St Albans Hall, located on the corner of Third and Main Streets in Richmond Virginia, was the very first institutional building and major landmark erected after Civil War and marked the start of the cities revival period. This three story Renaissance Revival or Tuscan Palazzo style brick structure was rarely seen in the south prior to the Civil War.
St Albans Hall was built to help provide the city with shops, offices, a concert hall, and a Masonic meeting site. The hall held both social and political events for the city.
One such major social event was the Richmond German also known as a debutant ball. The Richmond German of 1873 at the hall was made memorable by the infamous McCarty Mordecai Duel. Mr. Page McCarty and Mr. John B. Mordecai were at one time good friends. Both became enamored by Miss Mary Triplett known as the Belle of the South. She was to be the belle at the opening affair of the Richmond German at St. Albans Hall.
Two different versions of the story are told as to what finally led to the complete disintegration of the friendship and to the duel between the two men. The first being Mr. McCarty felt that Miss Triplett was giving Mr. Mordecai more attention than she should during the Richmond German. Mr. McCarty left the event enraged feeling slighted by Miss Triplett. The second version has verses being written by one of the men to the beautiful Mary Triplett that was the cause of the altercation between Mr. McCarty and Mr. Mordecai. The poem began:
“When Mary’s queenly form I press
In Strauss’ latest waltz,
I would as well her lips caress
Although those lips be false.”
The poem is recorded in William Lawrence Royall’s book, “Some Reminiscences.”
Both versions put the men at St. Alban Hall during Richmond German that fateful Spring night in 1873.
When the two men met a few days after the Richmond German at the Richmond Club the two once again became infuriated with one another over the affection each held for Miss Triplett. Mr. McCarty then challenged Mr. Mordecai to a duel. The duel was to take place late in the afternoon in the Confederate soldier burial area at The Oakwood Cemetery. Each man arrived along with their seconds and as the sun was setting both men fired their revolvers and were forever changed. One would be mortally wounded and other emotionally and physically wounded for the rest of his life.
After the smoke cleared both men lay on the ground. Mr. Mordecai was wounded in the stomach and would die with-in 48 hours of this tragic event. Mr. McCarty had his right thigh horribly shattered by the bullets he had taken.
Many wondered what the findings would be after the investigation into the tragic duel. Mr. McCarty was ordered to pay a $500 fine and serve a six month jail term for his crime. Although he paid the $500 dollar fine he never served the six month jail term because he was pardoned by Governor Kemper. But Mr. McCarty was to make a prison of his own making, by avoiding society and hiding himself away in his work as a writer with the Washington Post, Alexandria and Richmond newspapers. This duel was not only to be one of the last duels after the Civil War to take place in Richmond Virginia, it had also forever changed the lives of two friends.