TCCPenneyToday

So ever since  the announcement that the building on the southwest corner of Fourth and Marshall Streets in downtown Winston-Salem is to be converted into condominiums, we have been hearing questions about the history of that site. Well, here we go.

As far as we can tell, that site was pretty much vacant until 1879, when the newly founded St. Paul’s Episcopal congregation built a small wood-framed church on the corner of what was then known as Fourth and Pine Street. They remained there, expanding as needed across Marshall, until 1912 when in desperate need of more space, they built a new stone church a block east on Fourth at the northwest corner of Cherry Street. The Twin City Club, also in need of more space, bought the lot, demolished the old church and immediately began construction of their grand new quarters.

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All three locations of the Twin City Club are visible in this 1891 view

 The Twin City Club was founded in January, 1885. It’s original name was the Twin City Social and Literary Club, for the purpose of “social advantages and mental improvement.” In April, J.Y. Joyner was elected president; J.A. Robinson, vice-president; W.D. Moore, secretary; and Miss Percy Joyce, treasurer. Miss Joyce  was 21 and an 1883 graduate of the Salem Female Academy. Almost immediately, it was announced that there would be a meeting on May 2 for the purpose of making changes in the constitution. When the changes were done, Miss Joyce was no longer treasurer and there were no women members of the club. That would remain so for 100 years. In July, the club fixed the first Thursday of every month as “Ladies’ Day”, when women would be admitted to the club premises.

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Those premises were located in leased space in the Gray Block, on West Third Street across from the courthouse. By the end of 1885, the club had 105 members. On Thursday, December 17, the weekly Western Sentinel described those premises:

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A sort of collective bachelor pad. Nevertheless, the club continued to expand, and soon developed a reputation as the social center of the city, known for its programs featuring interesting speakers and for its annual reception in honor of the graduating class of Salem Female Academy. Within a few years, it needed more space, so signed an agreement to occupy almost the entire second floor and part of the third of the soon to be First National Bank Building on Liberty Street. But the club had barely begun occupying its new space when, in November, 1892, a terrible fire destroyed much of the block between Third, Fourth, Liberty and Cherry Streets. The southern portion of the block was salvageable, so the club moved back into its Gray Block premises until repairs could be made.

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The First National bank building, at left. The Twin City Club occupied parts of the second and third floors. The Hanes Building at the center of the block and the Phoenix Hotel at right rose from the ashes of the disastrous November, 1892 fire.

By the early 20th century, the club had become a fixture in downtown Winston-Salem, known for its elegant balls at Christmas and Easter, when women were admitted on days other than the first Thursday. So when St. Paul’s Episcopal built its new church and moved, the Twin City Club bought the property and built a magnificent clubhouse on the site, where they flourished for many years.

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The Twin City Club building, on Fourth Street at Marshall. It was designed by Wheeler & Sterne of Charlotte and built by Fogle Brothers at a cost of $40,000. The club began moving in on December 20th, 1913. The first significant event held there was a Christmas season dance featuring the Liberty Orchestra on December 29. About thirty couples attended.

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Another lost landmark designed by Wheeler & Sterne was the West End Methodist Church, designed specifically for a corner entrance on West Fourth Street at Brookstown, across from the Fourth Street Filling Station. The church burned in 1947 and was replaced by the Toddle House, now Mozelle’s.

In the 1930s, R.J. Reynolds, Jr., “Dick” to his friends, hosted a wild party at the club, with Rudy Vallee as the star performer. At some point in the evening, Vallee decided that one of the guests was hitting on his girlfriend. He descended from the stage and beat the man senseless, then returned to his performance. Dick made sure that that was never mentioned in the local newspapers.

But by the 1950s, the times they were a-changin’. The club was struggling to maintain its magnificent quarters. So when the J.C. Penney company needed more space for its third Twin City store, the club cut them a deal. In September 1953, Penney demolished the old clubhouse and built a clean modern brick and mahogany composition granite, $1 million building, with space reserved for the Twin City Club on the top floor.

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The J.C. Penney store building replaced the old Twin City Club building in 1954

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That worked for a while, but the times were a-changin’ faster than anyone could keep up. By the mid-1980s, Tylee Wilson at R.J. Reynolds and John McNair at Wachovia Bank and other important local business leaders realized that they could no longer afford to support a club that excluded women, Jews, blacks and other minorities. They were joined in creating a new type of club by Mayor Wayne Corpening, Wake Forest president Thomas Hearn and local ophthalmologist David Branch. Jim Holmes got the ball rolling. When the inclusive Piedmont Club opened on the 19th floor of the BB&T Building on March 30, 1987, the Twin City Club’s fate was sealed.

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Soon, they began accepting women members. And in 1997, they elected the extraordinary Earline King as their first woman president. But it was far too late. In 2010, out of money, the Twin City Club gave up the ghost.

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