They came in like a wrecking ball.
Founded in 1880, the Old Dominion Boat Club building (the original building at the riverfront between Prince and Duke was destroyed in a November 1918 fire) at its previous location of 1 King Street has watched over the Old Town waterfront at One and Two King Street for generations (since 1921), outlasting many a fight with City Hall and an imminent threat of eminent domain. In a land swap/purchase agreement with City Council the membership voted to relocate to the old Beachcomber site at the foot of Prince Street a block away.
Today the more modern additions to the ODBC building were razed.
The porch and bar with its panoramic view of the Potomac from the Capitol to National Harbor are gone. Nothing left but an untidy mound of rubble. A few kegs from the last hurrah are scattered about along with the brick and roofing and siding debris.
Vestiges of the vital piece of real estate this site will prove to be again remain standing behind the double safety fence: A tourism directional sign. An Alexandria Visitor’s Guide Kiosk. City trash receptacles. Brick pathways. And three motor boats reminiscent of the S.S. Minnow.
Vola’s Dockside Grill and Virtue Feed and Grain celebrated the demise of the grand lady of the river with an all-day happy hour. Vola’s, Mai Thai and Virtue will enjoy an unobstructed view of the Potomac once the site is completely razed.
The bustling lunchtime crowd spilled out into the cold gathering along the dockside seating where those who braved the chill in the air and blustery waterfront winds were entertained by a methodical, demolition ballet of a devolving theatrical performance.
When the entire side wall adjacent to the al fresco dining area came tumbling down, the audience of tourists, locals and nearby businessmen and women alike, gathered, some in surprise, others in a nostalgic farewell salute. There arose a cheer.
Die-hard Old Dominion Boat Club members, stalwart in their vigilance, stayed to dine in the cold, toasting to the good old days and great memories of their time spent in the building. Most were sad to see the storied clubhouse destroyed but appreciated the stunning new digs a short distance away. One longtime member said he regretted the loss of parking space but found the expanded recreational areas of the new ODBC site to be an advantage well worth the belabored negotiations.
Rita from Newport, Rhode Island had no idea what was about to happen when she and her husband decided to dine at Vola’s following a diverting tour of the Torpedo Factory. Rita explained that they were totally engrossed in the history of torpedo manufacturing in Alexandria (since Newport was also a center of torpedo making during and after the war as torpedoes were used to break up ice floes in the North Atlantic) when they all of a sudden heard a BOOM! They raced to the window in time to see one wall collapse. Then waited around while dining to watch the really big show!
Alexandrian Tom Hatch, son of legendary Alexandrian and famed World War II cinematographer at Iwo Jima Norm Hatch who passed away last April, fondly recalls his last visit to the ODBC. His father’s celebration of life was held there last August following his interment at Arlington National Cemetery. Tom said, “I don’t know why my parents were members. You know, we never really went boating. But, you know, I guess it’s really true. Once a Marine. Always a Marine!” OORAH!
Demolition will continue throughout the week in anticipation of Saturday’s groundbreaking of Fitzgerald Square at 1&2 King Street, where a temporary park is to be completed by Fall, 2018. Permanent plans for the site have yet to be finalized.
Stay tuned for great things to come here along the riverfront in Port City!