The History of Chilhowee Club and the Chilhowee Club Building
In 1891 six women connected with Maryville College founded the Chilhowee Club. With the consent of the college president Dr. Samuel Boardman, who had just been elected the fourth president of the college in 1889, their meetings were held in rooms on the campus. Dr. Boardman and his family had just moved into Willard House, the beautiful home given to the college by Mrs. Jane Willard, a former neighbor of his Auburn, New York.
Club work for women was new for Tennessee and Chilhowee Club is the second oldest Federated Women’s Club in Tennessee.
In 1894, six ladies on the other side of Maryville organized the Tuesday Club. In 1896, these two clubs were among the nineteen clubs from the state sending delegates to organize the Tennessee Federation of Women’s Clubs.
In the early years, the purpose of both clubs was the mental and social development of their members; but during World War I, each club became very active in helping the service men and the war effort. Following the Armistice, they united their efforts and opened the town’s first public library in the residence back of the post office located on Broadway.
On May 6, 1939, the two clubs united, taking the name Chilhowee Club. The club meetings were held in the lounge of the Bank of Maryville and the need for a club house was discussed regularly.
When this need was presented to Mrs. John Walker, who had come from Pittsburgh and built Morningside in the College Woods, she gave two lots, the corner of Cates and Elm St. (now 223 Clarion), a generous gift to the fund club members had been putting together, and was intensely interested in plans for the building. From furnishings from her own home she gave paintings, oriental rugs and screens for the club assembly room.
On the day before the club house was open February 6, 1949, she quietly had Miss Katherine Davies, head of the fine arts department at the college, select a grand piano to be delivered and made ready for use at the hour of opening.
Mrs. Walker had moved to Maryville at eighty-four and felt she was too old to become a Chilhowee Club member. But this new building, considered an architectural treasure, was made possible just before the restrictions of WWII by her gracious generosity. Chilhowee Club was “her Club” and remains a monument to her.
In 1937 Chilhowee Club organized a Junior Chilhowee Club for young women under forty years of age and in their need for permanent club house joined with the older club.