The Colonial Warriors, the male equivalent of The Colonial Dames, is a leader among Hereditary Societies. As such, I’m extremely proud to not only belong to, but serve as the Illinois chapter’s Governor. It’s a world of private clubs, calling cards, white tie events and one of the most entertaining and civilized groups I’ve ever belonged to. I joined about 6 years ago after my father passed away. I was told I’d most likely qualify knowing my family was from Massachusetts. After I proposed and supplied the research and documentation, (going back 12 generations to my qualifying ancestor from the early 1600’s in Massachusetts) I was accepted and immediately made their Social and Membership Chairman — to no one’s surprise. I especially appreciate this organization because it not only honors my father’s memory, but I have really enjoyed getting to know our own Colonial and American history better.
This all leads up to our recent trip to New York where about 20 Illinois members and their spouses attended festivities culminating in a Saturday night Gala. Although I can’t name the private clubs we visited each day and night, I can assure you they were some of the most elegant that New York has to offer.
I arrived on a Wednesday and checked into the first club of our stay. I immediately had lunch with a good friend, Christian Leone, who grew up in Lake Forest and moved to New York in the mid 90’s. I then had to do some damage at some of my favorite stores in the state.
I began at The Belgian Shoe Store which I first discovered in the early 90’s. The Belgian Shoe Store sells handcrafted shoes made exclusively in Belgium — you can only find these shoes at this store. On this visit, I found a “Mr. Henri” in a conservative brown with black piping versus the “Mr. Casual” that I always wore in my twenties.
Next up was Turnbull & Asser who make the most amazing shirts that literally last 15 years. I proceeded to spend an hour picking through swatches for a custom shirt and after selecting everything was told I’d be better off e-mailing my guy in London because the exchange rate was so favorable. I thanked him profusely and made my order after returning to Chicago! Later that day, I met up with good friends Christopher and Lise Wolf back at the club for the prime rib dinner. I enjoyed several gin and tonics followed by some great wines, then called it a night.
Thursday morning, I was free to meet up with another dear friend Brantley C. B. Knowles from Palm Beach and Va, who is a Colonial Dame and whose husband is a leader in The Colonial Warriors. I then moved my luggage over to another club where it would remain for the duration of the trip. That night we enjoyed a fabulous reception held at a Yacht Club followed by dinner at our favorite “21” Club for the 20 members of our Illinois contingent. It is always a scene and had fantastic food to match. We had lump crabmeat and a rack of lamb followed by my favorite, baked alaska. After closing at the 21 just after midnight, we all went back to our friends Damien & Pamela Cregeau’s (from Connecticut) suite for a little post party till just around 2:00 in the morning.
Friday was packed with a few business meetings to hear about the National Society’s updates followed by lunch at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park — a real treat. Many then took the opportunity to visit pre-arranged tours of The Frick, Grand Central Terminal, New York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art American Wing tour while I, on the other hand, was ready for a good nap.
Friday evening began with a cocktail party at friends Charlie and Lynn Poekel’s at their marvelous apartment on Sutton Place. Here, we met the owner of Scully & Scully: Michael Scully, who had hosted the ladies for an event at the store on Park Avenue earlier that day. We then proceeded over to another club for a lobster and filet dinner where we viewed the presentation of the Society’s Coat of Arms presented by York Herald Peter O’Donoghue from the College of Arms in England. We were then invited downstairs to the club in the men’s only section where, after the help took off, you could just keep pouring your own drinks keeping track on a little chit as late as you like!
Saturday was the big night where everyone gathered in white tie vestige for the most glamorous evening of dining and dancing. The Alex Donner Orchestra played that night. They always seems to follow us around from party to party, having joined us in New York, Palm Beach, Washington DC and hopefully Chicago soon too! There was a photo taken of all the Colonial Warriors attending, just like one taken in 1915 at Delmonico’s in New York. Special toasts were made and then came the flag and honoree presentation where our own Lieutenant Governor John H. Strothman was our Illinois honoree and our Deputy Governor General for the state of Illinois, Robert Lee Burell, was the flag carrier.
The dinner consisted of the same menu that was served 125 years ago starting with a endive salad with blue cheese, toasted walnuts and caramelized pears. Turtle soup au sherry followed. As for the entrées, you could choose from Steak Delmonico or Lobster Newberg and for dessert, a special red velvet cake with buttercream icing. The cake was presented and cut with a sword by both the oldest member (who was almost 100 years old) and the youngest member of the Society (a young man in his early twenties). The dancing continued in between courses and all the way till just past midnight with a packed dance floor. We then walked over to a Pub next door for a drink, and then over to my favorite bar, Bemilman’s Bar at The Carlyle. After its closing at one in the morning, we moved over to a favorite vintage preppy hangout, Dorrian’s, till about four in the morning.
During this week of festivities and after meeting the fourth new person or so, I realized that many of the cards exchanged only listed the person’s name. This is because just about everyone you meet is listed in The Social Register! Of course! Who needs e-mails, phone numbers, addresses when it’s already “listed”! I had mine printed up at Tiffany’s when I was 22 and out of college and still do. Nevertheless, I always get a kick out of the reaction when I hand these cards to people who didn’t know what to say after seeing only my name engraved on the card. It’s just about the same reaction I receive when people realize I carry my father’s or my great grandfather’s cigarette case yet rarely ever have a cell phone on me!
All in all, it was an amazing and fun week in New York. Our Illinois Colonial Warriors and spouses had a marvelous time! We look forward to the next gathering.