By Jane Smith
The grande dame of Boynton Beach is showing her age — again.
As the Boynton Woman’s Club nears its ninth decade, its 16 original windows and 20 sets of original French doors need to be redone. The cost would be between $300,000 and $400,000, said past-president Kay Baker. The group is soliciting bids to redo the windows and doors. Other repairs would bring the total renovation cost to about $500,000.
In early May at the Boynton Beach Historical Society’s annual gala, the organization presented a $1,000 check to the Woman’s Club for its bulding fund campaign.
The city is helping by adding the building to its list of historic sites. If all goes according to plan, the building will go before the city’s Historic Preservation Board on June 9, says the city’s historic planner, Warren Adams.
He also will help the club apply for grants from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency and from the state’s historic preservation board. Both grants, though, require matching funds from the organization.
In 1979, the Addison Mizner-designed building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Woman’s Club is raising money from its membership. “One member has offered to match what other members donate,” Baker said.
The club of about 80 members has not sought new members but that will change soon, “We’ve been passive about (recruiting),” said current club president Michele Walter. “We will start advertising our activities, talk them up more and possibly hold a reception for interested women later this summer.”
It really is a Palm Beach County jewel, Walter said. “It’s the only Mizner building that is open to the public.”
The Woman’s Club building is the city’s grandest structure, sitting on the east side of Federal Highway between Boynton Beach Boulevard and Woolbright Road.
To help with the building’s construction in the 1920s, the family of Maj. Nathan Smith Boynton, the city’s founder, donated $35,000 in his memory. Famed architect Addison Mizner did his design pro bono because the building would cost more than $50,000.
It contains classic Mizner features, such as a barrel-tile roof, arched windows, turquoise trim, pecky cypress trusses on the ceiling and French doors. From the lobby on either side, two wide wooden staircases curve gracefully to the second floor, which is large enough to seat 400 people.
When the building was finished in the fall of 1926, it opened in time to house hurricane refugees. Then it housed the city’s first library for 40 years, hosted teas where women wore hats and white gloves, and allowed churches and civic groups to hold initial meetings. In recent years, it has been rented for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, quinceañeras and engagement parties.
Celebrations at Boynton Woman’s Club — a catering company — schedules events and shares a percentage of the fees with the club. It uses the approximate $80,000 annually to pay for various insurances and the elevator maintenance contract, said Barbara Erlichman, who handles publicity for the club.
The Woman’s Club is so gorgeous that when people drive by, “they fall in love with the building and want to join,” Baker said.
The club leadership is hoping they can raise enough money to create an endowment that would allow the club to maintain the structure — and do some work on the interior. “Reupholster the furniture and things like that,” Baker said. “We don’t want a modern style, we want to freshen what we have.”
For more information, visit boyntonwomansclub.com.