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Owls Whist Club Continues 100-Year Legacy
11/27/2013 2:47:21 PM

James Lecque

By Barney Blakeney

The Owls Whist Club and the Gaylords of Charleston created a unique history that has provided a special character among Blacks in the local community for a century.

In February the Owls Whist Club will celebrate 100 years in existence. The club’s meeting place that is called the Owl’s Roost and is located in the Ashleyville community West Ashley, is adjacent to the site of the former Gaylords Shack which was the meeting place for another elite club known as the Gaylords.

In the late 1970s Gaylords Shack became the popular entertainment spot, Greylloyd’s On The River, LTD. The club continued a legacy that has remained unsurpassed.

The Owls Whist Club and the Gaylords established social organizations that included as its members some of the area’s most prominent Blacks.

William Cornelius Holloway Swinton was one of the founders of the Owls Whist Club. A prominent Black barber and businessman, Swinton joined several other barbers and some of his friends to form the Owls Whist Club. The men were seeking an uplifting social and recreational outlet. In 1947, some 23 years after Swinton’s death, members Thomas Pinckney and H.A. DeCosta Sr. built the Owls’ Roost.

Current members of the club include such esteemed individuals as Grippon A. Boags, David J. Mack Jr. and David J. Mack, III, Daniel Martin Jr. and Sr., Floyd Breeland and Dr. Thad Bell. Nathaniel Jackson currently is the club’s president.

Next door to the Owls’ Roost Gaylords Shack served as the meeting place for the Gaylords, an organization of Black mail carriers. The two clubs were adjacent at a site on the Ashley River in the Historic Ashleyville community. In time, the two meeting places earned prominence as venues for private functions.

While the Owls Whist Club remained vibrant and exclusive, The Gaylords eventually became defunct. In 1977 North Charleston businessman Arnold Lecque bought the Gaylord Shack and gave it to his son James Lecque who renovated the building and opened it as an entertainment spot and meeting place for friends.

Lecque wanted to continue the Gaylords legacy of prominence, but renamed the building Greylloyd’s On The River, LTD. He wanted to give the place a unique atmosphere and surrounded its wood-burning fireplace with sofas, arm chairs and conversation tables. The walls were adorned with artwork collected by his older brother Arnold, a Navy veteran who had travelled the world collecting art, and a mural by the late Charles Dessausure.

Patrons of the club became an exclusive group of friends known as ‘The River Bunch’. But the circle of patrons soon expanded to a point where parking overflowed onto neighborhood’s streets. Although the club had become the place to be for young professionals and attracted artists and entertainers from around the world, Lecque realized its era had run its course. He closed the club in 1985.

The Owls Whist Club now owns the property and continues the legacy that has left a unique mark on the character of the local Black community.

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