In the back office of the Concordia Club, Ron Javorsky held up a photograph of the main ballroom from Dec. 25, 1913, during the “formal opening banquet” of the Oakland club.
“Look how crowded it is. On Christmas Day,” said Javorsky, the assistant manager and controller of the club for nearly 30 years.
This past Friday, the ballroom was still crowded, only now with things, not people: cappuccino cups and picture frames, pitchers and tiki torches, fondue forks and china.
After 135 years in existence and 96 years in Oakland, the Concordia Club sold its O’Hara Street location to the University of Pittsburgh this past summer. On Nov. 8, members gathered for “One Last Taste of Concordia.” And this past weekend, the furnishings of the social mainstay of Jewish Pittsburgh went up for sale at a public auction.
The auction mainly caught the interest of restaurateurs looking for deals on appliances and tableware.
Memorabilia with historic value, like the heavy book of board minutes stretching back to the latter decades of the 19th century, will likely be donated to historic archives, like the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Heinz History Center, while the plaques in the entryway commemorating veterans will most likely end up at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, according to Foster Goldman, a board member of the Concordia Club.
“Other than that, everything that isn’t nailed down is on sale,” Goldman said.
The auction included 456 lots, with thousands of items ranging from a dance floor, to an upright piano, to several industrial appliances, to hundreds of plates, cups and cutlery.
Those place settings carried sentimental value. Harry Davis and Company Auctioneers, the company responsible for the auction, made a point of advertising several sets of Homer Laughlin china, more than 300 place settings embossed with the Concordia Club logo in gold. On many of the plates, the logo is worn away, the result of years of meals.
“I think all of the equity members were entitled to one plate,” Goldman said.
The Concordia Club logo appeared on a number of items, from a set of menus, to dessert plates, to a stack of shirts worn by staff members, to a podium with a microphone.
“It is personal,” said Leonard Davis, president of Harry Davis & Company Auctioneers and an occasional attendee of events at the Concordia Club, although not a club member. “We want to give people a chance to take something back from their own club.”
Some items told stories. The crate of lobster shell crackers served as a reminder of the secular nature of the Jewish club, (as did the fact that the auction fell on Saturday). A set of Lamberton china plates bore the intriguing marking, “Made exclusively for the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.” The old menus touted the regular lunch fare, like “Pickled Beef Tongue with Dijon Mustard Sauce” and “Turkey Devonshire with Pancetta.”
The decision to sell the building ended the Concordia Club, but the board and the members still have decisions to make before the club moves completely into history. Money from the auction may be needed to pay off pension liabilities, or could be divided among members.
Those decisions fall to a vote of the membership, Goldman said.
“If that’s what they want to do, that’s what will get done,” Goldman said.
(Eric Lidji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-687-1006.)