Our Monthly Story
Section K, Lot 90
Beverly Randolph Snow was born enslaved of mixed parentage (he is referred to as a mulatto in various newspapers) in Lynchburg, Virginia about 1799 on the estate of Captain William Norvell. He was a well-known black entrepreneur and restaurateur. By the provisions of William Norvell’s last will, Snow was given to his daughter Susannah Norvell Warwick with the provision Snow be freed at the age of 30. The Norvell family allowed Snow to operate a small oyster house on Lynch Street in Lynchburg, from which he was allowed to keep some of the profits. During this time Snow married a young free woman named Julia. He was freed in November of 1829, and he and Julia left Virginia, which had harsh restrictions on free blacks, and moved to Washington, D.C. Snow was different to most free blacks, as he was educated, wealthy, successful, and “perhaps even a bit snobbish.” He was one of a number of black entrepreneurs who owned businesses in the downtown area. His success was evidence of the strength of Washington’s free black population. In Washington, D.C. Snow opened a popular oyster restaurant, the Epicurean Eating House that was located on the corner of 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. This was the site of the infamous Snow Riot in 1835. Beverley Snow’s success made him the subject of white resentment and envy. Snow’s restaurant placed emphasis on sophisticated and healthy food cleverly advertised with the practical message of “Health Bought Cheap.” In August of 1835, large mobs of white mechanics rampaged through the District seeking to destroy the property of, and terrorize free blacks. The mob, composed of mechanics on strike from the Washington Navy Yard had heard a rumour that Snow had insulted their wives and resented his business success. Large numbers of these rioters entered his restaurant looking for him and proceeded to “bust up” the entire facility. While doing so they drank all the whiskey and champagne. The mob later yelled “Now for Snow’s house!” Breaking in they looked for abolitionist literature, finding none they destroyed the furniture. Unable to find Beverley and Julia they continued on with their riot, attacking black schools and churches. The Washington, DC race riot of August 1835 subsequently became known to posterity as the “Snow Riot” or “Snow Storm.” The Snows’ fortunately escaped from the rioters. Following their escape from the rioters, Snow and his wife Julia moved to Toronto, Canada, where he again opened a successful restaurant. His first venture was a coffee shop at the corner of Church and Colburn Street. He later opened the Epicurean Recess and, in 1848, the Phoenix Saloon followed by the Exchange Saloon in 1856. Snow died in Toronto, on October 21, 1856.