The Bradenton Womens Club, in the news...

Historic Manatee Buildings on Endangered List

The grand old lady of Manatee Avenue West has been showing her age for some time, and the community may be needed to help restore her.
The Manatee Women's Club building, 1705 Manatee Ave. W., built in 1922 as the meeting place for the growing civic organization, is one of 12 historic buildings listed as endangered of being lost to development or neglect...

... The members of the Manatee Women's Club are working to raise funds to do the restoration and repair work on their building.
"We would like to see the community participate in the fundraising," said Janet Orr, former president of the organization.
Orr said several groups have already showed interest in helping, such as the Ware's Creek Neighborhood Association.
"They have offered to paint the building for us," she said. "But we have to repair the plaster soffits first."

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Preserving Historic Buildings

As I wrote Wednesday's story about the list of 12 endangered historical buildings complied by the Historical Resources Department of the Clerk of the Circuit Court, I wondered how many other historical structures are hidden, even though we drive past them every day on the busy streets of Manatee County.

Some of these buildings date back to the early 1900s. They were places of commerce and civic activity that helped make this the great community we all enjoy today.

It was 19 women banding together to form the Bradenton Women's Club in 1913 who laid a foundation of service and philanthropy to the community.

The work of those women, and the many members who followed, helped created the "give-back-to-the-community" value that benefits social welfare groups, such as the United Way, today.

That is one reason we as a community should be concerned with preserving our historical structures, such as the Bradenton Women's Club on Manatee Avenue West and Virginia Drive along Ware's Creek, which dates back to 1922.

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Bradenton Womens Club
Still Strong

Posted on Friday, April 25, 2008
By SARA KENNEDY; skennedy@bradenton.com
Neighbors: BRADENTON

The motto of those who founded the Bradenton Woman's Club In 1913 was straightforward: "Be not simply good, be good for something." The club, with 19 local ladies signing its Charter of Incorporation, has been fulfilling its motto now for 95 years. The nonprofit service club has been among the town's most active philanthropic forces. "At one time, it had almost 400 members," explained Janet Orr, the club's house coordinator. "It was kind of the elite women of Bradenton."

Over the years, the charitable club's graceful headquarters at 1705 Manatee Ave. W. has hosted all manner of social, community and service endeavors. Beneath its roof, club members served lunch for town businessmen and construction workers building the now-demolished Dixie Grande Hotel in the 1920s, sewed clothing for the poor during the Depression, wrapped bandages to send overseas during World War II, and held fundraising bazaars and functions. The club took up many different types of projects. It helped to beautify downtown and planted oleanders along Wares Creek, according to Herald archives. The club gave as a gift to the town a new baseball diamond, and later opened and equipped the first public playground in Bradenton, according to the clip files. Club members were also devoted to helping children through the Florida Sheriff Girls Villa and Manatee County Children's Services.

Today, the club continues to aid noteworthy causes, such as Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and the Manatee Boys and Girls Club. However, its founders' goal of "providing opportunities that strengthen the role of women" was so successful, many women have opted to join the work force full-time, and its membership declined in recent years as a result. "Yes, we do compete with the careers, but it's just another opening for women to get involved," said Orr. "Volunteerism is not what it used to be because of such busy lifestyles. People think they're too busy." But over the past 10 years, the club's membership has rebounded from six to 43, said Orr, who is a Realtor and part-time retail salesperson. "I don't have time, also, but I feel the need, helping the community in some way," she said.

A new look

A visible reminder of its vitality is its new, peachy paint job, part of a long-term renovation of the historic building that dates to 1921.

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