Civic Club: Celebrating 100 Years of Service
The Southern Pines Civic Club celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, birthed by 46 well-off women attending an organizational meeting Jan. 11, 1907, at the now-vanished King's Daughter's Hall.
The first James Boyd's sister, a Harrisburg, Pa., socialite named Helen Montgomery Boyd Dull, was the founding president of this group of leisured women who had plenty of public spirit, energy, charm, time, and money to devote to volunteer work that was cut out for them.
The Civic Club under Dull's leadership made the town much of what it is today, that current residents want to preserve.
State Travel Commissioner John Patrick had bought land cheaply, and in 1887 he put up lodgings for train travelers in 1887 coming from the north. Patrick's job was to encourage visitors by advertising natural and social attractions and mild weather to attract visitors to a winter resort. He built it up around the railroad to attract money to North Carolina's ailing post-Reconstruction economy.
"In a sense, the Boyds took up where (John) Patrick left off, bringing to the town a strong family commitment to civic responsibility," says "Southern Pines: The First 100 Years," by Betsy Lindau, published by the town in 1987 commemorating its own centennial.
It's no coincidence that the club came along precisely 20 years after Patrick founded the town.
The club promoted cultural and health improvements through their own efforts, in the old days when government didn't handle massive issues such as public education, health, and municipal parks, streets, and byway construction.
Today's Southern Pines grew from the efforts of the club's women. They put out and emptied trash cans themselves, around town and even cleaned the train depot and its bathrooms. In those days, elbow grease and a lot of unpleasant physical labor were necessary. Dull's work was harder than just writiing a check, it also meant her volunteer time, energy, and thought -- not to mention the ability to lead and inspire others to share the work.
Miss Anna Jenks was a key supporter, but during the 20 years that Dull resided in Southern Pines before passing away in 1924, it was her civic spirit spurring the club in its most vigorous period of accomplishments that seemed to pervade the entire Boyd family in one form or another.
Her presidency and the club's continuing work that she inspired by example and social standing helped shape Southern Pines of today. The town fostered a welcoming atmosphere for people seeking a second home escaping severe Northern winters, or a permanent year-round home now that air conditioning has protected most houses from the worst of summer heat and humidity.
Eileen Malan is the Civic Club's current president. A year of planning has gone into a 2:30 p.m. Jan. 21 reception at its historic original clubhouse where refreshments and commemorative presentations are kicking off the year's observance at the building, corner of South Ashe Street and East Pennsylvania Avenue facing the Municipal Park.
A highlight will be display of a centennial quilt made with squares sponsored by various groups in honor of the centennial birthday.
The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, placed there in 1985. It has been continuously owned and used by the nonprofit club since its construction begun when Dull was president, completed in 1925, a year after Dull herself died.
The club continues to support civic activities through the traditional odd-year town election candidates' forum, held ly prior to town council elections in November. The forum is open to everyone interested in Southern Pines Council elections, and aims at exploring candidates running for council's positions and plans, giving voters an opportunity to make up their own minds.
Immediate past-president Blanche Woodruff said the club is always looking for ways to "enhance the beauty and quality of life within our community."
"One of our current goals is to assist in part with establishing a Southern Pines Welcome Center," Woodruff said. This is to be located in the newly renovated, historic train station currently leased from the town by the Southern Pines Business Association. The Centennial Quilt is to be permanently displayed in the Welcome Center. It includes photos of historic locations and the names of business and service organizations that have "purchased" a place on it.
The club today contributes to nonprofits and the town, providing such things as decorative lighting for the new town library, playground equipment for the municipal and pool park, $3,000 in landscaping donations to the new library, and restoration of the train depot. The club still donates money to the town for spring and fall plantings as well as giving funds to such organizations as the Food Bank.
Architect A.B. Yeomans was the designer of the Boyd family homes that continue to be landmarks in Southern Pines. His work includes the former town library, the school on May Street, and the Civic Club building. All of these are still used and appreciated for their architectural features.
Dull's own home, Loblolly, is still a landmark and remains a private residence, whose owner was at least once featured on the annual spring garden tours.
Gradually, the club's golden years culminated in the club meeting house that was completed in 1925.
The late Helen Huttenhauer's book, "Young Southern PInes," gives a wealth of detail about Dull and the club.
Dull and a small circle of friends met at the Boyd home at Weymouth and then advertised an organizational meeting in the then-local paper, asking interested "ladies" to come to a meeting on Jan. 11, 1907, if interested in joining a group "thinking" of starting a club to improve the town in several aspects.
On that date, the 46 women present approved bylaws and a charter defining the club's purpose as improving sanitary conditions, fostering love of the beautiful, educating children in "good citizenship," welcoming winter guests, enlistiing their interest in making Southern Pines more attractive.
The club set up four different 'departments," which would now be called committees, to achieve their objectives. These were the municipal department devoted to public health, the educational, public education in town and coordination with national movements. There was a forestry and town improvements department, and a social one, "to welcome strangers and to invite them to cooperate with the club," Huttenhauer wrote.
The hallmark of these women of leisure, including Dull and also the entire Boyd family headed by the patriarch, a wealthy Pennsylvania businessman, was community and civic spirit to improve the living conditions and to make the town appealing to visitors.
Dull's nephews, the second James Boyd, the writer, and his brother Jackson survived her, as did one sister, Mrs. H.B. McCormick of Harrisburg.
Mrs. McCormick even supervised the development and planting of the Civic Club grounds in keeping with her deceased sister's philosophy.
The Club's rollout project was a public cleanup, happening the day another project, a new town dump, opened.
Annual cleanup days are still proclaimed throughout Southern Pines.
Southern Pines learned about and participated in such things as Arbor Day, a tradition carried on today as Tree City, USA. Southern Pines has been designated as such for 26 years. Beautification through planting trees including magnificant large magnolias lining railroad corridors and downtown streets as well as hollies and other ornamental and flowering shrubs happened because of the Civic Club.
The volunteer Appearance Commission, whose members are appointed by the elected Council, and the town Garden Club grew from the efforts of Dull and her friends.
The town public library grew from her efforts to create a circulatinig library to help teachers, even brochures toutinig Southern Pines' natural attractions.
The Civic Club raised money and presented the town with a chemical fire truck, and bought playground equipment for the internationally award-winning and still popular downtown Municipal Park, plus benches placed here and there downtown. They are legacy that the town keeps up today.
Cultural events were brought to the town through the Club.
The Civic Club's building has traditionally been used for weddings, dances, serioius meetings and all kinds of get-togethers when the club isn't using it.
The USO, Red Cross, and War Relief used it during World War II. Churches have held religious services there until their congregations were able to build their own. Among groups still meeting there is the Southern Pines Business Association.
Sara Lindau may be reached at email@example.com or 693-2473.
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