by raising money for hospitals, schools, and aid for victims of national disasters.

Dixie Aerie No. 338 was established in Richmond on 22nd March 1903 with 101 charter members. ' The first "worthy president" of the chapter was John B. Bliley, one of the many Bliley brothers whose nearby establishment grew to become one of the city's best known funeral homes. The Eagles initially leased space at Fourth and West Broad streets before they contracted with the architectural firm of Asbury and Whitehurst to design their clubhouse on East Marshall Street. The cornerstone was laid on 21st March 1914 and Governor Henry C. Stuart participated in the ceremony. To be a member of the Dixie Aerie, you had to be a Caucasian male between the ages of twenty-one and fifty and once inducted you were given a free medical examination by the Aerie physician. A glance at membership applications from 1911 showed that the Dixie Aerie was composed of electricians, merchants, machinists, police officers, a Russian butcher, and a bar tender. But, like other Aeries across the United States, the Dixie Aerie's membership included people from all strata of society including several Governors; John S. Battle, William M. Tuck, and J. Lindsey Almond, Jr., and Lieutenant Governor, Fred Gresham Pollard. According to Mr. Liskie, a former Chairman of the Trustees for Dixie Aerie 338, it was the "social club for politicians and attracted many famous and influential members." According to the organization's 1947 letterhead, the fraternity met every first and third Thursday of the month at eight o'clock pm. The Board of Trustees met on Monday nights and the Auxiliary met every Wednesday evening. The Eagles leased the building to other organizations for meetings and parties and every Saturday night they hosted dinner-dances. The dances were so popular that women in gowns and men in tuxedos would be lined up around the block. To get in you had to have a red poker chip with 338 on the back and once the dance floor was filled to capacity, about 200 people, you had to wait for someone to leave before you could get in. In addition to the charities supported by the national organization, the Dixie Aerie worked closely with the surrounding Jackson Ward neighborhood. At Easter, in cooperation with the Bliley Funeral Home, they passed out eggs to the neighborhood children and at Christmas they hosted a big party for the community. They sponsored neighborhood ball teams, gave to the churches and held bingo games where food, not money, was given as prizes.

During its hey-day in the 1920s and 1930s, the Dixie Aerie had between 3,100 and 3,200 members. By the 1980s, membership in the Dixie Aerie had dwindled to 26. No longer able to sustain itself the membership split between the Hanover Aerie # 3808 and the Lakeside Aerie # 4211. The Hanover Aerie closed in the late 1980s; the Lakeside Aerie is still in existence with sixteen members. The Dixie Aerie sold the building in the late 1980s.

The Richmond architectural firm of Asbury and Whitehurst designed the Fraternal Order of Eagles Building in 1913. According to the building permit, the cost of the project was estimated to be $27,400 and Joseph Heye was identified as the contractor. Partners Otis K. Asbury and Herbert C. Whitehurst were associated from 1911 to 1919 with offices at 110 North Seventh Street, in Richmond, Virginia. Asbury, born in Charlotte, North Carolina, was the son of a North Carolina architect. He began practicing in Richmond in 1905. In 1906, Asbury was working as a draftsman for Richmond architect, Charles K. Bryant, and in 1908, he was employed by C. K. Howell and Company, another Richmond architectural firm. Herbert C. Whitehurst was the son of William J. Whitehurst, an owner of Whitehurst and Owens, one of the leading manufacturers of doors, windows, sash, blinds, and interior finishes." Little is known of Whitehurst's architectural career before or after his association with Asbury. After the partnership ended in 1919, Asbury continued to practice architecture in Richmond and was responsible for designing a number of houses and apartment buildings in Richmond. He also designed buildings elsewhere in Virginia and North Carolina including a 1919 addition to the Imperial Tobacco Company building in Wilson, North Carolina where he collaborated with architect, C. C. Davis. In 1946, Asbury moved his architectural practice to Charlotte, North Carolina but remained registered in Virginia until 1959, the year he died.

