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Formal Transition for LLC Building
February 12 , 2007

Calvin College will formally receive a historic property at 61 Sheldon Boulevard in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, February 14 in a 10 am ceremony at the location.

The Ladies' Literary Club of Grand Rapids voted on October 25 to give its property to Calvin (the college plans to invest approximately $1 million in improvements into 61 Sheldon and maintain it as a resource for the West Michigan community).

The ceremony on February 14 will mark the formal handing over of 61 Sheldon to the college.

The Ladies' Literary Club and Calvin are planning a short (but sweet - it's Valentine's Day!) event, featuring remarks by Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell, Calvin president Gaylen Byker and representatives from the Ladies Literary Club.

Also included will be a cermonial handing over from the Club to Calvin of a large wooden key, a symbol of the trust and the gift the LLC has made to Calvin.

Ladies Literary Club Facts

  • In 1887 was the first women's society in the United States to build its own clubhouse
  • Was the first organization of women in the city not defined by religion, ethnicity, or charitable functions
  • To facilitate their programming, the women began to collect books and in March 1870 formally organized the Ladies Library Association, the fourth such women's library group in Michigan behind Flint (1851), Kalamazoo (1852), and Battle Creek (1864)
  • In July 1870, just four months after the formation of the association, the members combined their 1,231 books with 2,700 from the two local high schools, and 50 from the YMCA to form a free lending library that is now the Grand Rapids Public Library
  • As a women's club, distinct from a library effort, the LLC was the first in Michigan, followed by similar clubs in Kalamazoo (1873), Lansing (1874), and Detroit (1877)

Last October, upon learning that the LLC had voted to give its property to Calvin, Byker said the college was committed to carry on the LLC tradition of lectures, music and theater and, at the same time, to preserve the classic building which was the Club's home for over a century.

"We are thrilled that they chose Calvin," he said at the time, "and we are excited about the chance to be of service to the community and about expanding our downtown presence. We are eager to explore the many possibilities for the space."

Among the significant improvements Calvin will make to the building are better handicap accessibility and enhancement of the lighting and sound systems. It also will improve the heating and air handling system.

To make this work possible, Calvin is seeking the support of individuals and foundations that are committed to and invested in downtown renewal. Commitments already have been received from the Frey, Meijer, Steelcase and Sebastian foundations.

Says Byker: "The outcome will be a literary and cultural heritage continued as well as a classic building preserved and equipped for 21st century service to the community."

Over the years the LLC has hosted distinguished statesmen, including U.S. presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson, as well as Mary Garden, director of the Chicago Opera Company and national columnist Ann Landers. Stage performances included 14 years of theater productions, while the LLC "Books and Lunch" program drew women not only from the downtown area but from all around the city.

The LLC building itself is historically significant and can be found on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Ladies' Literary Club had been seeking a new owner for the building since June 2005 when the organization voted to disband because of dwindling membership.