The Clubhouse

The first Club meeting was held above the downtown offices of the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company. Meetings were later moved to the San Francisco Yacht Club (now the Horizons restaurant.) This arrangement proved unsatisfactory because of the high $25 per month rent, and the fact that the women were treading on men’s territory at the Yacht Club, a mutually uncomfortable situation. Ultimately, the Club meetings were moved to a temporary home at the Guild Hall at Christ Church.

By 1914, the women of the Club had already begun plans for their own clubhouse. A building fund was established and the members set about investigating a lengthy list of potential sites, centering on the desired location of the “first terrace” above the town in the vicinity of Bulkley, Harrison and Central Avenues.

Fundraising for the clubhouse was a grassroots affair. Club members gathered rags and made them into rag rugs, which they sold. Mrs. Martin located a source for pure olive oil, which was resold to club members at a 95 cent per gallon mark-up. Mrs. Clausen sold her homemade chutney. Ella Wood organized a paper drive and President Loosely “offered her horse, wagon and husband to assist Mrs. Woods.” Other fundraising included a garden fête, “nickel dances”, recitals, and pledges by members.

Grace McGregor Robbins, a close friend of the Club founders and an active member of the first Board of Directors, advocated building the clubhouse on its present Central Avenue lot. Robbins felt that the clubhouse should be used not only for Club purposes, but as a center for “the pleasure and betterment of the people of Sausalito.”

Grace Robbins passed away unexpectedly in 1917. In her memory, Grace Robbins’ husband, F.A. Robbins, agreed to donate his Central Avenue property to the Sausalito Woman’s Club with one condition: that the Club raise an additional $2000 to augment the $1500 that they had already amassed in the building fund. The Sausalito News reported the donation, and noted that, “Mr. W.B. Faville [an architect and husband of Club member Ida Faville] has given his services to draw plans, furnish specifications and superintend construction of the clubhouse, thus insuring to Sausalito and to the Woman’s Club, a dignified and beautiful house.”

The newspaper erroneously assumed that Faville would be the clubhouse architect. After touring seven woman’s clubs throughout the Bay Area, the Building Committee instead chose Julia Morgan, the first licensed woman architect in California. Committee members Irma Pierson and Clara Lanagan were friends of Julia Morgan. They also saw an opportunity to further the Club’s founding ideals by featuring a well-known woman architect.

The construction of the clubhouse proceeded with astonishing speed. Julia Morgan completed the building plans, the Club secured a bank loan of $3000 to augment the building fund and Mr. Robbins fulfilled his pledge by transferring the deed to the property to the Sausalito Woman’s Club on April 20, 1918. Two days later, builder A.W. Teather (also a member’s husband) commenced construction on the building. The Club held its first meeting in the new clubhouse—dedicated in memory of Grace McGregor Robbins—on September 20, 1918, just one year after Mr. Robbins offered to donate the land.

The exterior of the clubhouse, which was originally specified as stucco, was changed to redwood shakes in order to save $300. Julia Morgan was paid $280 for her design work. The total cost of construction, including overruns, was $5,727.50.

The original one-story clubhouse had only a tiny kitchen and single restroom, but no heat, hot water, basement, or furniture. Each member had to bring her own chair to meetings. Later, members’ husbands donated funds for the Stickley-inspired wicker chairs that remain in use today.

Having retired the original $3000 mortgage for the building in 1922, the Club commenced plans for expansion of the building in 1923. Julia Morgan again designed and supervised construction of the enlarged sun porch and upper story consisting of two “dressing rooms”, each with a bathroom. A.W. Teather continued as the builder, adding the under-the-stage dressing rooms and furnace. The second construction project was financed with a new mortgage of $5000. This time, Julia Morgan’s fee was $286.80.

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