Chess, Checkers and Whist Part II

Aug 26, 2009, 1:17 PM |

This continuation of the history of the N.O. Chess, Checkers & Whist Club includes it's destruction by fire, including its entire library and Morphyobilia collection, it's resurrection and final transformance into the Paul Morphy Club.  

In 1904 The Picayune's guide to New Orleans wrote:

   New Orleans is rich in social clubs, educational, literary, benevolent and charitable organizations.
   The social clubs are, of course, exclusive organizations, and admission is by invitation or bypresentation of a card from one of the members. The most prominent of these are the Boston Club, which has its home at No. 824 Canal Street, the Pickwick Club, 1028 Canal Street, the Varieties Club, with rooms at the Grand Opera House, in Canal Street, the Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, with quarters at 108 Baronne Street, Louisiana Club, 122 Carondelet Street, French Opera Club, which meets in the French Opera House, the Harmony Club, an exclusively Hebrew organization, occupying the beautiful home, corner of Jackson Avenue and St. Charles, the Cotillion Club and the Carnival German Club, which give very swell and exclusive social evenings during the Carnival season. [p.164]

adding "The Chess, Checkers and Whist Club occupies a handsome four-story building at the corner of Canal and Baronne Streets. The entrance is on Baronne Street. It was organized in 1880, and among the celebrities who have played the king of games within its hospitable walls may be mentioned Captain Mackenzie, Steinitz, Zukertort, Lasker and Pillsbury." [p. 83]


On January 22, 1890, the building housing the Chess Club was gutted by fire:


   New-Orleans, Jan. 22 --- About 2 o'clock this morning a fire broke out in the rear of the oyster stand, 6 Baronne-street, and situated in the three-story brick building 6, 8, and qo Baronne-street, formerly known as the Pelican, then the Terry House, which rapidly spread, the net work of electric, telephone and telegraph wires rinning parallel to the building delaying and obstructing the operations of the fire department.
   The entire paraphernalia of the Chess, Checkers, and Whist  Club, including the library on the upper floors, and valued at $15,000, was destroyed.  The confectionary and restaurant at the corner of Canal and Baronne streets, owned by Grouchy & Demecq, and William Kelley's barroom in the rear, were also completely burned out.  The adjoining house on Canal-street, formerly occupied by E. Offner as an annex, was badly damaged.  The damage is estimated at $125,000.
   The building at 160 and 162  Canal-street, owned by Mrs. Adele Beer and occupied by Grouchy & Demecq, was insured as follows:  Lancashire, $2,500 ; North American, $5,000 ; Exchange of New-York, $2,500 ; Providence of Washington, $5,000.
   The Sun Insurance Company has a risk for $10,000.  Grouchy & Demecq's stock is insured for $2,250 each.  No. 164 Canal,vacant, is owned by foreigners, for whom A. C. Denis is the agent.  No. 166 is owned by foreigners and occupied by W. E. Seebold.  The stock was slightly damaged by water and was insured for $25,000 in the Tentouia and other companies.
   The Chess Club had one of the most valuable libraries in the world, including the relics, chess and game records of the late Paul Morphy, a fine collection of autographic datesm portraits, and statuary, all of which were destroyed and most of which cannot be replaced.
   The building was erected before the war, and is one of the most desirable sites in New-Orleans.  It is in the clubnose neighborhood, and without doubt the most elegant and costly club edifices in the South will rise from its ashes.
                     -The New York Times, January 23, 1890

Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, circa 1906
                                 Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, circa 1906

The Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, Canal and Baronne Streets, Mardi Gras, 1908
   The Chess, Checkers & Whist Club, Canal and Baronne Streets, Mardi Gras, 1908

 The Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, circa 1920
Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, circa 1920
John N. Teunisson , photographer

 New Orleans Chess, Checker and Chess Club, 1920
New Orleans Chess, Checker and Chess Club, 1920
"second mortgage"


A 1904 editon of wrote, "New Orleans Chess, Checker and Whist Club, Chas. Rosen, Secretary, 317 Hennen Building, New Orleans, La."


The August, 1905 edition of Em. Lasker's Chess Magazine described the celebration surrounding the Chess Club's 25th anniverary.  


