LakeWalesNews.net - Hometown stories that count from people who care

By Mary Walkup
Contributing Writer 

Save a Piece of Lake Wales History

 

Last updated 11/11/2020 at 9:59am

Woman's Club building on Park Avenue.

Well into the 20th century, bank accounts, credit cards, and household finances were legally left to the control of men. Women's lack of financial freedom was one of General Federation of Women's Club's founder, Jane Cunningham Croly, foundational rallying cries for women across the country.

GFWC Clubhouses have come to play a significant role in the preservation of America's historic buildings. Many clubs are situated within historic buildings or were constructed or purchased by clubwomen at an integral time in American's architectural history. Clubhouses have become an essential part of club and community lives, providing a place for clubwomen to work and for their communities to gather.

Throughout the years, the "clubhouse" has proved to be the sanctuary the early members envisioned-a place readily available for meetings, a place where members planned, worked on projects, entertained and met old friends and made new ones. The hard work and determination of clubwomen has ensured that these buildings are maintained, preserved, and in many cases, placed on state or national historic registers.

It's been 82 years since the Clubhouse at 275 E. Park Ave. was built by the WPA to become the home to the GFWC Woman's Club of Lake Wales, a dedicated group of women committed to providing an educational and cultural center for its members, improving conditions and opportunities for women, and enhancing the quality of life in the community.

Over the years, the historic building has been home to countless endeavors. The clubhouse was built to hold community meetings and interact with interested members of the public. Clubwomen also used the clubhouse to host flower shows, art exhibits, quilting bees, medical clinics for immunizations and blood drives, musical performances and seasonal concerts, and countless fundraising dinners. During World War II, the clubhouse was utilized by the Woman's Club to support the war efforts. Within the walls of the clubhouse, clubwomen taught First Aid, packed gear, sold War Bonds, and hosted letter writing evenings and afternoons for community members.

Just as such activities filled the lives of the Club members of another time when women devoted their lives to volunteer and social activity, so does it hold true today. The GFWC Woman's Club of Lake Wales has served their community tirelessly over the last 100 years of their existence.

The Woman's Club is dedicated to maintaining, improving, and protecting its building and the history housed within. Weddings, anniversaries, proms, graduation events, formal balls, community award ceremonies, recitals, banquets, and funeral receptions have all been an ongoing part of the club's history. Club members have used the clubhouse to serve the community with dignity, diligence, honor, and integrity. Members take great pride in their building and its history.

While the economy has been seriously affected by the ongoing Pandemic issues, this pillar of Downtown Lake Wales is also undergoing serious concerns as well. The Woman's Club has always rented out their facilities to help pay for the expenses of upkeep and repairs to their beloved "home", but because they have felt a moral obligation to follow CDC Guidelines and City mandates, The Woman's Club of Lake has not been able to open their doors for events and gatherings since March of this year. But time marches on and Mother Nature takes her tole. The once beautiful hardwood floors that offered a dance floor for thousands over the years, now is scuffed and scarred with the hard use of time. The ceiling that shows the design of past years has suffered from the moisture of storms and heat, and the windows that are original to the building are rusting at their sash and frames.

At risk here is more than a mere building. It is an irreplaceable piece of Polk County history, and the countless memories that were shared there.

Historic plaque

Never has the Woman's Club of Lake Wales been in such dire need for financial help to save its beloved building. They have dedicated their club to the mission of serving the community with love, honor, commitment, friendship and faith, and now more than ever, they need everyone to join together so that they can continue their good work.

You can help continue the mission of this beloved Historic building in our community by becoming a GFWC Woman's Club of Lake Wales sponsor, donating to the "Save the Grand Lady" GOFUNDME page https://www.gofundme.com/f/gf9rd-historic-building-fund , and by sharing the story of the Club and its historic building. With your help, a piece of Lake Wales History can continue to serve the community and its people.

 

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