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Best Relic of Kansas City's Glory Days 

The Athenaeum

In 1914, the 800 members of the twenty-year-old Athenaeum Club were busy bettering their community through arts, social work and charity. They needed a home. And though the stretch of Linwood Boulevard just west of Troost was still part of the suburbs, it was closer than one of their other options -- a lot way out in the middle of nowhere at 40th and Walnut. Amazingly, the Athenaeum still exists, and the building has hardly changed in the last 88 years. Vintage photographs inside depict housewives and spinsters, all in gloves and hats, attending luncheons, musical programs and literary discussions. Perhaps even more amazing is that the club holds on, a cultural anachronism in this day of working women (most of the 100 remaining members still don't work), air-conditioning (the club meets only from September through May because the upper floors get too hot in the summer) and parking lots (the club was built near the streetcar line and never added a parking lot). It recently voted to accept its first male member, chef-turned-gardener Jim Lillianthal, and would like to attract more. But the feisty Virginia Wallace and her fellow members struggle to keep the club alive. "The club members were real social activists in the 1920s, fighting for children's rights and health care," Wallace says. "Tom Pendergast hated them."

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