Friday, June 1, 2012

The Mysterious Ladies Literary Club

     I enjoy attending book clubs. They are filled with people who love to read. Those are my kind of peeps, for sure. It is an honor to have one of my books be chosen by a club. I've been fortunate in that many local groups have, in fact, chosen one and then have invited me to attend a meeting. It is great fun and I get to meet so many wonderful people. Thank you!

     A couple months ago I got a call from a woman who said she was the president of the Ladies' Literary Club and that her name was Lorraine. She was so sweet and funny that I adored her immediately and was thrilled to be invited to the group's April meeting. I asked for an address and she said the meeting would be held at 850 E. South Temple. There are many old, large historical homes on this part of South Temple, and I enjoy exploring them so my curiosity was piqued. But then I asked who owned the home, and she said that the Ladies' Literary Club owned it and that no one lived there. I was now even more curious. I'd never heard of the Ladies Literary Club of Salt Lake City; the fact that they had their own place - a home - made them seem very established, and I wondered how I'd managed to miss their existence.

     The day of the event, I drove by the place twice because I was so surprised to see that the address was attached to a beautiful old brick Frank Lloyd Wright-esque (I'm not sure if it really is a FLW, but it sure looks like it) house. I wondered two things: Did I have the correct address? And how in the world could a literary club possibly afford to buy such a house? Must have been a donation?
      Stepping into the house was simply like stepping back in time. The entryway and the front room (parlor?) were still as they had been in the late 1800s when the club was first formed. Beyond the entryway was a large stage and a huge seating or eating area.

      Okay, now I really *needed* to know the story of the Ladies' Literary Club. Fortunately, Lorraine was there to greet me and gave me a wonderful and educational tour. Here's a quote from some literature I was given: In February 1877 a small coterie of broad minded and forward-looking women met in the home of Mrs. Tina R. Jones and laid the foundation of the Ladies' Literary Club. It was one of the first twelve founded in America and the first west of the Mississippi River. Nine years earlier the Sorosis Woman's Club of New York, the pioneer women's club, was founded. END QUOTE

     Apparently, Mrs. Jones wasn't Mormon, and she was anxious to find a group of women with whom she felt she had things in common; thus, the club was born. I was told that the "What religion are you?" question hasn't been asked in years. All religions have been welcome for a long time.

     The entire story of the evolution of the club is interesting, but I'll just touch on some highlights. For the first twenty-one years the club led a nomadic life, holding their meetings in many different homes and buildings. Then in 1898, they opened their first "clubhouse." It was located on Third East, between South Temple and First South; close to their current location. In 1913, the club built and moved into the Frank Lloyd Wright-esque building. The costs were $7500 for the property and $25,007.94 for the building. The women used to tether their horses out front.

     The club was responsible for the first free Salt Lake City library as well as the first free kindergarten. Other projects they have sponsored over the years include placement of art in local schools, traveling libraries, high school art and music contests, a scholarship fund at the University of Utah and Hugh O'Brien Leadership Training. So, evidently, they've always been about more than just books.

     I met some wonderful women at the meeting and I think I will remember their intelligence and spunk forever. Unfortunately, this post must end on a sad note. After over a hundred years of existence, it seem the Ladies Literary Club is on its last legs. Times have changed. Salt Lake City has changed. The Internet has made the world a different sort of place, and though book clubs will always exist, this one just can't continue the upkeep on their beautiful home. Most of the current club members have known each other for years, decades even, and there hasn't been a steady infusion of new blood for some time. Something good will come of the house - the club is required to donate it to another non-profit and they have some interested and enthusiastic groups to consider.

     Though the club might cease to exist, the most important thing is that it *did*, in fact, ever exist. Times change, circumstances change, but I am convinced that the women of the Ladies' Literary Club have contributed to the wonderful place that Salt Lake City has become. Thank you, ladies, for all you've done, all you will continue to do, and for inviting me into your world. I am humbled and honored.



  1. Wow. I had no idea that club had ever existed. Pioneer bluestockings in SLC? Who would've thought it?
    So sad it's closing down. Too bad they couldn't just share the place with another club....

    As for Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Utah -- there is indeed one. It's in Bountiful, and it was -- at one time -- called "Crystalwood." The couple who restored the home from it's very dilapidated state were friends of mine. They actually used to give tours a couple of times a year. However, they sold the house more than a decade ago, so I don't know who lives in it now or if it's even still called "Crystalwood."

    1. Argh! typo!

      "its very dilapidated state"

  2. Hi, Lisa! I know, sad, but they have had an amazing run. It was such a great experience to visit with them.

    I'm going to look up Crystalwood. I'd love to drive by, at least. I'm so glad that someone refurbished it.

    Hope you are well and have a wonderful summer planned.


  3. I looked it up, and the new owners seem to have reverted to "the Stromquist home," which was the rather dull title it had originally.

  4. Thanks, Lisa! I'll definitely track it down.

  5. Paige - It was so fun to see this blog entry. You will be happy to know that The Ladies Literary Club recently donated the building to the Utah Heritage Foundation which is just beginning a fundraising effort for the first phase of the restoration.

    The first phase will bring it up to snuff and make it more attractive as a rental venue and a place to continue to hold public events and as a resource for other non-profits and, hopefully, a place where the Ladies Literary Club can continue.

    There will be several events coming up - including a "recreation" of the Blue Tea in April. The next event is an official announcement regarding the transfer of the building at 11:30 am on Tuesday Feb. 5th, 2013. You would be very welcome to attend.

    Around February 5th you should also be able to access more information about the project online.

    Hope to see you there and I MUST check out your books! The covers alone are worthy of framing.

    Katie Shell, UHF Board Member

  6. Hi, Katie - thanks so much for the update. It sounds like the building will be well taken care of, and the club will have a chance to continue, at least in some capacity - this is great news!

    I will continue to look for information and will most definitely try to attend the February 5th announcement.

    Many thanks again.


  7. Paige - here is the info about the Blue Tea coming up in April. I think it will be spectacular fun. Hope you can make it - and bring friends!

    I picked up two of your books but didn't get a chance to read them as my LIT major daughter glommed right on to them. :)

    1. Thanks, Katie! I'll post this higher and mention it on my FB page. And thanks for checking out the books too!