Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Service is its motto: The Nineteenth Century Club

**Update September 8, 2013.  Dave Wachtel, a Nashville businessman, has made an offer to buy the Nineteenth Century Club for $750,000.  Hopefully the offer will be accepted but it's sad that no one from Memphis stepped up to save this unique piece of history.

**Update September 6, 2013.  The court upheld the sale of the historic Nineteenth Century Club.  Demolition can begin in as little as two weeks.  Another piece of Memphis history bites the big one so that another strip mall can grace Union Ave.***

As another piece of Memphis history is about to be demolished in favor of a retail strip mall now would be a good time to republish the following article that appeared in The Tennessee Clubwoman, v. 6 no 3, 1928.

The Nineteenth Century Club,
Memphis, Tenn.
by Mrs. Paul F. Brown, Publicity Chairwoman

Thirty-six years ago a dream was dreamed, an impulse fashioned and the foundations of the Nineteenth
Century Club laid deep down in the bed rock of faith.  The dream and impulse became a purpose, which lives today in a work, stalwart and fine; in a development, rich and varied.

The original purpose was not so much to compass the evolution or growth of culture as to concentrate and make a center for culture--that  culture which destroys narrowness and tends to a broad interest in the betterment of social, civic and economic conditions and stimulates generous, intelligent and fearless consideration of the great issues of the day.

The Club Properties

Located in the residential section of Memphis, on a beautiful lot facing three streets, the Nineteenth Century Club owns and occupies its club house consisting of three large buildings.

The main, or club, building has reception rooms, library, sun parlor, offices, and private dining room on the first floor; class rooms and lending library on second floor; the third floor is devoted exclusively to the junior department.

South of the main building and connected thereto is the all-season sun-lie swimming pool.  It is equipped with ladies' and gentlemen's showers and dressing rooms, hair drying room, lockers, and supper room, etc.

The new auditorium is connected with the main building through a sun parlor.  It is a beautiful building of Colonial design and is equipped with spacious stage with dressing rooms; foyer, ladies' and gentlemen's lounges; the dining room has an adequate kitchen with pantries and other facilities.

How Financed

This organization is financed in a dignified and business-like way.  It never conducts a campaign for funds.  The financial arrangements for the building program were made with one of Memphis' largest banks, who sold the entire issue of the $120,000 First Mortgage Bonds.  These bonds bear 6% interest and the fact that they were quickly taken by local investors speak well for the financial standing of the club.

No member has been assessed nor has any member been asked to contribute towards the building fund.  In this respect the club is unique.


The club points with pride to the fact that it does more for adult education than any similar organization in the country for the amount of dues charged.  The annual dues are $25.00, and the initiation fee is $10.00.  This is the only cost for a membership, and every class and privilege is extended a member without additional expense.

The club conducts courses in Art, Literature, Music, Story Telling, Constructing of Poetry, Story and Play Writing, Parliamentary Law, Applied Psychology, the Drama, Current Topics and Current History, Italian, French and Spanish, Millinery, Cooking, Decorative Art, Sewing, Gymnasium (3 classes weekly), Auction Bridge (3 courses yearly), Health, with evening classes in Gymnasium, Swimming, Public Speaking and Current Topics.  Each of these courses is in charge of a chairman, with an experienced and competent director as instructor.

In addition to the classes, the club offers delightful entertainment features such as dancing parties and dinner dances; two monthly luncheons followed by bridge, and other affairs which are arranged for special occasions, such as teas and receptions.

The swimming pool is open to members at all times, and to families of members under certain regulations.  It is so constructed as to be thrown open in the summer and used as an out-door pool, while in the winter it is comfortably heated, thus being used the entire year.  Strict attention is given to the cleanliness and sanitation with the result that the weekly bacteriologists' reports show the water to be absolutely pure.

Under social service, the club maintains departments in Americanization, Civic, Conservation, Education and Legislation, Child Welfare, Girl Welfare.

Civic Projects

The club interests itself in any civic movement looking to the betterment of conditions.  Among these movements, either founded by the club or first agitated in the club and brought to the attention of the Memphis public, may be mentioned:  building of a municipal hospital; establishment of a juvenile court; establishment of a workshop for the blind; establishment of retail curb markets; abatement of smoke nuisance; founded the first play school and recreational center, now conducted on a large scale be the Memphis Park Commission; special motion picture matinees for children; established the story hour, now citywide; held an annual flower mart, now under the auspices of the Memphis Garden Club; organized the Memphis Art Association and in connection with it founded the Free Art School; assisted in raising funds for the Southwestern College. Recently the Story-Tellers League, which offers its services to the public, has been organized from one of the club's departments.


The club conducts regular classes in Americanization in the district where foreign-born dwell.  Operates two club homes for employed women, giving them comfortable homes at a nominal price; has an educational loan fund for teachers; is a contributor in money and service to the annual community fund; is interested in child welfare, having a committee especially for this work; it co-operates with all agencies in social service work, appointing special committees in addition to the regular committees, when necessary.

With "Service" as its motto this club fills a need in its community, for it is a recognized fact that it lives up to its ideals--to serve for the betterment of the community and to develop women along broad lines by giving them education advantages of great worth.

Conserve the Forest Trees and Evergreens

The Nineteenth Century Club of Memphis, which has sponsored so many movements that have grown into worth-while reforms, has undertaken in the past few years to educate and awaken Tennessee to the necessity of conserving the forest trees and evergreens.

Acting upon the theory that it is ignorance that destroys a tree and not wilful destruction, the Department of Conservation of National Resources of which Mrs. A.R. Hudson is chairman, has fostered in vigorous campaign toward saving Tennessee's natural beauties.  Newspapers have written editorials, merchants have co-operated at Christmas time to conserve evergreens by bringing on for sale "synthetic trees" and clubs and parent-teacher organizations have importuned their members to plant a living tree, symbol of the living spirit of Christianity, during the holiday season.  The Garden Club has also co-operated and has formed a Conservation Committee.

Holly, which is of very slow growth, is rapidly disappearing from native forests.  With the coming of spring, the lovely dogwood and redbud will be sacrificed by vandal hands to give a moment's pleasure-for nothing fades so quickly as wild flowers and flowering shrubs.


The Nineteenth Century Club at Memphis is one of the outstanding clubs in the country.  It is one of Shelby County's show places.  Other federated clubs of Memphis that are also a county and city pride are:

Alpha Book Club--Mrs. R.R. Ferrell, President; Mrs. C.A. New, Secretary

Book Lover's Club--Mrs. W.L. Karr, President, 1800 Young Avenue; Mrs. Olive B. Manley, Secretary, 445 N. McNeil Street.

Columbine Book Club--Miss Kate Donelson, President, 1540 E. McLemore; Miss Mamie Relter, Secretary,1138 Dorothy Place.

Regina Lodge, United Order of True Sisters--Mrs. Harry Coleman, President; 1428 Herbert Avenue; Mrs. Claude C. Bach, Secretary, 190 N. Auburndale Avenue.

Salon Circle--Mrs. Clarence Frolich, President, 207 Stonewall Place; mrs. Arthur Summerfield, Secretary, 1132 Forest Avenue.

The Outlook Club--Mrs. S.W. Moore, President, 117 N. Willette Avenue; Mrs. J.< Graves, Secretary, 57 N. Cleveland Avenue.

Woman's Club--Mrs. Alston Boyd, President, 1560 Central Avenue; Mr. S. M. Williamson, Secretary, 1779 Autumn Avenue.

Woman's Evergreen Civic Club--Mrs. S.G> Scott, President; Mrs. Walter S. Davis, Secretary.