PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Bob Larson and Tom Mcintyre gives us a look at Peoria’s oldest theatre.
The building on Madison Street in downtown Peoria is more than 125 years old. A lot of Peorians haven’t been inside and don’t know what it’s for.
As it turns out, that really isn’t that unusual.
“I’ve been in the Peoria area for 26 years now and drove by this building many times, never realizing what was in this. One day I pulled up on Fayette Street and saw the Peoria Women’s Club inscribed in the iron gates,” said Kim Mitchell, president of the Peoria’s Women’s Club.
In August, she announced a $4 million renovation effort for the century-old clubhouse, something that is badly needed.
The kitchen needs to be updated, the restrooms are not where they need to be for the future, and the theater itself is in disrepair. Pretty much the whole building is going to get touched in one way or another,” said Peoria Women’s Club Restoration Director Vicki Hordesky.
Over the years, the Peoria Women’s Club touched a lot of lives. Since 1886, the club has been educating women in the fine arts, literature, public affairs, travel, and more.
The women campaigned for suffrage, pushed for more humane treatment of the mentally ill, for education, social development, cultural growth, and awareness of civic concerns. Those have been concerns from the very start.
“Look, they’re participating in taking care of the community. They’re there. They’re working at bringing art into the community. They’re educated. Why in the world would they not want to vote? I mean, these are smart women, and still are,” said Peoria Women’s Club Historian Linda Hernandez.
Developer Kim Blickenstaff has donated $1.5 million to the restoration effort. He has said his mother appeared here at the club’s theater, and his grandmother was a member.
The Peoria Women’s Club is a big part of Peoria’s history, even if it’s not always remembered. If Kim Mitchell is right, by 2025, this will be a place that’s hard to ignore.