History

Helen Morse

In 1914, a small group of women began planning the formation of a community woman’s club in Winter Park. On January 13, 1915, Mrs. Helen Morse invited 16 women to her home, “Osceola Lodge,” which is still standing on Interlachen Avenue in Winter Park. The Woman’s Club of Winter Park was organized at that meeting. The purpose of the club was:

  • To associate its members and the public in efforts to advance the civic and educational welfare of Winter Park and surrounding areas
  • To aid worthy students entering or attending institutions of higher learning
  • To preserve the history and the premises of the Woman’s Club of Winter Park for future generations of the members and the community

Mrs. Morse was elected its first President. She served until 1918 when Mrs. George Dyer assumed the Presidency. There were 30 Charter members. The last survivor was Mrs. Arthur Schultz, who died September 8, 1982.

In the early years, meetings were held in various locations-Hooker Memorial Hall, Town Hall, the Library and the public school. Some department meetings were held in private homes.

Membership grew, and in 1917 a committee chaired by Mrs. Hiram Powers was formed. A search for land culminated in a gift by Mr. Charles H. Morse-five city lots on Interlachen Avenue, betwen Lyman and Comstock Avenues. This property, extending to Lake Virginia, had been the first tee of the golf club.

World War I delayed construction plans until late in 1919 when Percival Hutton was hired as the architect to prepare plans for the building.

The Club has a complete file of the correspondence between the building committee and the contractor.

The final cost of the building, $40,000, was raised by generous contributions from members and from fundraising projects. By 1927 the building, with furnishings, lawns and gardens, was free and clear of debt.

The first meeting in the new Clubhouse was held January 21, 1921. The auditorium, now known as the Helen Morse hall, was dedicated in Mrs. Morse’s honor at that same meeting. Mrs. Morse died in 1930.

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Highlights of our History:

1918 – Community Service efforts were related to World War One  effort, such as surgical dressings and 700 lbs. of orange marmalade

1919 – members petitioned state legislature for municipal suffrage for women

1921 – sponsored first community Christmas tree, installed bird sanctuary markers and petitioned for sanitary garbage removal service.  Clubhouse completed for $40,000 on land donated by Mr. Morse

1922 – petitioned city to replace the Board of Trade with the Chamber of Commerce.

1923 – first state flower show and Garden Club began in this house, over 2,000 people attended

1930s – House  was used extensively by local artists and a junior woman’s club was formed. Scholarship Program initiated and continues to grow.

1940s – Presented need for a Parks and Planning board in the city, member chaired American Women’s Voluntary Service,  Membership peaked at 576.

1950s – Interdenominational services held and club house frequently loaned to non profit and cultural social service organizations

1960-70s – Many of the club’s community service activities became separate self-supporting organizations.

1980 – The Woman’s Club continued its Scholarship Program – Social and Educational opportunities were directed toward interests of the senior membership.

1990 – Clubhouse was renovated for the first time with some structural changes.  House was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

2,000s – Scholarship endowment grows significantly, Club continues to support civic and non profit organizations, community rentals increase, membership expands in age range and diversity.  Need for house preservation endowment recognized.

2014 – The Woman’s Club was awarded 501(c)(3) charitable organization status by Internal Revenue Service and at 99th Founder’s Day, a $300,000  Centennial fundraising goal was announced for the renovation and preservation of our historic clubhouse.  The Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation awarded the club a $150,000 matching grant.
2015 – At our 100th Founder’s Day, Mayor Ken Bradley of Winter Park declared January 19, “Woman’s Club Day” and presented the President Sandra Blossey with a check for $30,000 from the city.  Fundraising goal should be reached in the summer, as several large renovation projects have begun.

The Woman’s Club In the News

Since it’s founding in 1915, the Woman’s Club of Winter Park has been active in the Winter Park community. Click the links below to read historical newspaper stories about the Woman’s Club:

The Winter Park Post, 01/20/1916
The Winter Park Post, 02/22/1917
The Winter Park Post, 02/14/1918
Winter Park Topics, 02/01/1936
Winter Park Topics, 03/14/1936
Winter Park Topics, 01/15/1938
Winter Park Topics, 03/05/1938
Winter Park Topics, 01/18/1946
Winter Park Topics, 02/07/1947
Winter Park Topics, 03/12/1948
Winter Park Topics, 04/08/1949
Winter Park Topics, 02/19/1954
Orlando Sentinel, 01/17/2014