The Boynton Woman's Club: A place in history
By Merle Augustin (South Florida Sun-Sentinel); March 29, 1008
Early in the century, pioneer women held street dances and biked through town to raise enough money to pay for what would be the city's only structure designed by famed Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner: the Boynton Woman's Club.
Despite being away from Ocean Avenue -- then the center of town -- the women turned it into Boynton Beach's first library and meeting center where residents waltzed under bronze-colored, cast-iron chandeliers, and social, political and religious groups met over the years.
Now, 75 years later, the 150-member club is again trying to raise money. This time it needs $110,000 to refurbish the building, which was the city's first to make it onto the National Register of Historic Places.
"It needs a new floor. It needs doors and windows replaced, and it needs to have the railings redone," said Lee Buffan, president of the Boynton Woman's Club.
Nothing much is wrong with the old-fashioned window sills, the aqua-painted French doors and the banisters but "just old age," Buffan said.
"It's just like a hip replacement. Well, she's the grand lady of Federal Highway," she chuckled.
To get the money to rejuvenate the two-story, Mediterranean-style, coral-colored building at 1010 S. Federal Highway, the Mizner Foundation of Boynton Beach -- the fund-raising arm of the club -- applied for a $55,000 state grant in December. If the group gets it, it will have to match it.
To raise its share, the foundation is counting on its annual fund-raiser on Sunday. Called Mizner Serenata, the dinner at the club includes a musical program with opera, Broadway and Italian favorites. The tickets are $50 per person.
"Every time we need help, [foundation members are] there," said Dusty Luongo, one of the club's vice presidents.
The club was established in 1909 as a service organization and is part of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs and the General Federation of Women's Clubs International, a network of 22 million women.
The building -- dedicated to the city's founder Maj. Nathan Boynton because his family contributed $30,000 of his memorial fund to build it -- was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1979. It is one of 51 historical landmarks in Palm Beach County. The only other Boynton Beach building to make the register is the 1913 Schoolhouse Museum.
The club underwent its first renovation in 1986, with $500,000 raised by the Mizner Foundation, club members and help from residents. The roof, the downstairs floor, the plumbing and the air-conditioning system were replaced and an elevator installed.
Not too far in the future, club members foresee the wooden floors will need to be replaced.
"This is an ongoing project," said Buffan, who also sits on the board of the Mizner Foundation. "It will never end. There will always be something to be done. In Florida, where you have humidity and termites, it tends to age."
With few historic structures to remind the city of its early days, the building -- one of the first on Federal Highway -- is valuable to Boynton Beach, and not just because of its architecture.
"It is a privately owned property, maintained, operated and preserved for community use and enjoyment. It's not like other Mizner buildings that are someone's private home. The community enjoys this," Buffan said.
The building is also one of the few places where civic leaders and associations can meet for free, to gather around hand-carved walnut tables and the antique wicker furniture in the downstairs lounge.
Residents also take advantage of it. For a fee, newlyweds can take their first dance and residents can throw parties in the upstairs cypress-ceiling ballroom that also holds a stage with a mural backdrop and is surrounded by a balcony.
Throughout the year, the club organizes fund-raising dinners, luncheons, bazaars and house tours to pay for the building's upkeep, such as insurance and utilities.
"It cost $110 just to open the door every day, just to own it," said Lillian Ostiguy, the club's treasurer.
To rent space at the Boynton Woman's Club, call Mildred Berg at 561-737-3169