St. Albans Woman's Club dissolving
ST. ABLANS, W.Va. -- When Carolyn Holstein became president of the Woman's Club of St. Albans in 1988, there were 165 members dedicated to community improvement and volunteering.
Today, just 27 women -- most in their 80s -- volunteer to cook, clean, and serve for St. Albans.
Those 27 members of the GFWC-WV St. Albans Woman's Club met for the last time this month in the same house the women have used since John VanRensalear Skinner left it to the group in 1949.
The GFWC is short for General Federation of Women's Clubs, which the St. Albans Women's Club was accepted into in 1920. On Dec. 1, the GFWC-WV St. Albans Woman's Club will withdraw from the GFWC.
With such a small group now, the nonprofit can't financially fund the $1,000-a-month bill it costs to maintain the house, Holstein said.
The group also hosted homemade meals for organizations such as the Rotary Club and Pilot Club, as well as weddings, receptions and reunions.
St. Albans Woman's Club members completed an annual community project and even bought the St. Albans High School marching band's uniforms, Holstein said.
The women will still meet. Their new meeting place, however, at the St. Albans Historical Society will be rent-free, nonpermanent and they no longer will host dinners or receptions, she said.
Holstein, a St. Albans club member since 1965, said she and the others are upset to leave the place their group has called home for more than 60 years, but they just can't afford it anymore.
"We had to do it," she said. "We got into the real world, where the young people who would be very helpful to us have two jobs and families.
"It's 2012; it's not 1950. And that's the reality, that times are different," Holstein said while sitting in a bay window at the Kanawha Terrace house Thursday. "We've just done a tremendous amount of community service and we enjoyed it so much because we love this house, but this is it."
Skinner purchased the house, known as "The Beeches," along with a mill for $3,750 in the early 1900s. Collis P. Huntington, who was instrumental in building the C&O Railroad, built the large, Italian-style wood house along Kanawha Terrace in 1873 and 1874.
When Woman's Club members first moved into the spacious house with tall ceilings and archways, it was bare. Over time, the house was decorated with St. Albans collectibles. Glass pitchers and China adorn the built-in bookshelves. Some women have left artwork and antiques to the club in their wills. Other St. Albans residents have donated furniture.
About 300 items, everything inside The Beeches, will be sold Saturday in an auction hosted by Mountaineer Auctions Gallery at the club's house.
Steve Mullins, an appraiser and sales manager for Mountaineer Auctions, said he is excited to sell the oldest item inside the house this weekend, a large painting that features an unknown family of a man, woman and a boy and girl. The piece is from the late 1800s, Mullins said.
Saturday's auction will be the one time the public can buy a piece of St. Albans history, he said.
A large silver punch bowl and plate with the engraving, "Presented to Anna B. Tompkins Department. April, 3, 1950. To The St. Albans Woman's Club" will be sold. Local artists' works at The Beeches and folded flags with ties to Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd will sell, too.
Other items for sale include a piano, chandeliers, lamps, furniture, kitchenware and late-1800s antiques.
"This is the one-time opportunity for folks who can come in here and buy something of St. Albans and the Woman's Club," Mullins said.
The auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday. Mullins said a large tent will be set up in case of rain and the items will be sold from The Beeches' front porch.
The house is to be sold, as well. Mullins said Thursday that the possibility of selling it at Saturday's auction was being negotiated.
Potential bidders who want to take a peek beforehand -- and take a tour of The Beeches -- may make an appointment by calling 304-548-4056 or stop by after 8 a.m. Saturday.
For more information, visit www.mountaineerauctions.com.
Reach Megan Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5113.