A recent luncheon found members of the Beverly Hills Women's Club eager to share stories about their organization and the historic clubhouse in which they meet.
"Our motto says it all," club President Claudia Deutsch said. "One feast, one house, one mutual happiness."
That motto is prominently displayed above the fireplace inside the clubhouse at 1700 Chevy Chase Drive. Built in 1925 in the Spanish Colonial style, the clubhouse has been used exclusively as the Women's Club headquarters and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The structure was one of the first to be built in the area.
"You can see aerial photos that have the club and literally nothing else," club historian Marcy Brubaker said while showing off pictures of the clubhouse surrounded by empty hills.
The clubhouse also sits on the site of an early battle between California settlers and Native Americans. The front lawn features a marker telling visitors that bones from the conflict have been unearthed on the property.
The Women's Club, which was established in 1916, has a long line of notable members, including Mary Pickford, Norma Shearer and Lilian Green, wife of Beverly Hills founder Burton Green. Amelia Earhart delivered lectures on flight to the club, and Joan Crawford contributed recipes to a Women's Club cookbook.
But even with its notable beginnings, there was a point when the future of the clubhouse was in question.
"In the mid-2000s, when I joined, some of the older members wanted to sell the space, and it almost certainly would have been torn down," Deutsch said. "We said, 'We'll do whatever it takes,' and we raised the money and got it listed on the National Register and made sure it stayed the Beverly Hills Women's Club."
In the last five years, much work has been done to bring the clubhouse up to date. New plumbing, wiring and roofing have been installed thanks to fundraising and donations. With the successful preservation of its meeting place, the Women's Club has come a long way since its early days as a hyper-exclusive group for Beverly Hills' most prestigious residents.
Both the Women's Club and its junior members—those in high school and college are eligible for membership—are philanthropically active. Deutsch points out that members are encouraged to bring worthy organizations to the club's attention. The group has already worked with Project Angel Food and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Recently, junior members staged a fashion show to raise funds for an ovarian cancer charity.
But the women also have opportunities to cut loose and socialize. Upcoming events include a cocktail hour, cooking classes, and an art and architecture tour of Bugsy Siegel's house.
"There's something for everyone," said Diana Doyle, one of the club's 250 members.