Treasure Map

Garland Pollard discovers the origins of a beloved 1934 woodcut map of Eastern Virginia that once hung in his grandparents’ Virginia Beach restaurant the Duck-In.

Garland Pollard at home in Florida with his 1934 map of Eastern Virginia.

When I moved from Virginia to Florida in 2007, we brought everything treasured with us: portraits, books, furniture and family archives. One of the most beloved artifacts was a 1934 map of Eastern Virginia, entitled “A Past and Present Map of Virginia.” The map, an arts and crafts-style print, was made by Southgate Leigh Lohman, a Norfolk businessman and family friend.

Drawn in the manner of one of those 1950s tourist restaurant placemat maps, it is beautifully rendered in illustrations, type, craftsmanship and wording. Pictured are icons like Yorktown’s Nelson House, Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church, Jamestown and the Dismal Swamp. Also pictured are a pirate ship, the dunking of “witch” Grace Sherwood, and Back Bay, a place Lohman labeled “Paradise for Hunters.” Lohman’s humor also comes through; the Monitor is shown shooting a cannonball at the Merrimac, where it bounces off. A picture of a rum runner is labeled “pre-repeal.” The scale reads “Scale of Miles—Not TOO Accurate.” To my 10-year-old self, it felt like a treasure map.

The map lived from the 1960s to 2005 in the lobby of Duck-In Seafood Restaurant, the Virginia Beach roadside extravaganza on Shore Drive owned by my grandparents and later my uncle, Bill Miller. When Duck-In closed in 2005, the map was the one thing I wanted. It was displayed among fishing trophies, nautical artifacts and assorted cartoons and sailboat prints, just above, I think, the centerboard of my great uncle’s log canoe sailboat, Tradition II.

Duck-In started in 1952 as a beachside tackle shop; my grandfather W.R. Miller was persuaded to buy it because it was a prime beachfront sliver of property at the mouth of the Lynnhaven River. To name the restaurant, my grandmother Katharine Byrd Miller held a party at her house in Great Neck Point and gave away a Zenith television set for the best name, which was Duck-In, because it was such a small building you could duck in and duck out very quickly. 

To give the restaurant regional appeal, my grandmother (a locavore foodie before it was fashionable) gathered up assorted decorative items to go along with the Cherrystone clams and Lynnhaven oysters that were on the menu. I spent many hours with the map throughout the 1970s; my grandfather would drive me up to the restaurant and I would stare at it. The joy of the map was that I could look at it, and then look out over the same water it pictured.

I knew little about Lohman; my grandmother, who died in 2013, said he and his wife Elizabeth Millicent Heyman, a consummate gardener and a charter member of the Norfolk Botanical Society who died in 1997, were friends and cocktail Toddy companions of my great-grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. G. Bentley Byrd. She said that Southgate (pronounced South-gate, unlike the other old Norfolk pronunciation South-git) and her father “Bobo” (a Norfolk gynecologist) were both artists. 

I had no idea how I would learn more until a Norfolk woman, Rebecca Welch, posted on her Facebook page that she owned Lohman’s second house, called Honeymoon Cottage. Welch, who runs an organic cleaning service, also happens to be a genealogist and tracked down his obituary, which states that he lived from 1897 to March 19, 1969. Welch also tracked down Lohman’s granddaughter Kaye Lohman Sturgis who today lives in Cuenca, Ecuador; she moved there just this year from Virginia Beach. I reached her by phone and she told me that Lohman was the owner of Butler Blueprint Company, located in the Withers Building in downtown Norfolk. He was also quite entrepreneurial, something he learned from his father who, she explained, made money by being one of the first to commercialize peanut butter. Southgate, the son, was also artistic, creating exacting watercolors and pastels.

The map is a real woodcut. Lohman was a spectacular carpenter and wood craftsman, with skills from his father, a German master cabinetmaker. Sturgis recalls that Southgate made her a mahogany jewelry box—the lid was decorated with hundreds of blond wood inlaid pieces. His house in Norfolk’s Lakewood neighborhood was filled with his craft, including a carved clock and a carved coffee table beveled in three layers.

Sturgis has a copy of the map; the original, with woodcut, resides with Lohman’s great-grandson, Christian Martin Lohman. She believes much of Lohman’s work was destroyed when the Withers Building burned in 1955.

In 2011, the Library of Virginia purchased a copy from a Norfolk collector. Senior map archivist Cassandra Farrell says that the “eye-catching” map, representative of that genre and era of illustrated maps, is something you don’t see much of.

Christian Martin Lohman asked if I was willing to sell the map. I told him that it was the one possession that I did not want to ever sell. Often when you dig into the past, it disappoints. But this map does triple duty for me, as it takes me back to the 1930s, when it was created; to the 1950s, when it was placed in the restaurant; and to 2005, when the restaurant closed. And as I explored that history, the map led me to the family behind it, re-establishing a neighborly connection lost for more than 80 years.

This article originally appeared in our Feb. 2017 issue.

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