February 27, 2015

Naperville Woman’s Club

Many people know it today as “The Purple Door,” but a group of women still know this building as the Old Stone Church.

“It was built in 1899 using limestone that was quarried here in town so it’s one of the few early structures that still remain. It’s a rare example of gothic revival architecture and it is a significant building on any architectural survey,” said Georgiann Baldino, Co-Chair of Building Preservation for Naperville Woman’s Club.

The Naperville Woman’s Club purchased it in 1925, as a gathering place and destination for their fundraising events. Though the local landmark made a beautiful back drop, it lacked some of the practicalities that would open it up to all.

“For many years we’ve looked at how can we make this building handicapped accessible and it is a difficult thing with a building that’s 115 years old, but we found an architect and he came up with a plan and advised a way to build a ramp at the back of the building and put a main floor bathroom here so that anybody can come to our events even people with physical disabilities,” said Baldino.

The club spent the last two and a half years digging deep into their pockets and hosting fundraising events, but were only able to raise half of the nearly $100,000 needed for the upgrades.

To fund the other half, they went to Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA), with a request of just over $48,000, but the board only recommended granting them about $11,000 of that ask.

“There simply wasn’t enough money to fund everything they wanted to fund and I don’t recall that there was any criticism of this that would have knocked it down,” said Steve Chirico, City Council Liason to SECA Commission.

The city was working with a $2 million budget, and $3 million in asks, so not every request could be accommodated. But many thought this particular project met all the criteria for full funding.

“I was a little surprised because for me it fit well into the SECA wheelhouse, I liked it for many reasons. First of all I like capital improvements, because capital improvements is a gift that keeps on giving. It was a matching grant which I like, so it means they’re taking some equal part of this, and third it was a one time ask,” said Chirico.

The woman’s club was surprised at their allotted amount as well, going back to their books in an attempt to find a reason for the reduced amount.

“I really don’t have an answer for why this project was only given 24% of the requested amount. There’s no salaries involved in that we’re all volunteers, it would go strictly toward the construction cost. I went through the events for the 12 months prior to our SECA application and we hosted 35 different special events and cultural amenities,” said Baldino.

With about $30,000 left to meet their goal, the burden of raising that cost now falls back to the club.

We’ll ask for direct pledges. If we find one or two more benefactors or a number of little benefactors we’ll meet our goal,” said Baldino.

The club hopes to gain the communities support so they can keep the history alive for everyone in town. To help with the club’s efforts head over to napervillewomansclub.org.


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