06 June 2014

The "L" Club For Women

An old, small building stuck amid newer, larger buildings always captures my attention. It's screams, "Another Era," "Holdover," "Survivor," "Relic" and like notions.

This four-story bit at 229 Lexington Avenue in Murray Hill did the trick with its recessed fourth floor and three stories of windows, indicated it once houses several different businesses. Those modest in proportions, it does stand out as an interesting piece of utilitarian architecture. And it seems to have survived intact.

This was until recently the home of Da Ciro Ristorante. It was there an impressive 20 years before closing on March 23 of this year. There were apparently many fans of its homey Italian fare, particularly the pizza, and service. It was run by Ciro Verdi, who was a pizza maker at Fred's in Barney's. The Times reviewed it well in 1995, calling it an "unpretentious little spot."

De Ciro may have been the building's classiest tenant. In 1926, this was the site of a laundry. The second floor was offices. In 1937, the situation was the same. However, in 1938, something interesting happened. It was converted into a social club for women "who have no home ties and limited social life." Here they could read, sew and such. It was named "The 'L' Club for Women." Ahem. Though the founders said the "L" stood for the minimum age of the member (L being the Roman numeral for 50), one can imagine that the name telegraphed something else to observers.

Either way, the club didn't last lost. By 1946, this was a store. In 1970, is was strike headquarters for the Women's Strike for Equality. In 1971, the second floor held the Murray Hill Democratic Club.

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