While Asbury and Whitehurst were associated, they designed apartment buildings and houses in Richmond's Fan District and on Monument Avenue. The Fraternal Order of Eagles building appears to be the only commercial building designed by the firm or by Otis K. Asbury independently. In that regard it is a unique example of their work. However, it shares much in design and scale with their residential architecture. Due to his training, it is likely that Asbury was the creative force in the partnership while Whitehurst handled its business affairs. Otis K. Asbury was known for his skillful dwellings in a variety of historical styles, including Tudor, Mediterranean, Colonial and Classical Revival. He was "one of the few architects whose designs show(ed] individuality" and his work "revolutionize[ed] the types of architecture for residential work here in Richmond." The majority of Asbury and Whitehurst's buildings were designed in the Neoclassical Revival style. In 1912, they designed a Neoclassical Revival-style house, 2704 Monument Avenue, for Whitehurst's father. In 1914, they designed a small Neoclassical Revival dwelling for Henry C. Riely at 1518 Park Avenue and the following year they designed a transitional Neoclassical Revival dwelling with Mediterranean influences for C. B. Lathrop at 1514 Park Avenue. These three houses share architectural features with the Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, including arched-pediment entrances, decorative cornices, French doors, and multi-light upper sashes. Asbury and Whitehurst and Otis Asbury independently designed a number of houses and apartments in the Tudor style, including a 1914 house for Marie Milnes Whitehurst, at 1529 West Avenue and two apartment buildings; The Gladstone at 1828-30 Park Avenue and The Gloucester at 1818-1820 Park Avenue, both designed and completed in 1914. The firm also designed in the Mediterranean and Arts and Crafts styles.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles building has a commanding presence on the southwest corner of Third and Marshall streets. The building's Neoclassical Revival styling is in strong contrast to the surrounding modern buildings. The emblems that adorn the building are permanent reminders of the role of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the United States but more importantly of the order's contribution to the surrounding Jackson Ward community.

Building Description

The Fraternal Order of Eagles Building is a three-story, brick building with a rectangular footprint. The building is set on a raised foundation and crowned with an overhanging cornice and decorative parapet. The primary elevations on Marshall and Third Streets are constructed of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern and the secondary west and north elevations are laid in a five-course American bond pattern. The Marshall Street elevation is divided into three bays, the Third Street elevation is six bays wide, and the west and north elevations are randomly organized by a fenestration pattern dictated by the interior spaces. The Marshall Street and Third Street elevations are further divided horizontally by changes in brick patterns and decorative elements. The Richmond architectural firm of Asbury and Whitehurst designed the building in the Neoclassical Revival style. The floor plan was designed to accommodate the specific functions of the fraternal order, including formal waiting areas and a grand hall on the first floor, and open assembly rooms on the second and third floors. The Neoclassical Revival style is translated on the interior in the form of square pillars, beamed ceilings, and decorative moldings. The Eagles' Temple sits at the northwest corner of Marshall and Third streets in an urbanized area. Brick sidewalks extend from the building's base to concrete curbs at the streets' edges. The building is located one block north of the Broad Street Commercial Historic District and one block south of the Jackson Ward Historic District. The building is isolated from the adjacent historic districts by new construction, including the expansion of the Richmond Convention Center to the east, and asphalt parking lots. In 2005, after sitting vacant for a number of years, the Fraternal Order of Eagles building was renovated into apartments with a commercial space in the basement.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles building was constructed as an assembly building for a fraternal organization. It is sited on the northwest corner of Marshall and Third streets in downtown Richmond. It is located between the Broad Street and Jackson Ward commercial areas, once adjoining commercial districts that have been eroded over the years by demolition and new construction. Brick and concrete public sidewalks on the south and east sides, an alley to the north, and an asphalt parking lot to the west define the building's site.

The building is three stories in height with a raised basement. The facade (Marshall Street or south elevation) is organized into three bays and the east (Third Street) elevation has six bays. The north and west elevations are randomly organized by the fenestration requirements of the interior spaces. The windows on these two elevations are a mixture of nine-over-one, twelve-over-one, and two-over-two, double-hung wood sash. The north and west elevations are constructed of common brick in a five-course American bond pattern and are devoid of any decorative elements. The facade and east elevations are constructed of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern. These two elevations are further divided horizontally by changes in brick patterns and decorative elements at the floor lines.

On the Marshall Street facade, the raised basement extends beyond the face of the building to form a raised terrace that fills the set-back between the building and the sidewalk. In the center of the terrace, at the public sidewalk, are two granite steps that lead to a mosaic landing with the letters "F. O. E." inset in the pattern. At the landing, the wall enclosing the terrace is pierced by an eight-light casement window with a decorative stone surround. There are two small semi-circular openings in the terrace wall at the break of the cheek wall at the steps. At the mosaic landing granite steps turn to the east and west and lead up to the terrace. The steps are enclosed on both sides by a stepped cheek wall constructed of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern with a granite cap. A Flemish bond pillar with a granite cap separates the cheek wall from the wall enclosing the terrace. The enclosing wall is constructed of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern with a decorative band of headers above and below a soldier course. Above the decorative band, the bricks are laid in a stretcher bond pattern with a header rowlock below the granite cap. The terrace leads to the primary entrance in the center bay of the first story. On the east elevation, the raised basement is constructed of brick laid in a Flemish bond pattern with a soldier course at the window heads and a corbelled water table above. The water table is composed of soldier and header courses that graduate the thickness of the basement wall to the upper stories. Steps on the east side of the terrace lead to a light well and door to the basement. The light well, separated from the sidewalk by a granite curb, extends the full length of the east elevation except where it is interrupted by the central entrance. The basement wall is penetrated by paired and single, nine-over-one, double-hung wood sash windows.

