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The Suburbanite
  • Canton Woman's Club: Grande dame opens doors

  • The Canton Woman’s Club is open for business. For many years, the grande dame Victorian-style home was the venue for many events, always sponsored by a club member. No more. Things are changing, and the clubhouse on Market Avenue N has opened its doors to all, thanks in part to its new manager, Tommy May.

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  • The Canton Woman’s Club is open for business.
    For many years, the grande dame Victorian-style home was the venue for many events, always sponsored by a club member. No more. Things are changing, and the clubhouse on Market Avenue N has opened its doors to all, thanks in part to its new manager, Tommy May.
    “Tommy is an excellent chef and manager,” said Vernice Morton, the current chairman of the board at the club. “We have made some major changes since he joined us.”
    May’s has 35 years of experience, having worked for the Akron Women’s City Club, Firestone Country Club public course and Eagle Golf, which is Fox Meadow Country Club in Medina. He attended the Culinary Institute of Washington, D.C.
    “I was in this nice little club enjoying life and decided I wanted to join the big boys,” he said, referring to his past experiences. “I found out that wasn’t for me and when this position opened up, I knew this is where I wanted to be — a nice, quaint, little club. The women here care about you more than big corporations. I am more comfortable here.”
    CLUBHOUSE HISTORY
    The Canton Woman’s Club sits on a tract of land granted to Bezaleel Wells in November 1810 by then-President James Madison. In June 1866, John R. Bucher purchased the land and built a Victorian Gothic  home for his family in 1867. Bucher was a partner in the Bucher & Gibbs Plow Co., which eventually became the Gibbs Mfg. Co.
    Originally, the house had two Empire towers and a porch running the width of the house with double front doors. Ornate wood trim was along the porch and gables. A small balcony accented the front third-floor windows, and an arbored walkway led to the carriage house in the rear. Completing the look when it was built was a wrought iron fence that enclosed the lawn.
    At that time, Market Avenue was Randolph Road. By the time the Woman’s Club bought the house in 1920, it required extensive repair and remodeling. It sat empty for a period of time, which caused it to fall into disrepair.
    Once the women took over, the house went through major changes. To start, the towers, the third-floor balcony and porch were removed. Mrs. W.H. Allman was the club’s first president. During her tenure, the house was under renovation with carpenters, plumbers and other construction workers taking over the place. Board members met at the house to direct the progress of repairs, but formal club meetings were held in the First Trust and Savings Bank.
    Although numerous changes were made on the outside, the interior of the home kept its Victorian richness. Curved archways are solid cherry, as are the heavy wooden pocket doors that separate the parlors. The archways, sliding doors and window frames are original. The circular stairway, with its hand-carved newel post, lend charm to the original entrance to the house off Market Avenue. The marble fireplace with carved etchings is also original.
    Page 2 of 2 - In the 1980s, the Junior Woman’s Club converted the fireplace to gas. A chandelier that hangs in the main parlor is a Tiffany, and the original chandelier hangs in the hallway above the stairs. The Tiffany chandelier was a gift to the club, as was a rosewood piano that has been converted into a server in the main dining room.
    A large dining room, the south entrance and a parking lot have been added over the years.
    BACK TO THE FUTURE
    “Everything here is house-made,” said May, noting that the venue now has a beer and wine liquor license. The Club also offers box lunches and catering services. “All our entrees are handmade from scratch. We have a baker on staff. It is a little more labor-intensive, but the quality is there.”
    May has a vision of the future, from hosting weddings and showers, to fashion shows.
    “We would love to give tours of the home,” he said. “The Woman’s Club is still the nucleus of the house, but we want to share our Victorian house.”
    The organization is focusing on traditional tea parties, but are equally open to business luncheons, retreats, meeting space, bridal and baby showers, rehearsal dinners, holiday parties and various other events.
    “Like other clubs, we have struggled financially,” said Morton. “We are trying to keep our home and let others enjoy it. Our club is not as large as it used to be, but we have a nice nucleus of women. We enjoy the club and we give each other support and friendship. I think the Club is an important piece of Canton history and we want to continue that.”
    The clubhouse is the last standing house between Sixth and 12th streets, noted Cynthia Horne, vice chairwoman of The Woman’s Club. “So many structures in Canton have been torn down. This is our part of history, and we want to keep and preserve it.”
    Sally Bartolet, a 50-plus year member, has seen the numerous changes over the years.
    “It has been great for many years,” she said. “I joined when I was still working at Harter Bank. At that time you had to have stock to belong. There were only so many shares and all of them were gone. We had stock in our trust department at the bank, and I bought it. That is how I became a member.
    “When I learned we were opening our doors, I thought, ‘good,’ ” she said. “This is something we have to do to keep our house. We need the revenue and it is a beautiful old home that others can enjoy.”