La Retama Club


By: Jimmy L. Clements and Katherine Kuehler Walters

Type: General Entry

Published: June 29, 2022

Updated: June 29, 2022


La Retama Club is a women's club organized in May 1906 by members of the Woman's Monday Club of Corpus Christi after several of its members’ daughters requested an "adjunct" literary society for unmarried women to study and socialize. The club's name and colors, yellow and green, came from an indigenous yellow-flowering tree. The founding members included Margaret Lorine Jones, first president; her sister, Kathleen Jones; teacher Lillie Beard, first vice president; Ida Daimwood, second vice president; her sister Margaret Daimwood; Hallie Robertson, treasurer; Lucille Scott, secretary and daughter of founding Woman's Monday Club president, Ella (Dickinson) Scott; Alice Borden, daughter of Sidney G. Borden; Marion Merriman, granddaughter of Eli T. Merriman; Maud French, before her marriage to George Washington Cox; and other women from predominantly White, middle-class, and affluent families in the area. Mary Carroll, an active club woman who helped collect local history for the library archives, joined in the first year of the club's existence.

La Retama held its first meeting at the Jones family home on May 17, 1906, and joined the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs on November 21, 1906. The club limited membership to thirty-five women during its second year and often did not meet during summer months. After several members, including the first two presidents, Jones and Agenette "Nettie" White, and most of the group's charter officers had to resign because they married, the club voted to permit married women to be members of the organization.

La Retama Club worked with the Monday Club on numerous civic beautification and other projects typical of the Progressive Era. They adopted the Monday Club’s goal of establishing a library for the public in Corpus Christi. They held fundraisers, purchased books and furniture, and collected donated books. La Retama Library, which filled one second-floor room of the Hatch and Robertson Building (later the Lovenskiold Building) at the corner of Peoples and Mesquite streets, opened to the public on May 3, 1909. In 1914 Marie Marguerite von Blücher, club member and granddaughter of Maria Augusta von Blücher and Anton Felix Hans Hellmuth von Blücher, served as the librarian, and the library was open on afternoons except on Sundays.

La Retama Club member volunteers maintained and staffed the library; however, they depended on local civic groups, private donors, and city government for funds to keep the doors open. In August 1916 the library closed temporarily due to water damage from a fire, then closed again after it was nearly destroyed in the 1919 hurricane (see HURRICANES). With donations from the American Red Cross, La Retama Library reopened at the State Hotel in September 1920; however, severe storm damage caused lingering economic hardship in Corpus Christi, and La Retama Club struggled to fund the library during the years that followed. Fiscally constrained, Mayor Perry Lovenskiold, a friend of the library, and the Corpus Christi city council denied La Retama’s request for aid in April 1922, so the club increased their fundraising events and eventually encouraged the city to take over the library.

In January 1926 La Retama returned the library to a downtown building owned by Lovenskiold, who soon waived the rent. That year the city agreed to convert the library to a city-owned public library. The city changed its charter to provide municipal authority for a publicly funded library and paid $1.00 for the books and materials. Final arrangements were completed on September 1, 1927. As part of the library transfer, the city and La Retama Club made an agreement that the club would continue their oversight of the library. According to the agreement, the city council established a seven-person rotating advisory board that included two La Retama Club members, and the city council appointed the other five board members from a list of nominees submitted by the club. The club also continued their support by donating funds, books, and time to the library, including hosting all-day club meetings to rebind worn books.

Under the watchful eye of La Retama Club members, the library expanded, and in 1937 the city purchased the former home of William Whitby Jones (father of two club founders) as the library's new location. In 1938 club members created a Friends of the Library organization to support the library’s expanded services and eventually additional branches and a book mobile. After the original Friends group became inactive, it was reorganized in 1956 following the library’s move to the former city hall building in 1955.

Occasionally the club's control of the library board caused tension with city council members. In 1945 club president Johnnie Pearl Richardson, clubwoman Dewey Jeane (Watson) Allison, and other club members voiced protest when Mayor Roy Self and the city council disregarded the club’s list of suggested board appointees. The next year the city relented and adhered to the agreed terms. In 1974 the city council officially revoked the agreement with La Retama Club. Thereafter, the club president served as an eighth and ex-officio board member, and eventually a ninth board member, also ex-officio, was chosen by the Friends of the Library. According to the Corpus Christi Caller, the city council disliked the provision and had often ignored it. In 1980 part of the library building was closed after library staff discovered cracks on the third floor and a piece of the roof fell. The city council, however, was slow to act and initially resisted working with the library board on short- and long-term solutions. With support from La Retama Club and passage of a bond measure, the city closed La Retama Library in May 1986 and built a new two-story building, known as the Central Library, which opened on June 10, 1986. In 1987 the old library building was torn down, and the city replaced it with La Retama Park.

La Retama Club, still with thirty-five active members, regularly met to hear speakers and discuss literary, historical, and cultural subjects throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. Their purpose of socialization, education, and support of the Corpus Christi Library System remains unchanged. Members are still expected to belong to the Friends of the Library. On April 22, 2008, the city council changed the name of the Central Library to La Retama Library to honor the club for 100 years of service.

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Jessica Brannon-Wranosky, “Corpus Christi History before La Retama,” Corpus Christi Public Library. Corpus ChristiCaller, May 4, 1909; September 13, 1914; December 5, 1914; April 22, 1915; August 10, 1916; September 1, 1916; February 6, 1926; April 9, 1946; May 1, 1956; May 9, 1974; December 21, 1979; October 20, 1983. Corpus ChristiCaller and Daily Herald, August 20, 1916. Corpus Christi Caller-Times, September 21, 1930; November 26, 1933; October 24, 1937; March 27, 1955; January 25, 1981; January 29, 2003; January 17, 2019. Corpus Christi Times, June 18, 1927; December 4, 5, 7, 1945. Corpus Christi Weekly Caller, May 25, 1906; July 5, 1907. Galveston Daily News, May 9, 1909. La Retama Club Collection, Corpus Christi Public Libraries (https://laretama.cctexas.com/lrcollection.html), accessed May 24, 2022. Nueces County News, November 24, 1938.

Categories:
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  • Civic Leaders
  • Education
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Archives
  • Archivists
  • Librarians
  • Libraries
  • Organizations
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
  • Women
  • Preservationists
  • Women's Clubs
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century
Places:
  • Southeast Texas
  • Gulf Coast Region
  • Corpus Christi

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Jimmy L. Clements and Katherine Kuehler Walters, “La Retama Club,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/la-retama-club.

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June 29, 2022
June 29, 2022

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