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by Henry Lane Hull

From the 1950s through the 1980s The Magazine ANTIQUES each month carried an advertisement for Trophy Room Antiques in Gloucester. The shop was located on what is now the business section of U.S. Route 17, on the curve in the road about a half mile before the junction with the present Route 17 bypass of Gloucester Courthouse.

The shop was the purview of Colonel Henry Bizzell, a retired career Army officer, who had retired to live in Tidewater Virginia. Throughout his long military service, he was assigned to posts all over the world. His hobby during those years was big game hunting, which resulted in his accumulation of a large number of trophies in the form of the heads of water buffalo and other exotic specimen animals.

When he moved to Gloucester, the Colonel bought the historic house on the curve with the original large separate outdoor kitchen in the backyard, especially noteworthy for its massive cooking chimneys. He transformed that building into a museum-like display area for his collection of trophies, which looked down on visitors from their perches along the upper panels of the four walls. The result was a daunting experience.

In addition to big game hunting, his other avocation was studying and collecting antique porcelain and oriental rugs. His collection became his life’s work after he no longer could go big game hunting. He came to be recognized nationally as a leading authority on pottery and porcelain, especially that of English manufacture. His rug expertise covered the products made from Turkey through Persia, India and on to China.

He opened his shop in the outdoor kitchen, displaying items he personally had collected along with those he routinely bought from across the country and abroad. His clientele was as international as his collection. In those early days, without more modern means of shipping, he relied on the post office, regularly mailing items far and wide. He and his wife, Catherine, lived in the big house on the hill, with Catherine handling all the mailing to and communication with their followers.

Among his customers was Walter P. Chrysler Jr., the son of the founder of the automobile company, who was in the process of transforming the local Norfolk Museum of Arts and Sciences into the now-famous Chrysler Museum of Art. In the 1970s he was a major patron of Trophy Room Antiques and was the source of many stories the Colonel liked to tell. He had a particularly fine eye for rare porcelain and he wanted his museum to earn the respect of dilletantes and authorities alike.

After Catherine’s death the Colonel carried on in his business as the purveyor of fine antiques, until he ultimately opened his shop only by appointment and his mail-order business came to an end. Thereafter, each day he drove a couple of hundred yards down the road for lunch at Mrs. Sutton’s restaurant. In that milieu, for several hours he presided over the village scene, at a large table with all the locals who gathered there.

He lived to the age of 102, alert and involved up to his last day. I have thought of him every time I have headed south on Route 17, passing his home on the curve, with the trophy room behind it, both of which had deteriorated from their heyday during his ownership. Last month, I sadly observed that the trophy room was no more, having burned to the ground with only the two chimneys still standing.

Colonel Bizzell was a vivid part of the modern history of Gloucester County. He was a quintessential gentleman in every respect and a delight to have known. I miss him all the more now that his old stand is gone.

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staff
From the Rappahannock Record news team

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