On Tuesday, August 28, the Wilfandel Club celebrated a grant awarded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s (NTHP) African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF). Brent Leggs, director of the AACHAF, along with special guests and club members, attended a reception held at the Wilfandel Club and toured the historic clubhouse.
“It feels like it was destined,” said Leggs on the Wilfandel club receiving a grant from the AACHAF.
“Because of the National Trust, we have the opportunity to honor their contribution and Black history—to be able to celebrate their community leadership role in Los Angeles and we get to promote the contributions of Black women in American history.”
The Wilfandel Club was founded in 1945 by Black women, Della and Fannie Williams, Della being the wife of prominent Los Angeles architect, Paul Williams. The club was created in response to segregation that limited access to public and affordable facilities. Located in the West Adams area of L.A., the Wilfandel Club is one of the first recipients of the AACHAF’s efforts and the oldest African American women’s club in Los Angeles.
“Women’s groups were having events and things and [Della and Fannie] decided why don’t we have a place of our own,” said Carole Kaiser, Wilfandel Club member, house chair and former president.
“They got 50 women involved and I think they paid $200 dollars each and were able to purchase this and it’s been ladies trying to hold on to it for all these years.
“We’ve had all kinds of events here [and]celebrities—it’s surprising to me how many people don’t know about us because we’ve been open.”
The Wilfandel Club hosts a number of events including wedding ceremonies, community meetings and forums, teas, showers, art exhibits and dinners.
“I was married here,” said Kaiser.
“It’s just amazing that one, this club has existed for so long that they have been able to steward such a beautiful place through just volunteerism—and women, that these are women who have been doing this,” said Germonique Ulmer, vice president of public affairs of NTHP.
“I feel proud that we have been able to recognize the history here in Los Angeles, these women who care about their community, not just the community around them, the neighborhood, but the community of women—Black women.
“To be able to give them this grant to help them to preserve and protect such a wonderful resource here in this West Adams neighborhood—I’m really proud of this opportunity.”
The Action Fund is a $25 million multi-year national initiative aimed at uplifting the largely overlooked contributions of African Americans by uncovering hidden stories connected to historic sites. As part of this mission, the National Trust’s Action Fund awarded a total of more than $1 million in grants this summer to support grassroots efforts to protect significant sites across the country.
The AACHAF receive 830 applications for grants from sites across the country. The applicants were then narrowed down to 16 which would receive a grant. The Wilfandel Club is the only historic site in Los Angeles to receive a grant. Some of the Wilfandel Club members shared how they felt about receiving the grant.
“It is just a fantastic feeling to receive the national grant,” said Deloise Maddox, Wilfandel Club member. “To recognize us as pioneers and continuing to preserve the legacy here in L.A. is just so heartwarming.”
“We’re just over the moon,” said Gayle Beabers, Wilfandel Club member. “The house is beautiful and we’ve done everything we know how to maintain it but obviously through time, things kind of fall apart and they need to be freshened up and brought up.
“To have the grant—put the house back in pristine condition—it couldn’t be better.
“It’s like Christmas in Summer.”
“This house is 100-years-old, we’re trying to preserve it, we’re trying to keep it as nice as we possibly can and keep it in good shape,” said Kaiser.
Local historian and preservationist, Tammi Williams, heard about Leggs aims to preserve A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, AL and sought to do the same for the View Park Historic District here in Los Angeles, which has a rich Black and African American heritage and civil rights history. The Wilfandel Club got the grant but Williams is still proud that historic sites in Los Angeles are being noted especially the clubhouse.
“I’m so happy,” said Williams. “I have a lot of experiences here—baby showers, weddings, repasses.
“When I came out with the Links, we showed our debutant dresses here—so this is the history of Black Los Angeles.”
For more on the Wilfandel Club, please visit http://wilfandelclub.com/
For more information about The National Trust for Historic Preservation, please visit www.savingplaces.org
For more information about The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, please visit www.savingplaces.org/ActionFund