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HISTORY

The San José Woman's Club has been a formal organization since 1894, when nine women first gathered to discuss forming an alliance. At that time, women across the nation were forming clubs to study and discuss various topics of importance.

Early meetings were held in member's homes, but by 1902 there were 81 members. The first club home was purchased in 1906 and was located at 43 South 3rd Street in San José.

Membership grew; the site for a new clubhouse was purchased and a new building was completed in 1929. The lovely Spanish Revival building on South Eleventh Street in the heart of San José has been the home of the San José Woman's Club since 1929 (Click here to see the 1929 zoning map). Noted as San José Landmark #32, it is a showcase for the efforts of some of California's most notable designers. See below for details.

The mortgage for this building was satisfied in 1946 and the mortgage was then ceremoniously burned.

In 1986 the building was declared San José Landmark #32. The San José Woman's Club honored its 100th anniversary with a celebration in 1994, and the organization continues to serve women and the community in the new millennium.

In past decades, the building was available only by the referral of a club member, but today the doors are open to the general public with advance reservation. Rental Information

Vintage photo of a senior prom.

SJWC Clubhouse Designers

Arched foyer entrywayWolfe & Higgins Architects
The architectural firm of Wolfe & Higgins executed the plans and construction drawings for the club. Over the years, members of this firm designed many buildings in Downtown San José as well as dozens of residences surrounding the club building. The San José Woman's Club is one of their last commissions, designed just two years before the partnership was dissolved.

Frank D. Wolfe (1863-1926) was one of three generations of a family well known in Santa Clara County for architectural design and contracting. Frank began his architectural practice in 1891 and formed his first partnership, Wolfe & McKenzie, in 1900. During this partnership Wolfe designed many homes in Naglee Park, the Rose Garden and Willow Glen. His father, Jeremiah Wolfe was a local builder and Frank's son, Carl Wolfe, also became an architect. The partnership with McKenzie disbanded in 1910, and Frank Wolfe worked with his son Carl for a few years before forming a new partnership with William Higgins in 1918. Frank Wolfe died in 1926, and his son Carl then took over the firm.

William E. Higgins (1875-1936) was a native of Santa Clara and a life-long resident of that city. His long association with Wolfe and his experience with many local projects made the partnership a logical choice to design the San José Woman's Club. After the death of Frank Wolfe in 1926, his son Carl Wolfe joined the design firm and took over his father's responsibilities. The partnership of Wolfe and Higgins was dissolved in 1931, just as the Depression was taking hold. The San José Woman's Club was one of their last major projects.

Nandina plantWilla Cloys Carmack (1889-1968) Landscape Designer
Only vestiges remain of the original gardens and landscape plans designed for the San José Woman's Club by Willa Cloys Carmack. The four European sycamores in the parking strip match the trees specified in the 1929 plans. Window boxes were filled with nandina and asparagus sprengerii, similar to the plants currently growing in front of the arched windows.

Graduated from the University of California - Berkeley in 1916, Willa Cloys Carmack was the first woman to be awarded a degree in a new discipline known as landscape architecture. During her long career, she designed many interesting gardens for clients throughout the Bay Area. A charter member of the California Horticultural Society, she was presented with the Society's Dr. Emmett Rixford Award in 1964, for her years of service to that organization.

In the early days, the San José Woman's Club home on Eleventh Street featured an enclosed garden on the south side of the building. This garden area was tucked behind a wall of privet and included three distinct areas: a lawn area adjacent to Eleventh Street, a flagged tea terrace for gatherings, and a service yard for the enjoyment of the resident caretakers who lived in an apartment at the rear. Sadly, the southern garden that was once so delightful to view from the dining room has now been paved for parking.

Grand staircase with ornate tiles and iron workAlfred Solon
(1893?-1949)
Interior Design and Tile
Hearst Castle, the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the former Steinhart Aquarium, the Sainte Claire Hotel and the San José Woman's Club all feature the extraordinary tile work of master artisan Alfred Solon. The design and craftsmanship of one of California's most significant artisans graces the foyer, lobby and staircase of the San José Woman's Club. The colorful tile work of Albert Solon, a master artisan, sets the tone of the décor and provides a colorful palette to coordinate the other interior design elements.

Albert Solon was born in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England and was the youngest son in a large family that had been making pottery for more than 300 years. After his apprenticeship, his family bought him a one-way ticket to America to continue his studies. Young Albert worked in several important Bay Area ceramics programs after his arrival. He was hired as an instructor for the San José Normal School program in 1916 and worked there several years with plans to accept another offer in Hawaii.

His work was apparently so notable that instead of heading to Hawaii, he was offered several large and attractive commissions locally. To provide the needed tiles for these large projects, he established a business in downtown San José. Albert Solon was the designer for the tiles at Hearst castle, at the Steinhart Aquarium, now recently demolished, and for dozens of other important buildings throughout California. His handiwork can be seen locally in the Sainte Claire hotel, on the campus of the San José Normal School, the campus of Hoover Junior High and in many other San José business buildings, large and small.

He lived in Naglee Park on South 16th Street and was a frequent guest and lecturer of the San José Woman's Club until he passed away suddenly of a heart attack in 1949.

~ April Halberstadt, Historian - 2007

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San José Woman's Club    75 South 11th Street, San José, CA 95112   408-294-6919  ©