The Ladies Literary Club was the toast of Salt Lake City in the early 20th century with its own building along tony South Temple and a membership of about 500 women seeking knowledge and fun.
Flash forward 100 years and the membership of the organization is only about 10 percent of those glory days and its members just can't afford the upkeep of the Prairie-style work of Salt Lake City architects Walter E. Ware and Alberto O. Treganza. So, after a lot of consideration the club has decided to give the building to the Utah Heritage Foundation. A formal celebration of the transaction is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at 850 E. South Temple.
The building was designed and constructed in 1913 specifically for the Ladies Literary Club at a cost of $7,500 for the land and $25,000 for the building. It boasts a large auditorium, where its members put on plays and hosted musical events and other social gatherings, said Eleanor Carlston, who has been a member since 1970.
The structure also has a sizable kitchen and several sitting rooms as well as a second-floor meeting room adorned with leaded glass windows. Original chairs and tables, silverware and two grand pianos remain on-site, as well.
It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Ladies Literary Club was founded in 1877 and was a means for women to continue their education at a time when they did not attend college, Carlston explained. The members studied literature, the arts, including music, travel and even politics.
Entry into the literary club was by sponsorship only, said Laraine Christensen, who until recently was president of the organization. Most club members were the wives of successful businessmen. Their influence spread through their philanthropic and public service projects.
When Christensen joined the club in 2007, members already were discussing the future of the building. The Heritage Foundation promised the women the structure would not be razed and the club could continue to use it.
"When it came right down to it, we wanted the building preserved," Christensen said. "It's really a gift from the Utah Heritage Foundation to let the Ladies Literary Club use it as we see fit."
It's been a long time since the Heritage Foundation has taken ownership of a building, said Executive Director Kirk Huffaker. The foundation plans to restore the interior and operate it as a cultural events center and host such things as wedding receptions and recitals, as well as luncheons and dinner celebrations.
"It's an architectural gem and an important public resource," he said.
The foundation is seeking funds for the renovation. More information on the historic house can be found at www.utahheritagefoundation.org and clicking "Tours & Events."