Senator James P. McNichol’s political career (1864—1917) was just as successful as his family’s contracting business. At 24, McNichol entered politics in Philadelphia and soon became the political leader of the Tenth Ward. He connected himself with the Republican party and was a crony of the Senator William Vare political machine. Vare was also a contractor and politician from Philadelphia who served six terms in the House of Representatives.
McNichol was the trustee when Vare’s group of influential Pennsylvanian Republican politicians set up a corporation and in 1902 built the St. Lucie Club as a fraternal sporting lodge. A few doors to the South was Senator Matthew Quay, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient, who was Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1888 to 1891. Sometimes referred to as the Southern White House, caucuses were held at the St Lucie Club to select the GOP presidential candidate. It is said that locals knew who the Republican presidential nominee would be before the press.
The club owners traveled there with guests and their servants in their own rail cars which were parked on a private siding walking distance from the Club. When at the Club, the visitors became involved in the community and the local needs. With his partners, McNichol made seasonal visits to this area, became involved in the Catholic community, and served on local civic groups, such as the Fort Pierce Dredge Company, which kept the river and inlet channels dredged. Of course the harsh Pennsylvania Winter months were the most popular times to visit the club.
The St Lucie Inlet with the Indian River Lagoon was the most important asset of the area. In 1910 Club members performed in weekly concerts at the Crystal Theater under the direction of Senator John T. Murphy and Senator W. J. McNichol. The proceeds of the concerts provided for the dredging of the St. Lucie Inlet. Additionally, Senator Matthew Quay, who was known as Florida's third Senator, pushed the federal legislation in favor of Florida including a federal appropriation of $15,000 to improve the St. Lucie Channel. Club members played friendly baseball games against citizens of Ft. Pierce as well as other social and sporting events.
In neighboring Ft. Pierce St Anastasia Catholic Church's most generous benefactor was Senator James P. McNichol . “A devoted husband and father.. a warm-hearted benefactor to the poor ...exemplary Christian, but not Catholic gentleman, McNichol liberally dispensed charity and spent about $80,000 in erecting the Catholic church, rectory, and school buildings" states The Story of Philadelphia. The church was named in honor of the late and beloved wife of Senator McNichol.
The Corporation built the St. Lucie Club under a Tontine agreement which provided that the last founding survivor would gain ownership of the St. Lucie Club. That lucky man was William Vare. Although Vare had another home in the Village, he referred to the Club as his own until his death in 1934. Additionally, a few presidents including Grover Cleveland were hosted by the St. Lucie Club during its heyday.
The club was built in the Folk Victorian style and featured high ceilings, wrap around verandas, bead board walls, gas lighting, and 7' high double hung windows to promote ventilation. There are five principal subtypes of the Folk Victorian style, however, the most popular southern styles, the two-story, side-gabled and the gable front and wing types, are found within St. Lucie County. Of the seven, all are symmetrical, except for the one gable front and wing type. The basic underlying form for this style is a simple folk house with an overlay of decorative Victorian detail. Spindlework porch detailing and cornice-line brackets are common. The design inspirations come from the queen Anne and Italianate architectural styles. (McAlester 1990:308â€“310).
The St. Lucie Club is now a charming apartment building owned by Bruno and Robin Bornino, who occupy one unit and lease out the other 7 quaint 1-bedroom apartments.
The St Lucie Club is on the National Register of Historic Buildings No, 8SL-240. There are approximately 34 registered buildings and sites in the Town of St. Lucie Village.
Riverfront Victorian Apartments
Historical References & Links
St. Lucie Club