Organized in 1866 from the membership of the “Hollowleg Club,” a men’s club originally founded in 1852 which had suspended activity in 1861. The Club reincarnated on March 3, 1866 “with a view to promote social intercourse among its members” with at least five of the seven Governing board members having military titles from the late War. The Club roster of 1868 would indicate that at least half of its members served in the armed forces of the American Confederacy, and included Brigadier-General’s William MacRae and Raleigh E. Colston, and Colonels Robert Strange, Duncan MacRae, John J. Hedrick, Alfred Moore Waddell, W.B. Flanner, Robert H. Cowan, Edward D. Hall, and John Lucas Cantwell, the latter a member of the “Immortal 600” Confederate officers held captive at Morris Island in 1864. Colonel Francis W. Kerchner, originally of Baltimore and in command of the company that effected John Brown’s capture at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, was also a founding member of the Club.
The current Cape Fear Club building is the fourth location of the organization and first built solely for the Club. It was occupied in mid-November 1913, and shortly thereafter adorned with priceless paintings donated by members Harry Walters and J. Pembroke Jones. The latter served as Flag Lieutenant under Captain Tattnall on the CSS Virginia, and later commanded the ironclad sloop CSS Raleigh defending the Cape Fear River.
The donated works on display in the Club include those of Salvatore Rosa (1615-1673) and the School of Rosa, Petro Liberi (1605-1687) and Giovanni Battisamoran (1520-1578). Other works held by the Club include Leonidas at the Pass of Thermopylae; and hand-tinted lithographs “Washington and His Generals, “Lady Washington’s Reception,” and “Not Caught Yet.”
The Club has entertained hundreds of distinguished visitors including a President and Vice President of the United States, numerous Governors and members of Congress. President William Howard Taft was entertained at the Club’s previous location at Front and Chestnut Streets, during his Wilmington visit on November 9, 1909.
(The Cape Fear Club, 1866-1966, Wilmington Printing Company, 1966)