Santa Monica’s First Black Women’s Club Earns Historic Designation

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The following article is from the Santa Monica Conservancy’s monthly newsletter.

Congratulations to members of the Philomathean Charity Literary and Art Club for the successful designation of their historic headquarters at 1810 Broadway as a Santa Monica City Landmark!

The Philomathean Club, established in 1921, is the oldest African American women’s club in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and perhaps in Southern California. The designation marks the culmination of several years’ effort by Philomathean Club leaders, the Quinn Research Center (QRC) and the Santa Monica Conservancy. Built in 1958 in a modest mid-century modern style, the building contained a hall and kitchen intended to host meetings and celebrations as well as a barber shop and a beauty salon which still generate income for the Club’s work which still serves the local community.

Late last year, the City of Santa Monica awarded a preservation grant to the Conservancy to work with the QRC, 18th Street Arts Center, the Santa Monica History Museum, and the Santa Monica Public Library to create an educational experience about the rich history of the Broadway Neigborhood, spearheaded by Carolyne Edwards of the QRC.

A second preservation grant will support several additional proactive landmark designations by paying for the consultant fees which are no longer subsidized by the City. Like the Philomathean, these nominations may focus on structures which tell lesser known and underrepresented stories of Santa Monica’s history. 

Conservancy advocates have also been focusing on the National Register nomination of the Civic Auditorium and working with City staff to understand how preservation concerns will be recognized in the process of selecting an operator for the revitalization of the Civic as a performance venue.

Our work with the School District continues as well. Conservancy representatives met with SMMUSD staff to review their proposal to replace the deteriorating facade windows in Barnum Hall at Samohi. Barnum Hall was designated as a City Landmark in 2002 so as to be eligible for a grant to restore the historic theater curtain from the Getty Conservation Institute.  School District staff has now engaged the services of a historic preservation professional from Historic Resources Group to guide decisions about design and materials for the replacement windows.

With a clear focus on retaining historic character, the replacement will be an in kind replacement of the original, and structured for long-term stability. The Conservancy is pleased with the process followed by school officials, who are voluntarily complying with city requirements for a Certificate of Appropriateness per the City’s Landmarks Ordinance. (Photo: Barnum Hall, Credit unknown)

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