Woman’s Club remodels and makes room for men

The Woman’s Club of Evanston, established in 1889, at first had no permanent home and members met in each other’s homes. Almost 25 years later, they moved into the red brick clubhouse that stands at 1702 Chicago Ave. Landmark status had to wait 93 years, but was awarded in 2006.  

Since the current building’s construction in 1913, it has gone through various overhauls – repurposing rooms, remodeling and redecorating. The club’s recent closure during the pandemic brought an unexpected opportunity: to do some necessary work and make some overdue changes.

The Woman’s Club is a not-for-profit organization, providing thousands of hours of volunteer service and making hundreds of financial grants to local organizations in need. The club offers events and programs throughout the year, as well as provides social functions for its membership.

The portico off Chicago Avenue, with the curving “drop off” driveway, was enlarged and enclosed in 1966, becoming the main entrance to the club. Now, that entry has been painted white, the stairs carpeted, seating provided so it “feels” like part of the interior.

Further inside, one steps onto a beautifully restored white marble floor, passes a table graced with white orchids and moves into a newly refurnished hallway with perfectly hung and grouped paintings.

The entry hallway at the Women’s Club of Evanston has been refurbished as part of an update created by designer Mark Lavender, with the master planning led by past President Jan Hartwell and her committee. (Photo provided)

Artwork at the club was restored 15 years ago – the Woman’s Club has a small but lovely collection of plein aire landscapes and traditional portraits of women, some of which date back to the turn of the last century. Among the prints are an Audubon and two by Evanston’s own Walter Burt Adams, one of which I had never seen before, poignantly titled Sunday Morning – My Farewell to Evanston.

In the Tea Room, the main first floor room, a state-of-the-art audiovisual system has been added, with new lighting to supplement the four rehabbed crystal chandeliers. New carpet is underfoot and everything has been painted that could be.

Restrooms always have a limited life cycle. Because it has been a club for women, a restroom for men was always given short shrift in the building. Until now, men were always sent to the basement, to an old, unwelcoming space almost under the stairs. “It was time to look at everything,” said Alicia O’Connor, Communications Chair, “And we moved into the might-as-well phase – might as well do this, might as well do that.”