By Charles Nelson
Sometimes big things come in tiny packages. That certainly applies to the little building at 129 N. Moon Ave. in Brandon that has had an outsized influence on the community’s life. There you will find the Brandon Woman’s Club, constructed by its members in 1925 and now protected by the board of county commissioners as a local historic landmark.
The Brandon Woman’s Club can trace its roots back to 1915, when a group of 14 pioneer women met at the home of Alice Rankin to organize a home demonstration club. The Hillsborough Historic Resources Review Board (HRRB) approved the landmark designation, in part, because the club’s formation serves as an excellent local representation of the development of such clubs around the nation.
For 10 years, the club met at its members’ homes and in local schools. In 1925, the club, now officially chartered as the Brandon Woman’s Club, set out to have a building of its own.
Through various fundraisers, it raised the $50 necessary to put down on a lot in Brandon in October 1925. It took another two years to raise enough money to begin construction. On September 6, 1928, the club’s 45 members met at their new clubhouse for the first time.
The county also included architectural design as one reason for protection. The structure incorporates many characteristics of the bungalow style, typical of the 1920s. This building, however, has been lovingly maintained and cared for by the club’s members.
Importantly for historic preservation, there have been very few changes to the structure. Its owners maintained the building’s basic style and character, and it looks very much like it did when first constructed.
From its inception, the Brandon Woman’s Club dedicated itself to the community of Brandon. The club is well-remembered for its support of the Brandon School in providing a small library and hot lunches. In the 1920s, the club’s focus expanded to improving the community’s quality of life, and the listing of its community involvement is enormous.
When the club reorganized in 1925, members decided to build a small clubhouse that would serve the entire community. It would be impossible to list all of the groups, clubs and individuals who have used the building. Girl and Boy Scout troops, medical organizations and churches and religious groups are just a small sampling of those that used the facility.
Interestingly, the Hillsborough County government served Brandon residents by using, at various times, the clubhouse as a polling place, a driver’s licensing facility and a draft board during World War II. Tampa-based newspapers often wrote of private weddings and parties held at the clubhouse.
In 1936, the club opened a health clinic at the clubhouse that served the community until the 1960s. Once a month, a doctor and nurse from the Hillsborough County Health Service used the facility to give babies checkups and immunizations while club members helped by weighing and changing babies.
However, at times, 40 mothers with children overtaxed the small structure, forcing a move to the Brandon Civic Center in the 1960s.
In 1960, the club resurrected a library in a corner of its small clubhouse, serving Brandon area library patrons three days a week until the county opened a new library in 1968.
The Brandon Woman’s Club generously supported that county effort with its time, talents and books along with a generous monetary donation.
Of course, the clubhouse also served as the traditional meeting house for its members. From this small structure, the members gathered to socialize and enjoy a covered dish meal.
From here, it also continued to serve the community in significant ways and with a substantial impact on Brandon’s well-being.
In more recent years, membership in the Brandon Woman’s Club declined and it eventually disbanded. Fortunately for us, however, it deeded the “little building that could” to the Brandon Junior Woman’s Club, which proudly continues to care for this historic building today.