Woman's Progressive Club (Wynne)
The Woman’s Progressive Club, located at 333 Merriman Avenue in Wynne (Cross County), is a one-story public building designed in a subtle treatment of the Colonial Revival style of architecture and constructed between 1935 and 1937 with assistance from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 27, 1990.
The Woman’s Progressive Club was established by five charter members in 1913, the first civic organization formed in the Cross County seat of Wynne. The group organized and promoted educational, social, and cultural events, meeting in the homes of members. The formation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies during the Great Depression led them to seek funding for a permanent location to house their activities.
The group procured funding from the Works Progress Administration for the construction of a community building for Wynne at an anticipated cost of $12,000, with the City of Wynne responsible for $1,600. Construction began on November 7, 1935, with charter member Mrs. J. E. Harris removing the first shovel of dirt. C. B. Bailey served as engineer for the project, and E. A. Quessenberry was the construction foreman. The Arkansas Gazette reported that “the structure will be of brick, painted white, and will house the Progressive Club’s library in addition to an auditorium.”
The project ran into trouble in 1936 when Quessenberry ordered the WPA work crew off the job, leading to lengthy negotiations between the club and the WPA. In November, though, the Gazette reported that “completion of the Wynne community center building has been made possible by WPA approval of a supplementary project providing additional funds.”
Architect Walter Duffy Jr. designed the Woman’s Progressive Club, and the 1990 National Register nomination noted that “the installation of a delicately detailed, Federal fanlight within the structure of the building, the ornamentation of two of the entries with relatively elaborate Colonial Revival details, and the selection of Colonial Revival electric lanterns raises this design above the simple educational and institutional public buildings built by the WPA throughout Arkansas during this period. The exterior of the Club’s building remains almost completely intact and unchanged from the day it was completed and so stands today as one of the finest WPA designs in Arkansas, and certainly the best in the City of Wynne.” The completed building featured a stage and auditorium that could hold 250 people, realizing the club’s ambition of a site for performances and events.
The Woman’s Progressive Club was dedicated on March 12, 1937, with Mrs. J. H. Andrews of the club making a welcoming address that was responded to by Mayor O. H. Pool. The Gazette noted that “Mrs. Clarence Forbes, president of the Progressive Club, paid high tribute to the three charter members, Mrs. J. E. Harris, Mrs. R. R. Hays, and Mrs. W. S. Newsom, who have remained on the roll during the 24 years of the club’s existence.”
The Woman’s Progressive Club continues to serve Wynne as a social and event hall in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
Hope, Holly. An Ambition to be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933–1943. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2006. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed September 8, 2020).
“State News in Brief.” Arkansas Gazette, October 31, 1935, p. 12.
“State News in Brief.” Arkansas Gazette, November 8, 1935, p. 12.
“State News in Brief.” Arkansas Gazette, November 14, 1936, p. 6.
“State News in Brief.” Arkansas Gazette, March 12, 1937, p. 17.
“State News in Brief.” Arkansas Gazette, March 15, 1937, p. 7.
Story, Kenneth. “Woman’s Progressive Club.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CS0023.nr.pdf (accessed September 8, 2020).
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
Last Updated: 09/08/2020