This story was submitted by the GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club.
This February the GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club, is proud to be celebrating their 125th anniversary in Park City. GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club, formerly the Woman’s Athenaeum Club, is the oldest women’s club in Utah and the oldest organized club in Park City.
It was February 22, 1897, when Nannie Cordell, Mary Hayt, and Jeanette Ferry decided to form the Woman’s Athenaeum Club in the small mining town of Park City. One can only assume they did not consider the long reaching effects this club would have on the lives of the Park City community for more than a century to come.
In 1904, the Woman’s Athenaeum Club enrolled in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). The GFWC was established in New York in 1890 by Jane Cunningham Croly (a.k.a. Jennie June) and is the largest non-denominational and non-partisan women’s club in the world.
Early members of the Woman’s Athenaeum were dedicated to educating themselves and contributing to issues important to their Park City community. Recognizing the need for a library in this remote area, the Athenaeum Club women began the Park City Library in the basement of the Congregational Church in 1917. Members worked tirelessly to set up the library and keep it open. By 1919 the library had outgrown the church location and was moved into what is now the Park City Museum store.
In August of 1955 the library project was largely complete, and the clubwomen turned their attention to establishing a museum. They bought a building on Main Street and began collecting artifacts from the town’s “old timers,” but were unable to fulfill their goal of opening a museum at that time. In 1969, Connie Andrus and Bea Kummer again went to the city council and pleaded for a museum. The council agreed, but it was 1984 before a museum finally opened, with the help of many within the community.
The Athenaeum was also instrumental in community projects such as installing a city garbage disposal system, replacing the cup and pail system with drinking fountains in the schools, putting in the first public drinking fountain on Main Street, aiding the Kiwanis Club in sponsoring the first Boy Scout troop in Park City, and themselves sponsoring the first Park City Girl Scout troop. Athenaeum members also brought the first annual Athenaeum Club writing contest to elementary through high school students, helped sponsor the Mountain Mentors, hosted ‘meet the candidates’, and organized a career night for high school students.
In 2017 the club’s name was changed to GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club to reflect the bond with GFWC and the Park City community. It was noted several years ago in the Park Record that the Woman’s Athenaeum Club made Park City. Today’s GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club actively strives to keep that tradition alive with projects like hosting the Park City High School Girl Graduate Tea (since 1942), sending selected sophomores to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference, a book program for first graders in each Park City area school, and adopting a two-mile stretch of Old Ranch Road for cleanup.
The GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club will host 125th Anniversary festivities on March 19 from 1-3 p.m. in the Community Room of the Park City Library. Light snacks will be served. For more information on GFWC Park City Athenaeum Club, visit their website.