The Fairmont Woman’s Club – An Area Treasure

If you’ve ever visited the Fairmont Woman’s Club, you might have some questions about this unique building. We’ve got the scoop and can tell you how you can visit.

History of the House

In 1901, Thomas W. Fleming and his wife, Annie built this 2 ½ story, “U”-shaped, stucco masonry building in the Colonial Revival/Beaux-Arts style. Located at 300 First Street, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Thomas W. Fleming was a descendant of a pioneer family that settled in Fairmont. Fleming served as the Mayor of Fairmont for two terms and was elected to the House of Delegates in 1905.

Fleming’s wife, Annie Sweeny Fleming, helped to organize the Fairmont Woman’s Club. She began inviting local women to her home to discuss civic progress and social issues. Mrs. Fleming was the club’s first president. The house has been used as headquarters for the Woman’s Club since 1938.

The well-preserved house is a stucco masonry structure with a high-pitched truncated hip roof. Semicircular steps meet a rounded glass-enclosed solarium centered at the front of the house. The solarium is flanked by gray-stucco masonry walls with windows that are arranged in groups of three. Tripartite design elements, in addition to the three front bays, include three dormers with curvilinear broken pediments, and two two-story bays with half conical roofs at the side elevations. These elements visually join the curving entrance solarium and visually frame the symmetrical mass of the entire home.

Annie Fleming was the architect of the house, which contains 14 closets and a secret passageway.  Furniture was shipped from France to New York then on to Fairmont by train at Walkers Landing on Washington Street.

The Facelift

Much of the original furniture, plasterwork, and stained glass and light fixtures remain intact. A stained glass window at the stair landing, a leaded glass front door panel, and the original slate roof have been replaced with substitutes. No major alterations have occurred, with the exception of the removal of one wall.

However, following the death of the Flemings, the house was sold and the upper floors were turned into apartments with the Woman’s Club members meeting on the ground floor.  Unfortunately, many of the tenants did not maintain these spaces and major cleaning and repairs were needed to bring back the home’s grandeur.

The restoration began approximately five years ago and has been a room by room process. On the outside, the roof was replaced and outside stucco continues to be repaired.  An original light on the left side porch replaced a front porch light.  The brush and trees have been removed from the Virginia Avenue side of the house to showcase the river. Indoors, plaster and screen doors have been repaired.  Pockets doors have been refurbished and bathrooms restored.  Although not replaced, the hardwood floors have been refinished. The Black Forest grandfather clock has a Westminster Chime and will be working soon.

“You name it, it was broken,” said Nancy Bickerstaff, GFWC president. “We did not change anything. The historic integrity of the home has been maintained, and we had so many people that came in and really helped do so many of the things we had to do.”

Your Chance to Visit – Home for the Holidays

On the second Saturday in December from 1 – 4 pm, every floor of the Woman’s Club will be decorated in its Christmas finery.  One of the trees in the mansion will be decorated entirely in red roses, the symbol of the National Woman’s Club.  Guests can warm up with a cup of tea, relax and enjoy Italian pastries.

All three levels of the floor will be open for the tour, and ladies of the Woman’s Club will answer questions on all floors. The event will be held in conjunction with the Feast of the Seven Fishes as well as the Pricketts Fort Christmas Market and the Marion County Historical Society Museum open house.

Admission is $5.  Reservations can be made by calling 304-366-3231 or 304-363-9414 and leave a message or email [email protected] Reservations are needed to ensure there are enough goodies on hand. Donations are also being accepted for the Thomas and Annie Fleming Memorial Fund.

Will we see you there?