York’s venerable Lafayette Club, founded in 1898, recently closed its doors, the doors of an impressive four-story townhouse, the residence of town leader P.A. Small during the Civil War.
To me, one of the most striking interior features was the large portrait of General Lafayette over the mantle. I recently came across an article in the October 31, 1927 Gazette and Daily revealing the origins of the painting. It reads:
“ARTISTIC DECORATION FOR LAFAYETTE CLUB HOUSE
The home of the Lafayette Club, northwest corner of Market and Duke Streets, is to be artistically decorated for the 150th anniversary celebration of the time York was the capital of the nation. A real work of art, a painting of Lafayette at York when he offered his toast to Washington, will be the central figure of the decorations and will be placed on the front of the building in a day or two. The painting, by Mary Fratz Andrade, of Jenkintown, winner of the Tappan prize, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, has already arrived in this city. It is a wonderful work of art.
After the celebration is over the painting will be placed above a mantel in a room of the club, for whom the club is named, as a permanent memorial to Lafayette.”
(The article continues by relating Lafayette’s contributions during the Revolutionary War.)
The painting, therefore, is a companion to the 16 other large (3 ½ by 6 feet) oil paintings that decorated the streets for the elaborate 1927 Sesquicentennial of Continental Congress meeting in York. Those 16 paintings are in the collections of York County Heritage Trust and were on display there several years ago during the Nine Months in York Town celebration. Jim McClure included images of each YCHT painting in his Nine Months in York Town book and has written about them several times in his Yorktown Square blog posts.
There is probably some artistic license taken in the Lafayette painting, showing the Frenchman making the toast that may have helped quash the “Conway Cabal,” those hoping to replace General Washington with General Gates. It does, however, fit together with the other 16 paintings to show how all the people depicted contributed to the cause of freedom during that uncertain time when York was the seat of government.