Sunday, June 27, 2021

No. 9: Topeka Women's Club

The Topeka Women's Club was organized in 1897 by Lucy Kingman and Margaret McCarter. It was a conglomerate of the other ladies clubs in Topeka and focused on musical education and entertainment. The club would raise donations to send to school and other institutions. They helped families affected by the 1903 flood and were instrumental in getting manual training and domestic science into the schools. After World War I, interest in a permanent home increased.

The building was designed by Frank C. Squires and was published in the Topeka Daily Capital in 1921. Construction didn't begin until 1923 and was completed in 1925. Squires was thrilled with his design for the clubhouse, considering it possibly the finest building of it's kind between Chicago and the Pacific Coast. After completion, it was believed that the building was the largest clubhouse west of the Mississippi River.

In 1925, the women's club had over 400 members. Within a few years, the Women's Club building housed numerous civic, artistic, and social organizations. Sadly, through the 1960s and 1970s, membership in the club steadily declined and in the 1980s, the building became home to the Kansas Insurance Department. Thankfully, the state kept everything mostly as is. The Tiffany stain-glass windows remained as did the gothic lights. The major changes were leveling out the floor in the theatre and clamping down the dance floor on the third floor to install cubicles. After the Insurance Department moved in 2020, the building was considered surplus property and sold at auction.

Purchased by local investors, work immediately began to restore the building to its former glory--and function. The Beacon, as it will now be known, plans on becoming the premiere event space in Downtown Topeka. Shorty after beginning work, they offered tours of the building which I gladly went on. The Women's Club of Topeka building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Entrance from 9th Street.

Tile entryway in the entrance to the theatre off Topeka Boulevard.

Beneath this floor is the original spring-loaded dance floor originally installed
in 1925. Plans are to release the springs so it can be used as a dance floor again.

Decorative seal above the stage in the theatre.