Communication Builds Our Community

Historic Woman's Club Auditorium to Receive CRA Help

Board Agrees to Help Save Significant Civic Building

A CRA grant will help a local not-for-profit save an aging historic building that serves as an important civic space in downtown Lake Wales.

The Lake Wales Woman's Club was awarded a $50,000 grant that will help the 100-year-old organization pay for a new roof for their auditorium at 275 East Park Avenue. The funds will also help remediate mold, according to CRA staff.

The grant meets three of the goals cited in the Lake Wales Connected plan recommendations, Assistant City Manager Deena Drumgo told the CRA board, including encouraging the maintenance and use of historic buildings.

The deed to the building, constructed by the Depression-era Works Project Administration, includes a reverter clause that says that the property will fall to the city if the club ceases to operate.

The club, part of the General Federation of Woman's Clubs, hosts numerous events within the auditorium, including annual forums for candidates in city commission elections. They have also donated the use of the building to other civic efforts.

Woman's Club President Deborah Partlow said that club members are "very pleased that the CRA approved the funds for the repairs to our roof and the remediation work," adding that "we look forward to working with them on other restoration for the building."

The tan brick building, larger than 4000 square feet, features an attractive portico facing Crystal Lake and the city's new Park Avenue Trail. Tall windows lining the sides are constructed with steel frames which have suffered rust damage, allowing water to penetrate.

"This is right in the middle of what we've done with the new trail which runs right next to it," CRA Executive Director James Slaton told the board, adding that it could be made to look "better."

The club has struggled to meet the challenge of maintaining the large building, according to members. Weekly Bingo games and rentals generated the $7,000 the club used for urgent repairs last year, even as they conducted programs that benefit the community.

Along with their annual grants of $2,500 in scholarships to area students, the club participates in some 30 other projects, including donations of prom clothes for homeless students. The growing club presents four events each year at Water's Edge for memory-unit patients and conducts three food drives each year that benefit the Care Center and needy students at local schools.

Members donate to a holiday toy drive, and contribute handmade afghans and teddy bears to an annual statewide "president's project" that benefits disabled students at Camp Boggy Creek, founded by Paul Newman and General Norman Schwarzkopf.

Club members worked hard to create a first ever "Plant and Garden Festival" which was held last month, drawing nearly a thousand attendees to browse through more than 5,000 square feet of flowering plants, trees, and shrubs. They expect to conduct the event annually.

They also participate in other events city-wide, including Olmsted Day, Pioneer Day, and Make it Magical.


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