Story updated on October 14, 2020
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 of 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 1945. 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 in 1962. Today the auditorium continues to be a 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 first “face-lift” of this 1962 addition was completed this past summer with funds raised from a successful local Marion dance event, “Turn Up The Heat”.
The home retains its beautiful historic character, sitting on a beautiful tree-filled lot surrounded by a cast-iron fence. 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 plasterwork 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 once housed the carriage and residence for the chauffeur and later the groundskeeper’s family.
The Women’s Club Home is operated by a non-profit volunteer organization of women. They are called the Marion County Federation of Women’s Club Inc. The original club was founded in 1895. Elizabeth Barlow was an active member for many years. 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 supporting the first library, 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 Club’s history and the historic home to assure the property and Club’s history is maintained for future generations. 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, refurbishing of the auditorium, and installation of a state of the art audio-visual system are some of the improvements in the past three years. Nancy E. Hafer, the club’s current president shared, “The recent acceptance by the US Park Service as a National Historic Site Registry Designation gives new momentum to the dream of presenting the property and archives to the community as a museum.” It recently hosted a celebration of this national recognition and the Club’s 125th anniversary. It is anticipated that next year another celebration will occur if the Ohio History Connection marker is approved for placement.
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 on November 7 and the popular Turn Up the Heat dance event. Since 2019 each fall they have hosted a series of three discussions about pioneering professional women. The current series is focusing on women who had a significant political impact in the late19th and early 20th centuries.
Tours of the historic homes are available once a month from March through October or by appointment. To learn more about their many activities visit The Historic Women’s Club’s website or look for them on Facebook.