These new proprietors may be younger and more tech savvy, but the Ladies Literary Club in Salt Lake City will still be centered on storytelling.
The historic building at 850 E. South Temple began the 20th century as an elegant gathering place for well-heeled Utah women devoted to the arts and a world of the mind. Constructed in 1913, its Prairie-style architecture and swanky interior drew hundreds of women to readings, recitals, salons and parties — until their numbers dwindled and upkeep became too costly.
Thanks to the Utah Heritage Foundation, recipients in 2013 of the donated structure, that cultural legacy continues now with a group of millennial visual artists and entrepreneurs, known as Photo Collective Studios.
“We’re very much honored to be the ones giving it new life,” said Brewer, a photographer, who bought the building with his partner, architectural artist Jessica Jude Gilmore.
The couple and the youthful group of photography and video artists around them have operated for nearly five years out of what was an old warehouse at 561 W. 200 South, which they refurbished in 2013.
They have since dubbed that space Greektown Collective, in honor of the neighborhood’s history as a turn-of-the-century immigrants’ enclave, and turned it into a co-working space for artists, coders, business startups and nonprofits.
“Now,” Brewer said, “we’re expanding.”
After renovations to the Ladies Literary Club, he said, the group will rename it “The Clubhouse” in tribute to its past. Plans call for reopening it this fall as a community hub for public events, cross-disciplinary arts and education.
And with its natural light and historic setting, Brewer said, the space will also be available for rent as a venue for photo and film shoots.
“We will simultaneously become steward, historian, entrepreneur and visionary,” he said, “in order to merge the heritage of the past with the potential of the future.”
The Utah Heritage Foundation, which got the building as a gift, did not disclose the sale terms. But executive director Kirk Huffaker said the foundation secured a preservation easement as part of the deal, protecting in perpetuity the historic features of the landmark’s interior and exterior.
The foundation ran the Ladies Literary Club for public use for two years before listing it for sale or lease last January, exposing it to thousands of new visitors. Several proposals emerged for reusing the building, Huffaker said, but the club’s board members were pleased with Brewer’s group as the final choice.
“Photo Collective Studios presented us with an inspiring story and have a passion for preserving the arts and creativity in Salt Lake City,” said Janis Bennion, chairwoman of the club’s board of trustees.
Foundation members also believe that passion extends to preserving architecture, Huffaker said, “and the stories that lay in these places as well.”
Opting for a creatively connected group with a business focus, he said, will help ensure the building is kept open to the public and “continue the legacy and ideals of the Ladies Literary Club for cultural enrichment.”
Added Brewer: “We advocate for the preservation of buildings — and the stories of their occupants.”