The Former Little Town Club Home
The house consisted of four rooms: an entrance room, a bathroom next to it with a large tub in the middle, a small room across a narrow hall, and a lean-to kitchen. In the smaller room a closet was transformed into an office with a cigar box nailed under the door to catch money and checks. The charter members brought their dining platform with them and enclosed it. There were now windows all around with wainscoting and chintz curtains. A dining table and real chairs replaced the stools.
The club voted on November 20, 1915, to incorporate under the name of The Little Town Club. On December 21, the members approved a constitution and by-laws as well as the issuance of bonds. The committee posted an invitation for members to donate funds for the renovation of the club.
The club decided to buy ten feet more from Dr. Park for the sum of $1,050. Sometime later they bought an additional twenty-five feet for $5,000.
Next it was time to re-do the house. The members raised $4,000 by subscription. They built the dining room where the panel room now is located. The lean-to kitchen disappeared and was reborn in the area of the current private dining room.
As the First World War was raging in Europe, The Little Town Club was nicknamed a “War Baby” at its beginning. German forces marched victoriously through Belgium. Many Santa Barbarans misread the ominous developments and believed, “the Allies will push them back over the Rhine in a month...” Europe’s events seemed very far away.
During these years new ideas were gathering strength that would flourish and alter the course of the new century. The Suffragette Movement, supported in Britain by women of the aristocracy as well as by women of the working class, was taking hold in the United States, but suffrage was still years away. The need for rural labor diminished and options in homes and offices opened, creating new occupations for women. Women left domestic service in droves, many to work in new industries. By 1917, there were seven hundred thousand women in the munition factories. In 1920, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Edwardian clothing evolved to better suit the occupations and the tenor of the times, shortening skirts, and altering women’s silhouettes. By 1915, dress lengths had risen from hobble skirts to mid-calf skirts at fifteen inches, the shortest length ever recorded for women’s clothing at that time.
In Santa Barbara at The Little Town Club, Mrs. Park arranged for lectures. Since it was wartime, many foreigners were turning up in the city. Some came to luncheon and talked to members about their own countries and the hardships of war they were enduring. When the United States entered the war in 1917, Dr. and Mrs. Park voluntarily ran a canteen in Paris for troops on leave from the trenches. To everyone’s relief, 1919 brought the Treaty of Versailles.
The founding of The Little Town Club mirrored a response expressed by women from coast to coast for the need for their own social space in which to enjoy one another’s company. Conversation was an art. Politics and religion, by mutual agreement and by writ, were never discussed during lunch. This aid to digestive pleasure remains in effect today.
All this happened before suffrage, before family planning, and before most women pursued a higher education. The founding members were intelligent, generous, and forward-thinking. They worked hard, had patience and ingenuity, and liked to have a lovely time. With spirits high, they drew a circle of camaraderie that widened and prevailed.
We continue to admire the ideas and efforts of these charter members and of the many supporters of the club from 1914 to 2014. For more than one hundred years, The Little Town Club had grown to fill the place Mrs. Park had envisioned.