   The twenty-fifth anniversary of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club was celebrated by a dinner at the club house on July 21 when four hundred members listened to the stories of the club's progress in the quarter of a century of active life, and of its present greatness.
The club was organized in 1880 from a smaller club which had been held together by J. D. Seguin, Judge Leon L. Labatt, Charles Edwards, Mr. Maur- ian and Mr. Lebry, several of  whom were contemporaries of Paul Morphy. This earlier organization met on St. Charles Street for a while and held a strong place as a chess organization. When Mr. N. B. Trist, the well-known writer on whist, and considered by many the father of American leads, awakened interest in that game in New Orleans the added strength of whist was joined to the chess and checker organization and the club took the name of Whist into its recognized name. In 1883 the club moved into the Perry Building at Canal and Baronne street and from that time on took the high position in New Orleans club life that it has since maintained. In 1890 a fire destroyed the Perry Building and all the property of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club, but it seemed to feel an impetus rather than a depression!   From that 
disaster and it rose from the ashes a stronger organization than ever . . .
In its story of the anniversay dinner the "Picayune'' says:
At a meeting of the Board, not long ago, a silver anniversary committee was appointed, and the very pleasant task of arranging for the- celebration was placed where it was thought it would be best performed. The following gentlemen, all popular and well known in club life, composed the committee: Dr. John J. Archinard, Chairman; Sidney Story, Dr. John E. Woodward, Henry R. 
Ricau and Thomas T. Barr.
The Committee worked with a will and provided not only a sumptuous feast, but an interesting musical programme as well, and the gentlemen, upon viewing the stately dining-room, when the merriment was at its height last night, could not but have felt satisfied that their work was well 
As a unique feature of the celebration, only those gentlemen who had either been organizers of the Club or among its first members were named on the Reception Committee. The Committee was made up as follows: Hon. L. L. Labatt, Chairman; Frank E. Bernard, Louis Claudel, George A. Hero, L. A. Ledoux, F. E. Nitelis, Thomas G. Rapier, Samuel Stafford, Hon. Charles F. Buck, E. H. Farrar, Hon. E. B. Kruttschnitt, Lucien Lyons, George D. Pritchett, J. H. Small and 
Henry Warner.
Steward George Sommers devoted earnest and careful work upon the decorations and arrangements of the dining hall. The great room, which takes in all of the main portion of the fourth floor of the Club's fine home, was cleared and under Mr. Sommers' direction, long lines of tables were placed, and across the width of the apartment extended the table of honor, at 
which the officers and chief guests were to sit.
Flowers were in profusion, resting in ornamental vases which decorated the tables, and on the walls were hung the Club's colors, purple and gold, surmounted by the chess crown. Covers were laid for 400, but room was made for many more guests without undue crowding. Colonel George S. Kausler, the President, a prominent citizen and one of the most popular and progressive members of the Club, was at the head of the board, with the following officers and members of the Governing Committee placed on either hand: Fred J. Eldridge, First Vice President ; Dr. John J. Archinard, Second Vice President ; Frank Dameron, Treasurer ; D. J. Theard, Secretary ; George J. Friedrichs, Sidney Story, Dr. John E. Woodward, 
Henry R. Ricau and Thomas T. Barr.
The menu affored many delicious courses.
While the feast was on and during the entire evening the orchestra composed of stringed 
instruments, discoursed sweet music, under the careful direction of Prof. George O'Connell.
One of the delightful features of the feast was the music at the table, vocal and instrumental, furnished by the members. The following choice selections were g iven with most convincing 
       "Ivanhoe" (duet)................................... Concone
Dr. Leon Cusechs and Gus Ricau.
"Choral des Epees" ("Faust"). ......................Gounod
Alf Theard and quartette.
"Le Lac " (Meditation)........................ Niedermeyer
              Dr. Leonce Thibaut and O'Connell Orchestra.
"La Muette de Portici" (duet)......................... Auber
Alf H. Kernion, D. L. Cusachs and
Drinking Song (" Heart and Hand'').................. Lecocq
             Alf H. Kernion, chorus and orchestra.
Gus Ricau, "Four-Leaf Clover"........................Coombs
                Dr. Marime Landy 
         "Thais" (violin
solo) ..................................Massenet

Dr. Archnard was toastmaster, and carried out the office gracefully, introducing each speaker and his subject with appropriate remarks. Hon. Charles F. Buck was first introduced and took as the theme for his happy address "The Evolution of the New-Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club." Mr. Buck gave an interesting history of the Club, and told how the present great and influential body had evolved from almost nothing.
The other speakers and subjects were: Hon. Charles Theard, "Influence of Good Fellwship in Clubdom ;"  Hon. Bernard McCloskey, "Our Ex-Presidents ;" Colonel George S. Kausler, "The Administration ;" J. Hughes O. Rapp, "Our Future ;" Captain J. W. Bostick, "The Press;" Dr. John
Archinard, "Our Troubles."
The invitations and menu cards were very prettily gotten up, engraved in silver, and purple, and bearing the Club's coat of arms, a crown constructed of chessmen, draughts and playing cards. 

 I just June of this year, the ever-interesting "Blake Pontchartrain," the New Orleans Know-It-All, answered a question in The Best of New Orleans that not only involved the New Orleans Chess Chesckers & Whist Club, but it's successor, the Paul Morphy Chess Club:


  . . . The Paul Morphy Chess Club in New Orleans had several locations, the first in the Balter Building, in the block surrounded by Commercial Place, Camp Street, and St. Charles and Poydras avenues. The last was at 316 St. Charles Ave. 
   The club was organized in May 1928, when several chess-playing gentlemen agreed to form a 
new club devoted exclusively to the game. Members were solicited, and the club soon had officers and a charter. New members decided to name the club after the local chess master they so revered. The club opened its doors to members for play on June 22, 1928, Paul Morphy's birthday. There is no longer a chess club by this name in New Orleans, but there are several in 
America, and there's even a Paul Morphy Chess Club in Sri Lanka.
  An earlier group called New Orleans Chess Club was founded in 1841, but it languished due to lack of interest. Later, many New Orleanians became interested in the game when young Paul Morphy burst on the scene. By the mid-1850s, the club sponsored weekly tournaments and 
membership increased rapidly. Morphy himself was elected president of the club in 1865. 
. . .
  Another famous club in the Crescent City was the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club. This organization was founded in 1880, shortly before Morphy's death. The club first met in July in a room at 128 Gravier St. There were 27 members. It was an immediate success and membership grew rapidly. New quarters had to be found, so the group relocated to Common 
Street and then to a three-story building at the corner of Canal and Baronne streets.
  Then disaster struck: A fire in 1890 burned the building to the ground. Lost in the fire was invaluable Morphy memorabilia. The owner of the structure agreed to rebuild, and soon the club was re-established in comfortable surroundings on the third floor. At this point, there were more 
than 1,100 members.
  In 1920, another move brought the club to 120 Baronne St., where the men played various games in splendor. It occupied four floors in a large building, which had many rooms for games, 
as well as dining rooms, a billiard hall, a library and bedrooms for men who lived at the club.
  It was after the death of Judge Leon Labatt — a strong supporter and member of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club — and a number of resignations that the members decided to form a new group: the Paul Morphy Chess Club.

Part I