The imposing Greek-columned Athenaeum clubhouse, built in 1914 for $50,000 by women who wanted a home for their literary club, has been sold to another women’s organization that prizes literacy.
The brick edifice at 900 E. Linwood Blvd. is now owned by the Delta Educational and Economic Development Foundation, an organization founded by the Kansas City alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority for African-American women.
The Delta organization said it bought the property for $315,000.
With fading membership and high operating expenses, the Kansas City Athenaeum, a nonprofit organized in 1894 that continues to provide philanthropic support, no longer could afford the imposing brick facility it had occupied for 101 years. From a membership high of about 1,000 in the 1920s, the club was down to a few dozen in recent years.
The Delta chapter, with 228 active members, plans to use the building for its chapter headquarters, renamed the Delta Athenaeum.
“We’ve also partnered with the Women’s Employment Network and the Full Employment Council to offer educational programming for girls and women in the building,” said Lisa White Hardwick, a Delta chapter member who was active in the transaction.
Hardwick, vice president of the DEED Foundation, said the Delta group will work to make the structure compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act by installing chair lifts at the staircases and renovating the restrooms.
Efforts to shore up the Athenaeum budget previously included admitting men as members in 2002, auctioning off the organization’s silver service and other assets in 2009, and renting out its kitchen to caterers and its auditorium as a special events venue. Several other buyers had looked into purchasing the notable midtown building before the sorority deal was sealed.
“We’re thrilled that our building will have new life with a growing, community-minded organization of women,” said Susan Jezak Ford, an Athenaeum member, who said the Athenaeum group continues to meet.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford