Historic Ladies’ Literary Clubhouse in Salt Lake City win $150,000 in online contest for preservation funds

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Since 2016, the historic Ladies Literary Club House building at 850 E South Temple has been owned by a group of millennial visual artists and entrepreneurs, known as Photo Collective Studios. They've renovated the building and are now seeking a grant to make it ADA accessible for the first time in its 106-year history. To publicize their cause, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, they opened their refurbished building to tours.

The elegant Ladies’ Literary Clubhouse on South Temple in Salt Lake City, built in 1913 to host readings, recitals and parties, received a $150,000 grant after online voting for the Partners in Preservation campaign.

The money will go toward restoring the sinking front porch and stairs; the addition of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant wheelchair ramp; and preserving the building for future generations, according to Partners in Preservation.

The Salt Lake structure is one of 13 sites across the nation that will share $2 million in grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express. This year, Partners for Preservation is celebrating women’s history in honor of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

More than 1.1 million votes were cast online and at on-site events at the various sites; organizers did not announce vote tallies.

The current owners of the building — a group of millennial visual artists and entrepreneurs known as Photo Collective Studios — vowed in their entry that the Clubhouse on South Temple would become “truly accessible to all communities for the first time in its history” if it won a grant.

At a September event at the clubhouse to launch the bid, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski underscored the importance of preserving and improving the building, as a way of recognizing the important role women have played in the state’s history.

“These women were Utah’s first suffragettes. They fought for the right to vote, worked for civic causes and enriched Salt Lake City,” Biskupski said of club members. “They were women with a vision of society where equality was a given, not the exception.”

She said the foundation laid by the Ladies’ Literary Club “is in part the reason why I stand here today as Salt Lake City’s mayor.”

Biskupski urged residents to support the grant request, which she said would open the site up to “use and enjoyment for all.”

The Prairie-style building at 850 E. South Temple was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It was donated to the Utah Heritage Foundation by the literary club in 2013. Three years later, the foundation sold it to the Photo Collective Studios.

Collective leader and building co-owner Dave Brewer said efforts to make the clubhouse accessible would seek to minimize any impact on its historic elements, including its South Temple-facing facade.

Since taking over the clubhouse in 2016, the collective has done extensive interior renovations, he said. “We are honored to be here as stewards of this historic property,” said Brewer. “For safety and access, the time has come” to improve the building.

The Partners in Preservation partnership, created in 2006 to engage the public in preserving historic places, has provided more than $28 million for 260 historic sites across the country, the news release said. The specific Main Streets program is in its third year.

The other sites that shared in the grant money are: Janesville Women’s Club Building (Janesville, Wisc.); Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace (Savannah, Ga.); the Odd Fellows Building (Astoria, Ore.); Chester County Historical Society (West Chester, Penn.); Monroe County Courthouse (Monroeville, Ala.); Holly Union Depot (Holly, Mich.); Casa Belvedere (Staten Island, N.Y.); Union Block (Mount Pleasant, Iowa); Dr. Justina Ford home, Lake Erie College Hall (Painesville, Ohio); Elisabet Ney Museum (Austin, Texas); The Women Club (Minneapolis).

Each site received $150,000; Union Block won an additional $50,000 for having the most in-person votes at its open house event.

The Ladies’ Literary Clubhouse entry reads:

The oldest women’s club west of the Mississippi River was established in 1877 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Ladies’ Literary Club (LLC) sought education in history, science, arts, literature, and current events before academic opportunities were readily available to women. By organizing study sections, lectures, and social events, the club promoted a non-religious counterculture in an otherwise conservative state. In 1913, the LLC commissioned an architectural masterpiece in the likeness of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie School style, a building that became known as “the House that the Women Built.”

Situated on Utah’s most historically significant boulevard, the Clubhouse on South Temple Street proudly stands more than 100 years later as a creative venue for performing arts and education. Grant funding will help restore the sinking front porch and stairs with the addition of an [Americans with Disabilities Act] wheelchair ramp, making the Clubhouse truly accessible to all communities for the first time in its history.