Structure Type: built works - recreation areas and structures

Designers: Gill, Irving J., Architect (firm); Irving John Gill (architect); Louis J. Gill (architect)

Dates: constructed 1913-1914

1 story

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715 Silverado Street
La Jolla, CA 92037-4242

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Leading San Diego and La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps donated $40,000 to erect this women's club completed in 1914. She commmissioned this clubhouse from the San Diego architect Irving J. Gill, who employed a new building technique, that he called "tilt-slab" construction, for this project. The building, designed in 1913, was notable for the geometric prescision of the unornamented arcades seen on its west and north sides. A key to its aesthetic appeal was the contrast of the crisp geometry of the building with the lush plantings of bushes, trees and vines that surrounded it. Gill and his nephew, Louis J. Gill, would work on several more commissions in La Jolla for Scripps, including the La Jolla Recreational Center (1915), South Molton Villa II (1916) and several early buildings at La Jolla's Bishop's School including Scripps Hall (1910, done before Louis entered the office), Bentham Hall (1912) and Gilman Hall (1917).

Building History

Ellen Browning Scripps (1936-1932) donated $40,000 to erect this women's club completed in 1914. Scripps's family had earned a fortune in newspapers. Ellen assisted her brother James to found the Detroit News and another brother E.W. to begin the Scripps newspaper empire. She moved from Detroit to San Diego in 1891, and to La Jolla by 1897. By 1901, she was a wealthy woman, who could model a more independent way of life; in that year, she was elected President of the newly renamed "La Jolla Woman’s Club."

The club bcame a center for political discussion in the city, exerting unusual sway on state and national politicians. The La Jolla Woman's Club web site stated: "Legislation for child welfare (child labor laws and the pasteurization of milk) was heavily influenced by members of the club, along with a California bill to protect the redwoods and national forests and insisting upon the appointment of women to the Board of Education. Special programs for children with disabilities in public schools was another interest of the club members. In 1914, Club President, Dr. Mary Ritter, (State Chairman of Public Health of California) adopted the slogan 'All knowledge is futile that is not used for others' and the club embarked upon an ambitious program of events and fundraising. The club endorsed a resolution to the 65th U.S. Congress recommending, as a War Measure Legislation, the early passing of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Constitution (women’s right to vote), and investigated subjects such as 'The Value of a Scientific Education'." (See La Jolla Woman's Club, "History," accessed 12/18/2017.) Club members advocated political stances that enhanced women's political and economic power and the rights of children. In the wake of World War I, the group stood squarely on the side of the US joining the League of Nations.

The club was active in both World War efforts, raising $100,000 in WW I war bonds, and was utilized as an emergency facility during WW II. The group's web site stated: "With war again in Europe, the Red Cross appealed to club members to knit and sew articles of clothing for those in need. The club held frequent fundraisers for the Red Cross. In the Summer of 1940 the clubhouse was turned over to the Red Cross for making surgical dressings and members were asked to volunteer as hostesses for the USO, and in 1941 the clubhouse was used as Civilian Defense headquarters. In 1942, the clubhouse was open four days a week for five hours each day for volunteers to work on surgical dressings." (See La Jolla Woman's Club, "History," accessed 12/18/2017.)

Building Notes

The building had a bi-laterally symmetrical plan. The front facade presented a series of arcaded openings to the street, their crisp geometry contrasting well with the pergolas situated on either side covered in tangled vines. Raised up four steps, the one-story clubhouse had a covered front porch on the front facade opened by these unornamented arches. Entering the interior, a central entry led into a small foyer flanked by two committee meeting rooms on either side. Each meeting room had its own closet. Leading out of the foyer to the east, the architects located the building's dominant space, a 40' x 49' 6" assembly room that had a stage with a proscenium that could be used for multiple types of events. To the north of the assembly room, the Gills placed a 20' x 51' 3" lunch room that had its own kitchen on the east end. (A garage lay just to the north of the kitchen.) On the assembly room's south side, another club room, measuring 20' x 40' 2" was situated. To this room's east, was a three-room caretaker's apartment.

The architects planned the building to provide easy access to the exterior. A covered porch sheltering clubmembers from the intense sun wrapped around the front facade. Elegant arcades opened the north and south walls. On the lunch room's north wall, five doors led out to a courtyard, and on the club room's south wall, three doors also led onto a flanking courtyard. A pergola demarcated the property's northern boundary.

The Gills constructed the clubhouse using a new method of tilt-slab construction, in which a concrete wall slab was laid on a platform angled 15 degrees off of on the ground, and tilted up into place vertically once it dried. In order to make the walls lighter and easier to tilt into place, hollow tiles composed part of the walls' planar surfaces. The floors were concrete, save for those of the central assembly hall, which were hardwood. Wood ceiling joists supported the ceiling. In the building's center the assembly hall had timber king-rod trusses spanning the space's forty-foot width. Upper walls of this assembly space were of wood frame. Tilt-up walls were covered by plaster, with non-structural walls being plaster over wood lath. Ceilings were also covered by plaster over lath with some having acoustic tiles.

The La Jolla Woman's Club was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, Building #74000546.

National Register of Historic Places: 74000546 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 4467