The first story, on the facade and the east elevation, is treated as a rusticated base constructed of brick laid in decorative bands composed of four stretcher courses and a recessed header course. The first and second stories are separated by a cast-stone belt course. The primary entrance is located on Marshall Street and is approached by a series of steps on the east and west and the open terrace. The centered entrance has a wooden Doric-order surround with an arched pediment. Freestanding fluted columns and engaged fluted pilasters support the entablature and pediment. The entablature has a paneled frieze and a "Wall of Troy" dentil band. The recessed entry is set in a paneled vestibule with a mosaic floor bearing the logo of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. The entry doors are double-leaf wooden doors with full beveled lights. There are crossettes with roundel moldings that are set into the corners of the glass and a five-light transom above. Aluminum storefront doors with a transom have been installed in front of the entry doors. Flanking the entrance, on the west are French doors with an eight-light transom, and on the east there is a six-over-six, double-hung, wood sash window. The original architectural drawings show a second set of French doors at this location. The secondary entrance, centered in the east elevation, is situated between the basement and the first story and has two granite steps leading to the door. This secondary entrance has a projecting brick architrave that is detailed with a cast-stone surround and stepped brick pilasters at the corners that have cast-stone bases and capitals. These pilasters support a brick entablature with a cast-stone cornice and parapet. A mesh security gate has been installed in front of the wooden double-leaf doors, which match those at the primary entrance. There is a five-light transom above. The east elevation is broken by six symmetrically placed punched openings. Two small openings with fixed glass flank the entrance. The remaining four openings are glazed with six-over-six, double-hung, wood sash windows. All of the openings have cast-stone sills.

On the facade and the east elevation, the second and third stories are constructed in a Flemish bond pattern with a continuous soldier course at the spring line of the arched windows on the second story. Elongated corbelled brick architraves with arched heads frame the second-story window openings. The arches have cast-stone bases that rest on the cast-stone belt course, impost blocks and keystones. The tympanums above and the aprons below the windows have decorative brickwork that is inset with geometric cast-stone shapes. The center window on the facade has a cast-stone tympanum with a bas-relief sculpture. Cast-stone diamonds are set into the brick below the spring line of the arches between the second-story windows and between the building's corners and the windows. Cast-stone roundels are set between the second-story windows in line with the heads of the arches. On the east elevation, the three central roundels bear the letters - F, O, and E. The third-story windows have cast-stone sills that are supported by brackets. There are twelve-over-one, double-hung, wood sash windows with eight-light transoms on the second story, and twelve-over-one, double-hung, wood sash windows on the third story. A corbelled cast-stone band and double soldier course are set below the projecting metal cornice, which has modillions and dentils. Above the metal cornice is a stepped parapet with geometric cast-stone insets and cast-stone coping. The parapet on three sides of the building conceals a shed roof.

The interior of the Fraternal Order of Eagles building was divided into ceremonial and support spaces on all levels. A gracious stair is centered on the west wall and extends from the first to the third story. The primary and intermediate newel posts are square with raised panels, molded bands and decorative caps. The open stringer is decorated with raised panels. The balustrade is composed of square pickets and a molded handrail. An open stair with a similar balustrade is tucked under the main stair and leads to the basement. There is a secondary service stair in the northwest corner. The interior finishes are consistent on all levels - wood floors, plaster walls, and beamed ceilings in the ceremonial spaces. Most of the door and window architraves have decorative entablatures with dentil molding. A few of the door architraves have crossettes at the corners and some of the windows have cased openings with no decorative moldings.

