What once was a family home, built in 1903, stands today as the Historic Women’s Club Home. This Colonial Revival style home is at 1126 E. Center Street in Marion and was once the home of industrialist Shauk Barlow and his wife Elizabeth. Shauk, the president for the Huber Manufacturing Company was very successful, but it was Elizabeth that made sure the home remained something the public could enjoy in future years.
After the death of both Barlows, the home was donated to the Women’s Club in the 1940’s. During this organization’s heyday, every room of the house was used for various club activities, with the Abigail Harding Lewis Auditorium added to accommodate the meeting needs of the Women’s Clubs. Today the auditorium continues to be focal point for non-profit organizations as well as private events and activities for the Marion community. R.T. Lewis, a local developer and husband of Abigail Harding Lewis—President Harding’s sister, spearheaded the fundraising for the auditorium addition in his wife’s honor.
The home retains its beautiful historic character, sitting on a beautiful tree-filled lot surrounded by a cast iron fence. With a sprawling curved front porch is held up by stately columns, it is evident that this home was once the gathering place for Marion’s social circle. In the front doorway, the entryway’s tile mosaic floor still has the monogram of Mr. Barlow, as well as the paneled walls of intricately carved leather. Several other notable features of the home include ornate plasterwork, original lighting fixtures, mission-style cabinetry, and the original push button light switches throughout the home.
The second-floor hall houses not only the bedrooms but also a reception area that served as a stopover for guests going to the third-floor ballroom. The master bedroom has beautiful French plaster work and a tile fireplace with copper trim. Just off the bedroom is a sitting area with access to the balcony over the porch. Two additional bedrooms grace the second floor. The third-floor ballroom features built-in seating and original wallpaper. Later this area became a billiard room and then an art room. Also, on the property there is a cottage that was once the garage and residence for the chauffer.
The Women’s Club Home is operated by an organization of women. They are called the Marion County Federation of Women’s Club Inc. The original club was founded in the 1890’s, with Elizabeth Barlow as a member. Its mission was to support education, artistic endeavors and social issues important to the community of Marion County, Ohio. These forward-thinking women were instrumental in starting the library, a hospital, school lunches, and the school nurse program in Marion. They worked for women’s voting rights, supported the arts, humanities, and education.
Today the organization continues to follow in the footsteps of these women. It is dedicated to enriching and empowering the lives of women and the community. Just as important is the preservation of the historic home to assure the property is maintained for the future. Extensive renovations to the HVAC systems, an improved paved parking lot and the revision of a handicapped accessible ramp at the back of the home took place this last year. Sharol Herr, the club’s current president shared, “The recent improvements and initiatives will pave the way for the Women’s Club as they seek National Historic Site Designation and the dream of presenting the property and archives to the community as a museum.” It recently hosted a ribbon cutting and open house in September to celebrate all the great new improvements.
The Abigail Harding Lewis Auditorium is available for rental and has been the site for family and community events. It will again host a holiday craft show in November and the popular Turn Up the Heat dance competition in February of 2020. Starting in October, they will host three discussions about pioneering professional women.
Tours of the historic homes are available March through November by appointment. To learn more about their many activities visit The Historic Women’s Club’s website at www.marioncountyfederationofwomensclubs.com or look for them on Facebook.
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