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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Eagle Rock women’s club prepares for a second century of service

Women’s Twentieth Century Club celebrates centennial/Courtesy WTTC

By Brenda Rees

After years of fundraising and planning,  the women of Eagle Rock in 1914 saw the completion of their very own clubhouse known as the Women’s Twentieth Century Club (WTCC).  This weekend, club and community members will gather at the now century-old Craftsman-style clubhouse for a benefit concert to honor the first 100 years of the historic club and also kick-off a fundraising campaign to restore the  landmark building.

Pianist Carl Matthes of Eagle Rock rattles off a list of composers and songs that he plans to perform at Feb. 8, benefit concert. Classic compositions by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt are on tap, but Matthes, an accomplished local musician, is adding selections played at the original 1914 founder’s concert as well as incorporating the work of three women composers, one of which is his own grandmother, Ella Jensen Gudelj. “She was very creative, like so many women of her time,” he says

Organizers hope that the evening’s reception and music will entice music lovers as well as area preservationists and history buffs who want to support this new capital campaign for restoring the clubhouse at the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Hermosa Avenue. “We are encouraging people to come in costume dress of the early 1900s,” says Linda Johnstone, current president of the WTCC who sees the event as festive but with a purpose.

“We have an early estimate of about $300,000 worth of work that needs to be done to the clubhouse,” says Johnstone, who describes the outside portico in need of total replacement; necessary updates to plumbing and electricity and seismic work are also on the “to-do” list. Since the interior was painted over many years, plans are also to restore those rooms to their original color and texture.

Listed last year on the National Registry of Historic Places, the WTCC was selected not just for its iconic architecture but also because its members were active in women’s rights, charitable causes and community issues.

The WTTC began in essence in February of 1903 with a small group of women gathering in a member’s home in the Eagle Rock Valley to meet to discuss issues of self-improvement, public service and community activism. These women were following their fellow sisters across the country at a time in history when women were looking beyond their immediate households to find a bigger place in society.

The Eagle Rock women began planning for the clubhouse in 1904 and their first fundraiser netted a whopping $31.25. They eventually purchased land in the 1912 and the building was constructed in 1914 and formal dedication was Feb. 25, 1915.

Those early years were bustling for the WTCC: the women led the petition for women’s suffrage to the California legislature; they acquired funds to build a Carnegie library in Eagle Rock (now the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts); they advocated that women be accepted into Occidental College; and they subsequently established a scholarship for women students. In addition, they opened the doors of the clubhouse for lectures and cultural events; they even operated a “well-baby” clinic for 35 years.

Pianist Carl Matthes to perform during benefit concert

The activism continued throughout the years, but the Northridge Earthquake of 1994 was a wake-up call to the building’s structural integrity. By that time, membership was dwindling along with rental income, but the remaining members continued their philanthropic activities.

In 2001, then WTCC President Edna Shelton began a campaign to revitalize the club and renovate the clubhouse; the torch that Johnstone now carries. Currently, the club has about 100+ members who range in age from 30s-90s. Johnstone is hoping for more lectures, conferences and resources aimed to women business owners among other opportunities.

As for the building itself, the charm of the clubhouse, says Johnstone, is that it has retained its original design – rooms have not been chopped up or added to as other area women’s clubs have witnessed in their history. “The Craftsman design gives it such a comfortable and homey feel to it,” she says, adding that weekend weddings, parties and other events help keep the clubhouse financially afloat.

“We want to keep this tradition going for the new members of the WTCC in our area without forgetting what was done here in these walls in the past,” she says. “We owe it to those women and the future women of our neighborhood.”

Centennial Concert, February 8, 2014, 6 p.m. reception with hors d’ourvres, a no-host bar and historical clubhouse tours; concerts starts at 7 .p.m. Women’s Twentieth Century Club, 5105 Hermosa Ave., Eagle Rock. Tickets are $20 adults, $10 students and $5 for children 12 and younger.  Click here to purchase tickets online.

Undated photo of clubhouse | Courtesy WTTC

Brenda Rees is a writer and resident of Eagle Rock.



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One comment

  1. SCORE:
    Meaningless Eastside debate 70 ( and counting)
    Important local womens history 0

    What a piece of history. Too bad no one else here thinks so.

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