The Historic Wilfandel House
In 1945 racial discrimination existed in Los Angeles. Members of minority groups were not welcomed or permitted to utilize public or private gathering places. Two women pledged to change this narrative. The revolutionary idea of organizing a clubhouse for Negro women in Los Angeles originated with Mrs. Fannie Williams, an outstanding entrepreneur and recognized community leader, and Mrs. Della Williams, a philanthropist and wife of Paul Williams, the noted Los Angeles architect. These two civic minded pioneers shared the vision to organize and provide a venue for people of color to gather for celebratory events and monumental milestones.
The women assembled a group of 50 likeminded friends. Members were selected from a cross section of influential women who were willing to work together harmoniously to “build and maintain a clubhouse on a non-profit basis, with the purpose of promoting civic betterment, philanthropic endeavors and general culture”. The ladies created a name for the club by combining the last name ( Williams ) and their two given names ( Fannie and Della ). The newly minted organization debuted as The Wilfandel Club. No time was wasted in launching fund-raising activities. Armed with faith and determination the project was well on its way. The search for a physical location that could be used for a clubhouse began.
Preparation met opportunity when a building located in the West Adams District was offered for sale. Percy H. Clark, a prominent local businessman and real estate developer who was one of the founders of Beverly Hills, purchased the undeveloped lot on the corner of 5TH Avenue and West Adams Boulevard in 1908. Mr. Clark then proceeded to build an Italian Renaissance Revival style home as a personal residence for his family. He spared no expense in designing his dream home.
The Wilfandel Club was incorporated in 1947. In August of 1948 the the Wilfandel ladies purchased the Percy H. Clark residence. Ownership was recorded in the name of The Wilfandel Club. Architect Paul Williams collaborated with the members in converting the home into a clubhouse and adapting it to its new uses. The first meeting was held November 21, 1948. On the club’s tenth anniversary the mortgage had been paid in full. A garden party was given to celebrate the occasion and to express the member’s appreciation for the support they had received from the public.
The founding and charter members worked with unrelenting force and determination in the early years to raise money to improve the clubhouse.
Farewell parties were held as African American young men went off to war or as sons and daughters left home to attend colleges and universities. Daughters and sons had elaborate weddings and later baby showers and birthday parties at The Wilfandel Club. Civil rights leaders and political leaders joined community members and held informational forums. Artists, authors and musicians received exposure and recognition for their special talents. Teas, coffees, baby contests, bridge parties, fashion shows, raffles, art exhibits, dinners all took place at The Wilfandel Club. All were wonderfully grand events and proved financially successful – providing Wilfandel ladies the opportunity fund their philanthropic pursuits.
Today the Wilfandel members remain a group of highly dedicated African American women who pledge to work for the betterment of society, particularly in the areas of education, cultural growth, and one’s general wellbeing. They are committed to maintaining the clubhouse and providing a prime location for cultural, educational and social activities within the West Adams community. In the spirit of supporting community youth, the club awards The Fannie Williams scholarship which is designed to financially assist African American students to pursue and attend college. The Wilfandel Club will celebrate its 75TH year of service to the community in November 2020.