The Ladies Literary Club was a vanguard of women’s organizations in Utah. This clubhouse, nicknamed the Grand Dame of South Temple [Street], provided a space where the club could realize its mission: “education for the many.”
Jennie Froiseth, a staunch anti-polygamist living in Salt Lake City, formed an exclusively non-Mormon women’s group called Blue Tea in 1875. Two years later, Eliza K. Royle resigned from Froiseth’s club to pursue a more democratic organization with a constitution that excluded no one. She and a few other former Blue Tea members started the Ladies Literary Club (LLC) with Royle as their first president. After Blue Tea had its last recorded meeting in 1883, LLC absorbed about 20% of Blue Tea’s former members. LLC’s more open membership helped foster tolerance and civic unity, bringing together women of different religious backgrounds, even including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes nicknamed “Mormons”). When the club incorporated in 1882, its membership numbered twenty-eight. By 1897, LLC boasted 110 members.
The Ware and Treganza architectural firm, a leading business in the Intermountain West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, built the Ladies Literary clubhouse in 1912. Its design resembles the Prairie School style, marked by overhanging eaves, horizontal bands of windows, and ornament craftsmanship. Club members met in this building every Friday morning for two hours to discuss art and history, current events, literature and Shakespeare, music, and entertainment.
Over the years, the local community has utilized this space for various other purposes. During World War II, LLC members set up sewing machines in the auditorium and spent their Wednesdays helping the Red Cross sew hospital clothes for soldiers. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Utah Symphony used the space to rehearse while LLC members sat in on some practices to listen to the music.
The Ladies Literary Club is one of Utah’s most successful and long-lasting culture clubs for women. For over 100 years, the clubhouse provided a place for women with common interests to gather and develop skills for mental self-improvement and community culture. Lois Harris, a member of the Utah Heritage Foundation successfully procured the building a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, and in 2013, LLC gifted the clubhouse to the Utah Heritage Foundation (UHF).
In 2016, UHF sold the Clubhouse to Photo Collective Studios (PCS) and secured a preservation easement as part of the deal, ensuring the continuation of the building’s historic character. As of 2017, the Ladies Literary Club continued to meet, albeit with fewer numbers and less frequent meetings. Under PCS’ management, the building has continued to host community events, including musical performances, dance recitals, film screenings, and more.