The basement is a well-lighted finished space divided into an assembly room and service spaces, including storage and mechanical rooms along the north wall, and restrooms along the west wall. Known as the Rathskellar, with a mahogany bar that extended the full length of the room and pool tables, the basement at the FOE was a popular gathering spot for local politicians. During prohibition it was a safe "speak easy" with private lockers where patrons could keep their liquor. The basement is accessed from the exterior by a stair to the right of the terrace and by a door and interior stair in the northwest corner; and from the interior by a stair centrally located on the west wall. The footprint of the basement is larger than that of the other floors because it includes additional floor space under the terrace above.

The first floor is entered through a reception hall on the Marshall Street side of the building that opens into a waiting room to the west, a large stair hall to the north, and a library to the east. The secondary entrance from Third Street opens into an entrance hall that is flanked by a coatroom and the ladies' reception room. There are an office, restrooms, and a service stair in the northwest corner and a large octagonal boardroom in the northeast corner. Both entrances flow into a large central lobby with the main stair located on the western wall. The ceiling is articulated into structural bays by beams that are decorated with crown molding and supported by brackets. Picture molding and chair rails line the public room walls and all the walls have crown molding and baseboards. The windows and door openings have decorative Colonial Revival-style wooden architraves with dentiled entablatures.

On the second floor, two-thirds of the space, the eastern side, contains an auditorium with a stage and two stage rooms. The remainder of the floor, the western one-third, has storage rooms and restrooms. The auditorium was used for meetings but was more popularly the site of lavish dinners and dances. In the auditorium, the five southern bays make up the seating area where the ceiling is articulated by beams that are decorated with crown molding and supported at the wall by brackets. The stage, located at the north end of the room has a bowed face and is raised three steps from floor level. The stage opening has a plaster frame with curved corners and is flanked by pilasters. There is decorative flush-panel wainscoting with a wooden chair rail in the auditorium and primary stair hall. The doors throughout have five horizontal panels and have decorative Colonial Revival-style wooden door architraves with dentiled entablatures.

The third floor follows the same division as the second floor. The primary space, having roughly the same dimensions as the auditorium below, was used for meetings and rituals. The room was once lined with risers. The restrooms, storage rooms, and stairwells follow the same plan as the second floor. The principal distinguishing feature of the meeting room is vertical paneled wainscoting and a chair rail. The panels are devised by applying molded wood trim to the plaster walls. The doors throughout are five-panel and have a decorative Colonial Revival-style wooden architrave with a dentiled entablature.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles sold the building in the late 1980s and it was used as office space for a period of time. The building then sat vacant for almost ten years and the risers and other ceremonial features were removed. The building was purchased in 2004 and has been renovated and adapted for eleven apartments and a commercial space in the basement. The exterior of the building has been unaltered and retains a high level of integrity. The renovation of the interior resulted in the reconfiguration of the secondary spaces, the removal of the secondary stair, and the subdivision of the larger primary spaces. The division of the spaces was achieved by respecting the major walls and circulation spaces. Where spaces were divided the new walls were inserted so that the volume of the former spaces is still evident. The interior finishes including the primary stair, wood floors, columns, beams, wainscoting, and door and window architraves were retained. The former auditorium and meeting space were subdivided.

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Auditorium, 2<sup>nd</sup> Floor (2004)
Auditorium, 2nd Floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Auditorium, 2<sup>nd</sup> Floor (2004)
Auditorium, 2nd Floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Board Room, 1<sup>st</sup> Floor (2004)
Board Room, 1st Floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Grand Stair, 1<sup>st</sup> Floor (2004)
Grand Stair, 1st Floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Reception Hall, 1<sup>st</sup> Floor (2004)
Reception Hall, 1st Floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Reception Hall, 1<sup>st</sup> Floor (2004)
Reception Hall, 1st Floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Marshall Street Entrance (2004)
Marshall Street Entrance (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Marshall Street Entrance, mosaic floor (2004)
Marshall Street Entrance, mosaic floor (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Marshall Street Entrance, architrave (2004)
Marshall Street Entrance, architrave (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Southeast corner, date stone (2004)
Southeast corner, date stone (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Third Street Entrance (2004)
Third Street Entrance (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Third Street Entrance, detail (2004)
Third Street Entrance, detail (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Third Street, northeast corner (2004)
Third Street, northeast corner (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Third Street, East Elevation (2004)
Third Street, East Elevation (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Marshall and Third Streets, southeast corner (2004)
Marshall and Third Streets, southeast corner (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Marshall Street, South Elevation (2004)
Marshall Street, South Elevation (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Marshall Street, southwest corner (2004)
Marshall Street, southwest corner (2004)

Fraternal Order of Eagles Building, Richmond Virginia Alley, West Elevation (2004)
Alley, West Elevation (2004)