Friday Foray: The Valentine and Secret Sandwiches
This month we hosted, along with our friends at Virginia Select, our very first–open to our Facebook friends–Friday Foray. It was a success, a truly fun as well as educational adventure. Afternoons like this remind us that Life Is Good here in Boomerville.
We chose for our February excursion The Valentine Museum here in our fair city. The Valentine is Richmond’s oldest museum, “dedicated to collecting, preserving and interpreting Richmond’s diverse history” for over a century. Of course, our decision to visit this particular venue was made in honor of Valentine’s Day…and with a nod to the many historic treasures that reside in our own backyard. Following is our recap, should you wish to visit yourself, which we highly recommend:
We had a party of 8 on our Foray. We allotted about 2 hours at the museum because of everyone’s schedule. With this in mind we requested a tour of the Wickham House, the original site of the museum’s collection. The museum has expanded over the years into its much larger current space.
Touring virtually any historic area leaves mixed feelings. History is fascinating as well as fraught–great places seem mostly built on the struggle of others, and Richmond is no different. As I have toured the landmarks in our area since moving here over 20 years ago, I have learned a lot about the tumultuous and often troubled history in the South.
The tour of the Wickham house offered a fascinating glimpse into life, in this era, in this city–for better or worse. Our knowledgeable tour guide MacKenzie Walker asked us to imagine the day-to-day life of the many residents in the mid-1800s: the man of the house, who had the luxury of his own office, the wife who gave birth to 17 children over the course of 25 years, the children, the paid servants, the enslaved servants—all experienced very different realities while sharing the same space.
The house was built in 1812 and later purchased by Mann S. Valentine II. It is this building, the family home, that later was the site of the original museum. The Valentine family made their fortune by….are you ready for this…Meat Juice! Sounds absolutely disgusting but many of the era apparently found it a tonic and a cure. The tonic was cooked up, literally, by Mr. Valentine who was desperate to find a cure for his ailing wife. This was around 1870. Her diagnosis was unclear, but it is assumed she had stomach cancer. The tonic supposedly gave her relief and extended her life, and Mann and his sons built a fortune upon this product, which was popular well into the 20th century.
The Valentines were a family of collectors. They seemed especially fascinated by local and Virginia history. The collections housed at The Valentine reflect the family’s many and varied interests, from the sciences—anthropology and archeology–to fine and decorative arts. Their collection grew over the years and in 1898 the family home morphed into a museum, thanks to the endowment left by Mann S. Valentine II upon his death in 1893.
After the tour of the Wickham House, we spent our remaining time walking through two of the popular current exhibits and continue to expand our horizons.
Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic is a retrospective of the AIDS crises, specifically here in the Richmond area, recounted via stories from survivors, caregivers and others affected by this epidemic.
#BallotBattle Richmond’s Social Struggle for Suffrage: 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. This exhibit focuses on how the suffragettes rallied and got their word out, long before the era of mass communication.
We discovered so much more to the Valentine than we expected.
We observed that, in our 20+ years living in the Richmond area, neither my Boomer Connections partner Camille nor I have ever been to the Valentine. Why? Why do we get so complacent about what is on our own back yard yet travel the world seeking the sights? I lived in Hershey PA and hardly ever went to Hershey Park. My father in law was born and raised in Philadelphia and NEVER went to see the Liberty Bell until he was in his 70s and went with his grandkids! We resolved to be tourists in our own town and open ourselves to many new adventures without ever getting on an airplane or even needing a full tank of gas.
Our Friday Foray exceeded expectations: We got to experience one of the treasures in our own backyard, we learned a lot more about Richmond’s complicated history, and we gathered together an interesting group of people and shared great conversation and lots of laughter.
And What’s for Lunch?
Our Forays usually include food, no surprise there! This time we chose a fun little sandwich shop in downtown Richmond, walking distance to the Valentine, called The Secret Sandwich Society. We usually figure out a tie-in between the restaurant and the excursion—this one was Secret+Valentine, we just thought that was cute and cute worked for us this day. As the name implies, they do sandwiches really, really well and we were amply fortified for our excursion.
Check out their Facebook page and you will see what I mean, it will make you immediately hungry.
#ThisBoomersLife…How we love it
Hope to see you on our next Foray—Like our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BoomerConnections/ and stay in touch.
Note: A great way to explore Richmond is via the many walking tours. Find out more at: